This is the beginning of my introduction to TMMT, soon to be revealed.
Today I want to share one of my favourite stories with you all. You know, there have been times in my life when I was ‘out of sync’ and things didn’t flow easily; in fact, sometimes it seemed as though they had frozen right up. But I’ve had a few times when I was ‘in sync’, too and then life seemed easy, even magical.
I rarely had much money and so had not travelled other than a few short trips into Washington State or to visit friends in upper central BC. Once we even drove to Peace River to visit my husband’s sisters. But nothing further.
Then, one year, I was chosen as a delegate to an international conference in Virginia on the East Coast of the USA. I was given enough money to cover my air fare and a week in a hotel, plus some for incidentals. But I wanted to maximize the opportunity, so I booked my flight for a three week stay, not knowing how that might work out. I didn’t book a hotel room, either. I did know that there was a campsite set not too far from where the conference was being held, so Plan Z was to stay there for the duration and take the trolley back and forth each day.
I did stay there the first night. I had arrived at 9 o’clock in the evening and it was already pitch dark outside. I’d forgotten that, the further south one goes, the earlier the sun sets in the summer. But no worries, eventually the trolley came and I took that to the campsite, where the overnight staff were rather astounded to see a single, 40-year old woman on a Friday night. Well, what did I know? I grew up when camping meant camping, not drinking and raising hell . . .
So the staff gave me a site near to their office and kept an eye on me all night. They were great! For the first half of the night there were loud sounds of people carrying on, drinking, singing, talking loudly; a while later there were sounds of people being sick in the bushes. But eventually all was quiet and I did get some sleep.
I should tell you about my camping style here, too. I didn’t own a tent but I did have a sleeping bag. So I took five large black plastic bags and a piece of kitchen twine. I had a plan, you see. I made and lived in a tipi the year myboys’ Dad and I worked on a small truck farm in the Okanagan and I had a book on tipis. so I knew how they were fastened down to keep themf rom blowingover in high winds. And I adapted the idea to make a sort of tent/shelter. I cut one bag open at the bottom to form a tube, then overlapped it with another bag. I put a pebble inside and pushed it up through the two layers, winding the string around a couple of times, then forming a half hitch to hold it in place. I didn’t cut the string. Another pebble about six inches away, more string wrapping, and so on until I had a long sausage shaped bag. I cut another plastic bag open down one side and hung it from a tree branch with more string until the corners touched the ground. I used small rocks to anchor the corners after I’d spread them out. The two remaining garbage bags I used to cover the backpack so it would stay dry. I got the sleeping bag into the ‘sausage’ bag and myself into that, with my head under the cone shaped bag hanging from the branch. I slept well and was dry as could be, although it did rain a bit during the night. The only thing I lacked for was food, because I wasn’t allowed to bring any on the flight. It’s amazing what one can do when motivated and informed, isn’t it?
I woke early, bought some snacks from a vending machine and sat on a picnic table eating my makeshift breakfast and revelling in the sound of the Atlantic ocean just over the dunes. Then I walked to the shore, took off my shoes and waded into the chilly water. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
By 9 am I was on the trolley and on my way to the conference to sign in. We stopped for a break at a small fruit stand and I had a treat that I’d dreamed about for years, but never expected to realize: I bought a real Georgia Peach and ate it right there, bent over to let the gushing juice fall onto the ground. It was amazing and all I had imagined it o=would be.
When I finally arrived at the conference , I did ask about places to stay and was given a list of people who always provided a room to attendees. but, of course, all were filled. Indeed, some people had booked their rooms the year before. Well, no worries. I went back to the nice lady at the desk and asked if she knew of anything else I might try. And she mentioned a young couple who were usually on the list but not that year. So I called them and it turned out they were artisans, one a potter and the other a silversmith, with thousands of dollars worth of tools and stock in their home. They were going to Washington, DC that week for a few days and hadn’t wanted to leave strangers in their home. But they said if I hadn’t found anything by 3 pm I should call them back. I explained that I didn’t need to be in their house; I just wanted a place to camp. I planned to wash up at the conference itself. I’ve lived outdoors several times in my life when younger and I do love it, so I was quite fine with the idea. And there was always the campsite.
By 2 I still hadn’t found anything else, so I called them back and was invited over. We hit it off immediately and an hour later they left for DC and, much to my surprise and delight, I had been left in the house with keys and all. Best of all, when I walked out the back door, across the yard and then across a narrow lane, I had only to climb a small bank and I was at the conference! I was closer than anyone who had booked way in advance. The couple asked if I thought $10 a night would be ok, as I was going to buy all my own food. And of course it was! I stayed with them for two weeks (they returned a few days later, maybe 3 or 4) and I did what I have always done; I helped with the dishes, babysat their lovely 3 year old daughter, generally made myself useful when not at meetings. And when I left they would only take $5 per night. There ARE miracles in this world!
But I still had a week to go before my return flight. I had brought enough of my own money with me to cover a few extras and one of those was a massage at the massage school. The trainee who gave me the massage was a lovely young girl and we connected right away. She asked me questions about where I was from and where I was staying. And she said that if I needed a place to stay at any point to let her know and I could stay with her. At the end of the second week I had to leave the couple’s home; his older children were coming to stay for the summer. So I did contact the masseuse and ended up spending a delightful week with her. She was paying her way through the massage school by working part time in a fast food place that specialized in something called, I think, Cajun Boil. They had large pots of water with spices in and in those they cooked a wide variety of seafood, all sort thrown in together. Crab, lobster, clams, mussels, oysters, fish of several types, etc. And if a customer placed an order and didn’t pick it up, the staff was allowed to take it home. So I had all the fresh seafood I could eat for a week, every day. I could never have afforded to eat like that back home. And she was great company, too. ONe night we went to see a movie and sat in the car outside with paper towelling tucked into our collars, feasting on fish and shellfish before going in to see :Raising Arizona”. I shall never forget that time.
That trip was on my bucket list, although we didn’t use that term in those days. I learned a lot about stepping out on faith and having trust.
I have two other stories to share with you, but it’s too late tonight.
May the day be merry and bright and may you find time for creating something, baking, stitching, painting, writing, anything that makes your heart sing.
Music for today:
An all time favourite of mine: The Travelling People, also known as The Moving On Song, sung here by The Dubliners. My brother in law who died three years ago first introduced me to this recording and to The Dubliners. I particularly love the pictures used for this video; I had horses like that years ago and nearly ended up living in a gypsy wagon then, too. A long story . . . But I’ve learned that sometimes a simple life is a hard life; all the same, it usually gives us greater gifts than one might imagine.
And another song, Go, Move, Shift; this one by Ewan MacColl, is even more relevant in these days and for Christmas in the original story.
See you tomorrow. ~ Linne
Linne, you really are a marvel. I admire your camping efforts more than I can say. Sounds like a fabulous 3 weeks, just perfect for you xxx
Thanks, Selma. I like to share stories like these to show people that knowledge and problem-solving skills can overcome so many challenges. I chose a life that wasn’t going to yield much income, but was rich in experiences and unusual opportunities. So to have some of the things I wanted, I really had to think outside the box. I don’t know about being a marvel, though. If I’d had money, I would have likely been far more traditional and simply booked hotel rooms, etc. Not nearly as much fun, though, and the memories have been worth it all. And don’t imagine I was never anxious or didn’t spend time wondering if, indeed, I’d finally gone too far . . . I’ve often had those moments, too. 🙂 I’m enjoying your posts, too, Selma, Warm hugs to you. ~ Linne