Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Birding

Tamarack trees provided what little color was left out there.


I got to head back to my favorite park with a friend yesterday. It was cold, almost sleeting and I figured those little birds would be hungry.

You see, I’d taken her out there last summer so that she could experience feeding the birds out of her hand and we had not one bird visit us!

Even without color the woods was still beautiful.

She sort of thought I’d made up the whole thing about the birds out there swooping down into people’s hands for a snack. But yesterday was an entirely different story. Those little ones were all over her!

Three birds visit at once!

And at the end of our walk we ran into some turkeys. They were hungry too.

The colors in the turkey feathers was just amazing.

I trust none of them will be on a table come this Thursday.

Dressed in red bowties, but not planning on attending Thanksgiving dinner.


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Trent’s weekly smile

I’ve been debating what to use for this week’s smiling post. It’s been snowing off and on all week, wet sticky snow that hung around long after it fell.

There was one morning with a bit of sun that just touched the treetops and then it was gone.

We got a lot, and it’s early. Most of us weren’t finished with fall yet. We complained, talked about going South.

What are you talking about mama? I LIKE snow!

And yet.

Katie has been acting like a puppy in this, our first real snow, of the season.

Hurry up mama! There’s more snow over HERE!

So I’m taking the advice of my sheltie-girl and I’m going to go with the flow and say that, believe it or not, this week the snow made me smile.

More than once.

Even without the sun it was still pretty.

And because I’m retired and didn’t have to drive in it I smiled even wider.

Katie is a wise little girl. I should take her advice more seriously.

Headed straight into winter.


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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Katie here. It looks like we’ve had a short fall and an early winter around here. Some are complaining about the snow coming so soon this year.

Just another walk in the park.

But not me. In fact this is my advice:

Go with the flow people!

What’s your complaining going to do? Make the snow go away? I don’t think so.

The wet snow fell off the trees and got me a bit icy.

Besides, it showed up without much warning. I figure it will disappear overnight too. But if it doesn’t I won’t mind cause I love love LOVE snow!

Mama’s been taking me on a lot of walks because I can go a lot further when it’s cooler. A couple days ago we went to the park and there was just a little bit of snow on the ground, and it was melting fast.

Hardly any snow just a couple days ago.

Yesterday we walked all over my neighborhood and there wasn’t any snow at all. And then this morning we woke up to a snowy wonderland!

Look at all of this snow! Isn’t it wonderful?

Today mama said we’d go to a new park and I was all excited. But when she opened the car door we weren’t at a park at all. We were at the groomer!

Don’t you wish you were here too?

MAMA! You lied to me! But she told me not to get all upset, she wasn’t leaving me there, she was just getting my nails trimmed.

Well OK then.

And the next time she opened the door we were at a park! A really pretty park!

It’s wonderful to feel the cool snow on my face!

We walked up and down a lot of hills and I had a blast sticking my nose into the snow and sniffing good stuff.

Mama said she had more fun taking pictures of stuff and she’s not that much into sniffing. Silly mama.

Patterns in the woods.

Eventually she realized we’d walked a long way and she was beginning to imagine having to carry me back over all those hills, so we headed back. I didn’t argue with her even though I usually don’t like turning around.

After all, I’ll be twelve next month!

Don’t you want to know what’s down there?

Anyway, I’m enjoying all this snow and I think you people should try to see the good side of it too.

After our walk I had to clean snowballs off my legs!

I hope I’ve set a good example for you all.

Talk later,

Your soggy adventure girl Katie.

Embrace the winter people!


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Trent’s World, the Weekly Smile

Looks like a front is going through.


The day before the midterm elections feels stressful. I feel like I can’t turn the TV on, can’t check social media. Too much conflict, too much negativity.

On my way home from an early morning run to the grocery I noticed dramatic clouds. And me with no camera.

Barns and cloudy skies make me smile.

I hurried home, but the drama was gone by the time I unloaded and put away the groceries.

Still, the sky was interesting. And I was restless.

The seasons are changing, the crops have been harvested.

So off I went, camera in my lap, to see what I might see. Sure it would never be the extraordinary sky I saw earlier. But you never know what you’ll find.

At first I was disappointed, mostly muddy grey skies, not the dramatic navy blue ribbons I’d seen before.

Time to hunker down for winter.

But when I got out of the car on a dirt road to grab a shot of a barn I saw the whole sky above me and actually said out loud – “Wow!”

This was my ‘wow’ moment.

And that inspired me to keep looking. And you know me…

Everywhere you looked was something wonderful.

…looking for barns amid wild skies makes me smile.

Couldn’t resist this one.

What made you smile lately?

Well yes, she makes me smile too.


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So they aren’t forgotten

Something horrible happened in this beautiful place.


We’ve all seen them, those markers of loss by the side of the road. Do you wonder about the person they represent? When a new one appears do you feel a sudden stab of emotion?

I do.

Sometimes these memorials act as reminders to drive safely.

I think I’ve always unconsciously noticed the markers, but ever since my dad was killed on a Georgia freeway I’ve been more aware.

And more curious.

I don’t know who this was, or what it symbolizes, but I nod hello when I go by.

Because I know we as a family wanted the spot that dad died be marked. A life changing event happened there and it seemed wrong that the road returned to normal almost immediately after. That thousands of people passed by and no one knew what an extraordinary place it was.

Somehow you want people to know.

Sadly, turned left in front of a truck.

So for a few years I’ve stopped at roadside memorials, wherever it was safe to do so, and taken a picture to document the name and dates.

The driver lost control, she was ejected from the vehicle.

And back at home I’d try to find something out about that person. Sometimes I’d find a report of the crash, or the obituary.

See the gash at the bottom of the tree? I think she became an angel right here.

And then, each time I passed the memorial I’d remember that person, sort of an acknowledgement of their existence, a bit of sorrow at the way they left.

State trooper hit by vehicle pulling a trailer, dragged to his death.

I think that’s what the families want, to keep their loved one alive in the minds or hearts of people.

It’s not always a religious symbol.

I feel sad for all of them, but none so much as the young ones. The young drivers, the children who happened to be in the vehicles.

A young driver, he crossed the center line on a curve.

There seem to be so many of them.

Nothing permanent, just left the flowers from the funeral. Motorcycle hit a deer, then a car hit him.

So what, are you asking, did we do at the site of the crash that killed dad? It’s on a very busy piece of freeway, about an hour west of Atlanta, right at a truck weigh station. We knew we couldn’t safely stop there for much more than a moment.

Some crashes happened so long ago, but family never forgets.

So we concocted a plan.

We bought three bags of daffodil bulbs, loaded up into the car with a pic and a shovel and drove there one rainy afternoon. We pulled over as far as we could, piled out of the car, hacked a hole in the soil, tossed the bulbs in and covered them up as fast as we could while cars and trucks streamed by.

Some are so recent.

In the fourteen years since, I’ve rarely been in the South at the right time of year, and never have I taken the more than hour drive from the lake over to the crash site to see if they’ve survived.

The loss of small children breaks my heart.

But last spring I went.

And the road was still as busy, several lanes of trucks and cars flying by. Lots and lots of trucks on all sides of me. I couldn’t really take a long look. But out of the corner of my eye, as I passed the site I saw something.

Waiting in the dying light to offer solace.

Just a simple flash of yellow, there below the guardrail.

I’m not sure how many daffodils were in bloom, I think more than one. To be honest it could have been a yellow solo cup, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that for a brief moment, driving down that freeway, my heart sang and I smiled.

So many stories lost.

So if the daffodils really bloom, there along the highway every spring, then I have to think a few other people have noticed them as they speed past. And maybe they smiled too, and wondered at their meaning.

And I think dad would have enjoyed the beauty and mystery of that.

Hope.


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Wordless Wednesday – Katie style

This is a new park, Davis Lake Overlook, and it’s really pretty!


Katie here. Mama says it’s Wednesday so I should be wordless, and you know what I did? I laughed at her! Sometimes mama is a bit dense, you know? Cause I have never met a wordless sheltie. Nope, we all have a lot to say and we exercise our freedom of speech regularly.

Even on Wednesdays.

Come on everybody! Follow me!

It has been raining a lot. All weekend I was stuck inside with my parents. Nothing to do but bug them, and I even got bored doing that. Trust me, my parents are not very exciting.

Golden light streamed down on us.

And they are sooooo predictable. It was “No, Katie, go lay down” all day every day. No one wanted to play with my piggie except me. Oh sure mama or daddy tossed it to me occasionally, but they weren’t really focused on me.

And for a princess that is just not acceptable.

A princess deserves to have the spotlight at all times.

So you can imagine how I was feeling on Monday when mama said she was going to go for a walk in one of her parks. And it didn’t look like she was taking me! I cried and ran around her feet and finally she realized how selfish she was being.

Light made the colors glow.

She changed her plans and took me to one of my new parks. The rain had stopped and the sun was out and everything was beautiful! I was so happy! Mama and I met a guy out there taking pictures too. He said I was beautiful and as a reward I let him pet me.

After this guy left we had the park to ourselves!

After he left mama let me run around off leash. I love when I can do that. I trotted right ahead of mama, which wasn’t that hard, cause she was always stopping to take pictures of stuff. Once I turned around and she wasn’t there! I got so scared I ran back looking for her.

Are you over there mama?

Turns out she had gone down a little path to take a picture of some yellow trees out in the swamp. I headed down that path too, but my feet got wet.

Out in the wetlands the trees pointed to the sky.

So I waited for her up on higher ground. After that I kept a closer watch on mama. Sometimes she forgets all about me.

I’ll wait for you up here mama!

We had a super wonderful time together. I sat for her lots, and she got plenty of great shots of me, but mostly she was interested in how the light was sliding through the leaves and making everything (including me) more beautiful.

Perfect.

Ever since we were there on Monday it’s been raining. So I’m stuck in the house again. I’m sure glad I got mama to take me out on our one good day, especially while the woods are still pretty with all their fall color.

Mama says when it gets nice again we’ll go on another adventure, or at least a walk somewhere. I can hardly wait.

I bet it will be pretty back here in the winter too!

Meanwhile I’m going to go look for my piggie and see if I can interest anyone in a rousing game.

Talk later, your bored girl, Katie.

Piggie in the tunnel!


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The comfort of Mahler more than 100 years after his death

Saturday evening found my husband and I in Ann Arbor with my Aunt listening to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in D major performed by the Ann Arbor Symphony.

I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of listening to the long symphony, over an hour and twenty minutes, with no intermission and no chance to change gears if it wasn’t something I enjoyed. I thought longingly of the concert last month filled with Dvorak and Gershwin. But I figured this one would be good for me.

And it was – in an unexpected way.

You see Saturday morning was the horrific mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Throughout the day I watched updates and wondered, again, how such things continue to happen in our country.

By Saturday evening I was overwhelmingly sad.

Music Director Arie Lipsky gave his typical lecture prior the the concert, explaining bits and pieces of the four movements, giving us a better understanding of the composer’s life and this particular piece. It’s thought to be Mahler’s goodbye, perhaps a foreshadowing of his fatal heart ailment, but, Maestro Lipsky said, the final interpretation of the meaning behind the music would be up to the performers, and ultimately us, the listening audience.

And there he paused, stared down at his score, then looked up with pain in his eyes and quietly dedicated the evening’s performance to the murdered members of the Squirrel Hill Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My own eyes filled with tears. And as we settled into our seats to hear the music I wondered what my interpretation would be. What would I hear in this long piece on this, such a sad day?

And, it turns out, for me the music was intertwined in the events of the day.

As someone who has experienced the unexpected news about a violent death of a family member, all I could hear in this music was the raw emotion of the families left behind on this horrible Saturday morning. It was as if the music was describing the road each of them will be traveling as they move through their grief in the days and years ahead.

The first movement, Andante comodo, started out innocently, peacefully, much like the lives of the parishioners themselves as they settled into the service, like those people still in traffic on their way to meet friends and family as they probably did every weekend. But about two minutes into the piece there came a foreboding feeling.

Something was wrong.

At 5:45 into the music I could hear the news being spread, tension built, shock, disbelief and confusion were all being felt. The rest of the movement took me through the roller coaster of those first moments, hours and days after the event, the music filled with layers of rage and grief followed by bits of sweet memories and longing, always overcome with the deep swells of pain and sorrow.

The second movement, Im Tempo eines, represented, for me, a time in the future when family members have given themselves permission to be happy again. It started out with a lighthearted, though clumsy, dance. The family was, rightly so, a bit rusty in their happiness. But soon enough the music began to change tempo, to speed up and become a bit manic, as the nightmare of reality interrupts even the simple joy of dance.

The third movement, Rondo-Burleske, is all about the chaos, rage, and disbelief inherent in grief with an almost nightmarish circus motif. It was loud and fast from the very first notes, allowing for no contemplation, only emotion. And the interweaving themes kept pounding at our emotions until the abrupt end which forced a collective gasp from wide-eyed audience members.

There was a longer pause, then, between the third and fourth movement, Adagio, as the musicians seemed to collect themselves, to adjust their mindset from the frenetic third to the quiet resolution of this last movement.

And here, in the fourth, was where my tears fell again. For it was here that I felt the resignation and acceptance, the finality of the loss. The soft tones were contemplative, but there was a hint of joy too, hidden between the layers of deep pain, in the pools of grief.

The joy came from finally realizing that our loved ones, lost to violence, are safe now. And though it’s hard, so very hard, not to have them here with us, it became clear, as the last distant notes faded into the night air, that they are truly and forever home.

I felt a bit silly as I surreptitiously wiped the tears from my cheeks, but I noticed a few others doing the same. And then I stood, along with the rest of the house, to applaud my appreciation

So that’s my interpretation of Mahler’s ninth, heard on this particular difficult day in the history of our country.

If you would like to hear some of this Mahler piece, but don’t have over an hour to devote, I recommend listening to a few minutes of each of the first three movements and then to the entire fourth movement.

I trust Mahler will bring you a similar feeling of hope and peace.