It is coming to the end of summer, and we are back from the first leg of the Cruise Director’s Great Northwest Adventure.
We were on the road in our trailer for almost seven weeks, rolling up over 4,000 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. If, as the song says, “the greenest green you’ve ever seen is in Seattle,” then the bluest blue is the sky in Montana. The sun in Montana doesn’t go down until after 9:30 pm, and the sunsets take your breath away.
Terri and I share a common sense of aesthetic intimacy; we can just sit, as we did at Peach Beach in Washington looking at the Columbia River, wordlessly watching the grandeur of God’s creation unfold in front of us. Francis reminds us of this gift in Laudato Si, and our oft ignored responsibility to protect it. You really need to get away from the urban realities of SoCal and into rural America to fully appreciate what he is talking about.
We returned home to take a break and to celebrate our 50th anniversary…. Wow, 50 years? How’d that happen? Then we are back to Oregon to pick up the trailer and cruise the California coast coming home.
While on the road, dodging the semi-trucks and searching for the common person, we were reminded of some basic truths. RVing is a world unto itself, and every day we would set out adventuring to see new places and to meet new faces. To support this untethered way of life there is a culture in Rving that binds its participants together in a culture of the open road. At each stop we met wonderful people – total strangers, generally in our age group – with whom we shared the stories of our life, family, marriage, and faith. When you say, “happy hour!” in a campground, you would be surprised how often God comes up over cheese, crackers and chardonnay, and even more surprised at the spontaneous testimony people give of the God in their life.
The culture of RVing comes with its own standards of behavior, and its own language. Being on the road, off the grid and far from home, has its own fantasy of reality. I am reminded of a recent America magazine article by Holly Coolman, where she tells of J.R.R. Tolkien, who described his literary fantasy worlds as “sub creation.” Tolkien didn’t create new worlds in his novels as much as he created his real and identifiable worlds within the one already created by God. RVing is one of those sub creations that allows you to see an identifiable real world of God through the lens of unexperienced moments and unexperienced places.
Tolkien’s contemporary, Charles Williams, speaks of “preferring the given.” To paraphrase Williams, the wonder of the RVing culture exists in the “cradle” of already existing and ongoing creation – the Rv’er must learn to love the gift of something new, appreciate its beauty, seek its wisdom. Rural America isn’t the downtown you know, and Rving isn’t like being in your backyard. Being on the road stretches the envelope of your normal, and it reminds as Francis reminds that the new we see was always there…we just didn’t look.
This year we forsook the Interstate and took the backroads less traveled, and as Robert Frost would say, it made all the difference.
Oh, the 50 years? Terri and I met in college 52 years ago, just a blink in time. From the moment she caught a football, over her shoulder, without breaking stride, while running down a muddy road at a picnic in Marin County, I knew she was the one.
She is still the one, and at home or on the road, I am truly blessed.
Ted Furlow retired as Director of Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of San Bernardino and continues in marriage preparation ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.