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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.