Seven months ago I locked the back door of my house and left the key for the new owners. I was exhausted from six frenetic weeks of sorting, selling, boxing, and storing all my worldly goods. I sold or gave away a mountain of detritus—the lint and loose change that falls between the sofa cushions of our lives; I neatly boxed the “old friends” that I decided to keep and stored them at my sister’s. I got into my little rig—a 14-foot trailer and a Dodge Durango—that was parked in the driveway and drove about 20 miles to the Pere Marquette Campground. It wasn’t a a big move geographically, but it was like stepping off a cliff for me.
It was June 10, 2010.
I felt disoriented for weeks. I was sometimes sad, sometimes afraid, sometimes lonely, but mostly I wasn’t sure who I was. Was I a homeless transient? Where did I belong? What should I be doing? Where was meaning-and-purpose now? And the more mundane fears: Would I break down? Would I get lost? Would I get hurt?
I had dreamed of this move for years and had deliberately hacked away the ties of work, friendship, and community that I had built up with some care for almost a decade at my last home. Now I had jumped from the plane, but the chute hadn’t
opened. Those who had listened to my dreams (for years) were waiting for glowing, joyful reports of life on the road, but the best I could muster was “I’m in transition.”
At the time, my most reassuring emotion was that, however fondly I recalled my former life in my little grandma house in tiny Scottville, Michigan, I had no desire to return to it. I guess I’m just not ready to set deep roots.
In those first few months on the road I spent a lot of time in the driveways of my children, siblings, parents, and friends. Those visits were deeply satisfying. I was able to enter into the lives of people I love without the inconvenience of moving into their homes–because I had my own little home right with me. The only problem was that after these lovely, warm, intimate visits I would have to leave. The departures were always wrenching.
In those first few months, I was learning to negotiate the road less taken, not to mention the city roads and desert roads and mountain roads. I was learning where I could park for the night, and more important—that I could park most places and not be afraid. In fact, I was learning that fear gets in the way of a good time, and it gets in the way of peace. It’s a distraction and a handicap. I was (and am) challenged to live deeply and honestly what I say I believe—that I am protected and led by grace. That this life, this world, this road is unfolding as it should in all its great and transient beauty.
Maintaining this perspective, I find, demands a consistent spiritual practice. So, every day I sit for a while and try to harness my “monkey mind” long enough to hear the God-whisper, or failing that, I just sit, every day, trying. I hope that’s enough.
So now, seven months after I locked the back door to a house I no longer own, I’m happy and relieved to report that I’m starting to feel the magic. The road is starting to feel like a life, and I’m starting to feel confident within it. I love the surprises I encounter in both the human and natural worlds. I’ve found that most people are kind and helpful, and this world, as I already knew, is a magnificent place to spend a lifetime.
Tonight I am camped in a broad valley in the Anza Borrego Desert in southern California. I can see a distant starlight twinkle from my only neightbor far across the valley. The coyotes have begun their evening serenade. I hiked today, as I almost always do. I saw jackrabbits with their big ears and humpbacked lope; I saw a big coyote weaving silently through the desert brush. Soon, my daughter and my sister will join me, and we will travel around these desert places together to see the spring bloom for the first time (and maybe the last time) in our lives.
My life has become as broad and unbounded as this valley, which means I have the freedom to choose among many options. I can go to other countries; I can do volunteer work; I can spend good, warm, intimate time with people I love. Above all, I can try to listen to the God-whisper and trust that it is leading me where I need to go.
Dave and Sue Sprinkle.