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Of Fog and Rainbows

Door County, Wisconsin is a tiny finger of land jutting out into Lake Michigan’s northwestern coastline. It’s a gorgeous area made up of small, charming little towns dotted among the best that nature has to offer, the communities encircling the peninsula like an antique necklace of pearls adorning the neck of a beautiful woman. Door County has often been described as the Cape Cod of the Midwest, and having spent time in both areas, I’d agree.

It’s also an incredibly healing place, as my friend Janet, who has a vacation home there, reminded me when she generously offered it to me and my husband late last winter, knowing that we could both use some of the soothing medicine that Door County has to offer.

Which is how I found myself at Cave Point Park on a Saturday morning in early March. The popular county park abuts my friend’s land about a mile down the road; it’s truly a magical place edging Lake Michigan. The centerpiece of the park is a semi-circular limestone bluff overlooking the lake. Standing there one morning, I watched as waves violently smashed up against the rocks below, again and again, the collision of rock and water ringing in my ears. Given how the past year of my life had gone, I couldn’t help but personify the experience. Standing there, I  imagined myself as the rocky shoreline being pummeled by wave after wave of grief. And like the ledge of limestone below my feet, I’d felt fixed in place, unable to move, unable to avoid the waves of pain that kept on coming, no matter what I did.

It wasn’t a happy morning.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of color. I turned my head slightly to where I thought I saw it, and after a moment, there it was again: a small rainbow of color gracing the side of the stone ledge. It didn’t last very long—maybe a second or two, and then it was gone. I fixed my eyes to the spot where I saw the prism of color, and sure enough, after a few more seconds, there it was again. I continued to stare at the spot, noticing that after every third or fourth wave, the rainbow showed up. Sometimes it was tiny. Sometimes it was larger and brighter. But it always repeated itself, time after time. I felt myself comforted by it, felt my anxiety over the crashing waves begin to mellow. After a few more minutes, I turned my head again, this time to gaze out over the lake, which, up until this point, I’d almost completely ignored. It was a beautiful morning, and the sunlight bouncing across the vast, ocean-like Lake Michigan sparkled like a million diamonds dancing across the lake’s surface. It took my breath away. I noticed how, despite the waves continuing to crash against the rocks beneath my feet, the more I looked at it, the more the lake appeared calm and serene in its vastness.

I’ve also been at Cave Park during cloudy weather, or when the fog is so thick, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. But you can always hear the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline. I know that the fog of grief, of mental illness, of recent trauma or the systemic, long-term trauma-by-design that has pummeled people for generations, can make it impossible to see the beauty waiting underneath the clouds and fog. In our blindness, we can only feel the cold and wet mist on our faces, hear the violence of the waves pounding under our feet. It’s terrifying to be in that place then, not knowing if we’ll take a wrong step and be swept off our feet into the icy lake, not knowing how to find solace or safety.

But I’m beginning to understand that if we can bravely wait long enough, the clouds and fog will eventually clear—they always do—and as they dissipate, we’ll be able to catch glimpses of the lake. If we’re lucky (or looking for it), we may even see a fleeting rainbow. And I’m realizing that if we can remember we’re not alone, if we can give some kind of voice to our suffering, someone may hear us, find us, and help bring us back from the brink towards home.

A change in my perspective was all it took to remind myself that no matter how pummeled I might feel, there is always beauty to be found, if I only know where to look.

Thanks, Janet.

Photo courtesy of


  1. Beautiful bittersweet words Jill. I thought of our Moms immediately. How lucky we were to have them as examples of strength & humor under tragic circumstances. Thankfully mostly humor. God I miss Sundays at Bousha’s house.

    • Thanks Mari. Our moms were the best, weren’t they? Strong, funny, kind, giving. And you’re certainly carrying on the traditions of your mom, especially in your humor! I love your posts. You make me belly laugh every time.

  2. Beautiful writing Jill.
    I knew the place immediately when I saw this photo. ❤️
    Thank you for the perspective and insight of your journey. When a mom dies a gaping hole is left. Hard to believe it has been 23 years since my mom died. Miss her every day.
    We are the legacy to carry on the fun and entertaining and love.

    • I appreciate your kind words Meg. I didn’t know your mom, but knowing you, she must of been a thoughtful, kind and wonderful person. You’re representing her well!

      • Beautiful, poignant reflection, Jill. Grief does crash against the shores of our hearts when we least expect it! Your ability to recognize and name your experience is a gift to all of us. Thank you! ❤️

        • As you well know, it’s been a long road. Lucky to have had so many great and wise advocates and friends, like you, walking alongside me. Thanks Karen.

  3. Resilience is a powerful skill that we nurture by finding messages in nature. The rainbow, the fog lifting, the ability to see beauty where once only was dreariness requires open eyes and an open heart. So glad that this experience gave you perspective and peace…

    • I’m (slowly) getting there, Barb! Thanks for adding your wise voice to the conversation.

  4. Thank you Jill. Beautiful thoughts. Door County is a special place and I remember being there on my honeymoon and standing on a cliff like your picture and being overwhelmed with the beauty. The healing power of Mother Nature.

    • Yet another reason why we need to honor and take care of her, right? Appreciate your comments Jane.

  5. Ah yes, the toughest lesson to learn of ALL of them : patience. One of the life lessons I learned from owning and operating a restaurant. No matter how goofed up or overloaded any given night would conjure , in the end everyone goes home, you can exhale and gear yourself up to do it all over again tomorrow. Same goes for retraining rescue animals, or teenagers. Patience is the long game, so one has to be patient while learning patience!
    And in the end, you always figure it out J!!!

    • I couldn’t “figure it out” (finally) without lots and lots of help, as you well know. Thanks Mand.

  6. Thank you Jill for sharing your vulnerability and allowing us to learn from you. It is so hard to lose a mom at any age. Hope you continue to find peace, but just know when you are overwhelmed with grief, there are many who will be there for you.

    • Honestly Karen, I’ve come pretty far since that cold day in early March, although there have been a few stressful setbacks along the way. I think I’m relearning what I already knew: everyone has shit, even if it looks like they don’t. Also, that we’re all in this together, even when it seems like we’re not. And since writing has always been cathartic for me, it’s natural for me to share what I’m learning through stories and narrative. Thanks for coming along with me!

  7. What thought provoking introspection you had while viewing the endless beauty this world offers. Unfortunately most of us never take the time to stop and notice it. With recent events in my own life, I have chose to redirect my thoughts/emotions and the way I want to respond to them. I am learning that as much as joy and happiness are beautiful gifts, grief has a special gift of its own. It has made me reexamine my beliefs, question them, look for answers, learn, and repeat the process over and over and over….. I hope through my own grief comes growth and with that strength, so I will be lucky enough to be the someone who, “may hear us, find us, and help bring us back from the brink towards home”.
    Thank you Jill for your beautiful words and vulnerability to share your thoughts.

    • Oh Shari. Why is it that the best lessons so often come wrapped in a shit ton of pain? We’ve paid a tremendous price for the lessons we’re both learning right now. But I think that making lemonade out of lemons is sometimes the only way through it, unless we want to go through the rest of our lives being sour and bitter. So I let grief come at me, rather than shoving it out of the way (as I did when I was younger) or pretending everything is okay. And like you, I keep hoping that growth and strength show up sooner rather than later. That, plus keeping an eye out for rainbows. Thanks for your kind and thoughtful words Shari. Sending you much love (and a return phone call soon!).

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