I recently went on a short “get out of the city trip”. I went to a cabin in the middle of Missouri that sets on a bluff overlooking the Gasconade River. There is no electricity, running water, or an indoor toilet (there is a privy outside). There is a huge porch with porch swing and a hammock, there are several oil lanterns, and there are lots of trees, birds, sky, critters, and quiet. I LOVE it! I went with my dogs for 2 nights, but I think that 3 nights or more would be best, here is why.
Why did I go to the cabin? I went to get away from the city. I went to get away from noise, to not look at a clock, my phone, and email. I went to check out – completely.
When I arrived at the cabin, I unpacked and when I finished I looked at my watch – said to myself, it’s 3pm, I should eat (because I had not eaten since that morning). But then I thought – I’m not really hungry. I took off my watch and turned off my phone. I sat down for a moment; there was this urge to do something. I got up, and walked around, looked around and then stopped. I stood and just took note of my body and my thoughts.
I thought to eat, because I “should” eat. How often do I eat because I am suppose to eat and I am not really hungry or snack because I am bored. And this idea of being busy all the time – I immediately thought back to the conversations I have had with parents and students – it’s okay to be bored.
Boredom is actually great for the creative process --to not do. In an article in the New York Times, boredom is defined as, “wanting to, but being unable to engage in satisfying activity.” This is definitely what I was experiencing. So, I did what I went there to do. Nothing. I sat on the porch swing for a good hour and just looked out to the bluffs, the farm across the way, the colors of the sky, and the different hues of green and how the cows’ way off in the distance stood out against the green of the land. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind and how it sounded different when it blew against the trees or the leaves on the ground or wood on the porch. I smelled the air and noticed how different it smelled from the city. There was crispness in the air, yet warm (on that day), the air smelled fresh and green (if green has a smell J). I sat and focused in on my body, my breath, and the beat of my heart. I looked at the dogs and decided to go for a walk, more because my body felt to move in that way. I didn’t have a destination; I just wanted to move, so we did. We wandered down the road, and then down to the river, over to the horses, just wandered. And as I walked my stomach grumbled – hunger. We headed back and I decided on what to cook. The cabin was darker, so I lit all the lanterns and a few candles. Then set about to cooking. Normally, at home, I would have music playing, but I wanted to stay with this moment. A moment of quiet, of nature – which really, is music in it’s own right. I opened the door and windows and listened to nature. I focused on the smell of everything I was cooking, the colors of the food, texture. I marveled at the simplicity of what I was eating. When it was all ready, I sat outside and ate. For 45 minutes, I ate a sweet potato and vegetable soup. I looked at each bite, I closed my eyes while I ate and really tasted my food. I enjoyed just eating – nothing else.
Cleaning up was another task – I had to heat up water to clean the dishes. Washing the dishes took on another mindfulness moment. Noticing the warmth of the water, the slickness of the soap, the smell of the soap, the feel of wet utensils in my hands…
When darkness finally started to come, I watched the sky from the hammock. The color changes, the cloud movement, and as the storm began I could smell the rain before it started. Then when it fell, the sounds, the coolness, hearing the sound of thunder and the lightening flashing in the sky here and there.
And then darkness. That kind of darkness where you can’t see anything around you. The kind of darkness that almost makes you feel slightly uncomfortable (I noticed my heart beat start to race a bit in this moment – one too many werewolf movies). Life comes alive again, but now I can’t see it.
All of my senses were alive in these moments, and this is why boredom is good. The next couple of days, ideas were soaring! I had so many epiphanies and AHA moments. I wrote more in my journal than I have in a long time. Back at home I feel energized and peaceful. I will go again – soon. And I will stay for 3 nights, knowing that the first day is a day to acclimate to doing nothing.