“A Short Trip to Onset…is Better Than No Trip to Onset”

It is only in the later years of our marriage that my husband has left home to go hunting. While some of my in-laws have been ‘hunting widows” for years, I have not.

The first year Roger did this, I did not accompany him. But then I thought, I could go along for the ride, not the hunting. I could work on my thesis in the cabin while he was out, I could go into the nearest town or city, I could write, shop, bake and also visit friends.

There is something freeing about leaving home for vacation and if you are anything approaching a workaholic, you need to get away from the office. Even if it is your “happy place.”

About three years ago, his brother joined him for part of the hunt. We could not get the cabin we wanted for the whole week, so when our days at the cabin were done, I helped him to move into a yurt, a basic, somewhat less spacious accommodation than our cabin.

After helping him move in and his brother got his things unloaded, I got a comfortable hotel room in the nearest city. Then I spent the next few days visiting friends and making my way home.

I was not trying to be unfriendly, and I truly love my brother-in-law. I was pretty sure I did not want to bunk with the guys in a one-room, no running water, bathhouse down the hill type of situation. Especially when, if all parties sat on the edge of their beds, knees would touch.

They enjoyed it so much they decided to do it again for a whole week the next year. I made plans to visit friends and do some storytelling. It worked, no one felt left out.

The guys have continued to hunt together, now joined by our nephew. We both got to enjoy the week and I had some guilt-free time away.

Last year as they made their plans, I began to explore the possibility of spending that week at home, in Onset. Readers who have been following me know that that was the trip that fueled this blog and my writing.

I made similar plans for this year. I knew it would not be the same as last year, not as many firsts, but there is something about being at home in Onset that feeds my soul and comforts my heart.

I invited a good friend to come along on the journey. Donna, my friend, is also a retired United Methodist Pastor, also a writer, and also someone who loves the beach, the ocean, and other assorted bodies of water. We each have our own writing projects but several months ago we began a writing project together. The trip to Onset seemed like a good way to combine restoration, relaxation and writing.

Life is What Happens When You Are Making Plans

When I was young, even as a young adult, my ‘go to’ phrase was “I’ll be happy when…When I can go on my first date, when I can go back to public school, when I get my license, when I graduate…” It took some maturity on my part to realize that I would be missing out on a lot of life if I would only be happy when certain things happened.

In 1980, or there abouts, I was working part time, going to school full time and was a single parent to three children under the age of 8. During those crazy years, I came across a quote that was either from Dear Abby or her sister, Ann Landers. It read, “Life is what happens when you are making plans!” In an age before memes, that simple statement helped me so much in those busy years of my young life and the young lives of my children.

I had to be able to see that that busyness was my life. The goal of getting an associate degree, or maybe more, getting a job I was better suited to, all that was the future. But the present was picking up children from afterschool programming , studying for exams, writing papers, doing laundry; that was life in the present moment.

Last week, while my husband was making plans to leave on his hunting trip, loading up the truck, etc., he had a fall that changed everything.

Donna and I had gotten unpacked in set up in the apartment in Onset at 3:00 in the afternoon; 45 minutes later I got a phone call from my neighbor at home telling me that my husband had fallen and been injured and they had called an ambulance. “Don’t worry,” she said, “we will take care of Roger and he can call us and we will pick him up when he is discharged.

Knowing how much this trip meant to him, I hoped that he would be okay and would still be able to make the trip. About three hours later we got the word. The hip was broken and they were transferring him to another hospital. See what I mean? Sometimes life intervenes. Always, “life is what happens when you are making plans.”

The Journey is about more than the destination

Even though it became clear that we would need to pack up and return, the journey was not ruined, just shortened. Vacation hadn’t ended, it was still in process. As much as Onset means to me, the trip was not only about the destination, it was also about the journey.

We had great traveling weather up and back, easy roads, the foliage was beautiful, and the conversation never ending. Do not misunderstand we do not agree on everything or think the same on everything. For as much as we have in common, our backgrounds are very different. But we could entertain those differences, we could disagree without being disagreeable. We even talked about politics! Even though some of our plans did not work out, we remained undaunted.

Photo Courtesy of Onset Bay Association

Searching for Meaning

I think there is a lot to be said for searching for meaning in our life experience. Socrates (I think) said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I love that quote and I agree. I extend it to faith and religion. The unexamined faith is not worth having. I think it is important to think about “What you believe, why you believe it and where it comes from.” That is a “song” I sing often as a pastor.

I think often our culture encourages superficiality in this area, or quick fixes. Part of that superficiality, to my mind anyway, is an insistence on multi-tasking as a vital way of life. But multi-tasking can get in the way of thinking about what you are doing.

We are pastors, Bible Geeks and Theology nerds by passion and profession and the car was seldom quiet. We relished digging into scripture and all of those inviting stories and characters. But we fell into wondering, what does this mean? We had prayed and prepared diligently for the trip. Although there had been some obstacles, including COVID, it seemed clear that the way was open for us to make the trip. All the doors appeared to be open.

Yet, when we learned about my husband’s accident and injury, it was clear that we had to pack up and return. So we wondered, and pondered, were we wrong about making the journey in the first place? What was the lesson we were supposed to glean?

“A Short Trip to Onset …is Better Than No Trip to Onset”

I made the decision to wait one whole day before returning home. I was able to speak with my husband on the phone a few times. Surgery was scheduled for Saturday. I took a day to rest up and do some of the visits I had hoped to do. I got to see two of my cousins on Cape Cod, but I had to miss the other three that were making the trip, because they were not arriving until after I felt I had to leave.

We also had the opportunity to visit with one of my high school classmates, that I am just beginning to get to know and consider a new friend. Without taking you through every step of my 40 hour return visit, let me just say that it was compressed, packed and full of meaning.

I wanted some quality, if short, time on the beach and not knowing if I will actually be able to return, I wanted to spend some time at the Canal. I got to visit with a woman who was my best friend in my junior and senior years in high school. We have kept in touch sporadically over the years and it was our first meeting since 1973.

Herring Run Recreation Area Just above the Sagamore Bridge

We also found some time to focus on our writing, and as full as Friday was, some restful time before the return trip. We covered 1,000 miles in five days.

Here is part of what we learned, though I do not think it is all there was to the trip. When I wrote to a special friend and his wife to bewail the fact that we would have to delay our visit to another year, he wrote “A short trip to Onset is better than no trip to Onset.” That was a needed perspective. Rather than feel bad about plans that were cut short, Donna and I both celebrated that we got to make this trip. To that we added, ‘A cloudy day at the beach is better than no day at the beach.” and “one seafood dinner in Onset is better than no seafood dinners in Onset.”

I am not a “meant to be” kind of person, nor do I accept that often quoted phrase that “everything happens for a reason.” I think those assumptions can short circuit deep reflection and can lead to superficial conclusions. My opinion. Rather than complain about the shortened week, we marveled at all that it contained.

My Homecoming Tradition

view from the pier in Onset

I am not sure how the tradition started, except that in 1994 when we returned to Onset/Wareham for my mother’s burial and graveside service, I stopped at the pier on our way out of town. I had gotten 6 white carnations, which my husband, daughter and I discretely threw into the water in memory of my mom and dad.

The fishing boat and tour boats were gone. No one seemed to be in the Harbor Master’s office. I wasn’t sure this action was legal or if it was littering, but it sure was comforting.

I know the pier in Onset was not my first stop, because we arrived stressed and exhausted from the funeral service in Baltimore, getting to our hotel in Bourne about 10:00 p.m. But it was my last stop before leaving Onset and I had no expectation of a return.

But in 2018, my first trip back and every trip since, last year and last week, I begin and end my journey at the Onset Pier. It seems to summarize something. That vague something of memory and emotion and that view, that wonderful view; and I stand in that place and the tears flow, adding my own salt water to Onset Bay.

I try to hold all this gingerly and gently in my hands, always wanting one more visit, yet not assuming that it will happen. Savoring the journey and dwelling in gratitude and,

Not holding back the tide.


Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

11 thoughts on ““A Short Trip to Onset…is Better Than No Trip to Onset”

  1. Hi Michele – I’m also a big fan of letting my husband do a “boy’s” holiday – he goes for a week long hike through the bush on different parts of a track that runs for 1000km while I stay home in the peaceful house with the cats. I enjoy being a laid back teenager, he enjoys being a wildlife explorer and everyone’s happy. Shame about your husband’s accident and the trip being cut short – but you’re right about it being all about the journey and not always just the destination. You’ll be back there again I’m sure.


  2. I love the “Life is what happens…” quote. so true. I think it was originally said by John Lennon. I also love your philosophy about unexamined faith. I agree. I wish we lived closer to each other. I would love to do a Bible study where I could really ask the questions and talk about the topics that are on my mind. Most of the Bible studies I find are not like that. I have doubts, but to me, that is what faith is all about. Anyway…I hope your hubby is doing well under your good care. Savoring the journey is what life is all about!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, that was unfinished. There is always ZOOM, if you are not worn out with zoom. One of the things we did in our brief time away is participate in an online Bible Study with Donna’s pastor, who used to serve in my local region (cluster). (There were just three of us, but it was great. Thank you so much for your comments. Blessings, Michele


  4. Hi Michelle, Onset Bay is clearly one of your special places. I’m glad you could be there if even for a short time. The part about your tears adding salt to the ocean was very beautiful. I believe that there are places that call to us. I was glad to leave my hometown and never felt nostalgic for it, but I am starting to feel more fondness for it.. There are a lot of childhood memories there. I am also incredibly drawn to Maine, although I have no history there other than discovering it and loving being near the ocean. The ocean calls to me there for whatever reason. I hope your husband is well.


  5. I think I have told you before, Michele, how I leave dedicated time to read your posts/stories since I thoroughly enjoy your take on life.

    Husbands having separate outings is often a topic of conversation with women. We love our husbands, yet we also like our space. What a great idea. A separate room in a nearby city. “Life is what happens….” quote is also a favourite of mine. I also used to read Dear Abby and Ann Landers. You describe well the issues with “quick fixes.” A good point on “what was the lesson we were supposed to glean?” I use this phrase a few times a week. I am still learning many lessons. 🙂 A short trip versus no trip is a great lesson. I know I will carry these words with me. “Adding my own salt water…”. Wow!

    An excellent post, Michele. You had mentioned to me you wanted to chronicle these events. At the same time, you have enriched my life. Thank you.💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. Writing this helped me to process all that had happened which was a good thing. Often, when I have attended conferences, it is easy to come home, but the binders, folders and notes on a shelf and forget about them. I did not want to do that with this trip. Thank you for the time you take in reading and reflecting on my posts. It is humbling and an honor. Thank you! I appreciate it more than I can say.

      Liked by 1 person

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