Spring cleaning before heading north.

The tools from the spring cleaning tool belt. All that is missing is the baking soda, already in the frig.

Each year, in springtime, I commit to a comprehensive T2 cleaning.  It’s usually spread over a few days with Day 1 always starting with the triannual refrigerator defrosting.  Perhaps it’s because it is my least favorite cleaning task and I know that once starting it, I have committed to  the no-turning-back process.  The best part is the ritual that ends with putting the fresh new box of  baking soda in place and writing the date on the duct tape patch on the inside the refrigerator door.

Changing the linens on the Tempurpedic mattresses is always a work out and this time of year it includes lifting the floppy, free-form foam mattresses and cleaning the support plywood deck and storage drawers under the decking.  Unpacking and cleaning out the deep drawers that hold shoes and seasonal clothing, I am reminded that these sit right above the aluminum seal that separates our living space from the mostly blue highways of our nomad life.  I’m always surprised by the dust and particles that end up in the dark corners of the under-bed storage and how cleaning them thoroughly feels somehow rewarding.

My sister gave us this iconic little plaque. I added our names and hometown, and we now feel more official in the campgrounds we visit.

This year, the spring cleaning coincided with our departure from Koreshan State Park, ending our five month stay.  During that time, fellow volunteers have come and mostly gone and the metaphorical spring cleaning included packing away those memories that are most precious, and releasing the ones that cloud the rearview mirror.  This is when I am reminded that there is no grace in dragging along the extra weight of resentments.  Forgiveness is the soul’s version of spring cleaning.  We were tested a couple of times this year by the darker side of human nature in this community of nomads. It does help to release the balloons of resentment knowing that we may never see these people again but truly, it is detaching from the shadow of resentment to begin with.  The late Jesuit Anthony de Mello wrote, “It is better to put shoes on your own feet than to attempt to pave the world”.  Clean off the soles of those shoes!

The gardens Peter planted at our campsite have flourished this winter.

During our time at Koreshan, I found another community and when I could, I joined into a small and mighty group at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church for Centering Prayer.  One of the things I love about centering prayer is it utter simplicity.  I think of it as spring cleaning for the mind.  The dust bunnies of random thoughts that appear out of nowhere are merely observed as they pass through the silence, requiring no detective work, no search into their pedigree or their next stop.  They are allowed to pass through my spiritual field of vision.  On our last meeting this year, as we shared the plans for our respective northbound routes through Savannah, or Charleston, or Cinncinati, to the summer nesting spots of Ann Arbor, or Bangor, or Hartford I realized how similar our stories were as migratory creatures chasing the sunshine and the warmer climates.

We just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary this month. Joyful!

A few nights ago we shared a dinner with some new Koreshan volunteer friends.  My sister and brother-in-law introduced us to Fig’s Grille during their March flight to escape the Connecticut winter.  As we pulled up, Peter recognized a guy standing in the parking lot from one of his communities, the morning AA meeting.  After introductions, I listened as Peter and his friend shared leave-taking comments without ever saying the words “goodbye”, shifting to current narratives and using less final phrases like “see you in a few months”, or “have a safe trip up north”.  I realized that as we age, we have the opportunity to clean out the hard drive of idle comments and gratuitous noise, sensing the importance of honoring the present moment in all its fragility.

Here is one of Peter’s myth-busting creations from the Koreshan cookbook that wins over guests. Mango pie.

Peter spent hours cleaning up his work areas around the Settlement in these closing days.  This year he got to bring a vision to life, cooking original Koreshan recipes and offering them to guests.  From the Shaker lemon pie, to mango pie, to the famous “risin” bread, cooking traditional recipes from the Settlement was a unique way to share the history and detail of the lives of these pioneering people.  He finds it continually fascinating to hear guests present with pre-judgements about the Settlement describing it as an oddity.  He worked his culinary magic around the wood stove in the Settlement Cafe, listening to guests comment that it looked like one in their grandmother’s farm kitchen.  One could feel the walls of judgement crumbling with one taste of the Koreshan remarkable double-crust lemon pie and the cobwebs of preconceived attitudes got cleaned out as the fresh air of sensory wonder in something both tart and beautiful and sweetly wrapped in the light and airy pie dough blew in.

When packing up the truck to leave, Peter cleaned up the main storage area under cap and when he realized that we had more space available, he ended up giving away one large storage box. Our standing rule continues that with each new addition to a closet or storage box or drawer, something must go.  So the new beach umbrella and the new gas grill which joined the materiel, were offset by the cleaning out of other things.  It has become one of those operating system dumps that seems to have landed in each of us after three and one half years on the road.  The longer we travel, the lighter we get.

We met my son and his partner for dinner at Disney Animal Kingdom where African art was on display. Awesome.

After leaving our winter home at Koreshan, we headed inland as far as Orlando, for a “see you later” Saturday dinner with my son.  It takes such stamina to surf the rising swell of the accumulated memories of the hundreds and hundreds of times in his forty years that I have hugged this adult child of mine and closed one more chapter.  The memories rush in as endless as the waves, rising and falling and stretching out toward the shoreline and all I can do is breathe into it.  It takes stamina to dive into the mystery of love of your child with its tapestry woven of threads of caregiver, guide, vulnerabile and flawed parent, unconditional source of love, advisor, comforter, and imperfect fellow pilgrim.  I am constantly reminded to keep the airways clear and clean so the breathing and the grace can continue to flow.

Sunday, we visited one of my cousins who lives in Orlando and spent a magical day with him in conversation that was wide and deep and fulfilling.  I am the oldest of the nine Vincent cousins and meeting these cousins as adults (we shared countless Christmas and holidays together) is like meeting them all over again for the first time, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot.   Six of us cousins, along with spouses, second cousins from Toronto, and some of our grown children, made the pilgrimage back in 2015 to the ancestral home of the family and birthplace of our grandparents in Sao Miguel, Azores.  The common bond from that journey winds us more tightly together today and I am blessed to walk along life’s path with them.

My favorite picture from the Vincent family pilgrimage of 2015 to Sao Miguel, Azores.

Our Koreshan friends gave us a beautiful card which we were instructed to open only when we reached the interstate. As we merged onto I-75 in Estero, an Airstream floated past us.  I took it as what my sister-in-law calls, “a God-wink”.  I opened the card which  included lines from the Gaelic blessing so familiar to nomads and I close with these words:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Peter and Liz are now heading north up through central Florida and on to Savannah and points up there, in their Airstream, as their pilgrimage-to-here continues.

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Collecting pottery shards of our pilgrim life.

Pottery shards in situ. Photo credits: oldpueblo.org.

A fellow Airstreamer recently posted a blog (Life on the Blue Highways) with a picture of some pottery shards that he discovered in New Mexico.  These shards struck me as a metaphor for the past few days at Koreshan State Park.  Like the shards, each day offered some unique new element in the whole field of our lives here.

 

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Celebrating my birthday with the women of Koreshan in Florida.

In-costume at Koreshan State Park during Women’s History Month with my favorite baker.

I’m writing this blog on my birthday and I have been given the most exquisite of gifts: a morning of solitude in T2, our sanctuary.  I’ve been reading poetry and found two snippets from poems that fit my reflection today.  Stanley Kunitz, at the age of 79 mused, “Maybe it’s time for me to practice growing old. The way I look at it, I’m passing through a phase…” while Billy Collins, at the age of 70, whimsically observed, “One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago as I waited for my eggs and toast, I opened the Tribune only to discover that I was the same age as Cheerios”. Continue reading

The Steinway piano of Estero, Florida.

The 1885 Steinway concert piano, with 85 keys, on the stage of the Art Hall.  Thank you Ann Mangan for the photograph.

On Friday, February 23, something grace-filled occurred at the Art Hall at the Koreshan Unity Settlement. A little after 2:00 pm, concert pianist Bella Gutshtein, sat down to play the 1885 Steinway piano. Before she put her hands on the keys of this concert piano, she urged her small audience to remember that in the face of whatever darkness we may have in our lives, music and beauty can offer light. Then, she breathed life into a few movements of a Brahm’s piano concerto, and I was aware of the extraordinary gift of grace that I had received. Continue reading

Heading toward the sunrise from Utah to Florida.

Our campsite in Estero, FL with new Christmas plantings and flamingos in festive attire.

Our eastbound drive from Utah to Florida covered a couple of thousand miles across eight states. We arrived on November 20 and are now comfortably settled into the Volunteer Village at Koreshan State Park in Estero, Florida in the warm company of friends we met here last year and of the new volunteers who have come for part of the season. Continue reading

Across Nevada to Escalante and Boulder, Utah and the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Rabbit bush in full fall colors in Nevada.

In spite of two unplanned technical events late in October, we still managed to get to southern Utah and fulfill a couple of long-time dreams for ourselves. Let me first start with the unplanned events which occur in life whether you are living on the road or not. First, we ended up with another quirky electrical problem in the truck. The short version is that our stay just over the California/Nevada border in a town called Fernley was extended for one extra day while Peter spent a day with the local Ford dealer (patiently waiting half a day since they were all booked) and determining that we needed a new battery. Continue reading

All along the Oregon coast.

Bully Creek Reservoir County Park was a respite and our first stop in Oregon.

On September 28, we crossed into Oregon from  Idaho, about half way up the state at Vale where the wide open land looks more like high plains of Kansas with grasses and open spaces. The first night in Oregon, we camped in a quiet county park, Bully Creek, along a reservoir.  The day we left, we watched campers arriving and getting set up for the opening weekend of deer hunting season.

 

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Our Airstream remodeling is completed.

We rarely catch those TV reality shows about home makeovers, but Monday, we were actually living one.  Exactly one week before, we left our Airstream with the mighty team of Ultimate Airstream in Williamsville, Oregon.  This was Phase Two of the renovations we committed to after two years of living on the road.  When Ian Harnish, the incredible team leader at Ultimate Airstream, showed us the inside, I just started crying with joy.  It was beyond what I could have imagined.

The beautiful windows in T2 bring the outside in so when I am writing, views like this (from Minnesota’s north woods in 2016) fill my heart. But we needed to improve the functionality of the living area for our needs.

As you loyal readers know, we love our Airstream (named T2).  Our experience with Airstream as the manufacturers has been nothing but enthusiastic.  But, after twenty-seven months, our love of travel, adventure, and life taught us that there were renovations we needed in order to maximize our tiny and very efficient space.  Specifically, we decided that we had no need for extra sleeping space so the long couch and the large dining table, both integral components to more sleeping space, were not priorities for us.

We are both avid readers and a comfortable chair became an essential element to peace and wellbeing and the original Airstream curb side bench was not making the grade.  We aren’t the kind of people who entertain a lot indoors so the long couch was not functional.  What we did need was more organized storage space inside, much more comfortable seating, and easier access to the under-bed storage that Airstream so brilliantly includes in the front bed, twin models.

View out the new window in the bathroom, June 2017. We did include a shade for night privacy. Also added a second towel rack in the bathroom.

Phase One of the renovations was completed at Airstream in Jackson Center, Ohio in June.  They removed the curbside bench and installed our new Lambright wall-hugging recliner pictured below in a couple of  images.  We also had them cut down the size of the dining table to better fit the recliner and open up the space more.  JC also installed a porthole window in the bathroom. We had seen this modification when we were in Death Valley in March and it just blew us away.  The picture here tells all you need to know about this improvement to the quality of our life.  The bath was functional without the window but with it, the natural light and the illusion of spaciousness of bringing the outside in, is wonderful and the last four months have just re-enforced our decision.

Here’s a close-up of the new cabinet which is tucked under the window and up against the wall with the refrigerator. The counterspace on top is amazing and because it is set back it just opens up the entire interior and feels so much more spacious.

In October, Ultimate Airstream took over from there for Phase Two.  They re-built the seating area completely, removing the original 93″ couch and replaced it with a custom 72″ couch and removing the gaucho slide that offered the option of another bed. (I have inserted before and after pictures at the end of this blog so you can experience the complete make-over). These guys use professional grade upholstery cushions and great vinyl covering that are essential for the intensity of our full timing. These cushions are firm and very comfortable for long periods of sitting (like writing and reading) and that will most likely last a decade.

They also designed and built a custom cabinet for us, adding precious storage space and creating an efficient set of storage spaces.  The middle cabinet drawers are heavy-duty, 11″ deep (they need to hold a portable filing system) and extend fully for access to the content. The cabinet materials, including drawer pulls and countertop, are all with the original Airstream materials that are specific to our 2015 and so the finished result is completely seamless.

Here’s a picture from the hall looking into the bedroom showing the two new under-bed drawers, fully extended. And yes, they did accommodate the floor rug when building!

The other modification we made was to install custom drawers underneath the deeper of the two twin beds in the bedroom.  Again, these are super deep and pull out all the way for incredibly easy access from the top to the storage bags of (in this case) sweaters and bulikier clothing items. This is already a life-changing modification as we have re-organized all the harder to get to spaces where seasonal items like hats and scarves got buried in smaller storage areas inside T2 and were hard to access.  We opted not to build drawers under the other twin because the space is not as deep (there are outside storage areas located in this general area) so it is far easier to access the contents since the space is so shallow.

On chilly evenings, we throw our Pendleton blanket over the recliner and all is well!

We also made another change this time around.  Ultimate Airstream replaced the radio/stereo that came with T2.  It never really worked for me and was too hard to use.  The new one, a Kenwood car stereo is great and since our Clarion speakers are so good, we can listen to our music and easily watch movies through the system.  No picture here of the stereo but know that it’s great.

So here are two remarkable pictures of T2.  The first, the “before” picture, shows the original set-up with the curbside bench, most of the long couch, and the fabric upholstery that we chose when we ordered the Airstream new in 2015.  The original table is oversized and while it did provide a great work space, the trade-off in comfort was not worth the price.

And below that is the “after” picture of the new living area showing the gorgeous couch covering, Chimayo wool throw pillows, comfy alpaca throw over the back cushions, and a view of the recliner.

The original interior living/dining area.

Our newly remodeled living/dining area is fabulous.

Liz and Peter are continuing their pilgrimage to here in their newly renovated Airstream, heading slowly south and east and aiming for arriving in Florida by mid-November. 

 

 

 

 

If it’s Labor Day, this must be Kansas.

In Kansas, the wildflowers are in bloom in the Flint Hills.

On this Labor Day morning, we are heading west across Kansas where the early morning sun is chasing us, splashing its burnt orange light on the world.  We left New Hampshire August 22 which was six weeks to the day from Peter’s hip replacement surgery.  His recovery continues to amaze everyone, including his surgeon, and after years of chronic and increasing pain, he is reveling in the reality of being pain-free.  In light of the priorities for his recovery and healing, we did two major things before beginning our westward journey. Continue reading

Summer in New England

Summer gardens in Newfane, Vermont on a Sunday afternoon.

The gypsies have put down roots in Keene, New Hampshire for a total of eleven weeks, which began June 8.  The primary objective of this longest-of-stays is ensuring Peter’s successful recovery from hip replacement surgery.  Now, nearly three weeks post-op, I am happy to report that surgery went very well and Peter is on the positive curve toward full recovery. The daily progress is astounding and serves to remind us of the gifts of grace where God is in the details.  Last week, Peter moved from the walker to his walking sticks during his bi-weekly PT session.

 

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