Nine months after dissolving a 22-year marriage, I went to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for the first time. It's beautiful there: forested, quiet, and majestic. The trip wasn't about post-divorce healing, however. It was about survival.

After more than 20 years as a fulltime mom, I found myself alienated from my children, living in a makeshift basement apartment, and completely on my own financially. I was unprepared for the workforce, with an unfinished bachelor's degree and only a part-time retail job in my recent work history. When a friend mentioned the asphalt company he worked for was hiring, I laughed, dismissing the idea.

Two weeks later I was on my first assignment, and four weeks after that I was climbing into a work truck at 5 a.m. for the long drive to Michigan.

Arriving at the peak of summer, we repaired cracks 12 hours a day, six days a week. I was low in the pecking order, spending most of my days doing what the guys didn't want to: stop sign duty. I rarely saw anyone on those remote roads. Under the seamless blue sky of the U.P., I had hours to ponder how I was going to rebuild my life. Without realizing it, I was starting to heal.

We stayed in a hotel on Lake Superior, 14 miles from the Porcupine Mountains. During our coveted downtime, I walked long stretches of beach, stared into bonfires and watched sunsets across the waves. I hiked to Lake of the Clouds. The guys and I found a local restaurant, renowned for the bears it attracted just outside its picture windows. I saw a coyote cross the road less than 100 feet from where I stood. I watched a spider spin a web that spanned a ten-inch gap in a boulder.

The Michigan assignment ended after six weeks. I was sad to leave, but ready to move on. Nature's medicine had taken hold. We went next to I-90 in Iowa, where traffic roared by at 65 miles an hour and my days of easy contemplation ended.


It's unlikely I'll do that kind of work again, but the adventures on the road taught me important things about myself: I'm capable of handling the unexpected, the challenging, the lonely. I might not know where life is going, but I can be okay with the unknown. I can find my way.

Jackie Jeffery is a writer, mother, life coach and mid-life college graduate. jackiejeffery.com

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