Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Living large as befits a princess

Katie here.

Welcome to Davis Lake Overlook Park! Or as I call it – Katie’s Park Two.

Boy I’ve been busy; mama says you wouldn’t know I’m going to be a teenager next month. After lolling around all summer I’m now all energy and bark. Maybe too much bark, but it gets me what I want so I’m not going to stop.

Even when mama calls me “KATE!”

Stop lolly-gagging around mama!

So when I kept barking and getting under her feet, mama gave in and took me to a local park. It was a beautiful, if a bit windy, day. Mama said that worked in our favor because no one else was out there.

The wind is taking down the last of the leaves!

She was intent on taking pictures of these yellow trees out in the wet swamp.

It was such a pretty day!

She does this every year and every year she gets her feet wet. I chose to stay up on the hill and wait for her; I haven’t forgotten how I got my feet wet following her last year.

I’ll wait here.

Then she started focusing on the light shining through this young oak tree leaf. I was bored and figured she should be focused on me and my treats, so I photo bombed her shot and she got the message. After that it was all about me.

Which is more pretty? This stupid leaf of me?

Still, this was just a local park and I thought I deserved a bigger adventure. After all, this year I’ve spent weeks and weeks at ‘camp’ and she feels quite guilty about that. I milk it for everything I can, so I kept bugging her to take me somewhere more fun and guess what?

Whatcha going to do for me next, huh mama?

She made a date with another sheltie and her mom down in Ann Arbor at Nichols Arboretum!

Meet Abby!

Abby is going to be 12 soon. She is a very elegant lady.

Mama and Amy’s mom have been Facebook friends for a long time, and it turns out Ann Arbor is sort of halfway between where we each live, so we met there yesterday.

Isn’t Abby pretty? She has a regal air about her don’t you think?

Abby and I got along just fine, mostly because we ignored each other. If I’m honest I sniffed her behind a couple times, but she was polite and didn’t try to sniff mine at all.

Abby’s mom didn’t bring her any treats, and she still posed when asked. I, of course, demanded payment after each shot.

At first we weren’t too excited to pose too close to each other, but almost right away we recognized if we just did what they asked we got to go off and sniff sooner. And there are so many good smells in the woods there!

This is Abby’s mom Shaun.

Since I had been there before I showed Abby some of my favorite places. There was one spot with lots of pretty leaves on the ground.

Abby didn’t mind hanging around getting her picture taken at all.

Then mama saw this tree. Well. You know we had to pose by that!!

“Does she always make you stop and take pictures on your walks Katie?”

We walked for a long time, but Abby and I didn’t get tired at all, mostly because mama was always stopping for more pictures. You know how mama is.

I think Abby had a good time too!

On our way back to the car I asked Abby if she wanted to come back sometime and explore more. She said she was definitely interested!

“I think this was a good idea, Katie!”

It’s a good thing we went for that walk yesterday. Cause this is what’s happening today!

Oh yea, Fall is over!

So, as you can see, I’ve had a pretty good time lately. I didn’t even tell you about the new park I explored last week with my friend Deuce!

Me and my friend Deuce as the sun set on another perfect day.

Yep, mama’s keeping me pretty busy. She says she’s trying to get me to sleep through the night. Yea. Like that’s going to happen.

Talk later, your park advisor pup, Katie-girl.

I always have fun with my friends.


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Snow infringes yet again

April 15th of this year we had snow. It seemed way too late to be getting so much of the wet white stuff. Sure it was pretty. But really, winter around here is long enough without it lingering on.

Our back yard on October 30th.

So our warm season seemed even shorter this week when on October 31st we got the first snow of the season. Yes, Halloween night, when kids from around the neighborhood should be enjoying a house-to-house foraging for candy, we were enduring wind, sleet and snow.

The snow made the colors pop.

Needless to say no one came to our front door.

But in the morning we enjoyed the beauty the night’s storm left behind. We still have quite a bit of color here, leaves had only just turned when they were coated with snow.

Fall and winter, mixing it up. Unfortunately we know which will ultimately win.

It made a pretty juxtaposition, the warm colors of fall against the stark coldness of winter.

The ginkgo tree begins to lose her leaves, the maple has hardly any left.

Katie and I went out to explore the backyard. Lots and lots of pretty things there.

Kind of like a Christmas card.

She wasn’t even jealous that I wasn’t paying attention to her, she was having such a good time following smells.

Mama, I kind of like this snow.

It was pretty cold, the snow stayed around for most of the day, but by the next day it was gone. We’ll enjoy a few more days of sun before winter comes back for a longer visit.

Add a little ice to the mix.

Katie says we should get out there and enjoy every one of the good days. Cause she knows how it is when the snow is higher than she is tall.

The last hurrah.

And it’s not fun.

Sad sunflower.


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Stirring the oatmeal makes me smile

When I was a little kid, maybe 7 or 8, my dad made oatmeal for all of us. It wasn’t his normal gig – mom was in the hospital with pneumonia and he was trying to feed four of us breakfast. I remember that oatmeal as being cold and grey and lumpy and awful. I haven’t eaten oatmeal since, other than those envelopes of instant that are something totally unrelated to simmering oatmeal in a pot on the stove.

This year, trying to eat healthier and noting the amount of sugar and other refined things in cold cereal, I explored overnight oats. I didn’t think I’d like them, considering my aversion to cold lumpy oatmeal, but I was surprised. I found out I enjoyed them very much, especially with agave sweetener, and other than mornings after nights when I forgot to make it before heading to bed, I ate it every day for several months.

And then we spent the summer traveling and breakfast at hotels is pretty predictable. Fake eggs, greasy bacon or sausage, cold cereal, toast. Not a lot of choices that I wanted to eat. But there was always a big pot of steamy oatmeal. And I liked the cold overnight oatmeal, right? So maybe…

Yep, it turns out I like oatmeal!

So now I’m exploring at home. The old fashioned variety which takes about 5 minutes of contemplative stirring is my favorite at the moment. There’s something so satisfying about the warm milk steaming, stirring in the oatmeal and cinnamon, maybe a tablespoon of raisins to soften. Sliding the whole thing into a bowl, adding a touch of brown sugar, some apple, maybe dried cranberries.

It’s such a peaceful way to start the day and I highly recommend trying it yourself. But those steel cut oats? Well, they’ve been taking me 45 minutes of stirring and I don’t have that much contemplation in me in the morning.

What makes you smile? Tell us about it and link it to Trent’s blog, he’ll recap the smiles on Monday. And you know it’s Mondays when we usually need a smile or two.


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Worrying about the music

This coming Tuesday night is our community band’s first concert of the season, and as usual I’m worried, not about the band’s performance, but about my ability to contribute.

Band started this fall two weeks after I fell and broke my finger at the end of August. I missed the first three rehearsals because my hand was still in a splint. And even now, though my fingers are free to move, they are swollen and sluggish.

Or maybe that’s my brain.

The concert is all John Williams music – things he wrote for movies and other events. And though it’s been arranged by people to make it work for a concert band, it’s still hard. At least for me. He likes to use different meters and key signatures and switch stuff up. A lot.

Tonight, the night before our dress rehearsal tomorrow, I was intent on going through every one of the ten pieces of music, playing along with groups I found on YouTube who were playing the same arrangements.

I found this (you can opt out of the advertisement after about 4 seconds), for Schindler’s List – a high school group from a town about 30 miles south of me, the town I used to work in. This was recorded in 2014 and as I watched their faces I realized all of them would have graduated by now. I wonder where they are today, if they’re in college or out working somewhere.

I wonder if they are still playing music. I hope they are.

We will have a guest violinist on Tuesday night too. I think it will be a treat for our audience. And as for the other 9 pieces of music, well, I can play parts of all of them. We’ll sound just fine.

As long as I stay out of the way.

You sounded fine to me mama, but then I was sleeping.


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Smiling in the rain

Last weekend there were high winds on the shores of Lake Michigan and I considered driving the three hours over to the Lake to see. But it was raining and cold and I just didn’t do it.

But when I saw the pictures later I regretted my decision to stay home.

One of my favorite times of year, when the trees are lit by sun after a thunderstorm.

So when I read that heavy winds were again going to pound the coast on Tuesday I just knew I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it for myself. In the morning I headed out before the sun was up, camera, long lens, extra batteries, winter coat, hat, gloves, spare shoes, extra wool socks and a map of Michigan.

When I left we had clear skies and no wind and I was worried I’d get all the way over there and the lake would be calm and sunny.

I drove through all sorts of weather, bands of rain, then dry roads, then rain again. I even saw a rainbow! When I got to Grand Rapids, about two hours from me, with another hour to go before I got to the lake, the sun was shining on brilliant fall trees, but further west the sky was black. The combination was amazing and I tried to find a spot to get off the freeway and take a picture while the sun was still out.

Not a perfect picture, but the clouds are cool.

Turns out the exit I chose was in an industrial section of town with not a lot of exciting landscape, and few trees still covered in leaves, but you get the idea.

When I finally got to Grand Haven and made my way out to the state park I knew I didn’t have to worry about a boring calm lake. The wind was so strong you could feel it pushing the car, and the sky was black. The parking lot along the shore was packed, with a steady stream of cars driving in, and they certainly weren’t there to swim.

As I got out of the car, long lens on the camera, in my heavy winter coat with a hat pulled down over my ears the wind was brutal. But oh…the waves! I raced out to the beach, stood right behind the snow fence that kept you away from the surf, on dry sand, and raised my camera. And at that exact moment a rogue wave broke through the fence and raced over my feet, soaking me up to mid shin. I hardly noticed because also at that exact moment the rain hit me sideways, and the whole left side of me was soaked through the coat in an instant.

I managed to get this shot:

A wild and crazy moment.

And then my camera said “card full.”

With the wind and rain pummeling me I stood there dumbfounded. Then I raced back to the car where I sat in a growing puddle in the driver’s seat, manually deleting old pictures from my card and cursing my luck. To drive 3 hours, arrive when the lake looks amazing, and for the rain to arrive at the same time, and to have not checked the capacity of my memory card, nor brought a spare. Well drats.

The car windows steamed up as water was evaporating off my coat and jeans. My feet were freezing. I was not smiling. But I continued to delete old photos, making room on my card for me to get more shots. I knew I was going back out there to get more even though I was thoroughly disappointed that the rain was so dense, and the images I was likely to get weren’t what I had hoped for.

And then, while still mumbling under my breath, I realized the rain wasn’t pounding on the car roof anymore. And I wiped steam away from the window and saw people standing out on a dune pointing cameras at the lighthouse.

I leapt out of the car and saw this:

The energy of the Great Lakes takes a person’s breath away.

I started to squeal, as I am want to do when I see something extraordinary and I have my camera in my hand, and I raced back down to the beach. The wind was so strong it was hard to stand upright. And I had to go sit in the car a couple of times just to thaw my fingers.

The sun came out for a split second and then it was gone.

I have so many pictures, most the same yet different from each other. I, along with about 300 of my closest photographer friends stepped around each other, trying to stay out of each other’s shots. No speaking, as we were all focused on the lake, but an occasional smile and nod as we acknowledged the amazing sight.

Sharing the view.

We all moved around, looking for different angles.

During nice summer evenings people walk out on this pier.

The rest of the lake was pretty amazing too.

The clouds, which would normally be what I focused on, took second fiddle to the waves on Tuesday.

In the end I had to leave at noon in order to get back home for the evening rehearsal, our concert is next week. I was sad to leave such an amazing show of force, but my smile was pretty broad knowing I had some great shots stored and ready for review.

I’d be smiling even more if I could get Lightroom to work. I seem to have lost my tool bar with the import and export buttons. So all of these photos are unedited, just the way they came out of the camera. A little tilt to the horizon here and there can’t be fixed. But I figured you’d enjoy seeing them anyway. And maybe, if I figure Lightroom out I’ll show you some more.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the images I posted just as much as I enjoyed shooting them. But I hope you’re dryer than I was.

I followed the storm all the way home.


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Missed it by THIS much

A few weeks ago I drove an hour north to visit a wildlife refuge and found the trail was closed for hunting. I left not knowing if there was anything there enticing enough to make me drive all that way again.

Three cranes drift noisily over the trail.

But it’s stayed in the back of my mind, a little whisper nagging me. What if it’s beautiful?

So Sunday I got up early (OK, Katie got me up early as she does every day) and jumped in the car heading north. I arrived about 8:30, the refuge opens at 7:30. As I was driving down the last dirt road toward the parking lot I heard cranes. Lots and lots of cranes.

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is out in the middle of farmland.

I realized I should have arrived earlier, because there were hundreds of cranes flying high overhead, and odds were they had just left the very place I was going. I was missing the mass exodus by minutes.

I stopped in the middle of the road, leapt out and pointed my camera blindly at the sky, trying to capture just a bit of it; I had no idea what I got, but I kept snapping until most of the birds were gone.

Then I drove to parking lot and began to explore.

On the drive north I had been watching the sky, the clouds were really interesting and I was assuring myself that even if the park was a dud, the clouds would make the drive worthwhile.

Early morning art.

Turns out the park was not a dud, though with the heavy cloud cover and a bit of morning fog the colors were initially muted. Still, I was there mainly to see what kind of birds I could capture. So I moved along, further into the preserve.

The over 9,000 acres was once mostly farmland. There are a series of earth dams, pumps and drains to manage the wetlands now. Most of the time I was walking along the top of a dam, with water on both sides of me.

Not a lot of color right at the beginning of my walk, but still beautiful images everywhere.

I seemed like maybe the water was high this year, as full grown maples and hickory trees were standing in water to my right.

Young cottonwood trees glow on the other side of tall trees.

And to the left, on the other side of a tree lined and water filled ditch were open fields.

Splashes of red from maples that lined the ditch.

I was headed down a long straight path toward a ‘wildlife viewing area’ that turned out to be a bench sitting in a nondescript place along the path.

Looking for wildlife.

Along the way I accidentally flushed out two blue herons who had been standing in the ditch. I guess I’m a noisy walker. Both of them startled me and I missed catching their images. No time to get the camera up, turned on and focused. I barely figured out where they had come from when they were gone from sight.

All I got was that little dark spot in the sky. But I know it was a blue heron, and I’m OK with just seeing him.

Darn. Missed each of them by seconds.

I turned around after half a mile, working my way back to the path intersection. A sign said there was a viewing tower 2 miles in another direction. I switched to my long lens and began the trek.

Walking along another earthen dam, water on both sides, I was focused on trees turning colors over to the left. It was pretty amazing.

Mostly maples turning, our first trees to give in to fall.

Then I happened to glance to my right and I laughed out loud.

Fall hasn’t made it over here yet.

It was so green even the air seemed tinged with jade.

I thought I caught a glimpse of a little bird, then two, flitting in some nearby shrubs. Ah…maybe I could catch them before they flew off. From their tail feathers I thought they might be dark eyed juncos, though I hoped not. Juncos are only in our area during fall and winter, and they are my first harbinger that winter is really on the way. It’s a reality check I hate to accept. I never got pictures, the little birds remained hidden in the dense underbrush.

I missed them by micro seconds.

I continued on and the colors of the trees got more and more intense. At least the leaves stood still for me while I messed with my settings.

Kind of unbelievable.

Even though there was no sun, maybe because there was no sun, the colors were intense. It was taking me forever to walk that two miles out to the viewing stand.

Loved the shape of the trunk.

The long lens was heavy and I hadn’t seen any other birds. But there really wasn’t a good spot to stop and change it, so I slogged on. Even when there weren’t colors it was still beautiful.

Oh wait…there’s something, a family of geese enjoying a quiet moment together. Good thing I still had the long lens on the camera so I could be far away and not disturb them.

They stood still for me too.

I finally got out to the viewing “tower” which was a large, elevated deck overlooking a huge pond. A long way away were hundreds of geese and swans and probably cranes too, all making a lot of noise.

Lots of birds way down there.

I was too tired to walk further in order to get closer, and I figured if I went down there they’d all leave, so I sat on the deck and watched and listened for awhile. And then I changed my lens back to the lighter and shorter version.

The view was pretty from up there. The subtle colors in the fields and marsh looked like an oil painting. But I knew I had over 2 miles to get back to the car and and hour drive home, so I reluctantly started back.

Not as flamboyant as the maples but just as pretty.

Glancing to my left I stopped as a doe and I stared at each other. She was several yards away from me, but well within range if I still had my long lens on the camera.

She showed me her white tail of alarm as she ran the other way.

Darn. Missed again.

The walk back was faster, mostly because I was focused on not taking any more pictures! Well, maybe one more. And that over there is stunning. But no more!

And then the sun came out.

The world began to glow.

I couldn’t resist, even though my stomach was rumbling with hunger, and my back ached from carrying the camera, and my poor little finger, still aching from being broken was telling me it was time to stop. I couldn’t resist.

Light is what it’s all about.

But eventually I got back to the parking lot where several cars full of people were contemplating if it was worth it to walk back into the preserve.

Gold trees, blue sky. What’s not to love?

I don’t know…what do you think? Even though I didn’t get one single fabulous wildlife image I still had a great time.

Far far away, but still beautiful.

And I learned a few things.

One, now that I have the lay of the land scoped out, I need to sit in one spot and see what comes by. Walking around only makes the wildlife nervous. Two, I need to leave the camera turned on, lens cap off, and not regret whichever lens I happen to be using.

And three, I need to go up there again before it gets too cold.

Soon all the color will be gone.


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Sunflower fade

As most of you know Trent hosts a weekly smile challenge. Each week he encourages us all to find something to smile about, and then share it. On Mondays he puts up a compilation of all the posts that linked to his.

It’s a good way to start your Monday, reading post after post of smiles.

Here in lower Michigan the maple trees are finally turning, and they are brilliant this morning against the blue sky. But that’s too common a smile. No, last night we had our first frost which would normally make my smile fade as the few flowers I have left will die and winter feels like it’s right around the corner. (It isn’t really, it just feels that way.)

But today the early morning sun caught the tired petals of a sunflower, planted by chipmunks weeks ago next to my front door.

And the delicate white frost on the crown of the fading flower made me smile.

What made you smile this week? Share it with us and link to Trent’s blog so he can share it with people you haven’t met yet.

And that will make you smile too.