Changes Under the Open Sky
I had high hopes for my writing journey this year, but it's taken me almost 7 months to make another post. Although a bit embarrassing, it might not be too surprising if your life also feels like it's moving at super speed these days like mine. A lot has happened since December when I wrote my first and only journal entry, but a recent camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has helped me to slow down, rethink my priorities, and get inspired again.
I haven't been sure which direction I wanted to take with my writing, but one thing that dawned on me this week is this: any time I put too much pressure on myself to get something done, I fail before I can even get started. I tend to be my own biggest critic; constantly overthinking, looking too far ahead, setting unnecessary expectations, and comparing myself to others who have long established their practices, whatever they may be . . . So here's a reminder to myself that I'm still a beginner in so many ways, with so many things. I have to get out of my own way and just get it done in order to grow.
Think less, write more.
So today I wanted to share some photos and experiences from the trip. I'm not sure what it is yet, but something within me feels different since coming home. I left Illinois in a less than ideal mental state, on the verge of a breakdown while trying to figure out where we'll be sleeping that night. It felt much more frustrating than it should have, but it was because I was just kind of exhausted.
My husband recently and very unexpectedly lost his job. This sense of security that we took for granted was gone within a day and it was a bit jarring. He is the sole provider for our new family since some time ago we decided that I would stay at home. Although I tend to be optimistic and always seek the light in any situation, I'm only human. There was a little bit of shock that needed to be processed and some stress to overcome.
However. . . something I can honestly say is that from the moment it happened . . . I just knew it was a blessing in disguise.
His job was a wonderful opportunity that was going to help us save money to establish the simple life we so fiercely crave, and although hubs was doing good work, it wasn't always a great working environment. He was forced out due to a battle of egos rather than a problem with productivity, skill, or something worse. But truthfully, regardless of how it happened, we both see it as the work of God.
This situation brought me back to late 2019 / early 2020, when I was making the difficult decision to leave my masters program in clinical mental health counseling. I didn't know it at the time, but God was protecting me. To obtain my LCPC was a dream I chased for quite a few years and it felt like all that time and effort was a waste. Yet right when I made peace with my decision and filed the paperwork to withdraw, the mess of 2020 happened: classes went online, and eventually, the school began requiring an experimental injection to come back to campus.
I haven't looked back since.
Although my husband didn't have a choice like I did, we feel it deeply in our hearts that it had to happen, and one great thing that has already evolved from this seemingly unfortunate event is the camping trip. There is no way we would have been able to pick up in the middle of the week and spend 5 days exploring and relaxing otherwise. It was meant to be.
In the weeks before heading out, I felt a very strong, unexplainable pull to this area. Michigan has never really been on my radar, but it made a great place for a first trip since it was a very painless drive and I found myself speaking to quite a few people who have really enjoyed their time there.
The first two days we spent alone, getting in the groove of setting up our new camper and just hanging out. We stayed at J W Wells State Park Campground which was a great start before heading to more "wild" places. Our spot was right next to Green Bay (the actual bay, not the city) and we got to fall asleep and wake up to the sounds of the waves.
The second stop of our trip was a few hours north at Twelve Mile Beach Campground. Here we camped in between the trees, on top of the dunes right next to Lake Superior. This campground offered a bit more privacy as our party expanded to 5. Although we had to brave a very chilly night (it was just around 40 degrees!) and a cooky camp host, we were also spoiled with a gorgeous sunset and a clear, starry sky. Not only that, but it didn't get dark until about 11pm that night. It was pretty wild to look at the time and see the sky still glowing in the distance. The birch trees, breezy temps, and the sky reminded me a lot of my homeland, Lithuania.
There's little 'ol me. This photo above and the next three were taken by my husband, who is super awesome behind the camera and offers a different perspective from mine. I love sharing his work almost as much as my own, so it'll sneak in here and there in my future posts too.
After Twelve Mile Beach we decided to head more south again in hopes of warming up. Before heading in that direction, we briefly visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Miners Falls. We only got a glimpse of that area since we wanted to get going and have enough daylight to find the next spot, but I'm so happy we did. It was unexpected! We had no idea that Michigan has so many hidden gems!
Although the campgrounds were nice, we knew that we wanted to experience some true backcountry camping, so we browsed the map and picked a little lake that seemed promising. The state of Michigan allows dispersed camping when properly spaced from the road, so we set off on another adventure having no idea what we would find.
Our destination was Little Bass Lake. There was a sketchy and a bit overgrown dirt path through the forest that we drove on for more than a mile. The road was narrow and bumpy, some storms may have passed through since the last time it was driven on. Our friends were following behind. There were a few stops to clear logs and branches off the road. And the whole time, I was really excited!! It was a totally new experience to be off-roading for me.
As I mentioned, we had no idea if this would even lead anywhere, and there was a risk of having no room to turn around alllllll the way in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. I hopped out, took the walkie talkie, and walked ahead a bit to see what I can find. I passed a little field, walked some more through the forest, and on my left was the perfect little spot. It was an opening right next to the lake, with remnants of a campfire from other campers that must have passed through some time before us.
Once we got out, we experienced the mosquito attack of our lives!! Those guys seemed like they haven't seen fresh blood in a looooong time; they were getting us in our faces, on our foreheads, fingers, everywhere!! So we worked as a team to make a fire and light our torches so that setting up camp would be more comfortable. After some time they became more bearable, but definitely still very annoying.
Although this was the most secluded, maybe even the most "dangerous" camp spot of our trip (Michigan has black bears), it was my favorite and I had the best night of sleep yet. However, the next day the boys decided to go back down south to the place me and hubs started our trip so they too could get an enjoyable night of rest before heading back home.
I really enjoyed taking these photos and this whole trip overall. Sometimes I get too caught up in doing photography for work rather than for fun, so this was a nice reminder of how much I love just capturing the moments of our life. We don't have the fanciest things or the most exotic experiences, but there's beauty in simplicity and we definitely have a lot of fun.
There's nothing quite like food and coffee being prepared over a fire, time spent laughing with people you love, driving into the unknown, and even not showering for a few days. I definitely gained an appreciation for the comforts I get to enjoy in my daily life, and the grumpy, frustrated attitude I came with faded out into the distance. I feel recharged and recollected.
This time relaxing allowed for us to clear our heads and spend some time reflecting on the past and preparing for the future. We're really excited for what's ahead and I hope that sharing these types of stories from our lives can show others that unfortunate circumstances don't always have to be met with misery and despair. Whether you're a believer or not, I hope it inspires you to just trust the season of life that you are in and where the path is taking you. Just ride the wave.
Thank you for reading. Hopefully it won't be 7 more months until the next post.