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”.  Isn’t that just the most liberating analogy, especially knowing how much joy and happiness and life has been wrapped up in the years that people have delighted in Cheerios?

Imagining what “Happy Birthday” would sound like played on the Steinway at the Art Hall.  Photo credit: Ann Mangan.

Yesterday, while working in costume in the Art Hall, I interacted with some children in new ways.  I think it’s because of the costume, which speaks of something (and someone) old and historic but somehow, approachable.  One five-year-old boy, while telling me his age, asked me how old I was, since I looked “even older” than his grandmother.  I wonder what his reaction would have been if I had answered, “Well, at least I’m not as old as Cheerios”.

A twelve-year-old girl was taking an iPhone video of the curiosity-of-me in costume while I was talking to her family.  At some point, she noticed the Steinway piano and when I told her its provenance, her eyes widened and I knew she must play the piano.  Asking if she wanted to get up close and take a picture of the Steinway, she quickly said yes.  Later I took a picture of her sitting on the bench so that she could share it with her piano teacher.  She was bursting with glee. For me to “practice being old” in my 19th century costume, was it easier for the children to drop their guard and be authentically kids?

Some of the courageous women of Koreshan Unity in the mid-1920s. Photo credit: Florida Gulf Coast University archives.

But it was the teenager who came in late in the afternoon who really moved me.  She had remained in the background while I was orienting other guests so as they left I asked if she had any questions.  She stepped forward and asked about the history but she was most interested in the women of the Settlement and why, in the late 19th century, they came to the swamps of Florida.  In her dark brown eyes there was an intensity much older than her chronological age.  After hearing about the disenfranchisement of women, the stories of child-labor that drove the utopian movement she said, “these women must have had a lot of courage”.  I realized I was seeing that quality of courage in her young face.  She saw the courage in other women because it held up a mirror to her own courage.  As she was getting ready to leave, she made a brief gesture toward me, almost as if asking for a hug, then quickly thrust out her right hand to me, and said, “thank you for taking time to talk to me”.

This weekend is the annual quilt show at Koreshan Unity Settlement.  We display some of the historic quilts that the Koreshan women themselves made and used, like this beauty.

This whole month of March, sharing the stories of some of these women of Koreshan has been like this.  They have been gifts for me in so many ways.  My cousin Sheila and dear friend Lydia came down from Sarasota for one of the public tours, which meant the world to me.  A long time friend from our days at the Triangle X Ranch in Wyoming, who now lives in nearby Bonita Springs, organized a private tour which launched the entire month’s events.  The tours have touched the hearts of the guests in very personal ways and as my young visitor said, it is the call to be courageous that speaks most eloquently.  How are we called to be courageous in our own lives?  When we look into history and see how other women have shown up, it can be inspiring but that was their call.  What speaks to each of us?  It’s a fitting birthday meditation, don’t you think?

Earlier in the week, Peter and I had a leisurely lunch with longtime friends from New Hampshire who are spending three months in Florida.  For these friends, it was an act of great courage for them to stretch themselves and buy the place they had been renting for a few years here in Florida, easing their winter survival routines in New Hampshire and becoming more gentle with themselves, accepting the abundance of a life that made this possible.  It takes courage to follow that guidance and to know that the opinions of others are more about them than anything.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I think of my youngest sister who has courageously answered a called in her ministry to enroll in a Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary, pushing the limits of what others might consider “sensible and reasonable” for a person in her 60s, defining for herself what it means to “practice being old”, as Kunitz might say.  My middle sister is battling through breast cancer and the side effects of surgery and treatment and her courage helps her navigate the outcomes and challenges of living with unanticipated impacts on her health. Sometimes courage is about making a choice between a couple of options, and sometimes it is about learning to navigate the path we didn’t choose in the first place.

Last year for my birthday, I gave myself a gift, which took some courage.  I enrolled in a Master of Theology program at Saint Leo University.  It is the first time that my youngest sister and I have both been enrolled in college/university/seminary at the same time since 1971.  The first two courses were online and very challenging because of the software and IT issues that I had to learn.

This semester, I am taking a course on the ground on campus (Saint Leo University is just north of Tampa, Florida) and it’s awesome.  For those of you wondering about it: (1) It will take four years to complete the graduate degree; (2) No, I have no idea what I am going to “do” with it; (3) Yes, it’s something I have wanted to do my entire life but was distracted by the “shiny things of life” along the way; and (4) Yes, it’s true that all four of my younger siblings already have at least one graduate degree each and I’m the outlier.  So, I admit that this may have contributed to the “what the hell are you waiting for, Liz” decision.  “It’s time.” Just sayin’….

Peter has been in the Cafe at the Settlement this morning, having been invited to add Sunday cooking of the traditional recipes to his Wednesday stint.  He’s very happy and today was busy, so lots of new guests had the opportunity to taste some of the Koreshan treasures. Pictured here are his offerings of two mango pies, two lemon pies, and some bite-sized lemon curd turnovers, which are too tasty to have in T2.

Next on the birthday agenda is a drive to the beach for the sunset.  It’s one of the highlights of our life here in Estero, knowing the beautiful beach is just a few minutes away.  We throw two beach chairs in the back of the truck, grab our beach shoes and sunglasses and we’re on the way.  Simple.  And considering I’m passing through a phase, as Kunitz writes, traveling light makes it much easier for me to pilgrim-on.

Here’s to all of you of a certain age who remember this Cheerios packaging from the 1950s.  “High-ho, Silver.  And Away… to the beach.”

Liz and Peter are continuing their winter at Koreshan State Park in their Airstream, enjoying the endless abundance of friendship and love and good health. 






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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Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mountain laurel was in full bloom everywhere on our journey across Tennessee.

After leaving Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, our eastbound trip took us into Tennessee, crossing the Mississippi at Memphis.  Swollen by the heavy spring rains, the mighty river had topped its banks, turning the flood plains on the Arkansas side into expansive, if shallow, lakes. We didn’t stop in Memphis this time, reluctantly leaving the exploration of the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum, and other things Memphis, for another visit.

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Hot Springs National Park and more of Arkansas.

The trees and water of Ozark National Forest at Nimrod Lake, Arkansas.

Like putting on a well-fitting shirt, we headed east from oversized Texas, slipping into the easy comfort of the eastern forests of north central Arkansas. Here, the recognizable hardwoods, the moist air, the meandering and now-spring-muddy rivers reminded us of New England, even though we have yet to cross the Mississippi River. Continue reading