Horizon Envy (Take Two)

Long shadows at sunset

Ladies & Gentlemen in the blogosphere, Bearyweather at Bear in Mind gave me an idea lately.  She has re-posted a couple of her old blogs.  You know, blogs written from long long ago, eons before most of  the current readers ever heard of you.

Tonight I sat before the computer with a dozen sunset photos from my visit to Yale last month and remembered an old blog called “Horizon Envy” from November 23, 2009 (one month from the end of my year-long outdoor commitment on Opening the door, walking outside.)

It was one of my favorite blogs.  Do you mind if I share it with you once again?  Those of you who remember it–feel free to skip reading and just look at the photos and then open your own door and admire your horizon–if you can.

Magnificence of sunset clouds

Tonight I am going to come clean.  Admit a huge psychological problem.   Time to tell you the ugly truth.

And the reason I can share this truth with you tonight is:  I am almost cured.


But it’s been a long haul, a long road.

Horizons allow for Sunset Photography

Imagine yourself moving to your Little House in the Big Woods.  (I am suddenly fascinated with the parallels between this life and the Laura Wilder Ingall’s Little House on the Prairie books that I read to my children before they could toddle.  Well before they started kindergarten anyway.)  Imagine yourself building an idyllic little cabin in the woods and raising children who ran wild and free building forts and playing amidst the trees.

Really imagine what this feels like.  You are surrounded by trees.  Trees everywhere.  Trees to the left, trees to the right, trees behind you, trees in front of you.  You carve out a space for a house and perhaps garage and lawn, but you’re in the forest. 

Sunset tree

What does this mean?  It means there is no visible horizon.  You cannot see the sun set or rise, except through the blanket of tree branches.  You are always surrounded.  Your sight can no longer stretch infinitely to the north or west or east or south.  It stops.  It stops when it meets trees.

And you have to learn to live in this forest-world, without the gift of a horizon.

So I must tell you the ugly secret.  For much of my life here in the wood I have experienced horizon envy.  Envy of those who have a horizon.  Yes.  It was quite painful.  In the early years I begged my forest-loving husband “Please can we move down by the water?  I must have a view!  I must have a horizon!”  But my pleas fell on deaf ears.  He loved the woods.  He couldn’t imagine what his crazy wife was talking about.  And I certainly couldn’t articulate about horizon envy.

The years passed.  I scurried on down to the lake as often as possible.  The kids and I camped on the doorstep of the neighbors for a long stretch.  Well, actually we kept inviting ourselves for coffee.  Because they were such wonderful people and because (this gets really ugly, I know):  they had a horizon.

Until one day I started looking at the Little Things.  The tiny plants.  The texture of bark.  The mosses.  The leaves.  Really looking deeply.  Appreciating what was there under my feet and all around in the forest.  Wow!  Details that had never before been noticed.  Subtle gifts.

Sunset kissed pear

The forest came alive and suddenly, one of those days, I realized I was no longer desiring the horizon.  Well, not as much anyway.  There still is a little bit of horizon envy.  It may never go away.  Especially when the best sunset you can sometimes view is a reflection in a mud puddle in your driveway.

Pa Ingalls moved his family out to the prairie.  They left the Big Woods and moved to a place where the horizon was all they could see.  No more being surrounded with trees.  They were on the big wide expanse of endless view.

Nope, not me.  I’ve decided.  I like this woods just fine.  As long as there is a lake you can walk to a quarter-mile away.  There are Michigan mountains in this county, as well.  You can climb ’em and admire the horizon all you want.  And some of my friends have farms.  Fields stretch in all directions around their house.  You can go and breathe deep and feel like you are an eagle, looking in all directions at once.

My friend Melinda visited from California once in the middle of our green and leafy summer.  She lives atop a mountain.  She couldn’t get over the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by trees.

Soft sheen of sunset illuminating trees

I understood what she meant.

Yet I have learned that sometimes the things we need to see next are given to us in life.  I needed to open my eyes and look at the little details, the little things.  Some people may need the wider view, to live atop a mountain or beside the sea.  Sometimes what we want aren’t the same things we need. 

Yep.  That’s what I’ve learned from this challenging case of Horizon Envy.

Ahhhh....horizon sunset...hope to see you again someday...

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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23 Responses to Horizon Envy (Take Two)

  1. Brenda Hardie says:

    Kathy, I first read this blog of yours probably a couple years ago..I had found your blog about the woodpile before that and enjoyed the writing so much that I wandered around reading more and was hooked! I absolutely loved loved loved your series “Opening the Door, walking outside”! I remember reading this story and wondering if I would be truly content living in the woods…or if I would need the horizon. And I’ve come to conclusion that to a certain extent I need both. Or perhaps I should say “I want both”. I love trees…woods…forests but not so much that I want to live smack dab in the middle…I think it would be way too dark for me. I would definitely need an open space (not necessarily the horizon) but open enough for a good amount of sunshine during the day. Sunshine always lifts my spirits 🙂 Thank you for reposting this story…it was good for me to read it at this point in my life. Especially the sentence “Sometimes what we want aren’t the same things we need.”
    Your pictures are beautiful Kathy! And as I read this and looked at your pictures I was also looking out my window and admiring the gorgeous sunset here…all orange and purple. ♥

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, I didn’t remember that you read the outdoor blog. Did you comment on it? Or did you just start commenting on this one? How fun to know that you read it, too! A lot of the regular readers on this blog weren’t around–or didn’t comment–on the first one. Of course, a lot of the commenters on the first blog have disappeared. It’s interesting to see the movement of readers through the blogosphere. I keep trying not to be attached to who is reading or who is not–letting God decide. 🙂 I truly believe that what we want is not the same as what we need. Sometimes what we want is even a movement away from the perfect gift of what we’re being given in this precious moment.

      • Brenda Hardie says:

        No, I didn’t comment on that series of blogs…didn’t start till this one. I was so new to using the computer that I mostly just read things. Someday I would love to adopt your idea of opening the door and walking outside 🙂 and I know I will, when the time is right. Again it has to do with the cross-roads that I am finding myself standing in.
        I agree with what you said about what we want taking us away from the perfect gift of the present moment. Too often we are so focused on wanting things that we fail to notice the many blessings surrounding us already. I am trying to be mindful of that every day.
        The weather has definitely changed and it feels like fall so I find myself longing for the woods. Every year it’s the same for me. A kind of nesting instinct before the winter sets in and I am always drawn to the northwoods.

        • Kathy says:

          I like how you often come back and have conversations, Brenda. If you ever do an outdoor commitment–please consider blogging about it! You have a way with words, you know.

  2. I understand! Ever since I started checking out other photo blogs/sites, and seeing the amazing horizon shots of the sunset/sunrise, I became envious! Here in Mid-Michigan, we have nothing spectacular…. no views, no mountains, no woods (besides the small nature centers), the only water is the Grand River…. of course, I could drive a couple of hours in either direction to one of the Great Lakes, but I can’t do that on a regular basis. Everywhere I go around here to try to see the sunset, something gets in the way – trees, buildings, etc… I guess the old saying is true, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” But sometimes, it’s just nice to see something DIFFERENT from what you’re used to!

    • Kathy says:

      Holly, your words make me realize that it’s not just people who live in the woods who can’t see sunsets. Those trees and buildings–darn them. It’s funny, on the day I wrote this (Friday?) Barry came home from the football game and said there was the most wonderful sunset over the Keweenaw Bay. Someone even posted it on-line. I am sorry that you don’t have a good place to view the sunset. Wishing a trip to Lake MIchigan for you in your near future…

  3. What beautiful photos! I’ve lived on the seashore, farmland, forest, mountains and even the great prairie. The great prairie felt too, well, there was too MUCH horizon at first. So I read PrairyErth by William Least-Heat Moon and understood who prairie-dwellers grew to feel places like the Rockies were too full of mountains getting in the way of the sky. Lovely post 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      dancingantelope, you have lived richly in many places! The book by William Least-Heat Moon sounds intriguing. I am fascinated by how landscape informs and dances with us humans.

  4. Nicole Smith says:

    I could enjoy your blogs many times, dear Kathy. Thanks for this visit to another delightful exploration.

    • Kathy says:

      Why thank you, dear Nicole! I didn’t know you read the outdoor blog. All these different expressions of blogging are so different in some ways–spiritual, outdoors, daily reporting, photography. Letting the different parts of self share. It feels disconcerting sometimes…when you let the whole world speak through you. OK, maybe not the whole world. *smile*

  5. Susan Derozier says:

    Kathy – You always find a way to bring me into a truth in myself I am ignoring. What wonders you bring to us in your beautiful words and stunning photos. Thank you again. Thinking of you and Barry and hoping all is progressing well.

    • Kathy says:

      Susan, thank YOU. We are doing pretty well. We’re in town right now–Barry’s working–before his next trip to the clinic for another pinprick to adjust his cumadin levels. I am in the coffee shop but about to take a walk around town. Hope you are having a good Labor Day weekend! Hope you get to see a sunset or sunrise.

  6. Barbara Rodgers says:

    It sounds like you almost have the best of both worlds – life in the woods with a short hike to the horizon view. Your sunset shots are breathtaking, even the ones without a visible horizon. And your picture-taking shadow on the tree is inspired!

    I grew up in the woods and often visited my grandparents by the sea. I have heard a common complaint about Connecticut when visitors come from other parts of the world: you can’t see anything, there are too many trees in the way! I was an adult, and away from home, though, before I realized that the moon was sometimes out in the daytime! Didn’t see the sky much playing in the woods…

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, that is a good way of looking at it. Our short walk for the horizon view will reveal the sunrise, but not the sunset. It is OK…I have mostly come to peace with the horizon envy. Interesting that you were an adult before you realized the moon was sometimes out in the day. I don’t think either of our kids have horizon envy, having grown up among the trees. Although Chris thinks this might be a good sociological study. 🙂

  7. Karma says:

    Horizon Envy! There is a name for it! I’ve often lamented the fact that beautiful sunsets here are obscured by the trees and houses of suburbia – not quite the same as your place in the woods, but there is much green here (plus roof-tops as well). Some of my nephew’s (from California) wife’s first words when she visited here for the first time this past June were “It is so green here!” Like Holly stated above, I could cure my horizon envy with a short drive east, but life doesn’t often allow.
    I do love my little town and raising my family in the town where I grew up, but I feel sure that some day I will live in a place with a horizon.

    • Kathy says:

      Karma, sounds like we need a support group for Horizon Enviers. LOL! It will be interesting to see where we decide to retire. Do you think we’ll still be blogging then???? OHmygoodness. That is a silly question–I’m always never sure if I’ll be blogging tomorrow, let alone when retirement arrives. Which will be earlier for me than you!

  8. Cindy Lou says:

    Stunning opening photo! I remember this one and it’s just as wise now as it was then…..thanx for sharing it again!

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy Lou, first, I would like to congratulate you on your memory! I wonder if I would be able to remember a blog I read almost two years ago. Thank you for liking it, along with the new photographs. It was fun to re-visit and share with folks again.

  9. Those sunsets are beautiful! ♥

  10. Robin says:

    I’m not absolutely positively sure but… I am almost positively sure this is the blog post that first inspired me to take on the challenge of stepping outside every day. I remember thinking about how I don’t often appreciate where I am (“the grass is always greener” syndrome), and as I read this post I kept hearing an inner, resounding, Yes!

    I’ve just come from a visit to Michigan (Detroit) and was amazed at how flat the land was once we got about an hour away from the Bogs. The horizon stretched out forever, or so it seemed. I was enthralled with the flatness of the prairies in Colorado too. I love all of that wide open space. But I’ve also come to love and very much appreciate the smaller view and space in which I live. Thank you for that. 🙂

    Anyway. I ♥ this post.

    • Kathy says:

      Dear Robin, how delightful to think a post like this might have helped inspire your own marvelous outdoor quest! I know my outdoor-year helped me to appreciate more and more things in this little tree-filled world. Love it when we hear and recognize and act upon that inner resounding Yes!

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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