Thursday, February 2, 2023


Re-wilding: Becoming curious about the big, wide world

After many years of living smack-dab in the center of New York City, I returned to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and settled back into a place I thought I knew.

Washington is a place where you can be in a desert (yes, with rattlesnakes), in the mountains, in a rainforest, on the beach of an island, or in a bustling city all within two hours. That’s why so many people love it here. That’s what makes it so special. It’s a hard place to get bored of, or in.

While I once thrived on the loud, busy streets—the constant action perpetuated me into spirals of more, more, more—I now thrive in peace, solitude, pine trees, morning light…


When I moved back, I hiked my favorite, familiar trails, reunited with old friends, visited the same beaches and rode the same ferry routes… but something was different.

With my camera always glued to my hip and a macro lens as its companion (a specific lens that allows you to focus extremely close to something—think insect wings or dew drops), I began seeing the world, my once-familiar world, in a new light. I saw the way the morning sunbeams came through the moss, I saw the dew drops on the ferns, I saw the texture of the mushrooms. I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was. Once I slowed down, I noticed.

I hung up a bird feeder in my backyard and learned to become friends with the little feathered creatures that visited me. I lost my fear of spiders and other “creepy crawlies” as I look at them, too, as friends. Once us humans realize we’re not “all that,” it’s easy to become friends with, and respect, the other species that share our home. We couldn’t be here without them.

In one of my all-time favorite books, Ishmael, Daniel Quinn writes, “‘No one species shall make the life of the world its own.’ … That’s one expression of the law. Here’s another: ‘The world was not made for any one species.'”

After re-wilding my own soul and owing so much of it to these other lives, how could I ever think I’m better, or above, anything else? That mindset couldn’t be more wrong. How embarrassing.

Looking up

Once I realized how much there was to see when I looked down, I began looking up, too. And what did I see? Big, brown wings that “woooooshed” overhead. Eagles.

I don’t know where or when my love of bald eagles began, but my fascination with them has led me all over Washington, Oregon, and up into British Columbia, Canada, to watch and observe. Next on my list: Idaho and Alaska.

They are such incredible, giant creatures. I could watch them for hours. (I’ve grown quite attached to the family in this live Florida webcam.)

I don’t study eagles, and I can’t tell you too many things about them other than some common facts (like that their nests can be up to 12 feet high, eight feet across, and weigh something like two tons; or that their heads don’t turn white until they’re about five years old), but I’m drawn to them in a way I can’t quite explain.

What this all means

Noticing these seemingly tiny things, whether I’m hiking, on a walk, driving, walking into the grocery store—wherever—makes life a whole lot more beautiful, more interesting. How boring would my daily surroundings become if I didn’t choose to notice?

To most, and I used to be like this, too, a tree is just a tree. A bird is just a bird. Morning light is just morning light. Rainy days are, well, wet and should be spent indoors. 

Getting excited to see an eagle every day, getting excited by the way the fog sits in the pines of the Cascade Mountains, getting excited by the unfurling of a new fern bud, by the way an oyster tastes like its ocean, by the way moss dangles and twirls like a trapeze artist, by the way a spider weaves its web, is how I maintain my sense of curiosity. Of wonder.

I’ll leave you with this, a passage from another of my favorite books, Wild Comfort, written by Kathleen Dean Moore:

“I’m thinking it’s a paltry sense of wonder that requires something new every day. I confess: Wonder is easy when you travel to desert islands in search of experiences you have never imagined, in search of something you have never seen before, in search of wonder, the shock of surprise. It’s easy, and maybe it’s cheap. It’s not what the world asks of us.

“To be worthy of the astonishing world, a sense of wonder will be a way of life, in every place and time, no matter how familiar: to listen in the dark of every night, to praise the mystery of every returning day, to be astonished again and again, to be grateful with an intensity that cannot be distinguished from joy.”

I hope your 2023 is filled with wonder. May you, like me, find joy in the smallest of life’s beauties. When you really start looking, nothing is as it seems.

As RVers, we are so fortunate to be exposed to new things, environments, flora and fauna on a near-daily or monthly basis. Never take advantage of that.

This year, I’ll be where the eagles are: in the mist, in the fog, in the morning light, splashing about in rivers, searching for something yummy for my eyes, and soul, to feast on.

I hope I’ll see you out there.

All photos are mine. Copyright Emily Woodbury 2023. 



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22 days ago

Born in Seattle, now in Eastern Wa. where I live in a quieter area, the mountains next to a river.
Love it here and traveling around Idaho-Montana-Wyoming-Oregon-Utah-Nevada also. I’m lucky!

Liz Wharton
24 days ago

I would add a word here: longing. The melancholy, jitters and twitches of longing can best be assuaged by the pursuit of wonder.
Also, you are not the first but one of the (literal) handful of people I’ve met who have also read ‘Ishmael”. I just put a hold on “Wild Comfort” at the library. Oh gosh, are libraries not a reliable source of wonder as well?
Enjoyed your essay. Thank you, Emily!

25 days ago

Emily, a beautiful essay. I understand why your dad, who is a friend, is so proud of you. I have often considered how frequently our society uses the word “wonderful” but put in context, their use of the word is missing the “wonder.” I hope I have the opportunity to meet you and see Chuck again in the near future.

25 days ago

Yes you WILL see me out there! The reason I bought my micro camper van was to explore more nature, my favorite thing to do.

25 days ago

Emily thank you so much for your beautiful essay, especially the excerpts on wonder. My husband and I spent 6 months last summer traveling through Canada and Alaska. And when people would ask about our trip I didn’t have the words to be able to describe how incredible every day was, but now I do, wonder. Every day of our trip, every day, we encountered something wonderful, the incredible landscape, the animals, the stars, the Northern lights all filled me with wonder. Now I can say, “it was a beautiful trip, full of wonder every single day”. And now I will try to look for that wonder every day because it is all around us no matter where we are. Thank you.

25 days ago

Wonderful essay. Touching and it really makes me realize how much I don’t see and how many things I take for granted. Excellent photography as well. Keep writing!

Last edited 25 days ago by Tony
Sharon N
25 days ago

Beautiful photography, and a beautiful essay. Thank you!

25 days ago

I was on a slow internet so pictures were last to load, but I could see them from your writing. Very well written. Thanks

26 days ago

Thank you, Emily… for reminding me to pay attention to the ordinary and extraordinary beauty around me. Perfect!

Chuck Woodbury
26 days ago

What a wonderful essay. I am so proud of Emily, but then she’s my daughter. Still, what a gift she has as a writer and photographer (it’s hard to be gifted at both). Love you, Sweetheart — Dad

26 days ago

The natural beauty of the PNW has no rival. So diverse. After living there for 34 years and venturing from Mexico to Canada along the mountains, high desert and coasts, sneaking along many of those backroads, there is no equal in the USA. Whidbey Island is a favorite. However, once we retired it is nice to get back to family down south. The Left Coast ain’t what it used to be thus we are happy and content here. God bless your new adventures (again). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you certainly expressed it well for us readers.

26 days ago

Beautifully written, Emily. Thank you!

Jerry X Shea
26 days ago

Emily – it is not everyday that I read something that “strikes a cord” on the keys of my life. At age 12 I got my first camera which catapulted the first half of my life as a professional photographer, and I still shoot away today. While others wanted 300 mm lenses, I loved my macro lens that allowed me to photograph and see what was “really around me.”
Great article and one to which I can truly relate.

26 days ago

So enjoy your photos and reminder how blessed we are!

Leslie P
26 days ago

Great pictures! Both my husband and I were born and lived most of our 60+ years in Ferndale Wa. I absolutely know what you are saying. We go “home” every summer because of our family but also because we will never lose our love for the PNW.

26 days ago

Careful Emily, you’ll have some readers accusing you of being one of “…dem dere environutalists” (like me).
Thanks for a great article and pics!

John Deviny
26 days ago

As much as having read your brilliant essay, I felt it. I’m a lifelong resident of Olympia where the surroundings continue to hold me. The natural world truly does ground us. And it’s good to be reminded to ‘see deeply’ – wherever we are. I met your dad years ago when I was putting together my book, “Exploring Washington’s Backroads,” and I recall haunting the mailbox for the next issue of “Out West”! Best to the Woodburys — praise for RV Travel!

26 days ago

Love your photography, Emily. Brava!

I was never a fan of that “Dominion over Nature” mentality myself.

Last edited 26 days ago by Heather
Mike Stanbro
26 days ago

A beautifully written article. Thank you. We all need to look around ourselves and be “in the moment”. The Pacific Northwest is certainly a place worth being in the moment.

Steve Comstock
26 days ago

Loved your article, Emily. With your love of this great Bird and also of reading, this should be next on your list: “The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird” by Pulitzer Prize winner Jack E. Davis. You will be amazed when you learn how our national symbol nearly became extinct!

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