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.
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.
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
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