Early in the Journey Gryph and I would joke that we were out on an adventure, finding the “om” in homeless. We quickly learned that this wasn’t a very appropriate joke when we were trying to find a place to stay. It made people nervous. If we didn’t have any place of our own to go to we might try to stay with them! Forever! Often just the words, “We’ll be moving on in the morning” helped people decide that it was OK for us to stop for the night on their land. We were saddle tramps, homeless by choice and design. If I’m honest, when Obama said he was going to “put an end to homelessness” it sounded more like a threat than a promise. I was worried that the alternative might feel a lot like jail.
In a way it’s been very motivating not to have a home base; it’s made quitting a much less attractive (almost impossible to imagine) option. There were also times, when one of the ponies or I needed time to rest and recover, that not having a home of our own to go to has been difficult. It’s one thing to stop for a night, maybe two, but stretching that into weeks? That’s a lot to ask! That’s a lot to offer! And yet, every time the ponies and I have needed a place, for a night or an extended lay-up, it’s been provided. You might think that such an experience, extended over two years, would have given me an unshakable, iron-clad Faith. I Wish!
As the herd and I got closer and closer to Minot and the end of the trail I started to worry – big time! We’re all exhausted – tho probably me more than the ponies at this point. I have a huge responsibility to the real heroes of this Journey – Jesse James and Saint Finehorn – who have carried this whole dream so faithfully on their backs and hooves. I am blessedly tired of being always in somebody else’s space, on someone else’s turf, feeling the constant need to move on. I haven’t had a kitchen to call my own in 4 1/2 years. I have a book to write! Where could we go? What would I do? My Aunt Pat reminded me, “God doesn’t do things on time, He does them in time.” My parents were remarkably calm and encouraging, but somehow their Faith wasn’t quite contagious and reassuring enough when it was my future on the line. Inside my head a little voice was always saying things like “Easy for you to say.” I currently have just about enough money left to send out all the postcards I’ve promised letting people know I made it to Minot. Panic Zone!
You know that feeling when you’re at an amazing feast, like Thanksgiving with all the trimmings or an all-you-can-eat buffet of all your favorite foods? And you’re stuffed! One more bite and you know you’ll explode – and Then it’s time for dessert? Psychically, I reached that point with this Journey somewhere around Mississippi. I’d had enough and more than enough and then some. My manners were starting to slip and I knew it. We’d made it through our second winter, I’d survived a fall which resulted in a concussion and torn muscles and two fractured vertebrae, the ponies were weary and I wondered at the wisdom of asking them to continue. I was riding on to Minot because I’d said that I was riding to Minot, people were expecting me up in Minot AND I didn’t have a home to go to. That was last March. Sisu.
In April we were invited to a jam session in Sabougla, Mississippi. Every other Friday night a whole bunch of people (20-400!) bring food and instruments out to an 1890s farmhouse – they play music and break bread and catch up on each others lives and it’s good! I spent several days in Calhoun County, catching up on rest and getting to know some of the people who live there and I found myself starting to feel a bit homesick for a community where I could have a little house and settle down with the ponies. I suddenly realized how much I wanted a hOMe. I was invited out to dinner at the steak house in the town of Big Creek – population 60. We arrived a little early so I could take a look at a little old house on 5 acres – that just happened to be for sale. I walked up on the porch of the house with its two rocking chairs and suddenly I knew I could write the book there. The nearest grocery store is 6 miles away – within range of the ponies.
I started thinking about the Little House in Big Creek – a Lot. Weeks went by. I got the ‘phone number of the woman who owns it (she lives up in Memphis now – she’s 73 and was born there back when it was her grandmother’s house.) We talked on the ‘phone for most of an hour and she eventually agreed to sell me the house for $15,000. Completely reasonable – if I had that kind of money – which I didn’t. After much deliberation I decided to sell the little casita I’d built on Vieques, Puerto Rico. My folks were on their way down for a vacation and we agreed to talk more about it when they returned. They came home saying that they didn’t want to lose the casita from the family. I died a little inside. THEN (have I mentioned that I have the most wonderful parents on the planet?) they came up with a plan. They’d buy the place in Big Creek and we’d trade. Wow! Walking on air, happy happy joy joy, I called the woman who owned the house. She didn’t call back. I left a message every week for a month and then sent a certified letter. Nothing. Are you starting to feel the roller coaster? Two months ago I thought we had things figured out and the money was in escrow with the lawyer – she wasn’t ready to sign. That thing about Faith? And God’s sadistic sense of humor? Right.
The day before Halloween I got the news that the ponies and I have a home in Big Creek, Mississippi! We’ll be living a bit rough at first – an outhouse and a spigot and a wood stove. The house needs a LOT of work. Trying to figure out how to have the water meter unlocked (but the water Not turned on yet) I wound up speaking with one of my neighbors to be. She was wonderfully helpful and friendly and mentioned that the house hadn’t been lived in since she moved there – in 1975! By my understanding the house was built in the 1840’s and human beings a lot like me lived there – before there was any such thing as city water or electric. I’ve got good camping skills and a fair amount of determination – and a book to write before I get too carried away with learning how to restore a house. I’m looking forward to it! I’m also looking forward to being the host instead of the guest for a change – and I’m Not going to apologize for my rustic and random housekeeping. 😉
After the parade and festivities in Minot my folks are borrowing a truck and trailer to get us back to their place in Greenville, NY where I’ll be staying through Thanksgiving. Then it’s time to head South, with the ponies and what bits of furniture and housewares I still retain, to our new home. At this point I have absolutely No Clue how that’s going to happen. I haven’t owned a vehicle in about as long as I haven’t had a kitchen. And this brings us back around to the topic of Faith. One of the things my dad said to us growing up was “Who built the ark for Noah?” OK – we know his sons probably helped quite a bit – but the point was that Noah didn’t sit around waiting for God to build the ark. He got his instructions and he got busy. And one of the things I’ve learned on this Journey is that when I’m doing everything I know to do, when I’m turning over every stone, when I’m listening to that little voice in my head and following instructions as best I can understand them – that’s when the miracles happen. Right about now I’m feeling like it’s going to take a miracle to get the ponies and I down to Big Creek in early December. I have no preconceived notions about what that miracle might look like. I’m open to suggestions!
I’ve been so blessed on this Journey, over and over again in ways I never could have imagined. I have had experiences and learned things that most people only ever get a glimmer of and I really hope I have what it takes to give some of that back in the form of a book that’s worth the sacrifice of the trees. (Notice how optimistic I am? treeS!) To have had the opportunity to live my dream – the one I’ve carried in my heart since elementary school – that is something I wish for each and every one of you! For most of you I assume that won’t mean riding horseback across a continent – tho it’s a grand life if you don’t mind the water! 😉 I do believe that we each carry that dream, that thing that we know in our heart is uniquely ours to do – and when we step out in Faith and say “Yes!” it not only transforms our own lives, but those of people we encounter and people we may never even meet. What a privilege that is. What a miracle!