Winding Down

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Seventeen months ago I began this blog, full of expectation as we began a long-awaited adventure. We were in the process of packing our belongings for storage and becoming nomads for a time. As I wrote, I wondered how the journey would change me. Who would I be without the anchoring identity provided by a place in the world, the roles I played in life, and the structure that had evolved around it all?

Our original plan was to travel the perimeter of the United States in our little RV, Casa Blanca. The first leg would be the Eastern seaboard. Because we had a commitment in Florida (my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party), we would cover the southern part first, and later in the summer do the Northeastern coast.

Best made plans. The very first day out, we experienced the inevitability of change, when a dramatic storm flooded our world right before our eyes. Amazed, we waited in the driveway from which we would soon depart for the last time. As the rain finally let up, we navigated though the deep creek that had recently been our street. Shortly thereafter, our vehicle began to misfire. Some wires had gotten wet. The next day (somewhere in Delaware) we learned that since the needed parts weren’t readily available, Casa Blanca would be unable to get us to the party in time. We made the drive to Florida in a rental car, feeling more than a little deflated from the anticlimactic start to our journey. Still, the family gathering was wonderful, and we were off to a good start. We retrieved Casa Blanca, and eventually completed the Northeast through a long and glorious summer. By November, we were ready to retire Casa for the winter and head for Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We would continue our drive around the states in the spring, or so we thought.

While in Mexico, though, we changed some of our plans. Maybe it was the water, the heat, or a combination of the two. Somewhat impulsively we decided that summer would not find us on the road, but in the skies. We booked flights to Bali and Europe, which, if you have been following this blog, is old news.

Admittedly, I have some mild regrets about not completing our journey around the US. I still don’t regret our changes in plans. What a gift it was to be able to be flexible and see and do so much! Not following our original plans was an important step. It freed us in a way that we couldn’t anticipate.

Why am I rehashing this now? Since winding down from our whirlwind summer adventures, we are slowing down. Coincidentally, I am blogging less and less. While we will not be settled into a new home before Christmas 2016 as we once thought, we are thinking more about the future. Increasingly, we find ourselves looking forward to the day when we will have a place of our own. Aside from our camper, we have slept in multiple hotels, rented spaces, and as guests in the homes of countless friends and family members. Even as I celebrate the achievement of having become unencumbered, a sense of being displaced has been its companion.

We are slowing down. We spent almost two months in New Jersey after returning from Europe. Now we are back on Isla Mujeres for a three-week visit before spending the winter in Vermont. Winter is a good time for ideas to incubate, and we hope to make some wise decisions about our future during that time. Certainly the cold winter will be conducive to decisions about nesting, just as the Mexican “winter” gave us permission to make loco decisions about new adventures.

My last two blog entries have felt different to me, as I have shifted internally from wanting to focus on my geographical meandering to reflecting more on my inner journey. When I completed my last entry, Full Circle, I felt that if this blog were a book, I had just written the last chapter. In spite of this feeling, I didn’t decide anything. I’m learning to let things percolate.

So here I am. I have missed writing more frequently, missed the responses I get, and the feelings of connection they bring. You can’t begin to imagine how meaningful your comments are. Please keep them coming! I’m not sure where my reflections will bring me now that we are slowing down. Maybe my blog will become boring –  I’m hoping not. I’m expecting that being still may be even more insightful than moving. Sitting to write helps me focus on what the lessons are.

Speaking of lessons, I want to end with a story, a true story about something that happened here on Isla Mujeres late yesterday morning. We were driving down the road along the ocean in our golf cart, on the way to hunt for sea glass. Just another day in paradise. Charlie looked out over the water and saw a vulnerable little boat tossing about the waves. As it came closer to shore, we could see that it was inhabited by about fifteen people. A crowd was gathering, because, as we had surmised, it was a boatload of Cuban refugees and it was about to land on the shore right in front of us.

Cuba is ninety miles from Isla, and it is a well-known fact that refugee boats arrive here with some regularity. If the refugees are lucky, they disappear into the fabric of the island. But we had never seen this with our own eyes. As the crowd gathered, I felt sick to my stomach. A police officer had arrived and was radioing for backup. Onlookers had their phones out and were taking videos and photos, as these desperate and defenseless people were carried on the waves directly toward the sands before us.

I could only imagine how fervently these people must have wanted to escape their country to endure crossing the sea in a small boat with a plastic tarp for a sail. They wanted freedom, but as the police gathered it looked as it they were going to be captured. I didn’t want to watch, but it was happening so fast that I didn’t really have  a choice. The boat scraped the sand and the Cubans were scrambling in all directions. Some got away, others were caught. At least one officer had a weapon drawn. It was surreal.

I don’t know what happened to those who were apprehended. Perhaps they were treated with dignity, perhaps not. I only know that this saddened me deeply. Here I am, reflecting on creating the next chapter of my life, on building a new home. I have never known the hardship behind the drama that played out before me. I was going to look for sea glass!

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Instead, the sea brought me an indelible image of human suffering, the fear of cruelty side by side with the hope of liberation. The refugees can no longer be seen. Some went with the police, and I hope others found shelter. The little boat still sits on the shore.

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Life is never as simple as a stroll through paradise. We must remember this, and most importantly, we must remember to maintain our humanity and compassion above all. I appreciate any reminders that my concerns are miniscule in this cosmos. ©

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4 thoughts on “Winding Down

  1. Excellent, honey! Glad you’re back. I may be ready to start my own soon…and I see you have an ad on there now. Looking so forward to seeing you and all! Love you.

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  2. Wow – what an experience that was. Brings the world’s reality into laser focus. I don’t envy your journey yesterday. A sight very difficult to get out of your head I’m sure.

    Did you guys listen/watch the last debate? Thoughts? I am also appalled by his lack of honor to our tradition of a peaceful transfer of power and acceptance of the election. Hopefully this will be the nail in the coffin for him. On CNN last night they were dumbfounded by it. And it is different than Al Gore’s not conceding until the Supreme Court ruled.

    J

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  3. Another great blog Arlene! The photos are great, so sad, they are so desperate for a new life.
    Hope you are enjoying Isla and reconnecting with your friends there.
    See you soon!

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