Writing 101

writing. living. learning.

Menu Close

Date: July 1, 2009

letterboxing in santa fe

After our fun experience with letterboxing at home, we had talked about doing this on our road trip across the country and Aidan had eagerly packed his letterboxing gear (stamp, ink pad, and journal book tucked nicely inside his green turtle backpack). So today we decided to head out and search for clues, all in the hopes of finding a hidden box with a stamp inside.

We selected a box called “Rise and Shine,” and despite it being 2:30 in the afternoon, we ventured out to see what we could find. We drove north to the Santa Fe National Forest where we drove on twisting turning roads climbing up the beautiful mountains and eventually came upon an easy-to-miss dirt road where we then began our descent. Now when I say a “dirt road,” this really was a narrow gravel (and at times small-boulder) path, that is closed in the winter with potholes that at times jarred our Jeep. There was a sea of birch and evergreen trees that rose to one side and a drop-off to the other. It was a wonderfully, beautiful place.

After about three miles down, we passed an intersection that we thought might be the special place. We parked the car and hiked around and tried our best to follow the clues, but to our disappointment (and anyone who knows Aidan knows that he does not do well with disappointment), we did not find the box. We decided that perhaps we had the wrong spot, so we got back in the car–all the while trying to be encouraging and positive for Aidan and secretly hoping and praying to Mother Earth that we would in fact find it.

A little way down, we came across another intersection and again got out and followed the clues to try to find the large stump with a rock hiding a secret letterbox. But after searching several stumps in the area, we still we could not find this letterbox. This one was a tough one!

By this time, Aidan was becoming more and more discouraged and upset, and we were feeling the stress. Then by the luck of something (perhaps it was the power of the fetish that we bought for Aidan yesterday), we spotted another large stump hidden in the grass with a rock resting a bit unnaturally on one side of the stump. Aidan was excited! He quickly went over and, with dad’s help, was able to get the box from its secret spot. He stamped his book with the chicken stamp that was carefully wrapped within the box. He then placed his own dog print stamp on a page of the letterbox journal, and we wrote a short note to the box owner.

After tucking the box back in the secret spot, we continued our drive to the other side of the mountain taking in more scenic views and just enjoying the natural landscapes of Santa Fe. It was a good way to spend our last full day in Santa Fe. Tomorrow we’re off to see the Petrified Forest as we head over to Sedona, AZ.

reading the road by cormac mccarthy

The RoadI’ve been reading McCarthy’s novel The Road for the past few days while on vacation. I’m about halfway through at this point and am not quite sure yet what I think. A friend of mine recommended it. I’ve never read any of McCarthy’s work before, but after getting the recommendation from my friend and really enjoying the film No Country for Old Men, based on another book by McCarthy by that same title, I figured why not. The book is far from uplifting and I’m not sure what I think of McCarthy’s writing style. While he is an acclaimed and accomplished writer, I’m not sure if it appeals to my sensibilities. Just the same, I am enjoying it enough to suspend judgment until I reach the end. It’s an intriguing, albeit depressing (and maybe somewhat overdone), story of a post-apocalyptic dystopia where father and son find themselves journeying across an ash-laden, dead or dying landscape, rife with hidden dangers of roaming, cannibalistic outlaws. (It’s got that Mad Max kind of feel but without the muscle cars.) The real hope I hold for the story is with the relationship between father and son as they push their shopping cart (a far cry from a muscle car) down the road bound for the coast. The dystopian backdrop seems cliché in my mind, but I hope the character development sets this novel apart from the genre. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

Update: 8/8/2009
I finished reading The Road weeks ago while on the road, so to speak, during our family vacation. By far the road I traveled was far less barren and bleak than the one from McCarthy’s book (except maybe for the time spent moving through Nebraska). Upon finishing the book, I was left–well–somewhat indifferent, I guess. I wasn’t particularly satisfied as a reader, nor was I regretful for having read the book. I needed some time to process it.

After a few days of haunting reflection, I wasn’t quite convinced that McCarthy departed far enough from the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre of storytelling he uses in The Road. At the same time, though, I continued to be intrigued by his manner of telling the story, by his word craft. McCarthy provides a stunning example of form matching function in this book, albeit a little on the nose at times. The text is riddled with fragmented sentences, broken thoughts, unexpected shifts in point-of-view, and missing pieces–apostrophes, for example, dropped away from words like screws shaken loose from machinery and long forgotten. McCarthy is too accomplished and too talented for this to be mere sloppy writing. The words on the page match the disheveled world the characters occupy.

The story unfolds in one long unending chapter with no breaks, no pauses, no respite; the reader grows weary of this much like the characters grow weary of the road. It’s repetitive. The motion of the text is the same again and again: searching, walking, searching–waiting for something to happen, for a discovery, for a momentary rise in the plot in the hopes that it will build to something, but the occasional flicker of life is fleeting, vanishing as quickly as it appears, leaving only the empty road again to walk down. Towards the end of the text the only change or turning point in the story we can hope for is the character’s death, indeed, it is the only way off the road. The end did not surprise me. I was expected; I knew what was coming as most certainly did the characters themselves. But strangely, it did not disappoint me in its starkness, in its predictability.

This was definitely not a “feel good” book, and it takes a little reflection to appreciate–at least it did for me. In the end, this book left its mark on me (as unpleasant as it was). I’m glad I decided to walk down the road even if I won’t soon return.

© 2020 Writing 101. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.