The end of summer and autumn.

November 2017
I am up at a little cabin that sits just two feet from Lake Superior. It is a cold, rainy and windy November day. The huge waves today on the lake come crashing in and hit the cabin windows. Giant waves like these tell me that storms are coming even as my radio just confirmed a winter storm is on the way.

A year ago, I was always rushing to the care center to be with my husband Barry as he laid in bed trying to die. Now I am here up north, a widow who thought she could finally get on with her life. But things are more confusing than ever. Barry’s death has not been as big a relief as I thought it would be. The loneliness just does not go away. As I try to make sense of this journey I have been on with my husband — and now by myself — I have learned a few things and finally accomplished one goal I set for myself at the beginning of summer. More on that later.

This summer I rented that little cabin with no electricity or running water. I always thought that this was the true me, living alone off the grid in the woods. But I learned pretty fast that this is NOT me. I really miss people and electricity. The cabin is dark and chilly even in the middle of July. I discovered it is pretty hard to work at the tiny kitchen table. Without good lighting, it is hard to see what I am drawing. The cabin is also full of stuff. Every surface has something on it:
frames, baskets and knick knacks of all kinds. In my opinion, just a lot of junk. I realized that I am not about possessions. I would rather get out, travel and experience life than surround myself with stuff. It just gets in the way.

Being alone at that cabin did not help me move on nor heal from Barry’s horrible illness. It made me feel worse. It seemed like a good idea last spring when I signed the rental agreement. Maybe I was trying to hide from the loneliness and loss. But it doesn’t work that way. You just have to face it and hope someday you’ll wake up and discover that you are truly happy again. But the summer was wonderful in many other ways. I met some new friends, one of which I will be renting a nice trailer with next summer. The trailer is in the municipal campground in town with a great view of Lake Superior. It has electricity and running water; and, thank God, there
are people around. I can drive a few miles and be in the middle of nowhere to hike and drive a few miles back to get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop that is a short walk from the trailer. I stayed in the trailer this fall for a few days and loved it. I can draw all day at the kitchen table/fold-down bed and see what I am drawing!


In the beginning of summer as I hiked on the wet Superior Hiking Trail, I saw huge moose tracks in the mud. I really wanted to see a moose. As summer went on, I saw a couple of bears, lots of eagles and deer but never a moose. I hiked and hiked but no moose. Then finally in the late afternoon on a autumn day it happened. A friend and I had driven to see Partridge Falls on the Canadian border. The tree colors were brilliant and the falls huge because of the all the rain. Sitting next to the beautiful falls, I felt the most at peace than I had in a long time. As it started to get dark and chilly, we returned to the car and while driving down the dirt road spied the biggest creature I had ever seen — a moose with a huge rack! He looked back at us slightly annoyed. I tried hard not to scream my head off with joy. He slowly trotted down the road and then cut back into the woods. We thought he was gone, but when we turned down another road, there he was again.

Now winter is coming, along with the anniversary of Barry’s death. I may never get over it, but I am confident it will get easier. I won’t live alone in a cabin off the grid ever again; however, I have accepted that loneliness is just part of this experience. It won’t go away, but I can learn to live with it. And you know what? It just makes me happy to know that somewhere out in the forest is another moose and another beautiful waterfall to experience — even if I am alone. That is something to look forward to.

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7 comments on “The end of summer and autumn.
  1. Jane says:

    Thank you so much for the insight. I put my husband in a memory care center in June. It is a very different feeling knowing he is still alive but not here. I know I should throw his things as he will never use or need them but…he’s still alive. He is 12 hours away from me living with his identical twin in a care facility. I have only seen him twice since June. With winter coming I’m not sure when the next time will be. I was hoping to feel better but I feel more confused and I don’t know who I am without him. I’m trying to find “me”. “What do I want”? I don’t know as the last 10 years have been about arranging my life around his. Thanks again for sharing your story.

  2. So much of life is a movie called “Let’s Try it, and See What Happens.” Your summer wasn’t wasted, but it’s hard when it turns out to be really not what what you needed. Rest and heal and keep on, Nancy. We love you. Jane

  3. Christine bekiares says:

    Thank you for your insight. You have just learned something important that will help you in shaping this new chapter in life. It takes courage to try new “-alone with myself” time. Your gift is in sharing with others. I don’t think you ever “get over”, you learn a different lifestyle, and have memories, making new ones as well. Stretch, greet the sunny new day, and move forward. Share your gift…

  4. claudine coughlin says:

    Hi Nancy, I just finished reading your latest posting. I am sorry that you are having a difficult time living with loneliness. Your postings this summer always seemed to be upbeat, especially when you were with your granddaughters. When you get back to your city life take time to get involved in a support group, or a group of singles. You are so full of life and so talented and I wish you all the best in finding the new YOU! Fondly, Claudine

  5. sheila burns says:

    Cold, damp, and dark are the worst! Your next venture sounds more promising. Besides not having enough light, it’s hard to draw/paint with chilled fingers! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I spend most of my time alone. I live with 4 family members, but I still feel lonely sometimes. It takes an effort to connect with other people, but it is important.

  6. Judy Peterson says:

    Oh…loneliness it’s such a huge monster. May you renew old friendships and cultivate a forest of new ones as well. You have been an inspiration to so many. Now, let others inspire you!

  7. Nancy Paxson says:

    I appreciate your sharing so much! (That is,,, double meaning. I appreciate so much and that you share so much. ) As your life journey continues, you do such wonderful reflecting and learning. Thank you for putting it on paper and continuing to share it with us! A huge gift!

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