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.


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.


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

About Gayle Harper

Travel Photographer and Writer
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24 Responses to From Soupy to Shiny

  1. Julie says:

    I love this picture in the fog. I love your thoughts. I love you, Gayle.


  2. Marilyn Freyer says:

    Terrific…as always. Will send it on. I have always loved fog….for a little while. Heaviest I ever saw and almost frightening was crossing Chesapeake Bay on a ferry….many, many years ago. Could hear people talking and listening to the constant sound of other spooky boat whistles. It was not beautiful like yours.

  3. Annie B says:

    Beautiful writing and an excellent reminder to sometimes just let things be. Lovely photo!

  4. Joan Francois says:

    Thanks for such inspirational words.

  5. R Todd Morriss says:

    Thanks Gayle. Very nice picture. I had to drive through the fog to an appointment for oral surgery this morning. I’m feeling fine now and your much more pleasant picture of fog helped to make my day! Thanks. Can’t wait for the postcards.

  6. Stephen Marshall says:

    Beautiful thoughts, beautiful photo as is always the case in your posts.

  7. Joseph François says:

    “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.” Beautiful photo and thoughts….so close to home!

  8. Valeria says:

    Makes me miss my Virginia home. The smell of burning leaves, the crunch under foot and the peace that surrounds your body an soul, regardless of the season.

  9. says:

    Hey Gayle, Your post is beautifully stated and I am so glad clarity has shown up for you and you have proceeded forward along with having fun!

    Thank you for the postcards we just received, they are beautiful!

    Love you,


  10. Gayle, I’m so excited to discover your blog. Thank you for your follow of mine. I’m very honored! I have to tell you I grew up on the Mississippi River. I actually learned to water-ski there as a child and spent many summers doing that exact activity at my uncle’s river home in Elsberry, Missouri. I am a native St. Louisan and spent my adult years in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Also, did much exploration at Giant City State Park. So I have lived on that river nearly all my life. I have since relocated and never realized how much I would miss that river! It’s proof how much you take for granted something that is right by your side at all times. I look very forward to reading your posts on this project and am so glad to have found you.
    Take care,

    • Gayle Harper says:

      Hi Alexandria!I’m so glad to have you here! I hear from people so often saying how the Mississippi just got IN them and has never left, no matter where they live. It’s part of the River’s mysterious presence, I think. Thank you for taking the time to read and for your kind words! Gayle

      • Yes, it truly is IN you. But you never realize it until you move away. It feels like a piece of you is torn away. I’m so glad for this project as it will recapture the river that is in me and that will stay with me. Thank you for featuring the Bill Emerson bridge. I traveled that old rickety bridge for years and watched the Emerson being built. When we drive back home it is a beautiful welcome sight as we cross it from Illinois. Also, the St. Louis waterfront when we go to STL. It is another choice sight to view at night. Beautiful!

      • Gayle Harper says:

        Thank you, Alexandra. I really think you will enjoy the book! I hope you signed up to be notified of new blog posts so that we can stay connected!

  11. Hi Gayle! I found your blog through The Great River Road FB page. I too grew up on the Mississippi River in the Arkansas Delta. It is such a part of me. I love your thoughts on letting things work themselves out. I have come to realize the mind is constantly working on problems and issues and the path is revealed in time. Talya @ Grace Grits and Gardening

    • Gayle Harper says:

      Hi Talya! So glad you found your way here! I love hearing so many people speak about how the River is IN them and never leaves, even if we do! And, yes, I agree – we often keep chewing on things instead of being still enough to listen! Thanks for visiting and for taking the time to write. I hope you have signed up to be notified of future posts – I think you’ll enjoy them!

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