Prose & Comments: From here to there



The license plate on the car in front of me read “NVRGVUP.” Although cryptic, it shouted “Never Give Up,” the perfect message for me.

I’ve been wandering since I sold my house over a year ago, not really homeless but, yes, without a home in the ordinary context of that word. I’ve stayed with friends or family and rented for short periods.

During this vagabond time, I decided to memorize a poem a week and chose to start with “The Journey by Mary Oliver. Now, many months later, I realize her powerful, rhythmic words moved into my psyche, influenced my daily decisions and changed the trajectory of my life. I am living the reality of that poem.

“One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began.”

I finally let go of my house, the physical structure of my life. It provided the scaffolding and the safe place that held all the memories and stuff of my personal world. The first indication that it might be time to leave came 20 years ago when the last child left home.

The second signal came in 2011 when the 100-year flood named Sandy hit the shores of Fairfield, Connecticut. The Fire Department evacuated the neighborhood and the National Guard cordoned off the area for 10 days until the floodwaters receded. Insurance claims were ignored or disallowed and the reparation process became difficult and tedious.

Damaged trees and bushes died and houses were abandoned or demolished. The landscape changed. The neighborhood was never the same again. Mega mansions built to comply with the 12-feet-above ground new flood zone restrictions dwarfed the remaining older homes.

The third signal came in the summer of 2016. During a severe rainstorm, large branches of the huge maple tree in front of my house broke off, fell into the driveway, taking down the electrical wires to the house. The same night many pieces of slate were blown off the roof.

“It was already late

enough and a wild night

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones. “

It was already late. I’d been slow at reading signs and taking hints. Nature offered me message after message. Time to go the wind whispered. Time to go, the waters echoed. As the roof was blowing off the house the message became Go now, go now. Leave your safe place. Leave. Leave.

Even this narrative didn’t penetrate my desire to stay in that house. Losing the maple tree became the final indicator. As the arborist I trusted stood in the lift that carried him up almost five stories, and raised his electric sword, I knew it was time to go. Suddenly the house felt unprotected and naked without the camouflage and shade of this big tree.

Then I sold my home and heard the future calling.

“One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began.”

I began my journey in Fairfield, went to Naples, Florida, back to Fairfield, to Shelter Island, back to Fairfield, to Minneapolis, back to Fairfield and back to Shelter Island where I am now.

Next stop Portugal. Why, because serendipity stepped in and I was invited to speak at a conference in Tomar, Portugal. The country is also inexpensive, inhabited by many Brits who share my language, and it is at sea level where I must live in order to manage my compromised breathing. As I walk this path, doors open up and invitations show up.

“… and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world

determined to do

the only thing you could do —determined to save

the only life you could save.”

Poetry and driving provide the metaphors for my life today. Recently, the license plate on the car in front of me displayed the message “WRYTYR,” which I read as “WRITER,” answering the question: “What do I do next?”