Monday, June 26, 2017


Eight has always seemed like my lucky number. Born on the eighth day of the eighth month, I’ve never had any trouble remembering my birth date. As a child I was quite excited when I reached the age of eight, expecting the coming year to be special.

Now I am eagerly looking forward to completing my eighth decade this summer. If I believed in astrology, I’d even think that there was significance in my being a Leo, the sign ruled by the sun. On August 21 (coincidentally, my partner’s and my father’s birthday) there will be a total solar eclipse across the United States. Those within a few miles north or south of the cross-country transit line will have a good view if the weather allows it. We plan to watch it from a carefully selected spot in eastern Oregon. For the first time in my life, I will see a total eclipse.
Waiting for the eclipse

Around 10 A.M., the syzygy (alignment of three bodies) will be exactly right. From this distance the sun and moon appear to have the same diameter. As Earth turns on its axis, our view of the sun will be blocked by the moon, which will appear to rush across the sun. For a few awe-inspiring minutes only the sun’s corona (outermost atmosphere) will be visible,  looking like a ring of sparkling diamonds. The sky around it will be black, illuminated only by stars. Animals may behave strangely, affected by the sudden change in light and temperature.

Understandably, many myths and superstitions started with the idea that during an eclipse something was eating the sun. During a partial eclipse, or the beginning of a total one, it does look as if a huge bite has been taken out of the sun. Ancient Norse people thought wolves were the predators; Vietnamese, a giant frog. Dogs, dragons, and bears were blamed in  other cultures. Even now, some people fear that an eclipse is a danger to pregnant women, or that food cooked during an eclipse will become poisoned. The temporary disappearance of the sun is often viewed as an omen of disaster.

Magical thinking is unneeded, though. The exciting, beautiful reality is more than enough. Unless bad weather interferes with the view, we can for a few minutes take off our eclipse-viewing glasses and look directly at the sun (it’s the only time doing so does not risk blindness).

Even those with no interest in astronomy can find comfort in looking at the sky. Contemplating the vastness of the universe and of time enables us to see our lives and world events in perspective. For the past several months many of us have sunk into despair and anger because of what the right-wing political and religious leaders are doing to our beloved country. Perhaps they will be like the moon, though—obscuring the sun for only a short time, and even then allowing us to see a sparking corona of possibilities.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


After living in large cities all my adult life, in 2007 I moved to El Dorado County in California.  Though the scenery is beautiful here on the western slopes of the Sierra, the area is impoverished. Once a thriving logging area, it has been hit hard by the recession and other factors. It is of course crowded with Trump people.

One of the things I like about this area is the friendliness of the people.  My neighbors are always helpful. Though I am not particularly extroverted or sociable, people often chat with me in stores or on my walks. It’s a nice contrast to the behavior of city dwellers.

Since the Trump campaign, though, much of the usual friendliness has vanished. Like many other places, this area rapidly became segregated into “red” and blue” areas. Being violet was just impossible. Furthermore, the reds far outnumbered the blues. Young men drove around in pickups waving the Confederate flag. Pro-Trump lawn signs appeared. I overhead snide comments about Obama and about LGBTs. Though the election is over, the division has remained.

It made me wonder, how do people become conservative or liberal? My own history can provide some clues. Berrien County in Michigan, where I was born in 1937, was and is still extremely conservative, much like El Dorado County. It hardly seems credible now, but I don’t remember hearing about the Holocaust during high school. It might have something to do with the county’s large German population, or with anti-Semitism in general. Certainly Jews were considered inferior in my home town. We saw Jews only in the summer, when Chicagoans came to summer homes at the nearby lake. Like other “resorters,” they were tolerated but not really welcomed. So, I grew up with an anti-Jewish attitude that now embarrasses me.

Similarly, Joseph McCarthy was considered a hero. The newspaper we all read was Col. McCormick’s Chicago Tribune,  which praised McCarthy and right-wingers in general. When I voted for the first time in a presidential election, it was for Barry Goldwater.

Religion, too, was conservative in Berrien County. There were Catholics and traditional Protestants. (Today the county is even more conservative in that regard. Evangelicals seem to have taken over.)

Still, today I am an unabashed Bay Area liberal, a Unitarian and the widow of a Jew.  My views on politics and social issues are far to the left of center.

How did my transformation take place? If I had stayed at home, as some of my high school classmates did, I might not have changed, at least not to this extent. Instead, I went to college and then to grad school, where I learned much about science, and especially about how to be skeptical and analytical. I met liberal Jewish professors  and was exposed to their values and ideas. Though I went to a Baptist college, the religion classes were nontraditional, and the Methodist church I attended in the early sixties had a charismatic, liberal minister. Later, I became a Unitarian.

 In the workplace I met a variety of people with different viewpoints. Though my formal education was valuable, informal education was even more so. Living in a variety of communities taught me about people at various socioeconomic levels and ethnicities.  

So, my own history leads me to think that education and broad experience are the answers to Trump thinking. Even in rural areas like this one, children can be exposed to the ideas and values that will lead them to become intelligent, ethical citizens.

It is also encouraging to see that since the election, closet county liberals have come out in the open. A few weeks ago the nascent El Dorado Progressives (EDP) group advertised an organizational meeting at a local church, expecting 90 or so people to show up. I attended, and barely got in the door. About a thousand angry citizens came to find out how they could resist the coming autocracy. Since then, many of them have stormed into town hall meetings held by our local Congressional representative, Tom McClintock, one of the most conservative House members. There is hope for the future, even here in Trump country.

Protestors at a McClintock Town Hall meeting. (Photo published in the Mountain Democrat.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Though we don’t travel with the goal of shopping—in fact, we travel in part to escape our consumer society—we’re not completely immune from wanting to buy a few things on the road. By using common sense, once in a while we can do a little shopping without taking up needed storage space or spending much.

Food, being consumable, is a great on-the-road purchase. Stocking up on frozen entrees at Wal-Mart may be cheap and convenient, but it’s not as healthy or tasty as buying fresh produce and other groceries along the way. Even at home we tend to buy most of our produce at a year-round market featuring locally grown items; when we travel, we try to find farmer’s markets and other local food sources. We have bought maple sugar, elderberry jam, blueberry syrup, and much more as souvenirs. Harvest Hosts allow RVer members to stay on their property free or in combination with buying wine or other products they produce. We have yet to try that option, but it sounds like a great idea.

We had only one bad experience with buying farmer’s market foods, and it was all too instructive. Returning to the States from Canada, we saw a market just a few miles from the border. We bought delicious corn, fruit, and other things, and stuffed the refrigerator. And then we crossed the border and went through inspections. The Canadian inspectors gave us no trouble, but those in the U.S. treated us almost like ecoterrorists, lecturing us about not bringing possibly infected food into the country. Worse, they confiscated all the food. We should have known better—we live in California, where even crossing the state line involves being inspected for plant pests! For some reason we had not expected the political barrier between Canada and the U.S. to be vulnerable to infections. The dollar loss was not great, but we really missed eating the delicious food, felt stupid, and suspected that we had provided the inspectors with a picnic.

Another trip to Canada turned out better. The weather was colder than I’d expected, so I bought a lovely, fleecy sweatshirt. It’s bulky, but often bulky is good. I wear it often. Clothing in general can be a good thing to buy on the road if it’s actually needed. If it’s not, then extra clothes can take up too much space.

Souvenirs don’t usually tempt us much, but there are exceptions, and seeing those we have are pleasant reminders of our travels. The little corn-husk fiddler doll from the Blue Ridge, the posters from the Navajo National Monument and other sites, a few small geodes, and other small souvenirs bring back good memories. If we ever find something irresistible to buy and don’t have space for it, there is a last-ditch method: we can have stuff mailed to our home post office box. So far we have managed to squeeze everything in and avoid shipping charges.

Window-shopping can be enjoyable and costs nothing. When we went to Monument Valley I looked at some interesting pottery at Goulding’s gift shop, but paid nothing.

So much more than a gift shop! Goulding's at Monument Valley

During many years as an environmentalist, I have been enthusiastically shopping at second-hand shops, even furnishing a series of homes with used furniture. So, on the road I also look around any thrift shops for second-hand items I can use. Luckily, these can often be found near Laundromats, which we need every week or so. While the laundry spins, I can indulge in that shopping. No furniture, of course—at least, not yet!—but sometimes I can find something small.

I have a huge collection of book marks, mostly from art museums. These take up virtually no space, cost very little, and make great souvenirs. I use them at home for the obvious use, and enjoy remembering various art exhibits and museums. Sometimes I have arranged some under a sheet of glass on a table. Post cards, too, are a tiny and cheap purchase. We post some of them on the walls of the Winnebago View, send a few to friends, bring some home to add to photo albums along with our own photos of travel.

National and state parks visitor centers are our favorite source of must-have souvenirs. There is a little dreck, mainly aimed at children or their grandparents, but in general these centers are well stocked with books for all ages about the local park, posters, and other items that may not be available elsewhere. Not only do these help us recall the area, but the money benefits the parks. In this time of budget-cutting and opposition to the parks, that trumps everything. (We also are members of the National Parks Conservation Association. We scarcely notice our small monthly contribution, and like to think we are doing a little to help maintain these wonderful places. (It also assuages any guilt we feel for saving lots of money with our Golden Age passes.)

Text copyright © 2017 by Carol Stone; photos copyright © 2017 by Thane Puissegur



Monday, January 2, 2017


Some people have always been rude and crude, but their behavior has become more widespread during recent years. Encouraged by the disgusting, cruel comments of Donald Trump during the recent presidential campaign, those who might once have held their tongues unleashed online garbage that  was simply sickening. President and Mrs. Obama were particularly targeted; it’s hard to understand how they managed to take the high road instead of responding in kind.

This is not entirely a new phenomenon, of course. Even during Thomas Jefferson’s time, political attacks were sordid, and politicians have been abused to some extent ever since. In general, though, people have maintained at least a veneer of politeness. That changed during the sixties, when many of us freed ourselves from a too-strict upbringing. In some respects that was a much-needed correction, but we also learned  to use obscene language in inappropriate environments, to tear down those who disagreed with us, to “let it all hang out“a bit too far.  Comedy, for example, has degenerated greatly. Stand-up comics who use little humor but much gutter talk are admiringly described as “edgy.”

It has happened at some surprising levels. For instance, the editors’ online discussion group I belong to has usually held to a high standard, with only the occasional genteel disagreement about the serial comma, proper use of the subjunctive, or other editorial concerns. Even there, I have noticed a shift in behavior. When I recently posted a simple question about “an historic” vs. “a historic,” the answers quickly degenerated into snide comments about undereducated high school English teachers, regional pronunciations, and other ad hominen attacks. I was both amused and appalled.

I fear there is no going back. When anonymous comments can be left on social media sites, when Muslims are openly disparaged, and when vulnerable teens can be made suicidal by online criticism, there may be nothing to brake the sickening remarks that are common now. It may be possible for Congress and voters to rein in Trump during the next few years, but his boorish behavior has infected a great many people and added to the general decline in civility.

There are some glimmers of light in this dark cesspool. On New Year’s Eve I happened to hear a dialogue on an NPR station. A white nationalist and a proud black man—both intelligent and articulate-- were having a calm talk about their enormous differences. Though at opposite ends of the political spectrum, they spoke respectfully and confined their statements to the issues. Perhaps their civil behavior, too, can be contagious.

Copyright © 2017 by Carol Leth Stone



Thursday, December 1, 2016


For  the past few decades, pediatrics experts and educationists have gone back and forth in their advice to parents about electronics. Some have advised parents to limit children’s “screen time”—time spent playing video games and otherwise interacting with tablets, smart phones, and computers—from zero to a few hours a day, depending on the child’s or teen’s age. Others have counseled parents to give their small children as much stimulation as possible as a learning tool, with computers being an obvious aid to mental stimulation. Currently the trend seems to be toward relaxation, and allowing even infants of eighteen months to have some screen time. Still, parents are supposed to supervise the kids’ computer use, not use the devices as babysitters.
The chief reason for concern, of course, is children’s developing brains. Some scientists have held that if children spend too much time staring at screens rather than interacting with toys, arts and crafts, and physical books, the normal changes in their brains will be slowed or changed.  ADHD and other disorders might result.
In addition, there is an obvious connection between too much screen/couch time and health problems that include obesity. Like all organs, the brain depends on normal blood flow, elimination of wastes, hormone production, and so on; all these functions can be damaged by lack of exercise and of sunlight.
The experts seem hesitant in general about allowing much screen time, citing research about the effects of computers on brain development. Indeed, some research with rat brains has indicated permanent changes in neural circuitry that might be harmful. However, the changes might also be positive. In our “future shock” society, where we must cope with enormous and continual changes in the environment, it may be an advantage for children to learn and respond quickly, without much reflection.
That reminds me of the educational issue of fluid v. crystallized Intelligence.[i] Some people have more fluid intelligence, enabling them to solve math problems, see patterns, and reach conclusions quickly. Others have more crystallized Intelligence, which leads to considering context and drawing on life experiences rather than immediately solving problems. Both kinds of intelligence are needed, but computer experience seems more likely to increase fluid intelligence.
Similarly, research by some psychologists[ii]  indicates that some people need and seek stimulation, while others are quickly overwhelmed by it. Being one of those who likes a quiet environment and flees from too much stimulation, I am rather glad personal computers were not around when I was a child. Learning from books suited me well. Later, learning to paint, immersing myself in a foreign language, looking through a microscope, or exploring  the natural environment  gave me knowledge and satisfaction at a gradual rate, not the condensed version provided by  computers. 
My aging brain is also finding it hard to manage the world of today.  That may be one reason why I love the RV life, where it is fairly easy to turn off some noise and stimuli. (I am surprised at the many Rvers who insist on Wi-Fi and cable TV wherever they go. Why don’t they just stay home?)
I hope today’s children, even if they must cope with an ever-changing environment, will not be pressured Into rewiring their brains for quick responses only. We still need crystallized intelligence, and thoughtful responses to life.
Text copyright © 2016 by Carol Stone

[i] Cattell, R.B.  Abilities: Their Structure, Growth, and Action. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.

[ii] Sales, S.M. Need for stimulation as a factor in social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 19(1):124–134, 1971.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss—we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink away from the danger. Unaccountably we remain.   

    --Edgar Allan Poe


Last week Hillary Clinton lost the election, to the horrified surprise of millions around the world. In two months Donald Trump will become the president of the United States. Though I’m tempted to cry “Not my president,” of course this is one reality show I can’t avoid. Thanks to the people H.L. Mencken called the “booboisie” long ago, we are stuck with Trump for a few years.

Better informed observers than I am will long debate how this atrocity happened. The consensus seems to be that Trump simply capitalized on the unemployment, expensive tuition, skyrocketing medical costs, and other national problems we are suffering, and persuaded millions of voters that he could somehow “make America great” again.

Perhaps some actually believed that the fifties were a golden age to which we should return. Certainly it was a good period financially for the low-skilled white male workers who could get good jobs on auto assembly lines, for instance. There were other high points, too. Thanks to Sputnik and the National Science Foundation, it was even a good time for science education. However, most women were still confined to traditional low-paying jobs as secretaries, nurses, and teachers. Black men and women, as always, suffered discrimination in housing and jobs. We were all polluting the environment and quickly using fossil fuels and other natural resources.

During the sixties and seventies, enormous progress was made in civil rights and environmental concerns. Many of those who had been left out of the postwar boom began to share in the wealth. Even teachers’ salaries began rising. The EPA was established, and the National Parks Service was expanded. Thanks to the Pill and to the Roe v. Wade decision, women were freed of what biologist Garrett Hardin called “mandatory motherhood.”  For the first time in history, they could have children if and when they wanted to.

Eventually, though, greed has won over benevolence. The income taxes that were never onerous in comparison with those in Europe have fallen steadily, and most of the country’s wealth is now held by a small percent of individuals and corporations. Our middle class has become a lower class, earning less while working harder, and paying  far too much for health care and other needs . Those at the bottom of the ladder are pushed even farther down in the struggle for survival.

As a citizen and voter, I have two major concerns that affect everything else: the environment and education. During his campaign, Trump pledged to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education or to cut its influence greatly, giving more power to the states. If he makes good on his campaign promises, the public schools will be greatly harmed, leading to an even less educated citizenry. As to the environment, he has made the ridiculous claim that human-caused climate change is a hoax. Under Trump environmental quality will decline, because the EPA will lose its capability to establish and enforce environmental protections. Our beloved national parks will be overrun by developers and ranchers.

In addition, women and minorities will lose their hard-won gains. Violence against immigrants and native-born minorities will increase. (Since the election even children are being targeted by bigots; some are afraid to venture out of their classrooms, or fear deportation.)

One group will come out well, though—Trump and his cronies, self-satisfied rich white guys. I can imagine them now, relaxing on their yachts and laughing gleefully at the stupid voters who were taken in by their promises. We can only hope that in 2020, the Republicans have not yet destroyed the planet, and can be voted out of office.


Text copyright © 2016 by Carol Stone



Monday, October 31, 2016


On November 8 we Californians will vote on two conflicting propositions about the death penalty. Proposition 62 would repeal it, 66 would accelerate the process. I plan to vote for repeal, and not because I’m a “bleeding-heart liberal.”  I have other reasons:

The older I become, the less I fear death, and realize it is probably not an effective deterrent to crime anyway. The sort of monster who is a serial killer, a rapist of children, or other horrific person may be filled with self-loathing and actually welcome death. Why should we enable their suicide? If someone has committed a crime so heinous that the death penalty is appropriate, then a quick execution is too easy on them. Instead of receiving the death penalty, anyone deserving that punishment should be locked away from the world for their lifetime, where they can slowly contemplate the enormity of their actions and suffer mental anguish.

In California, most of those who have received the death penalty promptly appeal it. The appeal process may continue for years and is extremely costly to the state. Currently we have 741 prisoners on death row. According to a 2011 study by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell, abolishing the death penalty in California would save about a billion dollars every five or six years.[i]


Perhaps most important, juries are sometimes wrong,  for a variety of reasons. They may have relied on incomplete evidence, or been swayed by emotional arguments. Since 1973, 156 United States prisoners on death row have been released after DNA or other tests have exonerated them.[ii]  (Others’ sentences have been commutated for other reasons, such as irregularities in their trials.) Those freed lost years of their lives, which is bad enough, but they were able to salvage some time; they might have been executed if there hadn’t been a delay after sentencing. If the death penalty is repealed, some innocent lives can be saved.

There are other reasons for repeal, of course. Many people consider the death penalty to be a barbaric practice that should not continue. Though I consider lifetime imprisonment a more fitting punishment, I can sympathize with that viewpoint. Deliberately killing anyone, even the most evil person, is abhorrent in a civilized society. We need to repeal the death penalty.


Text copyright © 2016 by Carol Stone

[ii] Staff Report, House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil & Constitutional Rights, 1993, with updates from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Beginning a tour of the Kam Wah Chung shop

The unpretentious little building on a side street in John Day, Oregon, doesn’t look like a major tourist destination, and many visitors to the area pass it up. That’s a mistake. We recently visited Kam Wah Chung and found it to be a highlight of an Oregon trip.

The name is not that of a person, but of a shop and gathering place for the Chinese immigrants who came to the West Coast in the late nineteenth century. (A loose translation is “Golden Flower of Prosperity.”) China at the time was unstable politically and financially; in the United States, immigrants could find work in the gold fields and on the railroads. Thousands of men came in the hope of making a living and sending money back to their families in China.

Even here, their life was far from easy. As in some communities today, the Immigrants faced great resentment and cruelty. When we toured Kam Wah Chung, we saw bullet holes that had been left by local residents in the metal doors. Though the Chinese were generally safe during the day, at night they had to find safe places to stay, and Kam Wah Chung was one of those places.

Two remarkable Chinese men owned the shop. Ing Hay, known throughout the area as “Doc Hay,” was an expert herbalist who cured some patients Western doctors had failed to help. After Hay’s death, the steamer trunk under his cot was opened. It held many grateful patients’ checks that had never been cashed. Though he lived modestly, he felt that he did not need their money as much as they did. Because the shop was sealed up during the forties and not reopened for decades, Hay’s apothecary is still there, just as it was long ago. The shelves hold a huge collection of herbs and tonics, some of which have not been identified.

Doc Hay's tiny bedroom

The other shop owner, Lung On, was a good businessman who helped the immigrants in other ways. Well educated and fluent in both Chinese and English, he provided translations and managed Ing Hay’s practice.  
Lung On was looking out for his partner's interests when he posted this sign.
In addition, he became a labor contractor and owned an early automobile dealership. Both men became respected members of the local Oregon community, and unlike many of the Chinese immigrants, never returned to China.

Kam Wah Chung is a museum that brings the immigrant experience to life. Stepping through the front door, we saw what might be called a “great room” today;  though the crowded room is tiny, it was a shop, post office, clinic, site for worship, and library. Side rooms were bedrooms for the two men, a small dormitory (where each bed held four men!), a kitchen, an altar with offerings, and storage space. Shelves contain utensils, food tins, dry goods, and small items for sale by Lung On.

I couldn't resist this souvenir teacup.
Remarkably, admission to Kam Wah Chung is free. (A gift shop and donations provide some income, and it is a State Heritage Site.) At the interpretive center across the street, visitors can see videos and displays and sign up for ranger-led tours of the shop, which  begin hourly.  Because the fragile artifacts must be protected and the building is small, each tour is limited to just a few visitors. This has the additional advantage of allowing visitors to inspect everything closely and ask questions of the ranger. We left greatly impressed by her knowledge and by the museum itself.

Text copyright © 2016 by Carol Stone; photos copyright © 2016 by Thane Puissegur



Friday, October 14, 2016


When my father-in-law died soon after our marriage, I was introduced to the Jewish custom of a family’s “sitting shiva,” or staying home for seven days of mourning. Like most Jewish rituals, it can be quite elaborate, with a widow sitting on a low stool and with other traditions. My mother-in-law was too rational to wear herself down unnecessarily, but she did stay home to mourn and to welcome many visitors. They brought tons of comfort foods—lox and bagels, kugels, candy, and so on. Though the atmosphere was sad, it was also supportive and hopeful. Some of them brought children, which surprised me at first.

My father-in-law’s funeral itself was very sad. For the first time I heard the long Jewish prayers that years later would be used for my husband and other Jews. There was the Mourner’s Kaddish, a eulogy, and psalms; some were in Hebrew, others in English. It was very simple, with no flowers or music. Having grown up as a small-town Protestant, I found the austere Jewish ceremony a stark contrast to the funerals I attended as a child, with screechy sopranos singing along with poorly played organs, and with the sickly sweet odor of carnations overpowering everything. Sad as this funeral was, it seemed more comforting and appropriate.

In recent years I have attended all too many ceremonies I think of as “happy funerals.” Yes, they are called “celebrations of life,” with an emphasis on the dead person’s achievements and on the mourners’ love for them. Most people today seem to prefer these rituals. Too often, however, they seem to become performances.  Mourners arrive ready to read long eulogies, and to gather with other mourners, almost in a party atmosphere. There seems to be little grieving, as if people are obliged to be happy.

I don’t always object to these rituals, of course. When my friend Joani Blank learned that she would die soon of pancreatic cancer, she sprang into action and scheduled her own celebration of life, to occur before her death. And so one day in July, hundreds of people who loved Joani and had benefited from her generosity gathered at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland to thank her and to say farewell. I was unable to attend, but saw a video that make it look like a truly joyous occasion, for Joani and everyone else, though surely some tears were shed.


Still, in general when I attend one of these modern funerals, I find myself feeling resentful and wishing to hear the Kaddish.  I think how much better it would be to weep openly, to feel the pain of losing a beloved family member or friend. First there must be a time to mourn. There is much time later to heal the emotional wounds and return to an ordinary life, even to joyous rebeginnings. (Another Jewish tradition is to name the next baby born in the family for the person who died.  L’chaim!)



Saturday, September 10, 2016


The younger generation—Millennials, Gen X, or whatever they are currently calling themselves—may have it right. They rent homes instead of buying them, move around the world as needed for their work, travel widely as students and volunteer workers. They concentrate more on having experiences than on buying possessions, and so they avoid accumulating a lot of heavy furniture and other stuff.

Most of us older people did just the opposite. We bought homes at the first opportunity, happily inherited things from our parents, maxed out credit cards to buy cars and electronics that sometimes lasted only a few years. As a result, at some post-retirement point we are likely to find ourselves burdened with too many belongings, such as large homes that no longer suit our needs. They are hard to clean (or expensive to have cleaned by someone else), have too many steps, require too much outdoor work, and so on. Instead of enjoying retirement, we may spend our days simply taking care of our possessions.  This is hardly “the last of life, for which the first is made”[i]!

Several years ago I downsized from a large home that had an in-law apartment. I loved the house, but couldn’t manage it physically or financially after being widowed. It took a couple of years (when I could have been traveling or otherwise enjoying myself), holding several sales, and becoming an eBay seller, but I finally got rid of a thousand books, my late husband’s various collections, much heavy furniture, and much more. What a relief! My current home is tiny, but has the basic paraphernalia I need, along with some pictures and other things I am saving for sentimental reasons. I am no longer owned by goods. I must confess, though, that I still have a lot of books. There are limits.

When we travel in the RV, life is even simpler, because everything on board must be a much-needed item. Occasionally I miss some of the comforts of home, such as the bathtub. I don’t miss having to clean the tub.

One group of Rvers, the Escapees (SKPs), is composed largely of middle-aged and older members who have gotten away from being held in thrall by their belongings. Many are full-timers who live in their RVs much or all of the time. (I suspect most of them have some things stored in their children’s garages or in storage sheds, though.) The Escapees can be nearly free within our consumer-oriented society.


Copyright 2016 by Carol Leth Stone 


[i] From “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” by Robert Browning.