You can tell a lot about a culture by what can’t be joked about. And what can. I remember my visceral shock when I was over in Ireland and was told that the Irish were taking credit for the World Trade Center coming down. “How So?” I asked? Well, it seems that there were two Irish Carpenters up on the 95th floor, on the night of September 10th, trying to fit a door. It was just a bit too tight and one of the workmen said to the other, “Aye Paddy, we’re goin’ to have to take a plane to that.” (all of this in an actual Irish accent of course) I was floored, wind knocked out of me – only gradually realizing that part of the joke is the American’s response to the joke. I watched my dad have the same physical reaction to that joke a year later – he literally stepped back a pace.
“So where are you from? Where’s Home?” “Oh – we’re exploring the ”om” in hOMeless.” The very helpful, kind, friendly woman who had arranged a place for us to stay with her family and brought hay for the ponies suddenly stiffened, stood straight, crossed her arms looked at us a bit sternly. “You’re homeless on purpose though? This is a choice?” Oops – not funny. Change tracks – reassure her that we’re riding home to our families on the East Coast – throw in Caribbean home ownership for good measure (all true) – and everything is nice and friendly again.
Similarly, “Jesus was a Transcient”, tossed into a conversation with a Conservative God-Fearing Land Owning Man, didn’t go over very well. He glared at me, “where do you get that idea?” “The Bible?” I replied. At which point I was reminded that the Bible doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus’ adult life until his baptism at the age of 30. That until then he probably lived a very conventional life, had a home and family and business (following Joseph into Carpentry) and was in no way a transient. Well, that’s probably true of a lot of transients today as well. It doesn’t change my mental image of Jesus and the disciples wandering around the countryside, sleeping wherever they found themselves of an evening, eating what they were offered or could find (handy trick – that with the loaves and fishes!) The two views don’t necessarily contradict each other. We all go through phases.
Recently I have been corresponding with another solo female long rider – which has been such an amazing boon I didn’t even know I was craving. Though we haven’t met in person, suddenly I feel a part of a Grand Sorority of Lady Adventurers (of little means and noticable years )! However it seems that all the other long riders that she knows about have some sort of home base – and I don’t, in that way. Which does tend to leave a huge scary psychic hole in the realm of “what will I do when the Journey is over? where will I go with the ponies?” And of course, where do I go if there’s a problem – like a pack pony who is taking weeks into months to heal. Which is the situation I lately found myself in, and has raised the “homelessness” issue into prominence. Because there are two very different fears that many of us have around this whole transience/homeless issue. One is that something might happen and we’ll suddenly find ourselves homeless. The other is that we might get saddled with a homeless person who has no place else to go and needs help. From the first perspective, homelessness is a strange thing to choose “on purpose”. From the second, homelessness is an irresponsible choice, because it creates a certain level of dependence on the kindness of strangers.
So I started thinking about that mythical home base/haven. Because I do have the casita in Vieques – which doesn’t help at all in this situation. I do have friends and family on the East Coast who would put me up for a spell, even with the ponies. But none of that helps when I’m stuck in SE Arizona -> loading up and heading for our end point would pretty much negate the trip. So in the current situation I wouldn’t be doing anything differently. At least that assuages a bit of my guilt at not being totally self-sufficient. And I am so ready to be back on the trail, riding across the country, sleeping wherever I happen to find myself of an evening – happily homeless and unencumbered. I love this life!