Balance Is a Seesaw

From Bruce Springsteen’s “Growing Up.” on Asbury Park, 1973:

I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere,

And you know it’s really hard to hold your breath.

I swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared,

I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress.

Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth,

But I got me a nice little place in the stars,

And I swear I found the key to the universe

In the engine of an old parked car.

Then there’s that beautiful chorus about doing exactly the opposite of what he had been told, which seems to define the theme and title, “Growing Up.”

I guess I’m growing up as a nomad, is my theme here. We’ve taken longer-than “month-long vacations in the stratosphere,” if you count two months parked in quarantine living in our new trailer, or the summer we spent boondocking in way-away Montana.

I don’t even need to “swear I’ve lost everything I loved or feared”—I’ve written forlornly how the ties I have with my family and friends have lengthened and frayed and morphed into FaceTime appointments, or they no longer exist.

“I’ve got a nice little place in the stars”—this couldn’t describe better what it’s like to travel to every beautiful place you’ve dreamed of in a shiny, tiny capsule of glamour.

And “the key to the universe” seems to be hidden where it is for most everyone else: in my relationships I work to keep, in my inner ability to hold peace, in my trailermates right beside me all the time: in the engine of a old parked car.

Deja-vu Twice and You Learn

If you were following along with me last spring, you may remember that I was desperate to go on our Friends ad Family Tour of the East Coast. It had been a full year since I’d seen anyone I know, and my love for my son (then graduating from college) pulled me in like the gravity of a star.

But, my oh my, the Friends and Family Tour strung me out as if I were a rock star being pushed by her manager. I wanted to spend time with every single person I’d been missing, and yet, after a year of Tracy and me setting our own schedules, living in the woods, talking only to each other, the abrupt F&F Tour was shockingly exhausting.

Soon I felt like Bilbo, butter spread thinly over too much bread. What I had longed for more than anything—time with the people I love—flipped in my heart to longing for the life I’d created for myself, quiet time in the woods, just Tracy and me and Banjo.

About half a day after we pulled away from the last person on the tour, of course I wanted to go back.

I haven’t spent time with people en masse since that spring, but here at Imperial Dam LTVA suddenly I have so many social activities scheduled that I need to block them out on my calendar.


Three-days-a-week yoga is rocking my boat. Karen, the instructor, lives here in the LTVA and knows way more than how to direct a handful of stiff old RVers through some stretching exercises.

I ride my bike down the gravel pit, then take off layers of morning clothes, calm mid mid and body for a hull hour and a half, cover my face with my hat from the sun, then chat with other fulltimers about going into Mexico for dental work, ride back up the hill, lose my mat a couple of times to the encouraging “hurrahs!” from the walking yogis, and arrive back at the trailer, after two hours away and on my own, a new woman.

I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd,
But when they said, “Sit down,” I stood up.
Ooh, ooh, growin’ up

Uke Class

In this I was hoodwinked a bit, but I should have seen it coming.

I biked dow to the Christian Center that generously provides us with a mail service and half a dozen additional amenities thinking I was walking into a weekly ukulele lesson. But, duh, look what season we’re in! It was actually a recruitment for the church Christmas choir thingy.

You’d think me agreeing to take part in the Christmas service as part of the ukulele band wouldn’t be too much to ask, especially because I’m grateful for the mail service. But it’s like three practices a week of songs I don’t know because I didn’t grown up in a church, and man oh man do I not want to spend my precious alone time (that I normally would trade my soul for time with others) with others. Oooh, oooh, growing up.

So I told my new ukulele/physics/generally excellent conversationalist/better-attitude-than-me friend that I’m bowing out of the Christmas event. I’m holding out hope for the Sunday Music Jam that I believe still occurs. Stay tuned.

Spanish Class

Yes, there’s still another social event I walked into thinking it would be a breeze, but it was slightly shocking. TWO HOURS sitting on a church folding chair listening to people who are probably dyslexic in English try to sound out Spanish words … is this harder than strumming to “Feliz Navidad” next to a lady whose uke is out of tune?

Actually, this class I think I can do and should do, for our venture into Mexico after the new year. So I better get offline and practice saying, “I want bread and peanut butter for breakfast.” Or, “that watch is too expensive, so adios.” What our Spanish teacher (another winter camper here who’s volunteering) thinks we’ll want to say in Mexico is hilarious.

Getting Around

Even this is like being a cosmic kid in full costume dress. I ride my bike from place to place, and the whole time I’m making decisions about:

  • Ride the main road or the side one or take the short cut? Which will have a truck on it most likely to make me pull over?
  • Take the thick sand or the washboard sand, or bump slowly above the sharp rocks?
  • Keep my yoga mat strapped onto my bike basket while holding onto my towel and my more-precious-than-water map? Or strap something on my back and hold the map?
  • Wear my ukulele on my back and hang my hat on the handle bars, or vice versa, since, again, I can’t wear them both at once?
  • How about this. Ride like the wind down to the Christian Center for uke class (that turns out I don’t want to take). Discover it’s indoors and I’ve not brought a mask. Start riding back to the campsite to get the mask, but get waylaid by the chain on my bike skipping gears. Finally, get a mask at the trailer and fly back, trying not to use my gears, and end up being flummoxed by a recruitment for a Christmas show disguised as a ukulele class. Friend I hope to get to know better helps me fix my chain, and then ride back with a headwind that keeps me wondering if it’d be better off walking,
  • Do all of the above in that Turkish dress I bought from the drag queen in the Keys while wearing my cowboy hat and very dusty boots.

“My feet they finally took root in the earth.” This I have down.

All Over Again

So, I long for people. For a social schedule. For drop-in hang-outs. For freedom on my bike. For time by myself. For community.

Then I balk at playing “Mary’s Boy Child” in church when I know my fingernails will not be clean. I tremble at two straight hours forcing conversation in Spanish in the church side room sitting on a metal chair, observing that no one else has clean hair or matching clothes or trimmed nails, so why do I care?

Balance. In this lifestyle, it’s hidden in the motion of a seesaw.

I hid in the clouded warmth of the crowd,
But when they said, “Come down,” I threw up.
Ooh, ooh, growin’ up.

2 thoughts to “Balance Is a Seesaw”

  1. My mom used to get so excited when my brother and the kids were coming to visit – for Christmas or a week in the summer. Then the noise and hubbub of 3 young kids and my brother and his wife constantly coming and going to visit friends would overwhelm her, and she’d be ready for them to go home. Then they’d be gone and it would be so quiet, and after the initial “Ahhh!” she’d be missing them again! That balance can be difficult to find. XO