Hermitation is not only a state of mind, but also a physical condition. There are occasions when we want to be alone, but in a crowded world with nearly eight billion people opportunities are scarce. However, even in the middle of a big city we can be totally alone by turning off the phones, locking the doors and turning off the TV and computer. When we’re ready to become social again, we simply switch on the phones or walk out the door.
There are also still a few places on earth that offer conditions of hermitation. One such place is the Boca Rio Sierpe (mouth of the Snake River) on the northern end of the Peninsula de Osa, along the southwest coast of Costa Rica.
There are very few people living on the Boca, mainly because the “farms” are large and mostly virgin jungle. Only a few caretakers are spread out over several square kilometers. My nearest neighbors are half a kilometer down the beach in each direction. Behind me is several thousand hectares of jungle, no houses, no people. There are no tourist projects or hotels, no roads, no trails, no stores.
Sometimes I’ll go a few days before seeing and talking to another human being. I live with seven cats, six dogs, twelve chickens, six ducks and two turkeys. Living with only animals and plants is extremely peaceful, non-stressful. I’m just one more little cog in the on-going life of the rainforest.
But I can go on Facebook, and suddenly I have friends! I can carry on “sound-bite conversations” with my friends through a series of “comments.” I can participate in a community of people, while still maintaining hermitation! None of my “interactions” are actually social, but only digital – an electronic touch, cold and distant. But for a hermit, this interaction at arm’s length is exciting and therapeutic.