Lea Lane

Lea Lane
Florida, USA
August 26
author, Travel Tales I Couldn't Put in the Guidebooks, available at Amazon.com and on Kindle
“I’ve discovered the secret of life,” Kay Thompson, the eccentric entertainer and “Eloise” author, once said. “A lot of hard work, a lot of sense of humor, a lot of joy and a lot of tra-la-la!” And that's been my life: As a travel writer for over 30 years, I've been around the block (more like around the world), and I write true stories about interesting people and places. (Check out my travel site, Travels With Lea.) I've lived an unconventional life in conventional trappings. Been a corporate VP, worked with foster kids, acted in an Indie ("Nurse 1"), was on Jeopardy!. I've been managing editor of a travel publication, written for the Times, and authored books. OS is my home, but I also blog on The Huffington Post, and I've contributed (mostly anonymously) to everything from encyclopedias to guidebooks. Married young, divorced late; married late, widowed early, I dated lots in-between -- and survived a scary illness. After being happily, peacefully solo for many years, I'm now happily married again. I founded and still edit www.sololady.com, a lifestyle Website for single women. I'm truly grateful for each precious day, each well-earned wrinkle, my family, my cat. Truth, laughter, friendship, late love. And this blog -- on this wonderful site!

Lea Lane's Links

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 22, 2009 8:56AM

The Inner Journey I Had to Take: Two Weeks Alone on a Cliff

Rate: 74 Flag


 solitude, overlooking a herring weir, off a cliff in the Bay of Fundy

I’ve been reading  BuffyW ‘s posts of coping with her beloved husband’s passing and AtHomePilgrim’s series about his brother’s death. And many of us are dealing with loss, and angst.  I wanted to repost something peaceful and joyous that I wrote almost a year ago, something that meant a great deal to me.  It's my way of saying, “You’ll be ok.”

In July, 2001, two weeks after I reserved a cabin on an island off the coast of New Brunswick Canada for a romantic getaway with my husband Chaim, he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, and three months later he was gone.

The next summer, when I got a call from the cabin owners, I had forgotten all about the getaway reservation. To hell with it:  I decided to go to the cliff by myself. I loaded my black Miata, the one Chaim had gifted me. I brought few clothes, but I did haul some things we both liked, including CDs of Mel Torme, Bach, The Eagles, Dvorjak, Leo Kottke, and our favorite Alsatian wine, chocolate, biscotti and vinegar potato chips. At least I would enjoy our music and food.

I kept the top down the whole way on the drive from Westchester County, and overnighted in Augusta, Maine in a Motel 6 as darkness fell, around nine. The only available room had a broken bed, but I slept in the other one, opened the windows to erase the smell of smoke, and fell asleep with “The Mole” on TV, wondering what I was doing. I missed Chaim, terribly.

Arriving by ferry on Grand Manan island the next day, I drove to the western side and parked the car in a clearing. The young cabin owner who ran a local kayak company, met me there in an All-Terrain-Vehicle---and drove me over a rutted dirt road, into thick woods. The cabin was set on a little-used hiking trail, along 30-foot basalt cliffs towering above rocky beaches, covered twice a day by the highest tides in the world. The view overlooked the setting sun, and a weir where fisherman trapped herring in purse seiner boats. The structure was handmade with pine trim and floors, powered by the sun, augmented by a generator. Using the in-house-out house earth toilet, I empathized with my cat, left behind with my son.

At first I felt like a child, playing house. I picked daisies and a blue flower called cow vetch and plopped them in a glass by the windows. I cooked veggies and chicken in the little kitchen. But by the third day, when I walked 25 minutes back to my car, and then drove to check my email at the kayak office, I must have seemed starved for company.

The sympathetic cabin offered  his dog, so Sole, a chocolate lab, joined me on the cliff. She offered a chance to hear the sound of my voice without feeling like a fool, and patiently waited for me to arise, romping near me along steep paths, chasing butterflies on our morning walk. She leaped and pawed and licked me when I stirred sardines into her kibble. And she stared at me as if she understood more than I did.

Along the cliffs I passed streams and waving meadows of grasses. Waves crashed below, ocean-like, in the fierce tides, and herring gulls and bald eagles and osprey wheeled and screeched. As the days passed, sounds became simple and pure, and more intense: the lapping water, wind, bird song, the generator, a foghorn from a nearby lighthouse. A red squirrel scurried on the roof each morning about six, waking me so that I could see the dawn. My CDs seemed superfluous. The cabin’s satellite TV remained unused, the cell phone hardly used, the hot tub stayed covered.

I read, wrote, slept on the deck, and watched some sad/funny  movies—“Patch Adams” and “Phenomenon,” but fell asleep before the end of both. One night I awoke in the cold light of a full moon in the skylight, and fell back to bed, tears on my cheeks.

Piece by piece, life’s complications stripped away. Immediately, jewelry and makeup, and deodorant. Then, showers—now every other day, when I walked through the woods to get to my car, and then drove into the island to shop and check emails. When I couldn’t find my comb, fingers sufficed. I stopped looking in the mirror. I’d go to sleep naked, and often stay that way long into the mornings. I ate tea and grilled cheese when the rain hit the windows, and the bay and sky disappeared in a fog. From the deck I watched the sun set in silence, as sweet-eyed harbor seals bobbed their heads by the weir. At night kerosene lamps and candles glowed, and as Sole looked on, one night I danced with a shadow in the firelight to “The Best of Dusty Springfield.”

The two weeks passed, sometimes like sludge, but steadily, as if in the silence I could hear every beat of time. Fisherman trapped the herring every other day, and I’d watch their rhythmic movements through binoculars. An old man came by kayak to collected dulse, the seaweed strewn on the shore, and watching him, I spied the carcus of a minke whale beached by a far cliff. A few hikers passed along the ridge, but none stopped. Once, during a downpour, a middle-aged couple looked toward the cabin and I wondered if I would let them in, or if they thought it was unoccupied, but I didn’t have to make the choice, as they kept going in the rain, and for just a few minutes I felt my vulnerability.

Why, I wondered, did I go on this solitary inner journey, farther than I had ever traveled, but within myself? To wash away pain? To prove my fortitude? As a child I found my own company precious, and now, on the rim of an island on the eastern edge of the continent, I felt perhaps that same magic. Here I had escaped from hypocrisy, greed, terrorists, and the awful loss of my love. So I pondered and cried and rested and remembered, and grieved.

Alone on the cliffs of Grand Manan Island overlooking the misty Bay of Fundy, I didn’t feel any lonelier than I did anywhere else. I felt peaceful. I missed my husband, but now I felt his presence more clearly in my memories. On the last night in the cabin, snuggled under the duvet, drowsing to the tug of the tides, I patted Sole, and I knew I was ready to move on.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
I hope this helps in some way to calm and soothe and heal, and put things in perspective.
This is beautiful, Lea. Those journeys of solitude are some of the most important steps we have to take to find ourselves again. xoxo
Lea, That was beautiful. It made me feel more peaceful just reading it. My dad died my last semester of college. Two weeks after graduation, I left on a month long Outward Bound trip. It was my inner and outer journey back to life much like this trip was for you. I wrote a journal full of letters to my dad while I was away.
You are more than OK - you have survived and lived well. A beautiful post. (and by the way - Leo Kottke is one of my absolute favorites too!) Back to your post which really does put things in perspective, in a graceful, potent way.
I love this, Lea. "Drowsing to the tug of the tides. . ." Thanks for sharing this part of what had to be a difficult journey.
What an excellent gift that was to yourself - the getaway, but more importantly, the gift of time and allowing yourself to BE and to feel. Likewise, you've given us an excellent gift - sharing of yourself, and reminding us to go and do likewise - allow ourselves to be and to feel. Thank you for this.
Lea- And thus, the healed becomes the healer...lovely sentiments...lovely lessons...lovely lady.
Even lovelier the second time around.
That's what I call effective therapy. Being alone with nature's splendor is truly healing.
Patricia, I often wonder why I love solitude. I just do.

Melissa, I think we need to get away from all the distraction and noise to really be able to look within. Glad you got to have that when you needed it.

dcv, I never understood why Leo wasn't more popular. He is one of the hidden American gems.

Kathy, it wasn't as difficult as I expected, but put everything else in perspective. Now, going by myself to the movies or eating alone is a piece of cake, when I want to. I don't need to push. I know I can do it.

Owl, yes you feel time so much more completely in solitude. There is a special sense to it that I otherwise don't notice.

Ellen, back at you, doubled.

Maria, that's often the case with things that really matter.

Steve, I could have spent a fortune listening to a therapist. I preferred listening to the wind and the waves.
Thanks for this. I went away alone for ten days as my marriage was unraveling and it was the best thing I ever did. I had never taken a vacation alone before and to get there I had to drive from Massachustts to Georgia, the longest solo journey I had taken, too. It is wonderfully healing to prove to yourself that your own company can be both healing and soothing. Rated
This is beautiful. You are a strong woman and a guiding light.
Far from the maddening crowd... Solitude is good. One must get to know thyself again before we can move on.
Alone time is something missing for most of us Lea. I'm sorry this came to you in the way it did, but thank you so much for sharing it with me/us.

Thank you for teaching us all a little bit about healing. Truly beautiful.

Thank you Leah. Though we all grieve in different ways I believe we all go through the aching, anger, vulnerable feelings. Like the tide, these feelings ebb and flow.

What seemed like a fog seems to have lifted some, revealing the bursts of anger I seem to take out, on those in my way of expressing it.

I'n fortunate in being able to spend much of my time alone, with our dogs and watching the skies and myriad sunsets I have marveled at...alone.

I thank you for sharing this, it really helps.
That was absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.
Lisa, I know you have your share of stuff happening but know that you are strong and enjoy your own company.

Madeline, thanks so much. You write in/around/about coasts and water so beautifully. Btw, where is Frank these days?

MWB, so true. Those old sayings often are.

Greg, hope you never need the two weeks. But sometimes it's nice to voluntarily just take a break by yourself to refresh and rethink.

Sheila, I posted this after reading something you wrote on fb. Reality kind of hits you after people go back to their business. But grief comes and goes, and then you become an entity in a new way.

asianshoebox, thank you for stopping by. Nice to meet you.
A marvelously touching tale, Lea. You are a skilled phrase chef, turning them and tending them to be sure they are well done.

Thank you for the incredible feast. Your posts never fail to satisfy.
Absolutely beautiful!!!
I remember this from the first time you put it up. It's just as good a read now as it was then.
Another few weeks up there alone and you might have become the female unabomber.
Lovely, Lea. Lovely Lea.
Lea, I love your writing! This is for all of us, since everyone loses a loved one, one way or another. To learn to live with and love ourselves is a sometimes difficult but precious journey, and you described it so well. Some days I am so lonely, but I always move forward, often with physical exercise or a project. Rated
Barking, you understand best when you to live it, but yes, almost all of us are alone at some time and it is best to get used to the realities beforehand. There are great beauties in solitude.

Bill, I could same about you, and probably have, but not as cleverly.

Brenda Gail, I'm always moved by your writing. Hope this helps a bit as you go through your challenges, and hope this situation is far, far from now.

Geoff, thanks for taking the time. I just felt the need to share this, with all the angst and tetchiness going around. And of course, the losses we read about.

littlewillie, same could be said for you! I do think it helps to be centered when you go for extreme solitude.

Hells Bells, hmm. How can I tell you're a poet?

Ralph, day at a time, moving forward. After that, who knows?
Lea: Really beautiful. I'm glad you were able to have this retreat, and I thank you for sharing it with us. You have many wonderful images and expressions in this mellow entry. We could hear the sounds, smell the sea, taste the textures.

But I hafta say, I think you were nuts to pass on the hot tub.
You are your own best healer and best friend. How beautifully you tell this and draw one into your experience. The sights, the smells, the grilled cheese sandwich with tea, the tactile lift of Sole's soft fur...I mourn your loss with you. I love how you chose to lick your wounds.
Thank you. Again. Bravery, honesty, depth, wisdom, kindness, love. Truth. All you are and so much more reflected here. They say laughter --also your gift-- helps and so it does. With this as the foundation.
Lea, I know I've told you what a fabulous writer I think you are, but this is something special, sharing a spiritual lesson, an epiphany! I'm so glad you worked through the sadness, and I wish that people could learn from this.
Rated for moving on
P.S. I 've often thought about how lucky ou were to have the life you did/do. I'm pretty sure I P.M.ed you about that. We could switch, maybe? just sayin'
Lea thank you for this beautiful story, I felt like I was there, (have been there in some form) the sense of loss just echoes through this piece.
AHP, I'm so glad that you and Buffy came by. I posted this after reading your accounts of acceptance and thought this would add to the idea of passage. And I know, I should have used the hot tub, but I'm pretty inept and thought I'd break it.

Cathy, I chose to heal my wounds by challenging myself. After that experience I was a different person.

Thanks, Harvey. I know you are part of a happy couple but even then I think some solitude is restoring and important.

Oh Sally, I was thinking of you too, and what a time you and Judy and your family are going through. Here's to a sweet new year with good news and happy times.

junk1, yes we've PMed and I guess you are up to celebrating solitude. I know you have stressful times, and we all do at some point, but we must keep on keeping on and pushing forward. Things usually get better. (You'd like the good things in my life but I doubt you'd want all the things!)

rita, I hope you were able to come through your time of stress with some form of peace. Thanks for the kind words.
A wonderful and beautiful story on healing and love. I have not been here on OS on a regular basis, but I do miss writing that never takes away the amazement of quality. I'm glad to have read this. A well deserved EP! Girl, you're up there with the best on OS!!
Beautifully written, Lea; a wonderful sharing of the impact of grief, and coming to grips with it. You've given us a great gift. Thank you.
Sometimes the best medicine is to get away and connect with nature. Beautiful post. Thank you so much.
We all face this need formoving on from time to time. Nice of you to share the particulars.
I remember this post very well, as it was the first of yours I read and one of the first of anyone's that I read after joining OS a year ago, and reading it made me think this was a great place to be. It's still beautiful, sad, poignant and wonderful.
I wasn't able to travel to beautiful and exotic locales following my husband's death and in fact, the first time I went to the shore I only wanted to walk into the water and never look back. Gradually I found some measure of peace when I was least expecting it - in a child's smile on a spring day.

Lovely post, Lea
L&P, yes we probably will face time alone. It's good to practice, and it has its own rewards, especially with pets.

Luis, too kind. And I do miss your writing. Hope all is well.

Rod, your recent post about Karen made me think of this one.

Gwen, nature has always been the thing --along with music and pets --that calms me. I had all three here.

Thanks, Stacey. I moved along after that experience.

Silk, thanks for returning. You have now added your inimitable qualities to OS, and so it goes.

1WomansVu, it just so happened that I was at a beautiful place-- I had forgotten about the reservation. I think that anywhere I had been in almost total isolation (30 minutes from a car, no people around) would have sufficed to get me thinking inward.

I am glad that you too found inspiration after all you went through.
How beautiful, Lea! It makes me a little homesick for that time when I could be alone. Chaos put aside, a precious time to heal in the wilderness is a wonderful gift.
Sweet solitude,beautiful picture Lea, felt I was there
"I was never less alone than when by myself."
Edward Gibbon
How I loved reading this. Your journey's end was just a beginning. Rated!
You're very brave and very strong. I truly don't know how you got through it. Recently, I have started to wonder about such things; if I would survive losing my spouse. To be honest, I don't think I would. I know we're supposed to buck up, heal and move on but, I don't think I would be remotely interested. Maybe if Jim and I had children, then I would have a different. As selfish as it sounds, I hope I go first. After nearly 17 years together, I simply wouldn't want to go on alone.
I remember a post awhile ago when you wrote about this and it never left me. This is such a beautiful post and further reinforces why you are one of my heroines.
Thank you, Lea. Thank you very much.
I need to learn the lessons of solitude, Lea. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.
Roy and John, thanks guys, *you're* both sweet.

Carol, ironic that you're solo and don't have time to be alone. I guess that's great.

Patrick, great quote. Will add it to my others about the joys of solitude.

Chuck, put so well. The beginning of the end doesn't sound as good.

CdS, I think you'd be ok as long as you understand that you are a whole person and can function either way. You have the memories and you wouldn't forget the joys. But meanwhile, enjoy and have a wonderful relationship. Don't worry.

Oh Mary, I remember that you commented the first time around, and may I return the compliment? Your posts show how much you've grown and learned throughout your life.

Denise, whether or not you're in a relationship you are connected to so many. You just shine.
Just lovely, and moving, Lea. Your wisdom can assist so many.
Amazing piece and peace -- one of my favorite Indian authors, Charles Eastman/Ohiyesa speaks of the Holy Silence and that Creator/God can only speak to us in the silence. Silence is more and more a rare commodity, even here in the mountains, and I have come to relish all the more as I grow older.

But being a musician, I hasten to add that "Mel Torme, Bach, The Eagles, Dvorjak, Leo Kottke" -- are sounds worth breaking the silence.
I need to learn some new adjectives. Incredible is over used and doesn't seem to fit this wonderful piece of work. It flows like water slowly heading for the ocean. The imagery is..... I don't have a word for it, but it is good. I'm starting to finally get that emotions have to be a part of writing and make all the difference in a story. I could FEEL everything here, Lea. Everything. I am slowly learning the craft of something that a year ago I had no interest in at all. Your writing has much to do with that.
It was a wonderful read the first time, Lea, and seem to have only gotten better with time. You're a total inspiration...
Sometimes being alone is a huge gift. Especially in a beautiful place. It sounds like it was exactly what you needed, and you were wise to let yourself have it. I do understand that lonely 'what am I doing an why the **** am I here?" feeling, though. Motels can be really sterile, depressing places to be lonely, even when they're inoffensive and clean.
Great! You opened up while describing the things around you or just how you feel. Maybe the dog was the best company you could of had for the time there. Healing is just part of life while life brings many things unknown to us. Just enjoy the time and enjoy those who are around you.
I've read this twice now. I came by again to tell you how beautiful, how sincere...
This is very beautiful, Lea. Thank you for sharing it with us. You give us much to hope for.
Connie, wisdom comes with experience I guess.

Tom, we share musical tastes! I'm so flattered.

Sao Kay, thank you for noticing a technique which came out of the topic and wasn't thought through consciously, but I see what you mean.

Michael, you've come a long way, baby. Thanks.

Donna, wish you were here on OS more.

Shiral, agree that motels can be pretty tough.

Norm, the dog made a huge difference. The generosity of the cabin owner in lending Sole was touching.

Scupper, I'm appreciative for even once. But twice ... so very nice.
This is so beautiful, Lea. It reveals the beautifulness of your soul. Thank you.
And Yet, I don't know about hoping for this but getting away does help.

Odette, many thanks my friend.

Ms. Tai, I have seen the word you used several times in the comments and that indeed was what it was.
Everyone should take such a journey. I hope you inspire a movement.
Thank you for this, Lea, how powerful and beautiful.
Thanks again,
What an absolutely wonderful story of the ability to recover.
I only wish I had read it sooner,but unable to.
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Peter :)
Lea, just catching up on posts now and wanted to echo others' comments. This is a beautiful elegy and a powerful statement about courage and healing and letting go. I'm so sorry for your loss. When I've gone on solo "retreats" at difficult times in my life, they ended up being more revelation than escape. Thanks for your revelatory voice, always!
Thanks for all the lovely comments.

And susanlivingkinky, yes that is what I have taken from that journey.
I love this tale of the grieving, but ultimately liberated woman.
Thanks Caroline. And I'm with you about sending in that first novel!
Since no day is complete without a "Casablanca" quote, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Yours, of course. You read my post about doing everything but cleaning while I procrastinate over writing projects. I'll bring the bubbly.
This helps me also, with thoughts of my brother, who I miss to terribly.
thanks for posting this
Healing can take many forms. For me, solitude offers the clarity to feel and think and remember.
Yes it does - calm, soothe, heal. Poetically. Speaking directly to wounds of loss. Stripping clean. Leaving fresh.