A Treat and a Story

A Treat

First, here’s a splash of fall – a bit of calorie-free “eye candy,” (as someone commented on the Facebook page) as my thank you to you.


This was taken at Pere Marquette State Park near Alton, Illinois. From river level, the trees appeared mostly green, but looking down from the bluffs, the color took my breath away!

Thank You

The Kickstarter campaign is off to a wonderful start. As of this moment, we are at 47% funded! That leaves a long way to go in the remaining 19 days of the campaign if we are to be funded, but I am greatly encouraged by all the pledges, shares, likes and love! If you haven’t checked it out yet, please come see the video and the photography and the exciting Backer Awards. YOUR name can be printed in this first edition of “Surrendering to Serendipity,” if you like!


OR go to  www.kickstarter.com and look for “Gayle Harper” or “Surrendering to Serendipity”

A Story

If you happen to be on the newsletter list or you are already a Backer, you may have read this story, but it is such a beautiful illustration of the spirit of this whole adventure, that I want to share it here…

When you see the video on the Kickstarter site, watch for the sweet-looking couple wearing life jackets with the river in the background – they are Captain Jack Libbey and his wife, Dixie. In Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the Libbeys invited me out on their boat to explore the swampy, mysterious wilderness that is the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge, which protects the habitat of hundreds of species of migrating birds and animals along 261 miles of the Mississippi, is lush, wet and not easily accessible.

Captain Jack wanted people to experience this rare wilderness, so he retired after 30 years as a towboat Captain and created Mississippi Explorer Cruises in order to take them into it. On the rainy day that I met them, however, cruises were cancelled and it was just the three of us. It was an experience I will never forget. Captain Jack was a patient and enthusiastic guide, who seemed as delighted with each new discovery as I was and treated all of nature with a touching reverence.

When the video went up, I called and left a message for Captain Jack and Dixie to let them know they are featured in it. When Dixie called back, she told me that, sadly, Jack had passed away. Although I certainly had no inkling and Dixie said that hardly anyone knew of it, Jack had been battling cancer for some years.

The next day a generous pledge came through for the campaign from a woman named Donna Wilson. After I thanked her, she told me she was a childhood friend of Jack’s and felt this book would be the perfect way to honor him. The Backer Award she chose is for us to donate a book to the library, school or organization of her choice, imprinted with her dedication to Captain Jack.

Here’s what Donna told me –

“Nobody loved the river like Jack did. When we were kids, we often played Tom Sawyer. Of course I was Becky, Sometimes he would be Tom, sometimes Huck, depending on how adventurous he felt. When we were in first grade, Jack told me that he was going to be a captain of a big boat one day. He said that I could be his first mate. It sounded great to me. Then I grew up to pursue reality. His dream was his.”

“Surrendering to Serendipity” Is All About Connections

From its very inception, this project has been about connections. It’s not only people who live or have lived near the river, but everywhere. People feel connected to each other through their appreciation for the river, sometimes across great distances. They tell me that this project connects them with their hometown, their childhood, memories of their last great road trip or the one on their bucket list.

What inspires me to keep working to bring the book, “Surrendering to Serendipity” into reality is you and all the different ways you let me know that it matters to you. Literally every day there are comments posted here or on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/GayleHarper.MississippiRiver that make my heart sing.

There’s lots of discouraging news these days and it’s tempting to think that alienation and distrust are rampant. If this project can help to show the other side – that open-heartedness and connection thrives everywhere – then that is reason enough for me to keep working, happily.

Thank you for being part of this “raindrop adventure.” Thank you for your time, your comments, your pledges and your efforts to spread the word. I appreciate all of you!

Love,  Gayle 

About Gayle Harper

Travel Photographer and Writer
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