The Search For Inner Peace
Throughout time man has searched for a balance of harmony within himself. This inner peace came be obtained from almost anywhere. For Gretel Ehrlich, her perfect spirituality was found in Wyoming. This does not mean that inner peace can be found in Wyoming but it does suggest that inner peace can be found in different places for everyone. “The Solace of Open Spaces” tells of what brought on Ehrlich’s inner peace. It was the openness, the love of the seclusion that allowed Ehrlich to obtain peace within.
“Sagebrush covers fifty-eight thousand square miles of Wyoming. The biggest city has a population of fifty thousand, and there are only five settlements that could be called cities in the whole state. The rest are towns, scattered across the expanse with as much as sixty miles between them.” (Ehrlich 158). This passage gives a in depth look as to how spread out and secluded Wyoming is. Ehrlich believed it was this openness that would help her loss herself but in actuality it was this openness that allowed her to find herself. She even goes to say that she hadn’t planned to stay once she arrived, “I came here four years ago. I had not planned to stay, but I couldn’t make myself leave.” (Ehrlich 156). Ehrlich was drawn to the vastness of nothing. Later in the essay she says, “Its absolute indifference steadied me.” (Ehrlich 157)
Without the presence of fellow people, one must look into oneself for company. It is here when one is able to look into oneself and find harmony in one’s life. As a resident of Wyoming, Ehrlich is able to almost meditate much like monks and Buddhists. From personal experience I have found that much like Ehrlich solitude in an open area helps me think about problems troubling me and allows me to look into myself. Ehrlich shows just how solitude can effect a person.
After I had been herding sheep for only three days, the sound of the camp tender’s pickup flustered me. Longing for human company, I felt a foolish grin take over my face; yet I had to resist an urgent temptation to run and hide. (Ehrlich 158)
Although she longed for human companionship the peacefulness of solitude was something she wanted to keep almost forcing her to run and hide from the truck.
In contrast to what Ehrlich says about solitude she also mentions that in winter all the cowboys get cabin fever being locked up due to the weather. Although being a cowboy usually requires a love for the outdoors, the solitude that one could find in a cabin would only intensify what soul searching could be achieved outside. “In most parts of Wyoming, the human population is visibly outnumbered by the animal…The solitude in which westerners live makes them quiet.” The lack of people forces a person to look into that person’s soul. This is why many don’t like solitude because when they are forced to look into themselves they don’t like what they find. These people usually lead fake lives and are not true to themselves. They must look into other’s life’s to find enjoyment rather than look into their own. Only people true to themselves have the ability to look into themselves and be content with what they find. This ability allows people to also improve on the inside.
What exactly draws people to open, solitude places, such as Wyoming, is a difficult question to answer. As I mentioned earlier I often enjoy being alone to sort things out but I would not like to live in Wyoming but that is my opinion. Ehrlich gives a slight answer as to why many come to Wyoming.
The emptiness of the West was for others a geography of possibility. Men and women who amassed great chunks of land and struggled to preserve unfenced empires were, despite their self-serving motives, unwitting geographers. (Ehrlich 160)
Perhaps many come to have a sort of control over the land. What they find is totally different. There is nothing in Wyoming but one’s self. Buy a huge chunk of land and expect to have much but the land contains very little forcing a person to look with in instead of out. This is why there is a solace of open spaces.
With all this soul searching done by people in Wyoming, because there is nothing else to do, true morality comes out, “In all this open space, values crystallize quickly.” (Ehrlich 161) While searching inside people find out just what exactly their morals are. This only helps in the process of truly finding one’s self. Ehrlich goes on to say, “Perhaps because the West is historically new, conventional morality is still felt to be less important than the rock-bottom truths.” (Ehrlich 161) People in Wyoming find their true values because no traditional morals are expressed because they are not true morals.
A dominant part of finding inner peace is to become in tune with nature. This is why it is easy for some people to search themselves in Wyoming. With out city and suburban distractions leaves only pure nature which Wyoming has no drought of. “He is so used to the silence and empty skies that when an airplane flies over he always looks up and eyes the distant intruder quizzically.” (Ehrlich 163) To really find inner peace all distractions must be left behind and all that must be available is one’s self. The space mentioned many times in the essay does not always mean space literally but it also means space away from everything. To obtain this space people must clear their heads, it is the space of emptiness in their heads that allows people to find inner peace. “Space has a spiritual equivalent and can heal what is divided and burdensome inside us.” (Ehrlich 163)