The Other Side Of The Mountain

Posted October 1, 2017 – Narrated by Carmen
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“To live is to create one’s own world as a scene of personal happiness” – Thomas Merton

Back in 2015, while scanning our photos and documents, this sentence caught my eye …

Hand in hand, the old woman and her old man crossed over to the other side of the mountain.

The other side of Mount Shasta

Most Sundays, in the year before LIB, Jim and I scanned every document, photo, journal, diary, newspaper clipping, letter, and manuscript – it was like watching our lives flash before our eyes.

Considering the period, my journal entry was probably inspired by the nearly sainted spiritual guru, Thomas Merton, author of The Seven Storey Mountain and The Other Side Of The Mountain.

Today, it reminds me more of the old chicken riddle … Q: Why did the old couple cross over the mountain? A: To buy cheaper pharmaceuticals, of course!

The other side of the mountain, like the other side of the door or the moon – is a metaphor to describe risk, fear and the unknown.

In literature, it is present in everything from heaven to apocalypse. And is applied toward war, peacefantasy, hope in darknesslife and death.  

But, most prominent in my memory is a campfire song we Girl Scouts sang merrily in rounds:

“The bear went over the mountain / The bear went over the mountain / The bear went over the mountain / To see what he could see …”

Wow… Did I have a moment of prescience in my late 20’s?

“Hand in hand, the old woman and her old man crossed over to the other side of the mountain to see what they could see …”

Hmm …? Did that couple want to be nimble and free? To follow their instincts wherever they lead?

Aspen Point Campground, Lake of the Woods, Klamath Falls, Oregon

It all began when we realized that home ownership had stopped being fun.

Our San Carlos home in San Diego, CA: 1976 to 1980

Once upon a California time, we craved the excitement of playing the equity game – the wheeling and dealing with insurance, taxes, loans, and upgrades.

Adulting tasks were fun back then and the sexy SoCal housing market energized our youthful ambitions.

Our Helix Street home in Spring Valley, CA: 1980 – 1995

But even Disneyland closes at night.

With only 20-30 years left, the financial reality for us is, owning a home fails the economic efficiency test. Even if our house was paid off, our DIY days are over.

So, the cost to properly remodel and maintain our two-on-one over the next couple of decades would amount to more than twice what we paid for our first house.

Our two homes in Coronado, CA: 1996 to 2016

Figuring in life-expectancy, the recalibration of our financial profile didn’t provide much room to continue status quo. Just as many sharp, hardworking and educated Gen X’ers can’t survive on one job nowadays, many retired boomers can’t keep their house and quit working, much less travel.

One day, in our financial advisor’s office, we suddenly realized all this. What we needed – wanted! – was to let it all go and recreate our lives.

We went to lunch at Karl Strauss that afternoon, exhilarated by possibilities and overwhelmed by the work ahead.

Later that week, we scheduled dance lessons in Hillcrest. We needed to slow dance through this transition … be kind to ourselves.

First, we cleared out the living room to make a space for practicing ballroom and swing as we chipped away at our monumental task.

In the end, we learned that were awful dancers, but we rocked at letting go as we embraced the less-is-more movement so many have championed before us.

South Lake Tahoe, Campground by the Lake.

A most thrilling pay-off of LIB is the stuff we don’t have to do anymore.

We’ll never need to arrange another home loan, apply for permits, or hire a contractor for a remodel, repair or upgrade. We’re done with sanding cabinets, termite treatments, building inspections, scheduling delays, tenant applications.

And, as full-time RVers, we’re past the noise and filth of neighboring remodeling projects, hiring gardeners, housekeepers, storing stuff we don’t need, garage cleaning, garage sales and shopping for furniture we will someday have to donate anyway

Click on the photo below made up of thousnds of different images to see 98% of our possessions that we sold, donated or threw away to prepare to travel full-time.

Photo mosaic by: livinginbeauty @ Mosaically

… which explains why, after eighteen months, we’re still celebrating!

Concert, in a rainstorm, at Bluestone Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

… shunning self-confinement and walled fortresses for shadowy woods and rushing streams.

In the 80’s, during my Merton phase, I copied passages about the woes of this modern age on slips of paper. Some, I kept for years,

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them.” ([amazon_textlink asin=’0811217248′ text=’Seeds Of Contemplation’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’livinbea-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’99da7fdc-a6e3-11e7-b338-15f5a56a4fde’])

And, today, here we are, a pair of old crows, scavaging the countryside for sparkly moments to adorn our metal nest – our gleaming hermitage – where we sip wine from stainless steel cups and plan for one more night and one more day.

Edgy, yes, but cozy as Christmas.

Casino Queen RV Park, St. Louis, Missouri

Yet, like many retired people we wonder how we ever found the time for jobs!

We’re always behind schedule with keeping truck and trailer together. But cleaning, polishing, grooming, maintaining and outfitting the rig is so therapeutic…

“Walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods-all can be enriched with contemplation and with the obscure sense of the presence of God.” — Thomas Merton, [amazon_textlink asin=’0060593628′ text=’The Inner Experience’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’livinbea-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’21274cac-a6e3-11e7-ae93-0f338484ecd1′]

Monitoring the silent killers – news consumption and blood pressure – are the only discomforts we can’t seem to shake. Some days we wish we didn’t have our new Verizon cell signal booster.

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning, we cannot begin to see. Unless we see, we cannot think.” — Thomas Merton, [amazon_textlink asin=’0385010184′ text=’Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’livinbea-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0b4f9068-a6e3-11e7-b2d2-131697760dd5′]

That dark side of the moon is a powerful illusion and always with us.

“The basic problem is not political, it is a-political and human. One of the most important things to do is to keep cutting deliberately through political lines and barriers and emphasizing the fact that these are largely fabrications and that there is another dimension, a genuine reality, totally opposed to the fictions of politics: the human dimension which politics pretend to arrogate entirely to themselves. This is the necessary first step along the long way toward the perhaps impossible task of purifying, humanizing and somehow illuminating politics themselves.”
Letter from Thomas Merton to Jim Forest, August 27, 1962

So, when the world’s problems seem unmovable … we, hand-in-hand cross over into a different land, a new beginning, a fresh start … because come what may, we’re LIBing happily ever after.

The other side of the Vallecito mountains – Agua Caliente County Park, California

13 thoughts on “The Other Side Of The Mountain

  1. I love this post!!’ Thank you so much for your insight. We are on the verge of doing what you have done and it’s a bit scary…so I love reading your thoughts since you have already done this. We have a beautiful airstream 30 ft classic and trying to sort everything out. Thank you and keep sharing your life!

    1. Thank you for being with us, Janaea!

      Congratulations on your progress! Hey, sorting it out is an ongoing project. We’re still working on that. Another Airstreamer who’s been on the road for three years told me the same thing. Once you think you’ve gotten it, some other thing presents itself. Today, Jim was on the roof installing our new cell phone antenna. It’s kinda cute but it added several more inches to our clearance. We’ll need to enter that into our GPS. Always something …
      Please keep us updated. We’d love to hear about your full-timing preparations!

      Safe Travels


  2. It was one of son’s birthday today, and Miriam was almost hit by a car. Not sure what this has to do with your post but somehow it seems significant as I listen to your post.

    1. Hey Aunt Carroll!

      Wow! Miriam and I both had a close scrape on the same day.

      I love you! Somehow, it makes me feel safer to know that you’re watching us.

      By the way, Daddy’s new house is almost finished. He’ll be moving in this week or next.



  3. We are starting our journey today in our 2008 Airstream Classic 25fb. We too have lost our desire of home ownership. Glad to out from under that mortgage debt. House sold, we used an estate sale to clear out all of our stuff. Sold off the two cars. Personals in a 5×5 climate controlled space. Last day of work was last Friday. We’ve been living in the AS in a local mobile home park so I could finish work. We have pretty much figured out cooking, cleaning sleeping, bathroom workflows and storage concerns in trailer and truck. We took weekend trips to the local lakes while I still worked to test out taking down and setting up camp with our full time trailer and truck.

    1. Kelvin! A congratulatory ticker tape parade to you! We’ve been hearing of your progress since we were preparing to set off and we feel like we need a bottle of champagne to celebrate with you. Wow! You’re off! You’re really, really off!

      Having some silent time now … a prayer for your journey – for safety – and that it will be all your heart and soul desires.


  4. Another inspiring post. Thoughtful. We arrived home late Saturday after a 4K drive into Canada, VT and Amish Country in Western PA. We have a wonderful home, but have been there one week over the past 7 and will be out the next 5. No mortgage, but quite a bit of cost with grounds care, pool care, housekeepers, and a LOT of utilities in such a large house. Have done the math, we can actually afford this and travel for decades; however, do we really want to? Spent the entire day yesterday cleaning porches. Today and tomorrow look like more slave labor days to prepare for four house guests. Although we are in pretty good physical shape, it is noticeably more difficult to do so much hard work. With 13 grandchildren and a elderly MIL to care for, it is unlikely we will ever be without a house. Every time we go through the long discussion about “moving down,” it begins to look like a long and large hassle. Envious of your freedom; for now, as Judy is in semi-retirement, we will look for more opportunities to AS together. At some point, an acceptable alternative to the current hassle of homeownership will be evident, but for now, it seems a mix of hospital board duties and house boy slave labor for me, interspersed with AS adventure and visiting grandkids.

    1. Hey Michael,

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you and ….Wow! That’s an epic sojourn you had up north this year. If you don’t mind, we’d love to pick your brain.

      Our house was a necessity until it wasn’t. Still, if the city had allowed us to split our property, we’d probably have kept one of our houses. Fortunately, it all worked out better than we could have planned.

      You have a big, wonderful house and the means to keep it and still realize your traveling ambitions! Hooray! Yes, the energy you have to invest in the house will diminish as you age, but at least it sounds like there’s no urgency for you to decide what to do. As you say, the moment will arrive and you will see the opportunity and when you do, the details won’t be so daunting then.

      Jim also enjoys his board duties and is able to attend meetings and retreats in virtual space. So far, we are delighted that our current volunteer responsibilities can be handled remotely and we’re installing upgrades – antenna and cell booster system.

      But, of course all is in flux. In the end, we have little control over the big stuff. We can only watch and wait and treasure the moments we have.

      Happy Travels, Michael!

      – Carmen

  5. After 6 months on the road, we are taking a few weeks to mourn the loss of a dear friend and your Merton quotes are welcome reminders of why we are living life to the fullest in our Rolling Toaster. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Maryanne – So sorry for your loss. The most difficult part of traveling is the leaving behind. We’re also mourning losses in our homeland now (San Diego). Sometimes, we divert to mourn and sometimes we don’t. It’s always difficult emotionally, regardless. Blessings to you and safe travels in The Rolling Toaster (love that name!)



  6. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I noticed your bike touring pictures and it reminded me of an early bike trip I took in 1976 using the inaugural Bikecentenial route. It took me right past Our Lady of Gethsemane Trappist Monastery. The monks put me up for the night and one of them took me to see Thomas Mertons grave.
    Also wanted to thank you for your tip on hiking in Ohio. I just got back from Hocking Hills.
    What a surprising find.

    1. Hey Bill! Wow. The Bikecentenial Sumer of ’76!? I remember seeing those billets in the bike shop! We started cycling so we could get to school on time. Jim had to ride a unicycle because there weren’t enough bike racks at SDSU – he just carried it with him into class. Cycling was easier than paying the outrageous parking fee … back in the days when college was free for residents. Years later, we cycled for the love of it. We missed the monastery when we were in Kentucky last November, but we hope to visit next time. So glad you enjoyed Hocking Hills. We gotta meet up, Bill. Meanwhile …

      Safe Travels


      1. I agree we gotta meet up. Home base is still Godfrey, Il. We’re thinking about an early Nov. trip to Green Valley AZ.

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