2020 Journal RoadSchooling The Story

Of Fire and Water

In the darkness they gather, drawn by the song of running water and the promise of the flame. The teacher trails behind, holding aloft the lamp that his companions might see the winding path. Around fallen branches and down vertiginous steps carved from the mountainside they travel until, at the edge of the bog, they pause to light the ceremonial torches.

“Be cautious as you cross the bog. The rocks are treacherous and the torches throw little light. You must pass this place as much by memory as by light,” the teacher whispers as he sparks each of the torches in turn.

“What about…” the initiate asks, but before he can finish speaking the acolyte cuffs him across the back of his head. He turns on her, fury flashing in his eyes, but she fixes him with a barely contained feral glare.

He nods, accepts his torch from the teacher in silence, and turns to pick his way across the mossy black stones which peek out above the waterline.

“Hold strong,” the teacher whispers.

The acolyte nods and turns her eyes to the mountains, visible now only as black voids jagging against the starry sky. She breathes deeply of the night air and, silently, wishes for the hundredth time that she possessed the wings which she wears in her dreams.

Behind them, the matriarchs watch from their seat on a fallen log. Three generations of woods women listen as forest slowly heaves a sigh and returns to steady breathing as the night creatures begin to crawl and trill in the cold air. They wait in silence, knowing that the softest word will scare the forest into holding its breath again.

Down in the ravine, they cross the bog safely and arrive at the stony riverbank. The gurgle of water across half submerged rocks is interrupted only by the grating of stone on stone beneath the feet of the approaching ceremonialists. Out across the waters waits the pyre, prepared stick by twig by leaf by stone, each carried to its place at the middle of the river by the initiate and his teacher while the acolyte and matriarchs watched from the shore.

The three pause at the edge and gaze into the darkness. After a moment the teacher turns to the initiate and says, “Take your torch and wade out into the river. Place each step with care so you are not sweets away by the current. When you reach the pyre, light it with your torch and allow the rising flames to burn away your past life.”

The initiate blinked, unsure how to take the dramatic speech, but eventually nodded and walked out into the black water.

The acolyte and the teacher watched as the golden circle of torchlight moved slowly across the rippling surface. Soon the light revealed the pyre: Stone had been laid atop flat stone to create an altar which rose a hands breadth above the black water, atop which stood the pyre. The initiate pushed his torch into it, kindling a flame in its dry heart. With a burst of light and the crackle of hungry flame, the pyre ignited and cast a wide circle of golden light across the river.

On the ridge, the matriarchs smile as a golden light rises up across the mountainside. Reflecting from the wide waters, the flames glow like a sunrise to paint the autumn leaves.

The initiate returns, bearing his torch and a wide grin. He is soaked and more than a little cold, but the glow of the fire warms his spirit. The three stand there at the river’s edge, watching in silence as the flames rise and embers drift into the night sky. The cracking of the fire joins in with the burbling river and the insectile night song to form a wild, secret chorus.

2020 Journal RoadSchooling RV Living

Saved by the Mothership

It’s tough being a mother. It’s tough being one even in the best of times. But these times? Times with pandemics, terminal diagnosies of family members, and a husband who goes out to sea often? It adds to the stress exponentially.

I see many of my fellow parents (its not just mothers, obviously, who are under stress!) expressing their frustrations, exhaustions, and fears over many mediums. Their attempts to mitigate them are shared, and some work. I will admit that I have tried many a thing to bring my stress level down. Only one thing so far has made me completely forget my worries (without being foolish or careless)-

Being in The Mothership.

I don’t know what it is about this camper, but it brings me a strange feeling of control. Because we can all admit that when anxiety comes knocking its due to our lack of control of our environments or circumstances. This little house on wheels is something I feel like I can keep clean because its small. Something that, if all heck broke loose in one place, I could move on to another. Something that, instead of my kids rattling around the four walls of a house and peering through the windows at their friends longingly, they are leaping through woods and staring through windows at changing landscapes.

It’s giving us stimulation where there was none.

The hard parts are missing my husband. Missing my gardens. Missing my big bathtub. But he is often on ships, so I don’t see him often to begin with. My gardens are a struggle on our current property, so I am somewhat relieved at not having to chase them. And my bathtub? Well… I will get back to it.

For the time being I am not questioning why this is working. We don’t stay on the road constantly. We have to go back to Maryland to check in and help with my father. But I am giving myself something new to look at and think about (read here- obsess over) by planning our trips and adventures.

In the next few days we will be in North Carolina, and then deep into Tennesee, seeing more and more of these awe inspiringly beautiful mountains. I am watching my children not be stuck on electronics all the time, because there is so much to be done outside and to see.

…and there is something to be said about feeling like a super quirky family that is traveling around with two dogs and a rabbit in a motorhome!

Bandit and Sir Kip enjoying the view