Prior to spending some “administrative” time in the big city of Albuquerque where we completed such utilitarian tasks as laundry, vehicle cleaning, maintenance, catch-up work, etc., we decided to split up the driving time by literally pulling off the road, driving until we couldn’t hear traffic and securing a place to boondock for the night. In our usual style, we arrived just before dark to an area operated by the Bureau of Land Management, meaning that it was publicly owned land, open to all. It’s worth noting that it wasn’t easy to get to. We took an unnamed exit, drove under the highway through a narrow, one-way tunnel and followed a dirt road (I use the term road loosely) for miles until the terrain was level enough to park the trailer. There, we pulled off to the side so that we would be out of the way of any unlikely vehicles that might come in behind us.
It was incredibly quiet and in the rare absence of desert wind, the stillness eliminated even the slightest potential for sound. There were no signs of life, human or otherwise, which was a bit unnerving at first. We had been in untouched places leading up to this one, but only those that required passes and permits. Each place included the familiar exchange of fees and pamphlets that subconsciously brought some level of comfort because it meant that we were allowed to be there. We were safe and people knew, or at least had the means to know where we were.
I have never been one to shy away from new things, especially new places, but the quietude was deafening and my imagination made me nervous. It felt like we were in a really bad horror film all of the sudden. Only we hadn’t reached the scary part yet. We were still in the happy-go-lucky, everything’s fine, just some stupid kids who don’t know someone is watching, part of the movie. Right before everything goes terribly wrong. You know, that cheesy collection of opening scenes that sets the unlikely circumstances in place for the poorly written plot unfold.
Fortunately, there was someone else there who knew better. He kindly entertained my “what ifs” and assuaged my concerns by making tea and encouraging me to look up into the night sky. It didn’t take long before I started to feel an overwhelming sense of ease. We were all alone and it wasn’t scary, it was exactly what I wanted. It was simple and sweet and impermanent. There just wasn’t enough time (or any reason) to be afraid. This amazing experience was happening all around me in the moment and if I wasn’t careful, I might miss the whole thing. Had I been too busy scanning the environment for threats, I wouldn’t have realized that inside the darkness, there was the potential for peace. My mantra that night became, “what you feel is what you find.” I could either examine the darkness for troubling sounds and let my senses play tricks on me or I could open to the reality that was nature at night. I chose the latter. And just like that, I discovered comfort in solitude.