Searching for Boredom in the Santa Fe Forest


Joe: For the last 6 months or so I’d been craving the peacefulness that comes with living in the moment. I’d accepted too many things on my plate and it’s overflowing. It’s time to clean the dishes. We’re buried deep in the mountains of northern New Mexico, lost in the Santa Fe National Forest. Elaine has sequestered herself inside the camper, trying to finish the book we’ve been writing on divorce recovery. It’s cold up here; I’m wearing long johns as I stoke the campfire. Elaine’s in our queen-sized bunk that overhangs the roof of our truck, she’s wrapped in blankets as she types on the laptop.

We’d found this camping spot by talking to some locals just outside Santa Fe. They’d told us about a logging road that winds around up through the forest. It was a bit washed out, steep and narrow so the going was very slow. About three miles in we found a side road heading out along a ridge filled with groves of aspen trees. Now, a side road off of a logging road isn’t much to talk about. Two muddy trails that the truck tires fit into and a lot of overhanging branches to worry about. We made it in though and it was worth it. We were completely, and I mean COMPLETELY alone. It was dreary and drizzly, with an east wind carrying wet clouds through the treetops. The leaves on the aspen fluttered like confetti.

As Elaine wrote in her warm nest, I sat by the campfire, occasionally adding mesquite logs I’d brought from the southern New Mexico desert. I’m glad we decided to bring them. There was plenty of wood laying around but the smell of mesquite just puts me in a good mood.

I’m working hard at finding boredom. You can’t rush these things; you need patience and faith. I know it will come, I just don’t know when. I go for a walk, I explore, and I add some more wood to the fire. I’m enjoying every delicious moment of nothingness. I’m entertained for hours by the chatter of squirrels, the soft hush of the wind and a crow’s call.

For each yearly adventure we set a “theme” for ourselves, maybe it’s better to call it a “value”. It’s like a compass, it keep us going in the right direction. We have no idea what road we’ll end up on but we have a general idea of the direction. This year we’re focusing on letting go. Letting go of our aging and ailing parents. Letting go of our babies whom are now young adults steping into the world. And, letting go of our careers. So far I’ve failed at all of these. It’s hard to let go. I try to control everything, thinking I know better. I don’t. I have plenty of knowledge about life that I could share with our kids but that’s not what’s called for. Wisdom is called for. Wisdom to encourage their freedom and to trust in their ability to make the right decisions. Wisdom in accepting their decisions without judgment. Climbing into our RV, leaving our settled routine in Las Cruces behind and letting go is the wisest thing I’ve done this year. I’m leaving the parents, the kids, and the goals behind. Well, except for one goal: to bring some boredom into my life. Because boredom is where my creativity lives.

As the gloomy day turned into a darker and gloomier night, I called up to Elaine.

“Are you getting hungry yet?”

“Yes, I was just thinking about starting dinner.”

Elaine put away her laptop and set to work in the miniature kitchen.

“What are you making?”

“Oh, you’ll see.”

Twenty minutes later Elaine climbed down from the camper with two cold beers, a bowl of tortilla chips and a platter of Hatch chili peppers stuffed with tuna fish, cheese, onions and spices. I put the chili peppers on a grill over the burning mesquite. I couldn’t of asked for a better meal at a Michelin-rated restaurant.

What is it with women and horror movies? Elaine loves them and wanted to watch “Night of the Living Dead”…on a dark, rainy, dreary night…in the middle of a mountain forest…without another “living” soul around for miles. She pulled the DVD from the collection we brought and slipped it into the laptop. We climbed under the covers of our bed and retreated into a fantasy of horror.

I don’t like horror movies. It’s something about the way my brain ticks. I get immersed into movies and they become very real for me. It’s a great experience when watching Star Trek or The Matrix, not so great when watching Night of the Living Dead. Granted, it was a pretty old style, black and white movie with horrible acting but still, I could do without. After the movie was over I locked the door, shut off the lights and crawled back into bed. It is now pitch dark, inside our camper and out. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. There is nothing like the complete darkness you get in the middle of the woods on a rainy night. Just as I was rolling over to go to sleep I caught a glimpse of light out the camper window.

“Elaine, what the hell is that?”

She’s already asleep.

I’m wide-awake now, staring out the window. I see it again…and it’s moving. This can’t be, I can’t make any sense out of it. It can’t be a car, the rutted road we drove in on was in the opposite direction. We’re in the middle of nowhere and that light is further out in the middle of nowhere. Now it’s scanning back and forth in the woods, as if someone’s holding a flashlight. I grab the night vision goggles I brought with us, pop open the roof hatch above the bed and stand up (in bed). That woke Elaine up.

“What are you doing?”

“There’s a light out there in the woods.”

“Ha, ha. You’re not going to get me on that one. Go to sleep.”

“I’m serious, look!”

“I’m going back to sleep!”

I scan the goggles across the trees. I can still see the light moving but it’s too far away to make out any details. I watched for 10 minutes, hyperfocused in what was happening.

I was at a complete loss. What the hell is someone doing out there in the middle of the woods, miles from nowhere in the pitch dark?

The light eventually died… no, bad word, … it eventually went out. I didn’t relax much but I did climb back into bed. After about a half-hour I finally fell asleep, my hand still resting on my 9mm. No more freaking horror movies for me, NO MORE!

The next morning I obviously had to investigate…situational awareness was calling… and I found the answer. There was another dirt trail that led further into the woods that I’d missed earlier. While we were snuggled up in bed watching our horror movie, a couple had driven in without us hearing them. They must have been locals to be able to do that in the dark. They were apparently still setting up camp last night with their flashlights scanning back and forth when we’d finished our movie and I’d glanced out the window.

Again, no more horror movies for me.

2 thoughts on “Searching for Boredom in the Santa Fe Forest

  1. george worn

    Very interesting. When young i liked cycling along country lanes and through remote villages in the Yorkshire country side. Soon realized that as long as you followed a lane or track you were unlikely to get lost, but always could be surprised by the New vistas.


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