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….


a quiet backwater…


evening sky…

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

3371-1606grrBatchtownILWith love,


About Gayle Harper

Travel Photographer and Writer
This entry was posted in IL - Calhoun County, Mississippi Great River Road and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Click!

  1. Marilyn Freyer says:

    Great job…..I loved the pic of her backyard….until …I got to the quiet backwater. Ahhh that’s just it.

  2. Patty Van Weelden says:

    So beautiful. You have a keen eye, Gayle. Your photos move me. Awesome evening sky. Complete grace. Thanks for sharing! pvw

  3. Carrie says:

    Thanks, Gayle, for sharing not only the gorgeous photos, but a further glimpse into the woman behind the lens and behind the adventures. Read your post with vicarious travel lust…and great delight.

  4. Vanessa Cain says:

    beautiful photos. Thanks, Gayle.

  5. Jim Johnson says:


    Beautiful images! They took the drab out of a very drab, rainy day here in West Tennessee. Reminds me of the gorgeous fall we had here at Reelfoot Lake. Should have been here only a week ago with your gear to prowl and photograph the fall colors … from the interior of the lake. You were on the fly the last visit and didn’t get the trip. But come back when you have more time and I’ll get you there.
    By the way, congrats on the progress of your book.
    Jim J.

  6. Shirley Smith says:

    Great job, as usual. Makes me homesick.

  7. Annie B says:

    Just lovely. Thank you.

  8. Kay Myers says:

    As usual the photos and your writing brings a sense of peace and beauty! Kay

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