Because of Sea, Sally Jo and I have had a variety of experiences, mostly very good. Sea says that being our child has been an interesting experience! I think it is safe to say, a mutual admiration society.
According to Sea, throughout this most recent experience many have asked how her mom and dad feel about the trip….how worried about her we must be. She asked me to write this blog.
Yes, there have been a few times when we have worried about Sea, though perhaps concerned is a better word. Sally Jo and I have maintained a good relationship with Sea throughout her 48 years. Some of what she has done has made us uncomfortable – it is not what we would have chosen for her….but this ride across the United States? No reservations about it at all. Sea has wanted to make this ride for perhaps 35 years, and was as prepared to take the trip as was perhaps humanly possible.
Sea was 10 when I became the Director of Sky Ranch in TX. For 7 years the ranch had 30 – 50 horses, and Sea worked in the barn all summer and every weekend. When Sea was 11, we drove to Chincoteague Island and bought a pony at the wild horse auction. She trained the filly to ride. Sadly she outgrew the little horse. During this period she became, for the Camp Horsemanship Association, a certified instructor in both English and western.
In August, after 7 years as the Director of Sky Ranch, I was told I would receive 4 months compensation if I would resign. No warning! Total surprise!!! Sea had 2 horses at the ranch. To keep her horses, Sea knew she had to have income, so, when 16, she began her own riding school right next to a large shopping center in North Dallas. The land was waiting to be developed….the stable was in rough shape…but the price was right! Hundreds of people knew Sea through Sky Ranch, and when she had stable arrangements, she had students. Soon Sea was teaching 20 students, ages 4 to 44, beginning on Friday after school and continuing into Saturday evening. Sea paid her stable fees…with money to spare. Sea’s business was going well. When it became financially necessary for our family, she sold her expensive horse. Fortunately a family she knew loaned her a suitable horse to use, and she was immediately back in business.
After directing the Christian Camping International Convention, I became the Director of Deerfoot Lodge (Deerfoot.org), a wilderness boy’s camp in the Adirondack Mountains, located 5 miles from the nearest power line, an hour from the nearest hospital.
Time to buy a house in New York. Sea wanted a horse, her sister, Jenna, wanted her pigeons to go up with us I found a house in need of work located on 5 acres. We had a simple, two stall, pole barn built with a small tack and feed room built…and soon had horses. Our second summer, when Sea was 18, she and a friend rode their horses 106 miles up to camp.
Just as Sea learned horsemanship through the context of our family over many years, she learned camping skills. Before Sea was born, Sally Jo and I were camping together. In the context of Deerfoot Lodge, our children were in the Adirondacks throughout the year. Occasionally we would cross country ski into our log cabin, knowing it would go well below zero at night. No electricity or central heat or running water. Our wood stove provided considerable heat – in one room. Our water came from the hole we chopped in the ice. Deerfoot Lodge, in winter, is a wonderland. Beautiful, untracked snow. Absolute quiet. Great cross country skiing, sledding, and tubing.
Risk? Of course! We learned to manage risk, winter and summer. Every week every Deerfoot Lodge camper took a hike or canoe trip. Eventually 14 maxi-vans were taking 162 campers and 40 staff to locations from Canada to the Allagash River in Maine. Staff members were very carefully trained, and I never missed a night’s sleep. (Sea, Sally Jo and I, with 9 friends, shared an 8 day Allagash River canoe trip.)
When Sea was 35 she said “Mom and Dad, how would you feel about my hiking the Appalachian Trail?” The next spring we drove her to Georgia, where the trail began. Sea had hiked over 800 miles of the trail when her ankle said “no more!”
Didn’t we worry about her getting hurt? We knew she would get hurt – physically, and emotionally.
Life does this to us – all of us. We almost always heal and are stronger through the experience. Did Sea get hurt? Of course she did!
Now…one more perspective to add to Sea’s preparation – for all of life. Sally Jo and I are Christians. In a very real sense, we saw Sea as a trust from the Lord. We gave her back to the Lord when she was born, and we did our best to enable her to grow in her understanding of, her trust in the Lord. In many ways this was not much different than helping our children learn camping skills.
Our children watched us seeking to live lives pleasing to the Lord. They heard us pray to our loving heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe we live in, that we enjoy. At Christmas our family celebrates the birth of Jesus. On Good Friday and Easter we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us, by example and words, how to live. He died out of his love for us, that our broken relationship with God could be restored. Our family frequently saw the evidence of the living God at work.
Eight years ago Sea moved to Vieques, an island 10 miles east of Puerto Rico. There she supported herself through using her training as a massage therapist. Soon she was also leading 7 hour eco-kayak tours. She was asked to cater, and additional requests to provide private chef service followed. During this time Sea, friends and family built, on a very step hillside, a 16 X 20 “casita” located “off the grid.” It is a delightful little place where Sally Jo and I have spent several weeks. Life there is simple; the views of the ocean are wonderful. Sea and her friend, Gryph, opened a food cart restaurant located where most people heading to the beaches drove by. When their “eating establishment” was written about in the island newspaper, Sea and Gryph had a continual line outside their service window.
Four 1/2 years ago Sea and Gryph were offered a very good price for their business. They found jobs as crew and cooks on small sail boats cruising the Caribbean. When they learned they could crew and cook on a motor yacht going from Ireland to Singapore where they had friends working for Reader’s Digest, they headed for Ireland via New York City. We met them in NYC – it was Sea’s birthday. Sea and Gryph gave Sally Jo and me a pretty glass container, about 5” in diameter, containing thousands of beautiful red and black ojito beans. We were to remove 1 bean each day to remind us to pray for them. Whereas we have not always removed a bean each day, we have prayed for them at least once every day for these 4 years.
On this 25 month, 5000 mile horse back ride across the United States, Sea has used all of her camping and horseback riding skills – and these skills keep growing. She has also used her experience living as God’s child, and this “skill” continues to grow. You, who have followed her blog, have read about many of her experiences. I am confident the book she will write will encourage and challenge all of us.
Sea is already transitioning from a 25 month, 5,000 mile trail ride to an unknown reality. Sea must transition into a somewhat normal life after years of adventure, most recently 25 months of being primarily concerned about the events of the day she was living: “Where can I find food, water for the ponies, and shelter for all of us if a bad storm is coming? As she has traveled, she has met many of you. You often provided the food and water for the ponies. You have often provided Sea with shelter, food, water, and encouragement. When she has been sick or “broken”, you have cared for her. You have suggested the best route to ride, and occasionally you have taken her by horse trailer where there was a large river to cross, or there was no suitable trail or road to ride. In many cases, you were God’s miraculous provision for her, and she knows this.
With this transition have come many, many tears – tears you cannot feel as you read her blogs. Sea plans to live in Big Creek, Mississippi. Population 60! The house, which began as a log cabin in about 1850, has been in one family since it was built. No one has lived in the house since the early 70’s, and the floor in one room has collapsed. The family has replaced the roof and maintained the essential structure. Water and electric stop at the road. There is no heat source. There is no working plumbing, no garage, and no barn. Now Sally Jo and I own a casita in Vieques…and Sea has a place to call home. (Annual property tax: $138.00)
Why this town? This house?
In March, Sea rode into this beautiful area and enjoyed the people she met. By invitation, she stayed a few days. She shared a wonderful evening with 30 – 40 others, strumming, singing and talking. Local people showed her the house and encouraged her to return to be part of their little community, and to write her book. Sea had been looking for a place to live, to write, since she had headed out on the trip. She had been invited to return to many locations. Nothing had clicked….until Big Creek.
Picture yourself moving into an abandoned house in a small southern town with two horses and no car. Picture yourself doing this with few carpentry, plumbing or electrical skills – and almost no money.