Bumps in the Road
Jun 23, 2016
Here on Nantucket for the summer, my great fear when I’m alone on the streets after dark is not the perceived threat of someone lurking in a dark corner ready to assault me or snatch my purse. It’s the fear of stumbling on the old brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets. Ancient tree roots push up the bricks and make the sidewalks treacherous for those who are inattentive.
Walking back to the hotel at dusk after an event at the Unitarian Meeting House last week—about a half-mile—I encountered numerous bumps in the road. They’re not as treacherous as sinkholes, but still they can trip you up when you’re not looking. That’s about where I am in my journey from grief to joy. I write about sinkholes in RECLAIMING JOY:
My journey was not smooth or easy. Progress was not steady. Repeatedly, I stepped unknowingly into sinkholes, those undetected emotional triggers that ignited my anger or grief or depression. The novelist Joyce Carol Oates named them in her memoir, A Widow’s Story:
“The widow must learn: beware sinkholes!
“The terror of the sinkhole is that you fail to see it, each time you fail to see it, you don’t realize you have blundered into the sinkhole until it’s too late and you are being pulled down, down….”
Last summer, here on Nantucket, I blogged about Those Holidays Called Sinkholes as I faced the Fourth of July alone for the first time. The Fourth was hard for me after Lev’s death. Our neighborhood staged a big, traditional, all-day celebration each year that started with the Boy Scouts raising the flag, a patriotic speech and late-morning social time and ended with a kids’ parade, barbecue, pie and ice cream contests and old-fashioned lawn games in the evening. Lev was always resplendent in red, white and blue; and we usually invited close friends to join us. After his death I found everything about the celebration stressful, and I began to cast about for excuses to leave home.
When I came to Nantucket in 2014—when I wrote the first draft of my book—I thought, “I could spend a holiday here alone!” And despite that sinkhole beforehand, I had a glorious time last year, as I wrote about here. This year I’m back. I haven’t fallen into any sinkholes lately, but I still trip occasionally.
I tripped in London last month when I explored the streets of St. James, with all the shops full of man toys. I had no one to buy them for, no one to buy Links cufflinks for. I tripped in Prague when I heard an older Czech trumpeter imitating Louis Armstrong as he played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Lev would have loved it. I tripped at a restaurant last week when the maître d’ tried to shove me off to the bar to eat, despite my reservation for a table for one. That would not have happened if I had been with Lev.
But overall I’m good. I’m good in the house alone. I’m good going alone to restaurants and events. It’s taken me seven years to get this far, and my destination isn’t in sight. But that’s okay. I delight in each day.
I am photo-blogging daily about my experiences as I shift from solo traveler to summer resident, set up housekeeping and explore Nantucket. If you’d like to follow me throughout my Nantucket summertime, you can “like” me at www.facebook.com/ellawallprichard/
 Oates, Joyce Carol. A Widow’s Story: A Memoir. HarperCollins e-books, 557.