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Local Author Experiences Life Along the Mississippi

Hazel, a girl Harper met on her journey (Credit: Gayle Harper)
Hazel, a girl Harper met on her journey (Credit: Gayle Harper)

Gayle Harper was researching an article for Country Magazine about her travels on the Great River Road when she came upon a fact on the National Park Service’s website that caught her attention.

"And it said that a raindrop falling into the headwaters of the Mississippi would travel the river for 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico," she said.

She knew immediately what her next project would be—she’d keep pace with an imaginary raindrop for 90 days as she travelled along the Mississippi, starting at the headwaters of the river and ending where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.  The raindrop’s name?  Serendipity.  Harper plotted her journey on a map and decided which communities she would visit.  E-mails to chambers of commerce and convention and visitors bureaus netted her free places to stay—like a tugboat converted into a B & B and even a mansion that she had all to herself.

Harper says each day of her journey from August to just before Thanksgiving in 2010 was magical.

"There is something really wonderful about the heartland and something really wonderful about the Mississippi River.  It's America's greatest river, and it is deeply imbedded in our identity and our history, and there is just sort of an energy of aliveness and kind of a joy that exists all along the river," she said.

The people she met, according to Harper, were open-hearted and invited her into whatever was happening in their lives.  She knew where she’d stay each night but other than that made no plans.

"I just wandered whatever back road seemed to be calling to me, and I met people everywhere, you know, in their yards and in cafes," she said.

And she even met someone when she was stopped in Minnesota early one morning for road construction.

"and the flag woman, you know, that stopped me--I was the only person there, and she stopped me and she was explaining, you know, why the delay, and she saw the camera on my seat and asked me about it, and so I told her what I was doing, and she was fascinated, and her son was a writer, and so we had this great conversation.  And finally, I mean it took quite a while actually and finally the truck  to lead me through came to get me, and she thumped my car kind of like a coach would thump a player, you know, and she said, 'you go girl.  I'm going to be praying for you every step of the way,'" she said.

Harper says with so much discouraging news these days it’s easy to believe our society is rampant with isolation and suspicion.  But she says she learned on her journey that it isn’t.  She talks about the people she met and the experiences she had and shares photographs she took on her trip in her book Surrendering to Serendipity.  It’s ready for layout, design and printing, and, in order to accomplish that and to help her take a slide show about the journey back to the communities she visited, Harper has a Kickstarter campaign underway.

To learn more, kickstarter.comand search “Surrendering to Serendipity.”