Living in the Realm of Predictability

July 16, 2013

The old farmhouse where I grew up

The old farmhouse where I grew up

“I live here in the realm of predictability.  Each day goes by, a mirror of the one before, a rough draft of the one to come.  The passing hours bring variations in the sky’s coloration, the comings and goings of the birds, and a thousand almost imperceptible things.”
— Sylvain Tesson, The Consolations of the Forest:  Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale

My father is rooted to the land where he has lived for over 90 years.  The Minnesota farm was his childhood home, and he has observed the seasons passing predictably year after year.  And now in old age, the call of travel and adventure no longer appeals.  From my perspective, life on the farm seems slow and unchanging, each day a “rough draft of the one to come.”

Still, there is a lot of richness in being so rooted.  As Natalie Goldberg says in The True Secret of Writing:  Connecting Life with Language, “Much can be done by doing little — with regard.”

Sylvain Tesson, quoted in the opening to this post, deliberately experimented with finding his inner life by removing himself to a remote, rustic cabin in Siberia.  He found that “Staying put brought me what I could no longer find on any journey.”  Writer Jim Harrison, writes about these same feelings in Brown Dog:  “Come to think of it, the main good thing out here snowbound in this cabin is that nothing is happening . . . I’ve got this personal feeling things are not supposed to be happening to people all of the time.  At least I’m not designed for it.”

If we live to extreme old age, our bodies will inevitably wear out, slowing us down and making us stay put.  I got a taste of this during the two weeks I stayed with my Dad.  The challenge for all of us, regardless of age, is to stay observant to the things that come across our range of view, and to find the beauty in these still images.

Here is a window to my Dad’s world:

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14 Responses to “Living in the Realm of Predictability”


  1. Again another fabulous post that resonates with me…

  2. gretchen@preville.net Says:

    the simple pleasures of a life well-lived. ;>

  3. camilla wells paynter Says:

    Just last night I was observing how as I grow older, my desire to travel lessens. I used to want to see the world (and I have seen a corner of it, here and there), but now the travel my soul longs for is to find a place where I can put roots into the land. I suppose not everyone is like that, many people plan to travel when they “retire,” but I do find it a growing urge in myself. Your photography is gorgeous, seeming to me to capture the spirit of the place. And I think I will read Tesson’s book. Thanks!

    • Rosemary Says:

      I’m not at that stage, yet, and have a list of places I still want to see and experience. But I also love to read about people who retreat to a special place for a year or so to find themselves in solitude. Both appeal.

  4. Pat Says:

    These are beautiful images that allow me to see as your father sees. Excellent work, Rosemary. I find that the solitude I seek is my own time and movement at my own speed. I no longer want to be involved in the world in the same way that I once was. My needs are changing in a way that I haven’t totally defined.

  5. Judy Says:

    Are you reading my mind? All those pictures you post say to me, “Home”. I so want to move back home, but–if you have read my blog lately you will know–opportunity to fulfill a dream sometimes is unfulfilled because of practicality. Makes me sad.

    • camilla wells paynter Says:

      Hang on to your dream, Judy. Beautiful outcomes are often hard to see or envision through the laborious details of life, but they may still be there, counting on you not to lose faith in them.

  6. Elisa Says:

    How you wrote this seems as if this place is a lot like the Tree Place is for me. Sometimes in predictability, I can notice new things everywhere in the place. It just happens and then I laugh and wonder at those who do not notice the new. Other days I am hot and dry and green is the same and brown is the same and I’m tired. At such times though, a tiny butterfly or a small budding plant will draw my attention in wonder.

    I wonder, especially with photography, how simple it is to make a thing appear to be romantic or fantastic. Some moments are truly filled with that fresh energy and living and then those photos are exactly as they are. Other times we I see them, or my own, and I wonder at the shades and the light and my feelings and emotions about each one. I can line up the same image taken every day for a month and notice not only the physical things that affect photography, but also how I felt or was affected at the time by the factors. Sigh, I haven’t had tea yet so I can imagine my thoughts here probably do not make much sense.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Yes, I think I can frame my subjects so that my photos evoke their romance. Two photographers can make pictures of the same subject, and the results can look and feel very different. Some days my eyes really see, and other days I’m flat and see nothing to photograph. I love the mystery of this process.

  7. ebbtide Says:

    Beautiful. That MN landscape is so familiar to me – spent a few years of my childhood in south central MN. Seems to simple to appreciate the slower moments in life, and yet not all of us seem to have that ability. Great post!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Thank you. The landscape has such big, wide skies and dramatic clouds. Quite different from my Seattle landscape.

  8. Chris Says:

    That barn is just beautiful..I love your photo inside the dark looking out next to the old staircase..and those dramatic clouds and big skies. I so miss that about the midwest that we rarely see here in W. Washington and you capture it beautifully!
    I can see why your father is so rooted to that place…it is extrordinary in it’s simplicity!


  9. […] Living in the World of Predictability, July 16, 2013 […]


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