A 5-year Journey across this Country, from the Beginning…..

“One does not discover new lands without consenting
to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” ~ André Gide

home for sale 2And so it begins … what will eventually become a 35,000 mile, coast-to-coast, 5-year long meander across the country. Today, April 4, 2015, I suppose you could say I have officially stepped onto the magic carpet that will take me to people and to places unfamiliar, and change just about everything in my life as I’ve known it so far.

Today, my home is officially for sale.

It was a place I’d joyously moved into just 20 short months ago; a lovely little mobile that offered me inexpensive shelter from the cold winters and sticky summers. A home where I hung laundry, fed hundreds of birds, and sat summer nights by glowing campfires, gazing at the thousands of stars that lit the night sky. A quiet refuge from the world. It was a place I needed, as life had presented a number of painful and difficult challenges in the several years before I moved, and my head was spinning by the time I arrived. It has served me well, offering hours of quiet and solitude at the end of a busy day.  Those 20 months of quiet allowed me to heal, and learn the deep lessons the years before had brought. Now, however, it is time to move on. And to move on in a way that will, in all likelihood, challenge me far more than I’ve ever been challenged before … but will also, without question, reward me in more ways than I can even begin to imagine.

So, now the work begins in ernest. There is much to do in the short few months that lie ahead … there is the cleaning, the sorting, the purging, the shredding, the selling and tossing away. The decisions.  The calculation of finances and discussions of “just in case” scenarios with friends. The choosing of what must go – and where it goes – and what will come with me … as all that will, must fit neatly into a 2006 Subaru Forester. To pack 60 years of one’s life into less than 50 cubic feet is both incredibly daunting and extremely liberating. I am grateful for the memories I will carry with me as I go.

Next Sunday, I will turn 60 years old. And on that day, a potential buyer will be coming to look at the home … my biggest wish, my hopeful hope, as I blow out the candles on a life past, is that I may step into a new year with not only with joy and excited anticipation in my heart, but also a signed agreement sitting sweetly next to a chocolate cake, and a glass of champagne. Wish me luck.

The Journey before the Journey

“Just when you thought you had reached the end of the road and you can go no further – you realize you’ve arrived at the beginning of the dream you’ve always wanted to live – as an ocean of opportunities opens up in front of you.”  ~ Dr Jeff Mullan

There is a journey that comes before one can step over the threshold to a new world, and it, in itself, presents many challenges and moments that give one pause for thought.  The mobile has been sold … one week, two interested parties, and a conclusion to the bidding late in the same day.  Now the 1st journey begins … steering through waves of memories, tacking canvas blown hard by winds of time past. Remembering, smiling, blinking back tears.  And smiling more.

Though I’ve always lived a rather minimalist lifestyle, and have never been one to decorate my home with innumerable collections of whatnots and wherefores, I am nonetheless still finding there is an amazing amount of little things that were stashed here & there.  Dozens of pens, standing stalwart in the Chamber of Commerce cup at my desk, just waiting to be used.  The cup itself, a memory of a favorite place I lived.  The handwindchimesmade clay wind-chimes singing their curiously different jingle in the breeze, purchased at a local festival when I first moved to NY.  The heavy brocade cape found at a Celtic fair, bringing back memories of a handsome fiancé and my heartbreaking departure … but also delightful fantasies of meandering ancient Scottish castles and highlands.  The vinyl placemat where so many furry friends found their daily meals throughout the years … now worn and dusty, sends sweet tears to my eyes and heart.  And the hundreds of papers needing shredded, many yellowed and frail.  Each one sailing through seas of remembrances as the high whine of the hungry shredder lets me know it has finished its task.

Six boxes of books to the local library.
Eight bags of clothes, shoes, purses to a church nearby.
Towels and bedding to a charity. Along with reams of copy paper, binders, labels and dozens of office items.
10 lbs of dried beans to a co-worker.
Computer sold to a friend.
Collectable books auctioned.
Lamps given to a friend.
Space-heater to another.
Craigslist advertises snowshoes, winter coats, and office items.
Bags upon bags of shredded document are recycled, as are shoe boxes, paper bags and file folders.

Bookshelves now sit empty, most of the walls are bare, and my closets have space that would happily welcome dozens of filled hangers.  To reduce 60 years of one’s life to what will fit into a Subaru Forester … and still leave room for the sleeping bag and tent … is a challenge and a journey that takes my heart back through many old roads and memories, and yet, when the pieces are all shredded and the auctions close, there is a sense of freedom and aliveness beyond words.   A song of liberation, and a melody the wind-chimes in my heart will always know.

Let the Journey begin.

The Silver Backpack

The silver backpack. And so many decisions.

The sorting and sifting-though continues.  More bags of clothing and such to charities, and more ‘thinning the herd’ of items not crucially necessary for the Journey ahead.  Though I have always lived very simply … minimally, many might say … I still find that reducing 60 years to what will fit into less than 15 square feet an incredible challenge for even the most minimal of us.  Basically, I am packing my life into a silver backpack…  

Like arranging for a long and challenging hiking trip, I must carefully calculate what will go in my “backpack”:  What clothes are needed vs those that are simply wanted? carHow many sweaters?  How many pairs of shorts? Socks? Coat or jacket? Swimsuit? What shoes? Will the sleeping bag and tent suffice for times between stops? Which water bottle; how many pens & notebooks; how will I order everything in the car so to find what I need quickly? Where can I make space for me to sleep on rainy nights when there are no campsites or kindly friends to stay with? Which one pillow – of the four I now have – will I take? And then there is the guitar.  Sadly, no room, so I must bid adieu to the strings that comforted my soul and toughened my fingertips.  Strings that created new melodies and echoed with the memories of Bob Dylan and Paul Stookey and Allison Krause. A journey such as this has its sacrifices, as well as its joys.  

But back to the packing … weight, size.  Yes, weight.  Like the 35lb pack taken on a long trail, each item must be calculated for the weight it will add and how much room it will take.  More weight = less gas mileage. Bulky items = less room.  Decisions about what to take and what to toss must be made not only based on Where-Will-I-Be-and-When, but also how it will all fit into the ‘backpack’.  Time is spent musing over whether to take the thicker blanket … which could also act as insulation on the ground when camping – or two lighter fleece ones, which are smaller & more foldable, and take up much less room … but do not insulate as well. Choices arise between cardboard boxes or the heavier – albeit, nicer – plastic bins.  And soul-touching decisions bring tears when sorting through the keepsakes of a Life lived hold … which ones can I leave behind, knowing they will live forever in my heart … and what will I take in a special little box, to be opened at quiet moments on the road when I close my eyes and smile at memories past?  

Life is sojourn … a great trail that meanders through many hills and valleys … and like a seasoned camper preparing for a long journey, every item I take is thoughtfully chosen and carefully placed in the silver.  Each item weighed … weighed by scale, and weighed by my heart. 

Burgers and Fries and Goodbyes

Just over a month to go.  38 days from now, I will pull out of my driveway and begin what promises to be a very long, adventuresome road … one filled with many stops and many new friends. I’ve often said that this ‘journey before the journey’ is an interesting psychological self-study and I wonder how I will feel on that day … slowly backing down 80’ of gravel, knowing that chances are slim I will return to this town, or this state. At least not until the final road takes what remains of me to a tiny cemetery just south of Geneva.  With 38 days to go, the goodbyes begin.

glasses 2 copyAnd so it was that a friend came to visit yesterday. A friend I’ve known now for about 12 years, and one who has seen me through many times of laughter, and many times of tears. Through jobs and moves and boyfriends and fat and thin. Through good times and bad times. He had come to pick up a guitar he’d loaned me a few years ago … and to sit with me, yakking for hours over what may well be our last dinner together. He got a burger, I got the cheese steak. “Not as good as Five Guys,” he said. “You’ll have to make sure you go there before you leave town … they really are the best.” No, we’re not going to solve world hunger or stop wars with the conversation, but rather we’re doing what we’ve always done, simply enjoying the time together as two friends who know each other well, without the need to make every word unerringly important. What was important was that we were there, together … now. Later we poured sparkling hard cider and toasted to a long an exciting journey ahead. And to friendship. The words grew fewer and further apart. I handed him a crate of photos for safekeeping and his guitar, and walking to the door I stopped to gather a crow feather from the bare bookshelves. I told him to hold onto it, as even though not a Raven, they are my cousins … and with it, he could close his eyes and see me flying free on the road ahead. He gave me hug and kiss on the cheek, and we walked to the car in silence. More hugs, these now held a little longer. I hope to see him again one more time before leaving the state … possibly a short stay at his camp in the mountains … but watching him drive away, I realized that the time for goodbyes had now come. The house and contents are sold, notice has been given at work, the first part of the trip is mapped and planned … only the packing remains.

New friends and new adventures, and new places & experiences await. Life is an amazing journey and the excitement of all that is to come brings a continual grin to my face. Just 38 days and it all begins. Still, standing alone in the driveway yesterday, I felt the hollow ache of goodbye.

Minimizing the Minimalist

“It is the heart that makes a man rich.
He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

One month from today, the journey begins.

I’ve long considered myself to be a minimalist. Living as I did as a child, and having moved as many times as I have, I’ve never really been one to have a lot of “stuff”.  Nevertheless, when scaling down even the most minimal of lives, compressing 60 years of the journey so far into less than 15sf is a daunting task. Here’s the idea: Let’s say you’re 5’ 5″ tall … lie down on the floor with your head touching a wall and with one arm spread out, fingertips touching the cornered wall. Mark where your feet and the side of your body are. Get up and draw a square with those guidelines … now imagine having to put all of your life’s belongings in that space. Or less.

4 paper boxes … one for summer clothes, one for winter, one for transitional seasons. One for jeans/pants/shorts. Clothes must be knit (no ironing or hanging) and layerable … no room for heavy winter coats – rather, layer smaller multi-season jackets and sweaters.  How many t-shirts can fit in a box? How many sweaters? Smaller box for unmentionables, socks, a pair of gloves, a scarf, a hat. Another for toiletries, safety pins, nail clippers, comb, brush, a few make-up and first aid items (make up = first aid). File box for essential papers. A crate for a few books that sing to my heart, and for diaries & pens. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow and one more blanket. One fork, one spoon. Note to self: need to get a new pocket knife. One towel, one facecloth. Totes for a few precious hand-made mementoes and gifts received from many who I will finally be able to meet along the way.

Shoes. *sigh* I’m still a female, and the gene for too many shoes didn’t pass me by.  Though they may not be spangled or stilettoed any longer, I admit I still have a kaleidoscope of sandals and sneakers and boots … and an occasional kitten thrown in for special nights.  They cry out to me from behind closed closet doors, “Take me! Take me! You need me…”  Alas, I can’t, my sweet little sidekicks … you served me well but now time has come to venture into a new world, and only those who have prepared well … the sturdiest and most steadfast of you … will be chosen. But no tears for the rest of you … good homes await you, homes where you will be welcomed and cherished, and worn for many years to come.

Yes, the journey before the journey is daunting, but it also serves to remind me of what it is truly important in life.  Without question, it is difficult to pack the physical accumulations of one’s life into the backseat of a car  … but think, then, how incredibly infinite our hearts must be to hold all of the love and moments and memories of that same life.  Our lives are so much more than what can be seen.

23 Days…

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Today as I sit gazing at the early summer green, listening to the cheery melodies of the songbirds and the grrrawking of thewindow ravens in the distance, a certain knowing also sits with me … the understanding that in 23 days my life will change forever in ways that I cannot yet even begin to fathom. Even now, before I leave, the changes have begun. I walk into empty rooms now – rooms no longer filled with the things that had become “me” along the way. Walls are naked, save for the scattering of banal Monet and Renoir prints left for new owners. Closets are stripped of all but the necessary things to clothe me until the morning I back down that long driveway one last time … the rest, now reduced to a few boxes and piles on the kitchen table. Shelves that once held hundreds of loved and well-used books now stand naked and hungry. Extra brushes and combs, baskets of escess makeup, dishes of cheap jewelry – and the eternally girlish myriad of nail polish and shoes – gone. The drawers & caddies that held them all, waiting to be filled by someone new. Snippets and pieces of what “defined” me, gone. I, too, now stand naked before the world … I stand before a journey that will take me to places I’ve never known, both physically and psychologically, no doubt. It has already been an amazing psychological journey … and without question, at the end of it all, I will not be the same person as I am today. It is daunting, once again I won’t deny that … but it is also incredibly exciting and beautifully virginal.  In 23 days I will, in essence, be giving myself to the world … to a world filled with soul and spirit, to a journey of ineffable scope, to an unknown of unknowable questions. And to the people I meet along the way.

As I sit now in these last 23 days, silently musing on all that is yet to come, I smile with the understanding that I don’t need to know the answers … they will come in time – perhaps a very long time, I do not know – but the will come. Until then, I’ll dance in the music of those questions, allowing them to take me where they will, knowing that in the end neither the questions nor the answers really mean anything …. it is only the dance – the living – of them that does.  

Yes, I am waxing a bit philosophical today, I admit. But that happens when one realizes that they have been given the opportunity to strip away all of the gunk and crust … and, with a bit of courage, take the chance on staring into the blank space of all that is yet to come. And I welcome it with open arms.