Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


25 Comments

How to enjoy snow

Once upon a time I lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where snow arrives early and stays late. You learn how to enjoy it or it will beat you down.

Your choice.

“You think it’s gonna snow all day?”

Of course I was younger then.

I learned how to use a U-per Scooper to clear my parking place, and how to snowshoe and cross country ski. It was all self defense, of course, but I learned to love most of it. Maybe not the U-per Scooper so much.

The back yard looks more exotic with snow.

I’ve lived in lower Michigan for 37 years now, my bones have become more brittle and I’m more careful when choosing my adventures. Lucky for me we don’t usually get snow in the amounts I remember from up north.

Even luckier for me I’m retired.

“One picture one treat, lady. I heard that was the rule around here.”

Yesterday, during our all day gentle snow I didn’t have to be anywhere. Husband cleared the driveway multiple times.

Abstract art.

My only responsibilities involved keeping the birdfeeders full. In return I got to watch dozens of beautiful birds all vying for a spot to grab a snack.

The feeder looked Victorian with it’s cap of snow.

At one point I counted 8 male cardinals in my shrubs, on the deck railing, and on the feeders at the same time. There were lots of females as well, they’re just harder to see. I couldn’t count all the blue jays, titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, starlings, nuthatches, ravens and woodpeckers.

“I guess I’ll share my favorite tree with the others. This time.”

Today looks like more of the same, in the bird world anyway. It’s stopped snowing, but it’s still wildly beautiful.

I even took a walk down the road, wearing grippers on my boots, for a little look see.

Didn’t have to go far to see I liked the yellow against the white.

Yep…beautiful down there too.

I wish you all could experience it from a lazy-boy chair inside a nice warm house with big windows and a lot of birds to entertain you.

Hey lady! There’s snow on my suet!”

Winters in Michigan. Be careful, or they’ll get the upper hand.

And then the sun showed up for a moment or two.

But if you can learn to enjoy them…well…then you win.


32 Comments

Grocery blues

I thought a lot about my mom this morning.

I’d put off going to the grocery store as long as I could. We were out of everything. Cereal, bananas, Kleenex (DARN I forgot that this trip!!) meat, lettuce, tomatoes, lemon juice, frozen peas, everything! I stalled earlier in the morning, doing other little tasks, waiting for it to be late enough that the store might have a cashier working. I hate scanning my groceries when I have a full cart.

Anyway, I was thinking about my mom and how she shopped for a family of 6 on a much smaller budget than mine. I don’t remember her complaining about it, though I don’t remember her complaining about much of anything. I do remember her hollering when she pulled into the garage for those of us home to come help her put the groceries away. And her lament about how much it was, on average, per paper paper bag filled with groceries. Seemed like it was always more than the week before.

I hate going grocery shopping. First there’s the list making, which involves pulling out cookbooks and determining a menu for the week. That alone makes me want to wait at least another day.

Then there’s the traipsing around the store, dodging those big carts pushed by the professional shoppers, mostly teenagers, who are picking groceries for those smart enough to order online, and the pallets of food sitting in the aisles waiting to be put on shelves, and the little old folk comparing prices while their cart sits in the middle of traffic, (I’m not one of those!) and the preschool kids hanging onto an adults hand while whining. No, the grocery store is not somewhere I want to be.

I try to organize my shopping list in the order of the store so I don’t miss something (like Kleenex) or have to backtrack too often. That kind of works to get me in and out fast, even with a longer list like today. But by the time I get to the frozen vegetables I’m usually in a decision overload mental crisis, and just grab a couple bags of something and hurry over to checkout.

Where I wait.

If I’m lucky there is one lane open, usually a new person is running the register. I feel bad for them. Today there was a customer finishing up an order, a total of $300+ who was paying for it with assorted gift cards some of which didn’t work. It took awhile. Then she was getting $20 back. The clerk handed over the receipt and the $20 and the customer decided she didn’t want a $20 bill. She wanted 3 fives and 5 ones. The new clerk didn’t know how to open her cashdrawer once the transaction was over. It took awhile longer.

The woman ahead of me, with her full cart on the conveyer just smiled at me and rolled her eyes. It’s good to be retired.

By the time I got out of there with my order and loaded it into the back of the car, then unloaded it onto my kitchen counter I was feeling really sorry for my mom. In fact, on one of my many trips from the garage to the kitchen, while passing the back bathroom I noticed my reflection in the mirror. Mom looked back at me. Neither of us seemed happy.

I don’t know how my mother did it, shopping and cooking for a big family night after night. After night. I have it easy in comparison. I know I could order online, and I have, though what I get isn’t always related to what I thought I ordered. And I could even have the groceries delivered. But I’d miss the inspiration of seeing something on sale and figuring out another meal on the fly, or that impulsive quart of Ben and Jerry’s. (No, I didn’t even go down the ice cream aisle today, I faded out at frozen tortellini.)

So I guess I’m writing this as a sort of rant, and now that I’m done I should feel better. But you’d think after spending $150+ my fridge would be more full. I don’t know how big families survive these days.

I’m sorry, mom, for not appreciating you more back in those days. Grocery shopping is exhausting, I think I’ll go take a nap.

Something you never got to do.


32 Comments

Wise soul

I went for a walk this morning, down a neighborhood road I haven’t ventured since Katie left. The road we took our last walk on that day. She and I went up to the first neighbor’s mailbox and then turned around at our usual spot, I remember she met a snapping turtle laying eggs that morning and I let her watch for a bit.

So many memories on that short piece of asphalt.

I went past our turn-around this morning, unleashed from an elderly dog, up the road further and around the corner where she and I had rarely ventured.

“Oh sweetie-girl” I thought.

“It’s OK, mama,” she replied, “next time it won’t hurt so much.”

She’s a wise one, that Katie-girl. Yes she is.


18 Comments

VanGogh in America

I got to see the VanGogh exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Art Wednesday, thanks to a friend who had tickets. Given the show is sold out I feel very lucky.

We’re here!!!

My husband, two friends and I drove down to Detroit in the morning, a few hours before our ticketed time to view the VanGoghs. We wanted to wander the rest of the museum first because there’s so much to see there.

Waiting behind the Q-line to turn into the parking lot for the DIA.

We saw a lot of really interesting and pretty stuff in the couple of hours that we wandered the other galleries.

Mother and child, one of several we saw during our visit.

There were a lot of sculptures, many of them were Mary and child. But there were others as well.

In the middle of a room, surrounded by huge paintings stood a pensive Abe.

And of course lots and lots of paintings, from different periods of time and from all over the world.

I loved the light in this, and his face as he looks at the image of someone he loved.

We visited one of my favorites, which turned out to be one of my friend’s favorites as well.

This is a wedding dance, with so much going on that you could stand in front of it for a long time and see more and more.

But we were there to see VanGogh, or Vincent as he signed his work, so I’ll show you a few of those.

This one, the Novel Reader, is involved in a court case to determine just who owns it. You may have seen that story in the news.

Most of his famous pieces were there, but I was just as interested in those pieces I hadn’t seen before.

This one, called The Picnic, reminded me of my parents who went on a picnic for their first date and have a photo very similar to this painting.

Some were small, in different mediums that his big oil canvases.

This was the only watercolor I saw in the show.

But of course there were a lot of large oils as well, including this one that isn’t what you think.

Called Starry Night, different than the other starry painting we’ve seen so often.

I loved the rows of trees in this one, they reminded me of the olive orchards in Italy. Turns out they were olive trees in France outside the hospital where he lived for a year.

I loved the blues and greens with the hint of red, all tied into the trees and shadows and movement in this one called The Oliver Trees.

I loved the faces he painted as well. I could sit and study them for hours.

He couldn’t afford to pay for models, so he painted himself, more than 40 times.

But of course we had to move along, there were plenty of people waiting behind us.

Another of my favorites, called A Pair of Boots. I have a photograph of my husband’s boots on the porch that I’ve thought about painting…

The whole thing was just so much fun.

So much to see…

Thanks to my friend for the tickets and to both friends and husband for the good company!

Called A Field of Poppies, this made me smile.


20 Comments

The struggle is real

No, not that kind of struggle…the struggle to capture the night sky image I have in my head. Sometimes I think I should just get another head.

See that shadow hump in the foreground? That’s me hunkered down behind the camera, due to my neighbors GIGANTIC light hanging over her garage. Sigh. And the lights on the right are from my house.

This week we finally had a clear night. I swear, we hadn’t seen the sun in weeks here in Michigan, but one day this week the sun graced us with her presence and I excitedly watched the weather guy to see if we were going to keep those clear skies overnight.

Well…sort of…but it was the best we’d had in forever, so I figured I’d run over to a local park where I thought the skies would be darker than Katie’s park here in town. I was going to go over around 9 p.m., figuring it would be true dark by then. But I’m older now and was already yawning at 8. And it looked pretty darn dark to me even that early.

I moved, so it’s somewhat better. And you can see a couple stars if you look carefully, so it’s all good.

So off I went, camera on the tripod, settings already entered. Remote shutter thingy attached. Extra batteries in my pocket. Handwarmer in there too. It was 17F out there.

As I drove the few miles to the park I didn’t see another car. Good. I don’t really want anyone to know I’m at the park after dark. I just want to grab a few practice shots and get out of there and back to my nice warm house.

But just as I got to the park entrance, beginning my turn in off a narrow country road, a car came up over the hill from the other direction, bright lights glaring. We both stopped for a moment, and then I continued on, not wanting them to see me pull into the park. I drove about half a mile away, turned around at the next road and went back.

WordPress always shows images darker than I’ve edited them. Lots of light over there. Plus some clouds moving in.

All was still. I texted my husband that I was there, and was reaching for my camera when a car, possibly the same car, pulled into the parking lot and parked at the other end.

Well. I’m not getting out of my car. In fact I locked the doors and waited a few minutes. I’m pretty sure they were doing the same thing. I couldn’t think of one good reason for anyone to be out there long after dark unless, of course, they too wanted to shoot the stars. And what were the odds of that?

So I backed up, shot out of the parking lot, and went home. I think I was gone all of 20 minutes. I was so frustrated I decided to at least take a picture of the tree in our yard, still decked out in lights. I figured the camera was on the tripod, might as well get something.

When I walked into the house husband said something like ‘That didn’t take long.” and I explained the story, and he said he’d go back out with me in a little bit.

Lots of light looking behind me too.

So we did. I felt much happier sitting out on the pier knowing he was in the car just behind me. I got a few images…but there was lots more light out there than I anticipated in a Bortle 4, I think I was shooting over the next small town. I need to go further away.

Still it was fun trying to remember all the things I needed to do to get the stars. I struggled with my tripod a whole lot too. Good things to practice before the Milky Way is back up. I really want that shot that’s in my head

There were a LOT of planes that night.

Today I tried stacking a series of 10 images from that night. That’s supposed to take things that aren’t consistent between the images out and improve the noise level in the results. I think I need to figure something out, because this is what I got.

9 images of the airplane at 8 seconds each. Sigh. And another little one down near the horizon too.

Ah well, my classmates will help me with that…and meanwhile I had a midwinter adventure close to home and have another story to tell!

PS: I think you need to be looking at these images when you’re sitting in a dark room with no glare. 🙂


22 Comments

Meanwhile, back at the feeders…

The European Starlings descended on our feeders one afternoon this week.

Hmmmm, this suet seems to be a bit stale.

I only see these birds in the winter, though I read they are year round residents.

But not so stale that I’ve got it to myself.

All I know for sure is that they are pigs and will empty a feeder and eat a whole block of suet in a day. Many people don’t like them because they are invasive.

I guess we can get along and share it.

But, when the sun shines on them just right they are beautiful.

I think the prettiest bird should have first dibs on the food.

On this day the skies were dull and there was little light. But I’ve seen them in sunlight on other winter days and been mesmerized.

I think you’ve got a big head, that’s what I think.

This week I first noticed them fighting each other over the suet feeder. But soon enough they were on the peanut feeder too, a favorite with our Red Bellied woodpeckers.

Hey! Back off, the peanuts are MINE!

The woodpecker stood his ground, telling the starlings off and eventually winning the right to eat in peace.

Geeze…what’s the world coming to I ask you?

In fact, after that little run-in all the starlings moved to the ground in the backyard and then on to greener pastures.

No need to mess with that woodpecker, plenty of seed down here for us.

But they’ll be back.

What you talkin about?

Guaranteed.


42 Comments

Looking for art on a grey day

I wasn’t ready to go home after I visited the Veterans’ Cemetery, so I headed over to a park I don’t get to very often.

I thought maybe I’d wander the trails a bit and see what was there. But when I arrived I was drawn, as usual, to the pier that runs out into the small lake.

It was a cold day, still grey, but I was having fun using the wide angle lens, and that kept me from noticing the cold for awhile.

I took several wide shots of the scenery, but noticed a lot of smaller stuff I thought was interesting, so once I got the big picture out of the way I went back to the car to warm up and change the lens.

Mostly I was interested in the weed and grass reflections in the still, frozen water alongside the pier.

I particularly liked this clump of grass.

And these curves had me too.

I spent a long time out there on the pier, so I didn’t get to the trails. That’s my excuse anyway.

You see, Katie and I used to come here once in awhile and walk the trails…and as I looked toward the woods where we had explored I knew I wasn’t ready to go back without her.

She would have loved the cold, and would fit right in with all the reddish browns I saw that day.

Sure do miss my girl.


18 Comments

Eagle-ease

Yesterday was foggy and damp, just like so many days we’ve had this year. Flat grey skies, a hint of snow in the air, it was a typical January day.

Sounds like a perfect day to grab the camera and head out looking for something inspirational. Right?

As I was driving I thought about the eagles that have been seen out at the Veterans’ Cemetery. There’s some huge, dead trees that make perfect eagle roosts. What are the odds those eagles were sitting out there in the fog waiting for me?

Since I didn’t have any other great ideas, I headed over there, knowing they wouldn’t be there, just like they haven’t been there on multiple trips where I’ve tried to get a glimpse of them before.

As I pulled into the cemetery I saw two bumps on the trees, way across a field. I got as close as I could,, pulled up, rolled down the window and got one shot off…

….before one of the eagles flew down into the swamp. My settings weren’t right but there was no time to experiment. The second eagle was looking around, seeming to be upset to be left behind. I knew he (or she) wouldn’t stay long.

And after a bit of looking around the second eagle lifted off…

…and followed it’s partner down to the swamp.

I didn’t get great shots of the eagles. But I can’t stop smiling.

My artsy-fartsy ‘the eagle has landed’ shot.

Because I got to see them.