I’m just back from two days at Truth or Consequences Hot Springs, a three hour drive south from Santa Fe, down almost 6000 feet in elevation, to a small town snuggled up against the black Turtleback mountains. The town was built around naturally occurring hot springs, and it was here that Geronimo was finally captured as he slid into the steaming hot water, exhausted from trying to defend his people from the white man’s relentless slaughter.
I came to T or C in need of rest, tired from running on adrenal energy, my body geared to move on to the next thing, and the next and the next. It’s a cliché in our culture that we are always busy. How are you? Busy. How was your week? Good. Crazy busy. But I remember when I was a kid, the word that kept me safe from having to answer too many questions was…nothing. What did you do in school today? Nothing. What were you and your boyfriend up to? Nothing.
I basked in nothingness before I knew I was supposed to be someone, do something. Mostly, what I wanted to do was nothing. I liked looking for wild plants that had the chutzpah to push up through the cracks in the cement. I liked looking out my second floor window as the wind moved through the weeping willow. I liked floating in water and thinking about nothing.
The adults around me who had become something seemed sad and anxious. Or too bright and brittle. Only my grandmother, and my cat, could sit and do nothing with me.
I left for Truth or Consequences without my computer, the noise and urgency of facebook and instagram. I checked into my small room equipped with a 1950’s kitchen, bundled up in my white terry cloth robe and walked to the bath house, then slipped into a private indoor pool, a small concrete square with 107 degree hot water bubbling straight up from the source and then out into the Rio Grande. After soaking for 30 minutes I was limp, came back to my room, and in the middle of the morning, took a nap. I can’t remember the last time I took a nap.
The beauty of this town is that there’s nothing to do, no sights to see, not guidebook urging me to get up get out and do something cultural. All the shops and restaurants are closed on Sunday, and although I saw two churches, the bells didn’t ring on Sunday morning, as if politely declining to urge people out of nothing into something.
I always look forward to this time of year, to the darkening of the light when nature curls up into herself. I imagine time to read and write, time for old friends, handwritten Christmas cards, lighting the menorah for eight nights with eight prayers for peace and sanity on earth. I imagine rest, but when I returned home and turned on my phone and my computer, I could already feel my body tensing up.
Hurry! Last Day! This offer won’t last! Don’t miss out! One day only! Act Now!
I am being urged, prodded and bullied out of rest and retreat into busyness and her evil twin consumerism, shamed for my desire to lie down, do nothing, buy nothing be nothing for just a few precious moments.
The darkest time of the year is approaching with news that is darker, more horrifying every day. As the world around us erupts in violence, in flames and floods, how do we hold a still center? When King Lear asks his defiant daughter Cordelia what she has to say for herself, she replies: “Nothing.” He bellows back: “Nothing can come from nothing!” But maybe everything comes from nothing. Maybe we find our footing, the path to what we seek and the action that needs to be taken by first giving ourselves permission to sink into dreamtime, and allowing Spirit to lead the way back out into something.
This holiday season of giving, may we soak in what’s real and unhurried, and make the time to dream a better world into being. May we slow down enough to give the unique gifts of our originality, inspiration and open heartedness to a world so very much in need.
“Now all my teachers are dead except silence.” W.S. Merwin