Waterfalls & Pinecones: Reflecting on Change

I had a day off and I just needed to get away, but I also wanted to go somewhere that was old and familiar that I hadn’t seen in awhile. I needed to get out and spend some time alone. So I got in my car and pointed myself north and just let the road take me where I needed to be. It was a hot summer day so heading north just seemed to make sense and after everything it still feels like home. Nothing clears my head like Lake Superior.

Summer Wildflowers at Gooseberry Falls, MN


When I lived in Superior I was not very adventurous. There are many places I would have loved to see, but I simply didn’t. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t do more adventuring, but I have my suspicions. I did work a lot. I was very involved with school and clubs and my art. The time I spent with friends didn’t venture too far outside of the same old things we always did. Most of all, I didn’t do nice things for myself and I didn’t understand how much happiness I would find from being unafraid to do my own thing. Most of my time living in the Northland I was overweight and depressed. I made great friends, yet I wasn’t very kind towards myself. I am struck by how inconceivable it is to me now that I did not explore more in all the time I lived there, but I think it is a sign of how much more I trust myself and am secure in who I am becoming.

Last year I made a similar venture north. I stood in the stillness of the trail on a night in the middle of the work week and soaked in the calmness. I had not planned at all other than telling someone where I was going. I just got in my car and left. I hadn’t been to that state park in all my time living in the Northland despite being much closer than I am now. After a brief run, I climbed down some rocks and watched the river below rage just before sunset. I knew I’d have to walk back to my car and drive back, but in that moment I reflected on how this had always been there and I never made the time for it, but more importantly I was doing it now.  As hard on myself I can be, especially about my weight and how it has gone up and down over the years, I am in much better shape (even now) than I was all those years ago and that is in large part due to how much I have changed emotionally with small adjustments that I continue to make.

I was careful picking my way down to the view of the river and out, but in years past I physically would have been putting myself in harm to do the same thing, because I put so little work into taking care of myself and I didn’t believe in myself. I am more sure of foot and while I still won’t put myself in danger, I am willing to try to do new things that I never even thought to do on my own before. I trust myself.


For this spontaneous trip, I knew I wanted to go farther north than I had been before (at least that I can recall) and on my way I was tempted to stop at many parks, but I didn’t stop until I hit Gooseberry Falls. I know many years ago I had been there. I hardly remember it other than thinking it was beautiful.


The waterfalls were beautiful of course, just like a fairytale. I practiced my photography. I’m still quite a beginner, but it was helpful. I learn more by doing than reading or observing when it comes to art. It was a beautiful day without doubt and there even where some animal friends (which will come as no surprise was a highlight for me).


As I was walking along I saw some twisted tree roots and sat down for a minute and thought about how much I have grown since my time up north. I have changed a lot over the years in the amount of faith I have in myself and I’m lucky to still have many of the same friends. I love knowing that they are genuinely happy to see me learning to trust in my amazing uniqueness.


Everyone was enjoying the stunning waterfalls and more than a few commented on the beautiful tree roots by my feet. It was breathtaking. We are so small in the universe, but we are important and nature connects each and everyone one of us. Instead of tiny and insignificant it always makes me feel powerful to be in nature and to feel the ground beneath my feet or the water rush over my skin or to smell the sweet wildflowers along the path. I know I am a part of the gloriousness that is nature and that is a blessing in and of itself.


I spotted a nice bit of trail with the cutest little pinecones and walked over. As unassuming as they were I found them to be just as beautiful as the waterfalls and the grown trees and those perfectly imperfect roots. I was the weirdo on the ground taking pictures of pinecones (not a first to be honest).



It got me thinking. We can see big results from changes that have been happening over a long period of time, such as a gorgeous waterfall or a magnificent tree. We forget in our own lives some of the smaller things that got us to where we are now (just like these pinecones once held the seeds that will hopefully become trees). We don’t always honor these small movements forward and in our rush to progress we forget how important little things can be.

A friend’s 20 year old brother just got married and as I sat there looking at my little pinecone friend I thought of how nice that is for people to find each other and plan to grow together. I also thought back on myself at that age (or even his 18 year old bride). I can’t even remember what it felt like to be 20 even though it isn’t that terribly long ago, because so much has happened since then in my life. I am not that much older than I was then, but I am far wiser (although no less silly thank goodness!).

A lot of things have happened (massive and life altering things) since I was 20 which makes it hard to wrap my mind around who I was then, but I think basically I am the same. I still break for squirrels and take photos of pinecones and love Disney movies. I just have more self-confidence and sense of self. Today I feel stronger and more sure of myself and my relationships with other people and of what I want. It is wonderful to think of how people can grow together or drift apart (and likely both with the ebb and flow of maturing through life) including both romantic and platonic relationships and that we can learn so much from all of it. Although, hopefully we are mostly growing together.


As I continued my journey up north I wanted to end the day somewhere I never had been to and honestly would have not been brave enough to go to before. I ended up at Palisade Head, a cliff on the shores of Lake Superior.

Palisade Head, Northshore MN


This is a view that, like the river of last year, I would not have seen if I did not carefully move down the rock safely. Of course during my time there I saw other photographers (including those that were not careful enough). I am proud of my bravery and my ability to not only do things with others, but also to spend quality time alone in nature. However, the rewards that it brings are not overshadowed by foolishness. I respect nature and my instincts. I put safety and my gut feelings first. I am humbled by nature and I will not put my life in danger to show off or for a photograph, but I also will not be afraid to try to see more of the world around me or find connection in it.

The foolish photographers were there *snapsnap* and then gone and it was a shame. They missed the beauty of being there. They were too focused on getting a photo and showing off. They disregarded safety, but they also missed out on having a quiet moment of reflection in a magnificent spot. I hope they don’t end up getting themselves or someone else hurt and they learn to slow down and take in life and nature. A photograph is not worth your life or someone else’s, but also it is quite missing the point in my view. They may even have beautiful photographs, but they will never really have that moment, because they weren’t really there fully. As I am learning photography I want to always be safe and never miss a moment of living in the moment. That is doing it wrong.


As I watched the sunset in the quiet stillness I was overwhelmed with emotion. I am part of this crazy mixed up world and I am okay and the sun has set many times since I last saw it over the lake and so much has changed in my life, but fundamentally I am the same. After all I’ve seen and all that has happened I am happy, because I am honoring the small things I am doing to love myself more and be a better version of myself.

I won’t always be happy and even now there are things I need to change. I need to remember how to create my own sunshine. I got here by making small daily changes towards having a calm and happy soul and that is what I will continue to do.


Sunset on the North shore


I may not be satisfied with my fitness level or other things in my life, but I have to trust myself and make small changes. I will push myself to what feels right and comfortable. I may get frustrated or scared, but I am part of this larger universe and that is powerful to consider. I can’t be afraid to strike out on my own or likewise to let people in when I need or want companionship. Letting yourself appreciate how you have changed over the years sometimes turns out to be just appreciating that now you trust the person you always have been at your core.

Lake Superior will Always Feel Like Home to Me


Love and accept yourself. It is the most important thing you can do for yourself. You are part of something bigger than you can even comprehend. Often times the changes we seek are not the ones that come overnight. They are actually made up of small little revolutions in how you look at yourself and others and that takes time to take. Take time to connect with nature no matter where you are and hold it in your heart.

No tree grows from a seed overnight and you are not going to change your lot in life that fast either or how you view yourself in the world. But beauty starts from the littlest seed closed up in a pinecone just needing to open up and let go. Seeds will change, growing every which way they could, slow and steady in new directions, and leaving behind what no longer was needed for growth and letting that become the soil from which others things will grow. There is a lot we can’t control in life and like nature itself it can be both beautiful and terrible, but you can always be kind to yourself and remember that even the smallest trickle of a change can one day be a waterfall.

❤ Always Jenny