Last week I had, get this, a full day to myself with no work and no schoolwork and no one home all day besides me, myself, and I. What was I to do with my long and luxurious day off? I couldn’t bring myself to settle on a day indoors with the sun shining so warmly over New Mexico. I decided to drive up north to the Valle Calderas. This collapsed volcano just recently came under the care of the ranger service and was opened to the public for what I later discovered was a not-so-small fee.
I loaded up on all of the road trip essentials and left the store with a bag brimming with chips, jerky, trail mix, cookies, and a delicious fizzy beverage. “Should I invite someone along?” I kept rolling the idea over in my mind, but there was just something elating about traveling by myself. I thought of all of the terrible songs I would loudly sing as I sloppily tossed trail mix in my mouth’s general direction. I also thought of how especially quiet things can be when alone. Even when in the company of a person with whom you don’t need to speak to feel at ease, there is still the background noise of subtle rusting, another’s breathing. The void of silence felt freeing in my otherwise loud and often hectic daily life. There is also the openness of it all. There is a lack of needing to ask permission to take a thirty mile detour after an impulsive left turn.
The Caldera opened up into a snowy flat plain surrounded by trees and mountain peaks. I set off onto a trail that clearly required snowshoes that I didn’t have. I spend most of my journey like this:
By the end of my journey I was laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of the situation. It had taken me nearly an hour to get half a mile and my boots were packed with snow. I could not let myself fall into disappointment at what one might describe as a gigantic failure. Instead I gave into the hilarity and joy I felt at being entirely free of a plan. Even when I was sure I knew what was ahead, I was decisively unable to go on.
The only remedy was a nap in the snow. Being a working college student can give a person what might constitute adult onset narcolepsy. My coat became a barrier for the soggy snow, and I kicked back and let the snow cure me of wintertime blues one sweet, sweet ray at a time.
It was empty for miles. The silence was so empty that each quiet crunch of snow echoed out along the flatness of the ground toward the base of the mountains. That special type of silence that a person can find while being alone sunk in.
There are some people that are terrified of silence. The emptiness can feel like a void. Being alone could be interpreted as loneliness. Meditation calls for this quieting of the mind. The silence that allows worries to rise and subside. Knowing what occupies one’s own personal nothingness is the first step in knowing one’s self. It helps us come back into the busy fullness of life with intellect and intuition.
On my way back down the mountain I watched a wolf dig into the snow. It was a reminder the serendipity shows itself when we are open to its presence.