Everything is Vulnerable, Temporary, and Changing

posted in: Photography | 2
Sunset Reflections in Burntside River


I’ve begun to settle into my home away from home in the north woods. It’s a very interesting experience moving to a home that belongs to someone else and sorting out how to slip my food, clothing, and belongings into empty spots without moving or disturbing the owners’ possessions.

Whenever I go on walkabouts like this I find that I exercise courage muscles that I don’t typically need to exercise in my daily routine at home. I also rediscover how to step out of old patterns and see myself more clearly through noticing what scares me, challenges me, or surprises me.

Everything is Vulnerable, Temporary, and Changing

I am reminded once again that everything is vulnerable, temporary, and changing. Though we build up illusions about safety and permanence, the truth is that everything changes all the time.

During the first few days of this walkabout I’ve been acutely noticing what is making me feel vulnerable and what is challenging me.


  1. Figuring out how to sleep comfortably—I’ve struggled with hip and leg pain issues for years and have found through trial and error a mattress and furniture that work for me at home. When I travel, finding beds that are comfortable enough for me to sleep is a challenge. When I travel I take a couple of twin size foam mattress pads, a thick cushy fabric mattress pad, and a large therm-a-rest along (one of the reasons I don’t do travel that requires flying very often). I found out after 2 nights here that even with all my cushy stuff arranged in all the ways I can think of on the Tempurpedic mattress in the master bedroom, I cannot sleep because of hip pain. In the middle of the night last night I finally moved everything downstairs to an extra bedroom and was able to sleep better there on a more conventional mattress (with the addition of my foam pads and fabric mattress pad).
  2.  Exploring how to structure my time here—I am beginning to reflect on what it is I want to experience and accomplish while I’m here and how I will spend my days. I was surprised at how disquieting it was being in a new place with no routines established, and feeling completely free to do whatever I want whenever I want. Yesterday I found myself looking around the house and thinking, “Now what?” It is taking time to sink into my aloneness here and feel comfortable with it. Unless I choose to drive somewhere, the day passes without seeing another human being with the trees, eagles, ravens, chickadees, jays, woodpeckers, pine grosbeaks, and squirrels the beings I share my day with.  Time feels wide open. The wilderness feels endless when I go out hiking. It would be easy to fill my time with reading, knitting, and mindless internet explorations. But that is not why I’m here. I want to spend time out in nature exploring with my camera, do some serious writing, and try my hand at sketching and watercolor painting.
  3. Working up my courage to go out and explore this cold wilderness is a daily challenge. The question, “Where will I explore today?” often brings up resistance and fear. I’m not a particularly brave person so I find little things like getting in the car and driving someplace unfamiliar a challenge I need to talk myself into taking on. This morning I drove to Ely to pick up a few things at the grocery store. That little jaunt that took only 40 minutes total was a big deal for my inner worrier. Yesterday I went out for a hike in the woods on a trail that Kathy had taken me on when I visited a week and a half ago. After I came back from that trail, I decided to go a short way on a new trail that I hadn’t yet been hiking on. Even that little decision required a bit of effort and a promise to myself to only go a short way before turning back. As I saw animal tracks on and alongside the trail I found myself wishing I knew more about what it was that had been there not too long before me. I saw deer tracks and what looked like rabbit tracks, though they seemed larger than I expected. Today I went back to that trail and took it all the way to where it rejoined the lane to their house. I felt a little surge of satisfaction in that small accomplishment. Other than occasional birdsong in the trees I saw no creatures large or small until I returned up the lane to the house where 2 ravens cawed and took off from a pine tree next to the house.

I know that the more that I exercise my “courage muscles” the easier it will get. That’s what happened when I spent 2 1/2 months the Big Island of Hawaii 4 years ago. In just 2 days I’m beginning to settle in to this peaceful aloneness and discover my own rhythm during the days.

I love the sunrise hour and looking out and to see the 2 bald eagles that have a nest near here, perched up in their favorite pine tree lookout as soon as daylight arrives. The morning light and the silent river flowing by feel magical as the sun rises. I’ve set an extra pair of shoes beside the door to the deck so that I can quickly grab my camera and go outside to make a few photos when I see something intriguing outside.

The hour before sunset is also magical as the river takes on warm hues and the light turns golden. And the night sky last night was gorgeous with a sickle moon high in the sky and bright starlight overhead. The constellation Orion was so brightly shining in the sky I felt like I could almost reach out and touch its stars. And just now as I sit here writing, the two local bald eagles are soaring in circles over the tall pine trees outside the living room window.

What a gift it is to be here. What a gift it is to notice feeling vulnerability and change with as little resistance as possible.

May you walk in beauty.

Squirrel Friend on top of Birdseed container
Tiny Tracks in the Snow (from my hike today)

2 Responses

  1. musicallysoundhotmailcom

    You sound VERY brave to me!! Good work flexing those courage muscles!!

    “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
    ― A.A. Milne

  2. Bookcollector (Karen Davidson)

    Marilyn, I love the way you write, and I think your photography is excellent. I’m so glad we met through the Women’s Color Photo Club. One of your photos this month would have swept this month’s salon (reflective surfaces). I’m glad I got to see it here! Enjoy the rest of your retreat. It sounds heavenly.

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