Gettin’ My Fix

Hello!!

I’ve missed you! Things in Serendipity-land have been fun and exciting, although sometimes keeping up with it feels a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose! It is time, however, to stop and catch up with my friends!

First, the book is coming along wonderfully! The copyedit is finished and we are moving into layout and design, choosing a photo for the cover and diving into a thousand other decisions and details. I’m SO thankful for the amazing team of experts working on this. We expect to have books in your hands by the fall!

After a meeting with the publisher, the editor, the designer and the marketing expert, I saw an opportunity to get a little “river fix” and I took it! I beat it over to a lovely piece of the Illinois Great River Road and, as I love to do, just let go of the reins.

1608grrMOIL-030roadsmWandering along back roads in unknown territory felt like a homecoming of the most heart-swelling kind! it didn’t matter where I went or what I saw or whether I got any photographs, I was just being there, drinking it all in.

1608grrMOIL-130dogwoodsSmThe dogwoods were in bloom and the grass and trees were wide awake and fully alive with that brand-new, impossibly green, color that can never be reproduced.

1608grrMOIL-007ChesterILbridgeSmWhen I rounded a bend and the river burst into full view, it felt like finally laying eyes on a loved one in a crowd at the airport. I sighed, rested, breathed deeply and felt realigned and reconnected.

Then I met someone, who introduced me to someone else, who owns property on a towering bluff with a magnificent view of the confluence of the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers. With their gracious permission, I was there for a muted, silvery sunset

1608grrMOIL-246ConfluenceILSmand again before sunrise, when a passing barge made the scene even more interesting.

1608grrMOIL-516confluenceBargeSmThen I made fast tracks back home, did my laundry, repacked and headed west to Denver for a two-day conference – the “Author U Extravaganza.” I learned so much that I thought my head might explode. Being with so many talented, creative people and learning about all their unique projects was such a high that it was nearly impossible to shut my mind down at night. And, having so many seasoned experts in the world of book publishing respond to Surrendering to Serendipity with excitement and offers to help, made my heart feel like it might burst. I left tired, but filled to the brim.

So, I’ve recharged my soul with a river fix, stuffed my mind and my heart and had some perfectly wonderful family time as well – and I’m rarin’ to go again! Lead on, Serendipity!

P.S. – I also came away from the conference with this…a caricature done by Jake Williams, a fun, talented and very nice guy!  Whatcha think?

GayleCaricatureCrSm

Posted in IL - Chester, Mississippi River | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Flying Sweet Potatoes!

Teeheehee!

Like most of us, I’ve been keeping to a pretty intense schedule of work for what seems a long time now. For the past several days, I’ve been waking up at my usual 5:00 am and then, without actually deciding to do so, going back to sleep and having some very colorful, interesting dreams.

This morning’s made me laugh out loud when I woke up, so thought I’d share…

My husband, Mike, and I and another friend were going to the Circus. At the door, I realized I didn’t have my ticket – that it was at home in another purse. After a little discussion, we decided I shouldn’t waste the $40 ticket (expensive circus!) – that I would go home and get it and come in late. I left feeling pretty disgruntled with myself!

I couldn’t remember where we parked the car and wandered around, getting increasingly frustrated and irritated with myself. 

Then, it was suddenly all OK because I had a bowl of magic curried sweet potatoes and if I held it out in front of me, I could float above the ground and it was great fun. I got lost looking for the car, but I was having a great time flying with my sweet potatoes! 

Then I encountered a friend and ended up going with them to a bar that had some great live jazz. By now, I was sure the Circus was at least half over, so I decided to just stay and listen. Just before I woke up, I was taking my phone into the bathroom where it was quiet so I could call Mike and let him know!     :-)

Now, I’ve no doubt that someone well-versed in dream interpretation might find something symbolic in all that, but to me, the message is quite clear.

There is wonder, magic and fun in every moment – don’t miss out on it by taking myself, my work, my life or my mistakes too seriously!

AND – although she can’t guarantee their flying ability, a friend just sent me her recipe for Curried Sweet Potatoes! I’ve had them and they are delicious – even with both feet on the ground! Wanna give them a go?  Here tis!

2 to 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch chunks

1 medium sweet onion, diced

½ c. chopped red, yellow or orange peppers

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt, pepper to taste

curry powder  1/2 to 1 tsp, to taste

Preheat oven to 375.  In small bowl, mix salt, pepper and curry powder. Toss veggies with olive oil and spices. Line a cookie sheet with foil and arrange veggies in single layer. Roast 30 minutes, turn them over and roast another 20-30 minutes. Enjoy hot or room temp.

Have a magical day, my friends!     sweetpots

With Love and Laughter,     Gayle

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The View From Space

In that life-changing moment when I first read on the National Park Service’s website that a raindrop falling into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota would travel the river for 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico, I felt a paradigm shift. Since then, seeing the great River in that way has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.

There came the incredible opportunity to travel for 90 days, keeping pace with an imaginary raindrop called Serendipity, seeing our home and our history from that new perspective and sharing it all with thousands of truly amazing people. Now, there is the adventure of bringing it together into a book that will give others this glorious experience. Every day, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this project.

One of the perspectives that I treasure from this participation is seeing ever more clearly the oneness of life. It is one river, one ever-circulating system of water around one planet populated by variations of one Life Force.

We know how travel always seems to have this effect to some degree – it lifts us out of our “me and mine” perspective and into something greater. This morning, my husband passed along a link to a video that includes some of the voices of the few among us who have journeyed much farther – and I was so moved by it, that I want to share it with you.

When astronauts return from space, having seen the earth as one indescribably beautiful and delicate ball in an incomprehensibly vast network of interconnected galaxies, that greater perspective becomes their new framework for viewing life. Most of us won’t be able to duplicate their actual experience, but because they are willing to try to describe what is actually beyond the scope of words, we might be able to sense what cannot be spoken.

The great naturalist John Muir, who also never physically traveled into space, once said it like this:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

So, here’s the link. I invite you to give yourself a little gift – it costs only 18 minutes of your day and the perspective it offers is, I think, priceless.

http://vimeo.com/55073825

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

From Soupy to Shiny

Effigy Mounds National Monument is a fascinating and sacred place along the Upper Mississippi in a beautifully rugged region of northeast Iowa. The earthen mounds protected here by the National Park Service were built by prehistoric American Indian people between 800 and 1200 years ago. Some of the mounds are burial sites, while others are believed to be ceremonial, but many mysteries remain.

It was my very good fortune to be at the park just before sunrise one morning, surrounded by a fog so dense that, at first, shapes 20 feet away were barely discernible. To me, the ghostly grey fog was a perfect visual representation of the ancient secrets preserved here. As I walked the trails through the forest, the silence was so profound that it seemed to still my thoughts and allow a sort of wordless awareness to be present.

grr1398EffigyMoundsFog

This photo comes to mind this morning as I think about the way complex decisions sort themselves out. It seems to be a necessary part of the process to walk for a while on a path you can barely see where surroundings seem shrouded in sameness. It makes no difference if you would like to have something different, like sparkly warm sunlight on shiny green leaves, what you have is fog. When we let go of our notion of how things should be, we can appreciate how they are. That bit of surrender often creates a space for clarity.

When my recent Kickstarter campaign ended successfully, thanks to many of you, my next step was to sort through a myriad of options, searching for the right path and the right experts to help with the next phase of bringing “Surrendering to Serendipity” into a completed, beautiful book. There came a point where I had accumulated lots of information about the choices and although I wanted a decision to be clear, it was not yet.

Life was showing me a familiar lesson in yet another new context. Resisting the reality of the way things are in this moment is about as productive as whacking one’s head against the wall. The fact is that in this moment I don’t know. My job is to simply be right here in the midst of don’t know, without resistance or argument. That means surrendering to the moment as it is. It means being still and waiting. Fog is never permanent.

And…sure enough! Out of that surrender, clarity arises. The next morning, every shape is distinct, every cornstalk stands in stark contrast to the one beside it and the way is undeniably shown – and it is full speed ahead.

465grr1395IA-ILsunrisebarn

Now, I’m happy to say that all the moving parts of this project seem to be on target and on time. I’ve got the wise counsel of a “coach” who has been in the book publishing industry for more than two decades and who really gets what “Surrendering to Serendipity” is about. Life is fast-paced, challenging, exciting and great fun and I am loving this part of this project as much as I have every other.

Part of the pure joy of my work is having you with me. On an almost daily basis, someone gives me the gift of saying, “I cannot wait to have this book!” I cannot tell you how that inspires me – and I also cannot wait for you to have this book!

Stay warm and safe and I’ll be back in touch soon!

Love, Gayle

Posted in Effigy Mounds National Monument | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

The Miracle on Spindly Legs

 Great Blue Heron in Winter

Happy Holidays, my friends!

I chose this photo to share as my little holiday gift to you because, for me, it has always been a reminder that life is filled with small miracles. I can look at it and remember how sharply cold it was that night. I was bundled in layers of high-tech gear and still shivering – my lips and fingers were stiff and the camera had to be held under my jacket next to my body between shots or the batteries would fail. My toes hurt, in spite of several layers of thermal socks and warm boots. It seemed a very long time ago that the boats in the background, those icons of summer fun, were pulling kids in tubes alongside this very dock.

There was the great blue heron, probably the same one I had photographed in this spot last summer, wading in the frigid water on his spindly bird legs with no protection at all from the cold. There was no shivering and no sign that he wasn’t perfectly comfortable. He took a slow, careful step, barely rippling the surface, then stood perfectly still, waiting for a sign of dinner, and then took another. It was an incomprehensible miracle to me – I would die of hypothermia if I tried that.

My favorite quote from Albert Einstein is this:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Every day, every minute, there are millions of small miracles happening in each of our lives. A key to happiness is to notice them. A secret to joy is to appreciate them. Whatever else is happening in our lives that we may feel is “good” or “not so good” or “downright awful,” there are also tiny miracles present to be noticed and appreciated.

If we make lists of them, your list and mine will differ and each will be different from moment to moment.

Right now I am aware of…

…this breath, this heartbeat, the countless miracles that keep this body functioning without me even knowing they are taking place

…the brilliant red cardinal I can see out my window against a steel-gray sky which a few hours ago was a breathtaking azure

…the spinning of the earth and the changing of seasons and the unfathomable orchestration of it all

…that my fingers can strike keys and words are created that your eyes will see, your brain will interpret and, perhaps, your heart will feel

…that Louie, my sweet, warm, fat cat has come to sit in my lap as I type and how effortlessly our love for each other is communicated

…that the list of such miracles is ever-changing and never-ending

Try it yourself – pause, notice and appreciate. I can promise that you will be glad you did.

May your holidays and the coming year be filled with what matters…

Happiness that comes not from having, but simply from being in a world of miracles.

Love,   Gayle

Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Click!

At precisely the perfect time, while up to my eyeballs in alligators during the Kickstarter campaign, Cathy Dondanville, a reader and a friend who I had not yet met, invited me to visit her home overlooking the Mississippi. Knowing that it would be the perfect way to recharge before the next busy phase of this project, I gratefully accepted.

Cathy’s home in the quiet farming community of Calhoun County, Illinois, is best reached by ferry as it sits on a sort of peninsula between the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers. She is a fabulous cook and a gracious hostess  – AND this is her backyard!

1606Batchtowngrr3327I expected the weekend to be rejuvenating and the area to be lovely – and it was. But as often happens when Serendipity is in charge, there was even more to it.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, while writing “Surrendering to Serendipity” and editing the photographs, most of my time has been spent here in front of this computer. For a woman who was more often asked by friends, “Where are you off to next?” than, “How are you?” that signaled a profound shift in my life.

Although even I was surprised when I stepped back to look at that, I never minded. The writing was its own adventure and I loved it. In the same way that I never knew what a day on the road would bring, I woke up each morning excited to see what would show up on my screen.

Of the dozens of tales that might be told from each day or place, it never seemed up to me to choose. Something wanted to be said – I was here to listen and to punch the keys. The details, sensations and conversations that I did not know were living in my memory banks continually amazed me as they sprang to life as fresh and full as the day they occurred. The work never required discipline or determination as some people had suggested. Instead, I felt like the luckiest person I know to feel this way about my job.

So, although I welcomed a break after the intensity of the campaign and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to recharge with “River energy,” I didn’t feel any deficit. What happened caught me by surprise.

There is something inexpressibly freeing about being out wandering in unknown territory in the sweet light of early morning or late evening when I am not on assignment and have no agenda. I am there with camera gear, ready for anything that might be given, but without any expectation. Just being there – seeing what I see, exploring, absorbing, receiving without seeking – has a profound effect that I hadn’t felt in a while. It’s like when you stretch out on the floor at the end of a long day and all vertebrae click back into alignment. Everything is just right, no matter what.

For me, processing the photos from my weekend brought that same gentle click of realignment, so I want to share some  in case they might do the same for you.

morning gold….

1606grrBatchtownILfield3265Sm

a quiet backwater…

3333-1606grr-BatchtownILSm

evening sky…

3438-1606grrBatchtownILskyand a blue ribbon of American Coots in a river of amber….

3371-1606grrBatchtownILWith love,

Gayle

Posted in IL - Calhoun County, Mississippi Great River Road | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

The Kitty Princess

Most of you have heard the news either through the Kickstarter site or the Facebook page, but just in case….The Kickstarter campaign is a success!  It ended yesterday at 103% funded, so “Surrendering to Serendipity” will now move into its next phase – and I am excited to take it there. Thank you to all who helped in so many ways – you are wonderful! I can’t see around the bend, but that’s how life is…I just take this next step and know that all is well!

14t644Brady'sBluffTrail,PerotStatePark,Trempeleau,WIsm

Halloween has come and gone. For me this year, it fell smack in the middle of the final, intensely busy week of the Kickstarter campaign. When I learned that my husband couldn’t be here to help, I had a Scrooge-like moment. Maybe, I thought, I should stay upstairs in my office where the lights can’t be seen and just keep working. But I love Halloween and I couldn’t bear to miss those eager Ninjas and fairies craning to see what’s coming from my bowl.

Each year, it seems, there is one trick-or-treater who lives on in my mind. This year, it’s a tiny girl in a sparkly pink dress with silver shoes, fuzzy ears and whiskers. When I complimented her costume, she announced (as if expecting to be asked), that she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be a princess or a kitty. “So,” she proudly announced, “I am a Kitty Princess!”

“Surrendering to Serendipity” won’t fit tidily into boxes either. It’s neither a photography book nor a book of stories – and it’s not even a hybrid of the two. The words and the images arise together, not just in complement to one another, but as one thing.

Some of my most treasured comments made by followers of this blog speak of this. Frances, who at 93 was quite certain that she “…would never travel the Mississippi and now I have – in the company of some wonderful folk, witnessing some lovely friendships and sharing in knowledge which could only be gleaned through those friendships.” Alejandra said, “…I close my eyes and feel like I’m actually visiting the places…” and Maggie said, “What a vicarious thrill!”

“Surrendering to Serendipity” is not a way to share my experience, but a way to give you your own experience following America’s greatest river through America’s heart. It is our river, our people and our journey.

Like the Kitty Princess, this book may be hard to categorize. My task now is to gather the perfect experts to guide “Surrendering to Serendipity” through the next steps while being true to the unique spirit of it – people with that perfect combination of rich experience and free thinking. I have no doubt that Serendipity will draw them near.

Now, a reader and friend who I’ve not yet met has graciously invited me to her home on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Illinois. I can think of no more perfect way to catch my breath than to sit beside the River in gratitude for a couple of days before striding on and seeing what lies around the bend.

Thank you, each one of you. You are the heart and soul of this adventure.

Love,      Gayle

P.S. I’ve added a new “Media” Page to this blog. If you didn’t get to see the great coverage that we got during the campaign, check it out. There’s a tv interview, a couple of radio interviews and newspapers and magazines.

There’s also an index now to “Roadtripping with a Raindrop” with descriptions and links to those pages if you missed any or want to revisit them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments