Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Whiting Overlook Park

After seeing several photographs of eagles and pelicans on Facebook I decided to head up to Midland and see this park for myself.

Nature and industry coexisting.

I could tell from many of the photos that this was not a conventional park filled with hiking trails and wide swaths of woods for wandering.

But I was still surprised to find that it consisted of a parking lot on top of a high hill overlooking ponds which are part of the Dow Chemical complex.

As I drove up the hill I could see an eagle sitting in a tree.

Guarding the park.

The light wasn’t good, a bank of clouds was encroaching on the sunshine I’d left at home, two hours to the south. Still, on occassion when I first arrived, the sun broke through the clouds.

Oh! And a juvinile down below!

And it was windy! Between trying to focus on the eagle who flew out over the water as soon as I arrived, and trying to keep my hair out of the frame, I almost missed the pelicans swimming very close to the edge of the pond, behind the chain link fence.

It was hard shooting through the chain link fence.

While I was trying to catch an image of them, shooting through the fence, I lost track of the eagle until I heard a whole lot of eagle type noises coming from the trees.

Look closely, there are three juviniles here, all landing in a tree.

Turns out there were three juviniles, all landing close together. I’m pretty sure one of them had a fish.

This little diving duck was surprised when he came up right in front of the pelican!

Pretty much the whole time I was there I was pointing the camera either at the water following the pelicans, or the sky trying to get a sharp image of the eagles.

The light felt like it was evening, but it was 9:30 in the morning.

I was facinated how these beautiful wild birds coexisted so well with industry.

Such an unusual place to witness an eagle in flight.

I was unsure if the eagles coexist with each other quite as well.

Looks like the adult has something to say.

Mostly the eagles soared round and round, higher and higher. I never saw any of them dive into the water, though when they were flying closer to the ponds the ducks seemed to scatter.

The sky was interesting, but made shooting the birds so difficult.

It was hard to keep track of the big birds, they were really very far away. Sometimes the only way I knew where they were was their noisy discussion amongst themselves.

The light caught his head and the lead edge of his wing.

When the sun slid out for a moment it was easier to find the adult, with his bright white head…

Sometimes the tail was the give away.

…and tail.

The whole time I was there, sitting in the car until an eagle took off from a tree, then popping out to try to get an image, I didn’t think I got anything worth looking at.

He turned into a painting.

I was shooting pretty much into the light, what light there was. And the birds were so darn far away. These were all shot with my longest lens, and they are still cropped a whole lot. Hence the painterly looking images.

I think I’ll go back some day when the sun is shining brighter, and perhaps later in the day to get the sun behind me rather than shining in my eyes.

The best part of the day was just sitting and watching them fly.

I felt lucky today that they were so active. I didn’t get the perfect eagle (or pelican for that matter) shot, but I got to see them flying, so much more fun than watching them watch me while they sit still on a branch.

Landing gear down, more pelicans arrive.

None of these images are great, but I had fun, and I figured you’d have fun looking at them too.

Soar like an eagle….

If you’re a birder, this would be a fun place to visit with powerful binoculars. You can sit in the car and watch some amazing birds. Can’t beat it! (You might want to look at these pictures on something bigger than your phone!)

The clouds moved in and I moved out.


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Thank you

I can’t let another day go by without sending out a great big THANK YOU to all of you that supported my Giving Tuesday Facebook fundraiser for the Truck Safety Coalition. Monetary donations, as well as verbal and written support, all made my day. Sometimes I feel that working to make our roads safer is too hard, maybe even impossible, and I feel lonely in the fight. But you proved to me, once again, that I’m not alone, and that many people care about the victims and their families as well as the underlying purpose.

I started out with a goal of raising $1,000, the same amount I struggled to raise last year. I put the fundraiser up the evening before Giving Tuesday because I was afraid I’d have technical problems trying to do it early Tuesday. I don’t know why I assume things won’t go as planned, but I didn’t have any trouble getting the page to work, and by late evening I was already close to goal.

Well. I couldn’t start Giving Tuesday with only a couple hundred dollars to raise all day, so I upped the goal to $1200, and was quickly nearing that goal too. So I boosted it again to $1500 and by afternoon was slightly over. It felt kind of like cheating to raise it again, but I did, one last time, to $2000 and several more friends helped me make that final goal. I should have just started at $2000, but that felt so far out of the realm of reality, and I was afraid of failure.

Lesson learned.

So thank you. You give me renewed hope that the world can be a pretty wonderful place, and people are kind and compassionate and generous. You gave what you could, and it was, as a blogger friend of mine often says, enough.

Thank you.


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Convergence

I want to write a post thanking all my fabulous donors who contributed to the Truck Safety Coaltion today during the Giving Tuesday campaign. That’s what I thought I’d be writing about tonight, because you were all truly amazing.

But just before 1 p.m. today, Giving Tuesday, five days after Thanksgiving, only weeks before Christmas our county became another statistic. There was a school shooting here, in a high school a couple of towns over. While we were talking about trucks and death and injury and funding, while we were congratulating each other on moving toward fundraising goals, a 15 year old was shooting classmates and a teacher.

There are three dead students so far, 8 more people injured, several are critical. A fourteen year old girl is on a ventiltor.

Oxford is a small, tight knit community. They are all in shock, as are the rest of us in this county. Just like truck crashes you never think it will happen to you or your family or your community. Until it does.

Tonight, after a full day of fundraising and an afternoon moving from disbelief and incredulity to sad acceptance, I went to my community band rehearsal — our Christmas concert is next Tuesday night. It seemed a lot to process.

The truck crash stories I’d heard today bounced around in my head, ping ponging against the sights of ambulances and medical helicopters and running students and crying parents that I’d seen on television, offset by comforting music played distractedly by folks that are parents and grandparents and high school students themselves.

So many emotions converging, it’s all a jumbled mess inside my brain. So the thank you post I planned to write will have to wait.

Tonight on my way home from rehearsal I thought about the three families who’s children didn’t come home from school today. Who will never come home again. And I thought about the families who’s children are fighting for their lives in the hospital. I thought about how the actions of one person can irreparably damage an entire community, a whole county. A family. How Christmas, and Thanksgiving too, will never be the same in Oxford.

And how Christmas music will forever bring up wells of grief for so many, just as it did in our family for so many years.

If you believe in the power of prayer, please send some this way. Because it feels like crazy has converged here, in a small town, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the holiday season.


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Going live on Giving Tuesday

We’re going live tomorrow! I’ve rarely done any live work on Facebook before, but tomorrow is the day! The Truck Safety Coalition will be featuring volunteers, board members and staff in short presentations and interviews every hour on the hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m tomorrow. You can see it all on their Facebook page.

I’m live at 10:00 a.m. I’ve been practicing, but you never know how it will really go. I’m not sure I can get through it without crying, so I may end up doing an abbreviated version. Or maybe tears are just what we need for people to realize how important safety is for us all.

Anyway.

Below is what I’m planning to say. What actually comes out of my mouth tomorrow may be completely different.

Hey everybody!  My name is Dawn King.  I’ve been a volunteer with the Truck Safety Coalition for more than 15 years.  When people first hear me talk about volunteering with TSC they assume I’m a retired truck driver or something. 

But that’s not it.

I volunteer with TSC to honor my dad.  Some of you know that he was killed a couple days before Christmas back in 2004 when he was driving to the airport to catch a flight, planning to spend the holidays with family.

He was on the interstate, early in the morning of December 23rd when he came upon a small crash.  He would  have called it a fender bender.  Police, ambulance and fire trucks were already on the scene, and traffic was slowly being directed around the crash. 

Dad was in back of a semi, and  both of them, along with most of  the rest of traffic, managed to slow down and move into the left lane.  But the semi behind dad never saw the slowed traffic.  He never saw all those revolving emergency lights on that dark early morning.  The semi behind dad slammed into him with the cruise control still engaged.  Dad’s vehicle was pushed into the semi ahead of him, then spun out into the median.  Dad was partially ejected through a rear window even though he was wearing his seatbelt. 

They say he died instantly. 

What should have been a joyous time of year turned into tragedy and my family’s lives were changed forever.  Dad was the trunk of our family tree, our last living parent.  Without him I and my 3 siblings felt lost.   We had no idea what we should do next, where we should turn.

And then someone searching randomly on the internet came across the Truck Safety Coalition and I called them asking for advice.   And that’s where it all began.

TSC helped connect us to an attorney who in turn told me the things I needed to do immediately to protect our interests.  That was a big first step.  And the further we got into the process the more I realized how huge the problems are in the trucking industry.  How often the families who are injured or killed are considered just another cost of doing business.

Every one of my siblings said they wanted to do something, to make sure no one ever had to go through the pain we were experiencing.  And volunteering for this organization is how we’re making a difference. 

Volunteering for TSC changed my life, it gave me a place to put my anger and my grief.   It gave me the opportunity to help other people.  To make positive change.  It gave me a direction.

We know we won’t stop all crashes.  We know change is slow and difficult.  But every step we make toward protecting both the motoring public AND the drivers of these trucks saves someone an injury, saves a life, keeps a family together.  Even though we can’t identify specific individuals who weren’t involved in a crash because , for example, a double 33 foot trailer wasn’t on their highway,  we know that working to keep longer double 33 foot trailers off many of  our roads  has saved lives.

The Truck Safety Coalition was there when my family needed it.  And we want to make sure they continue to be there for all the families, especially the new families far into the future.  People are beginning their long treks through grief and pain every single year.  Approximately 5,000 people die each year in crashes with commercial trucks.  Over 150,000 are injured! 

You never think it will happen to you or your family until it does. 

It takes money to keep an organization afloat.  We can’t let our families down, those new faces, so raw with grief can’t be ignored.  We have to raise enough money to keep talking in Washington, and to keep supporting the people who are affected by these crashes.

We need your help. 

Next spring we’ll be inviting families to Washington, to give them and their loved ones a voice on Capitol Hill.   It’s a conference called Sorrow to Strength which we do every other year.  The families, particularly the new families, come to the conference filled with sorrow, and through their time together with other families who have gone through similar experiences, they  learn more about the issues, and about themselves. 

We see people come the first day barely able to speak their story, who leave after four days with new confidence, strength and commitment, people who have found their voices.

We are all stronger than we ever thought we could be. 

We need money to be able to do that.  If you’re interested, there are a number of scholarships that need funding.  Every dollar helps.  You can learn more about the conference and the specific needs at our website, trucksafety.org, under the tab “Sorrow to Strength.”

And, at an every day level, we need funds to have someone answer the phone when a new family calls for help.

We need funds to attend meetings with the agencies that make the rules that govern the trucking industry, to make certain that safety is always involved in any decision.

We need funds for someone to reach out to families soon after the crash, to make sure they know we’re here.

There are so many things that need to be done to meet our duel mission of supporting families and affecting change.  And they all require funding.

Truck Safety affects everyone.  We all share the roads with commercial trucks.  We are all at risk.  Help us keep educating, keep supporting, keep pushing for change.

Please donate.  You’ll find my page on Facebook or you can go to the Truck Safety Coalition Facebook page and donate there. 

And if YOU or your family or friends have been in a crash with a commercial truck, and you’d like to join us in our work, or you want some advice, or just need to connect with other people with a similar experience, please contact us.

You can find out more about our organization and how to reach us at trucksafety.org.

If you knew my dad you know he wouldn’t have been quiet if one of his kids had been killed that December morning. 

I can’t be quiet either.

I would be grateful if you would find it in your heart to donate so we can continue this important work.

 Thank you in advance.


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Thankful

One of my brothers flew into town last Wednesday, and on this last night of our Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for all the family time I’ve had these past five days.

Thanksgiving yummy food and big smiles.

My husband, brother and I spent Thursday with my dad’s sister, my aunt, talking about people from generations before, and eating traditional Thanksgiving fare.

The rest of the weekend we hung out around home, watching the nature in my backyard…

Hey! Are you guys going to share any holiday treats with me?

…and today I took him out to Kensington to experience the bird in the hand phenomenon.

Artsy-fartsy bird in the hand image.

All of it was so much fun.

I’ve got my eye on a treat!

He goes home tomorrow, his own dog is anxiously waiting for him, but Katie sure loved having another admirer in the house. We played together in the new snow a couple of times, and she was all smiles.

Uncle Paul took this picture of me. He didn’t know about my treat policy, but I let him off with a warning.

I’m not looking forward to telling her that her new loyal subject won’t be around to wait on her after tomorrow.

I think I’m late leaving for a warmer climate. Maybe I’ll hitch a ride with that Paul guy.

She and I are both going to miss him.

See ya later, Uncle Paul! Come back any time!


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Plastic wrap flashback

Today I’ve been busy cleaning the house and cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow. It’s one of the days I’m glad Katie gets me up early, I have so much to do. Katie, on the other hand, is less than happy, following me around from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchen and back again as I alternate cleaning with putting something on the stove or in the oven or downstairs in the spare fridge.

Up and down, back and forth. She didn’t even bark at her personal nemesis the vacuum cleaner. By the time I got to that she was all but exhausted. Me too.

But there was one moment this morning when I was suddenly transported back to Thanksgiving 2004, and I had to stop and catch my breath. And then grin sadly.

You see, in the summer of 2004 my mom died suddenly, and by Thanksgiving of that year the entire family recognized that we couldn’t take family for granted. And so both sides of my family, people on my mom’s side, and people on my dad’s, from all over the country, were arriving for Thanksgiving dinner, to be eaten on Friday, at my house.

Dad and my siblings got there a day or so early and were helping me prepare. And wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of plastic wrap. It’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without plastic wrap. So even though it was Thanksgiving morning, a time I would generally avoid going to the store, my dad volunteered to run out and pick some up for me. And of course all he and one of my brothers could find was some funky colored sticky plastic wrap which I used that day but never used again. In fact I think I still have that roll at the back of the pantry.

Today I was making vegetable lasagna for dinner tonight and needed to cover the pan with foil before it went into the oven. I had a new roll of it waiting in the drawer. But darn it all, Kroger, do you have to glue the edge down so that I can’t get it started? Does everyone have to yank the foil including the cardboard core out of the box and use scissors in order to get a piece of foil? I should just go buy another brand.

And then I envisioned going to the store the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The chaos that would be there. Just for some tinfoil. Even though I know for a fact that it’s certifiably impossible to cook massive amounts of food without tinfoil, I wasn’t going to head to the store for anything. And then I remembered sending dad out into the craziness for plastic wrap.

And I stopped tugging the tinfoil and I took a deep breath and I smiled.

Memories on this Thanksgiving about Thanksgivings long past. I guess that’s what the holidays are supposed to be about. And I should probably just stop worrying about all that food. It will get done or it won’t, Thanksgiving will be here either way, and I’m grateful to be spending it with some of my family this year.

I hope you are all in a happy place as well. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

At my wedding, 1990.


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Heads up, Giving Tuesday is next week!

Giving Tuesday is November 30th, which is one week from today.

In case you’re not familiar with that concept, it’s a day where people use Facebook to showcase their favorite nonprofits, then ask their friends and family to donate, through a button on their Facebook post, in order to raise money for their good causes.

Long before he was a dad.

Most of you know I’m on the board of CRASH, which is part of the Truck Safety Coalition. CRASH stands for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. We work, alongside P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) to make legislative and rule changes focusing on trucks driving with us on our nation’s roads.

I do this in honor of my dad, who was killed December 23, 2004 by a tired trucker who drove all night to get a load of electronics to retail outlets in time for holiday shopping. He fell asleep an hour from his destination, while still driving. Profits overroad safety that early morning, and my dad paid the ultimate price.

A young man with dreams.

CRASH and P.A.T.T. watch the hours of service rules and push back when industry tries to get those extended. We don’t always win, but we do some of the time, and we know that when we win fewer people die. We are also working on getting stronger rear underride guards, automatic emergency braking on all trucks, increased minimum liability insurance for all commercial trucks, and we’re fighting against teen drivers being allowed to drive across the country.

CRASH and P.A.T.T. also support the families of those killed or injured in a crash with a commercial truck. Nearly 5,000 people die every single year, and over 100,000 are injured. The loss of life has gone up 45% since 2009. Profits over safety makes me so angry.

He was in the Army too.

There’s more, but details aren’t the point of this post. The point is that next Tuesday I’ll be asking friends and family to donate to CRASH. We’re making it easy, over on Facebook, and I hope you’ll consider chipping in. I know you have lots of places you support, and I’d be honored if you decide to add CRASH to your list of nonprofits deserving your attention.

And then he was a dad.

Last year I took a leap of faith and set my goal at $1,000, way over my usual effort of $250. I didn’t really think I could raise that much, but I was surprised and humbled when so many friends donated. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, and, late in the afternoon, I was close to my goal. And then a special friend made the effort to get me over the top.

I almost cried.

Reading the Sunday comics to his girls.

These days I work with families whose crashes are recent; their grief is so raw. It hurts me to the core, but it’s necessary work. And in order for us to keep working with them, to keep giving them support, to continue to include them in our truck safety family, we need financial support. It’s not easy to ask, but I need to.

I hope you will be in a position to help. One week from today. Next Tuesday you’ll find me on Facebook all day.

The father of the bride.

Regardless of what you decide, I appreicate all the support you’ve given me in the years since dad was killed. It will be 17 years next month, though it feels like yesterday.

I miss him every day. All of this is in his honor.

He’s on a different adventure now.


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Waiting on my numbers

Hey everybody! Katie here.

So most of you know that I’ve been fighting kidney disease for much of this year. I go to the vet every month and donate my blood so the lady vet can see how I’m doing.

Me at my park where they have a children’s storybook walk.

Daddy and mama took me to the vet yesterday, they say I shouldn’t be so scared every time, but they aren’t there in the back room when those vet techs get my blood! I’m starting to feel like a pin cushion, all those needle pricks over the past nine months!

At a rest stop on our way home from the vet yesterday.

It’s scary back there, I tell you, and I’m so glad when they take me back to my daddy; I’m always ready to go go go back out to the car where mama waits impatiently for me.

During one of my neighborhood patrols.

But the lady vet and daddy always have to stand around and talk after I give away my blood. They usually look at all the test results, but this time they just talked about my poop!

Checking out my yard.

Geeze! Can’t a princess have a little privacy about anything? Mama and daddy have been taking pictures of my poop for weeks! I guess having soft runny poop is not a good thing. Who knew?

My yard has a katsura tree and all the leaves fell off in one day!

Now I have medicine to help my poops get back to normal. Mama says we’ll see. Literally I guess, right?

My yard has a ginkgo tree too. It’s leaves also fall off in a single day!

And the test results? The ones that will tell us if I’m getting worse? Well, the lady vet sent my blood out to a lab instead of running the tests right there, so we won’t know until sometime next week.

At my park.

I’ll keep you posted, cause I know you want to know!

Meanwhile, I’m chowing down like the food hog I’ve always been and that makes mama and daddy smile.

A little snow.

I hope you all have a great week, and those of you in the United States enjoy Thanksgiving! Mama and daddy say they are very thankful for me. Well of course they are. And I guess, if I’m honest, I’m very thankful for them too.

Another favorite park.

And I’m also thankful for each of you, my loyal subjects. Thank you for stopping by and reading about my poop during a holiday week. I should probably talk to mama about being more appropriate, but you know how mama is. No sense of decorum, that woman.

I love being in the woods with mama!

Anyway, these photos were taken the past couple of weeks during all the walks at my parks and around the neighborhood that mama’s been taking me on. She says she knows how much I love the colder weather and she wants me to get out and enjoy as much of it as I can.

Just another thing I’m thankful for, fall in Michigan!

Come on, mama!

Talk later, your cool air loving, pincushion girl, Katie.

All this walking makes a princess sleepy.


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Shiawasee Nature Refuge part two

So where did I leave you? Ah yes….at the viewing platform overlooking the wetlands, about two miles from the car.

An excellent place to watch the birds.

Since we’ve been lugging the camera backpack filled with lenses and spare batteries all this way, this would be a good time to change to the long lens. Don’t you think? And perhaps take a sip from the water bottle that’s been adding weight to the bag for the long trek out here.

I loved the stripes of color.

There, that’s better.

So, out here in the open marsh you can here sandhill cranes and Canadian geese as they fly in and out. A few trumpeter swans too. No pelicans this time, and that’s disappointing, but I’m too late in the season for much of a variety.

These guys decided to move on to a place less habited by nosey humans.

The other people on the viewing platform have high powered binoculars, and they are watching a northern harrier harrass a young bald eagle. I can’t see any of that of course, but I enjoy listening to them talk about it.

Yep way over there is a tree that often hosts eagles. In fact that might be one to the left, or that might be the harrier.

Mostly I watch the geese that were nearest to me and enjoy the sun and the sitting down for a bit.

And then I decide I’ll head back, but take a path I’ve never chosen before, out past the tree where, on a previous visit, I’d seen so many eagles, out along the edge of the wetlands, because you just never know what you’ll find.

It was a beautiful day, even if I didn’t get any great shots of an eagle.

And I do find the juvinile eagle, I think, though I can’t get a close enough view of him to be sure. I have a longer lens than I had last year, but he was still a long ways away. For all I know, this is the harrier, rather than the eagle. He (or she) is fun to watch either way, soaring high above the grasses, searching for a meal.

A super cropped image of a bird. Might be an eagle. But I think it’s the harrier. Cool either way.

I come across a passel of cranes, standing around out there in a clump. No noise, just hanging out. When they see me noticing them they begin to walk away at a fast clip, so I move on, not wanting to upset them.

Moving quietly back into the grass so as not to attract any more attention.

And then I begin the long wander back to the car. It is a beautiful day and I’m not at all disappointed that I don’t have anything spectacular to shoot. But wait! There’s an eagle’s nest! Wow, that thing is huge! Now I know which way I’ll walk next spring when there might be some activity there, maybe early in the season before leaves obscure the view.

This won’t be easy to see once the tree leafs out.

It’s not far from the tree where I’ve seen eagles, adult and juviniles…and it’s in the direction I always see them flying from out there. Now it all makes sense. I’m excited for next season!

But other than that my walk back is just filled with beautiful fall sights. I am walking on a path less traveled, and mostly not mowed, so I am glad for my waterproof hiking shoes keeping my feet dry.

Even though I am on the lookout for birds of any size, and though I hear a few, I don’t see any. I probably need to sit in one place, as I’ve considered on other visits to this park, and wait for something to come by in stead of tromping noisily through the woods.

But I am hungry, and tired, and still a long way from the car, so I trek on.

I like the spunkiness of the little tree growing in the remains of it’s ancestor.

The views don’t disappoint. Just about any direction I look there is something pretty.

Another dyke flanked by leaning trees. These always remind me of Marines at a wedding, with their swords forming a tunnel for the bride and groom. Actually, a wedding woud be amazing here.

I can’t stop taking pictures, but that’s no surprise to anyone. Right?

Such great colors and shapes, it’s impossible to resist taking just one more shot.

But eventually I put the lens cap back on, resolving to move faster toward the car and the banana waiting for me. I even pass up the opportunity to sit on a bench, because I know I am only half a mile away from the parking lot.

A tempting bench. If I’d had my lunch with me I might have stopped.

I promise myself I’m not taking any more images. Just going to forge ahead, eyes front, no stopping. Really.

Hmmmm….what’s making all that noise over there?

But I can’t ignore the huge ruckus coming up from a field just beyond the trees to my right. When I come to an opening I see what must be the party room for cranes. Because they are dancing up a storm. So I had to take the lens cap back off. You would have too, I’m sure.

And then I hear this little guy, and since he is the only little bird I’ve seen clearly all day, well, the lens cap comes off again.

It’s not even a good shot, but he is the only one that cooperated, so he gets to be in the blog.

And then, finally, I make it back to the car. My 4+ mile walk through the woods is over, and I know I wouldn’t be back until spring. Unless I decide a winter hike is in order. I guess I’ll put that idea into the ‘things to ponder’ file drawer and see what the winter weather is like this year.

Always notice the light.

More likely I’ll be back in the spring, when northern migration is happening and there will be more activity to wittness. I’ll be sure to bring you along whenever I go back. Maybe I’ll even carry a banana with me so I can stay out there longer.

Come along with me, the walking is marvelous!

You’ll be responsible for your own snacks. And your waterproof shoes.

Stay tuned.