Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Watching the sky

I’m in northern Michigan watching the sky. This makes me smile. I lost count of the number of shooting stars I saw last night. Never, of course, while my camera was recording.

Still, it was fun.

One more night and I’ll head home. Some little short furry thing is going to be upset if she finds out where I was. I’m camping in our favorite site at her favorite park. But she got air conditioning and I slept on the ground. I think it’s a wash.

She might not feel the same.


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Happy birthday mom

1974

Happy birthday, mom, it’s your 17th up there in heaven. I know lots of your friends and many of your family are there with you so I bet you’re having a heck of a party. I hope someone besides you made the cake! Or better yet a cherry pie.

For dad’s birthday I testified in front of a Senate subcommittee. I don’t think I can put anything that dramatic together for your birthday today, but since I know how much you loved flowers I thought I’d show you what’s blooming in our yard this year. It’s pretty spectacular.

I put together a slide show of shots I’ve taken in the past couple of days with you in mind. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did taking them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And just in case the flowers weren’t enough to make you smile…

Katie says “Happy birthday, grandma!”

2004


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Bits of gold flit over the pond

Last night, while eating dinner, I noticed a bunch of little birds, darting around like bats, over the pond across the street. What caught my attention was that they were glowing in the early evening sunlight.

What ARE those?

There’s a lot of shrubs and trees between me and the pond so I couldn’t get a very good look. But there seemed to be a flurry of unusual activity. All I usually see over there is one kngfisher, a heron and sometimes an egret.

Now I was seeing dozens of birds darting up and down and around above the water.

Darting around like bats, it was hard to get them in focus.

So after dinner I put my long lens on the camera and wandered over there. I tried to stay in the shadows so as not to spook the birds that were wheeling high overhead, then darting down near the water and back toward the trees.

Shooting into the sun was creating unrecognizable sillouettes.

With the sun so low they were lit up like gold ornaments, but I couldn’t get a good look at them myself. Staring into the sun I couldn’t even get the camera to focus on them, no matter how high I set the shutter speed.

A little bit of a hint here.

I was just about to give up when I noticed several of the birds were roosting in the dead branchs of a tree.

I think these might be….

But every time I moved to get a better angle they’d fly away. I wasn’t sure, but I was beginning to think I knew what they were.

Flashing a wing at me.

The distinctive shape. The flash of yellow on the tail.

If you love birds you’ve probably already figured out what they were. I never got really good pictures, but it was fun trying.

And if you guessed cedar waxwings you’d be right!

I got much better images of cedar waxwings last year at a rest stop, but this little photo shoot, resulting in not much more than out of focus blobs, was fun too.

And then the sun lit up the thistle.


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Things that make me smile from my living room window.

After my three day adventure in Michigan’s thumb I settled back at home, grateful for a more comfortable bed, my husband and my Katie-girl.

I forgive you, mama, for leaving me behind. But I expect a double reward for posing for you now.

Still, it’s hard for me to take pictures for three days and then just put the camera away. Especially when there’s so much going on in my own backyard.

Two turkey mamas bring the youngsters in for breakfast.

Do you want to see? Well settle in, because this might get a little long. But I guarantee you’ll be smiling just like me.

One of our resident deer watch the turkey breakfast, considering whether or not to crash the party.

The weather was changing and the birds seemed to realize it. They were in a frenzy at the feeders.

A juvenile blackbird holds his own even when the big birds show up.

Lots of comings and goings and squawking and jostling for position.

The youngster stood up to all the birds, even the bully grackle.

And then it started to rain, the first rain we’ve had in many weeks.

We got a steady, all day, summer rain. It was marvelous.

But rain didn’t keep my birds from coming in.

Resting between courses.

I especially enjoyed watching this young oriole.

Do you have any good food for me, lady?

I think she may have a cognitive problem. She spends lots of time at the hummingbird feeder.

This is my private buffet.

She works very hard at trying to get to the sugar water.

Maybe there’s something under here?

But eventually she’ll move over to the oriole feeder. If she thinks I’m laughing at her she gets a little bent out of shape.

Look lady, I was just exploring my options.

Meanwhile, the juvinille red winged blackbird watches everything from his elevated perch.

I don’t know why they are all excited about some damp oranges.

We still have one adult male oriole stopping by. When he’s eating the youngsters aren’t so welcome at the feeder.

I brought you into this world and I can take you out!

They try to quietly swoop in for a bite, but he’s not having it.

Maybe I can grab a bite on the go.

He never stays long though, so if they are patient they can get back to enjoying lunch.

Wait, what’s that over there?

Keeping watch.

The chickadee stays out of the orioles way by feeding at the finch feeder. I hardly ever see any goldfinches these days, but the chickadee eats plenty.

It’s much more peaceful over here. Nom, nom, nom.

And little Miss Confused checks out the hummingbird feeder again.

Look lady, there’s sugar water in here and I’m going to get it. Now leave me alone!

The other young orioles are fine with that, leaves more oranges for them.

Personally, I think she’s crazy. But I guess every family has one.

So now you know why I’m smiling on a dim, rainy summer day. Oh yea, there’s this too.

We call him the flying squirrel because he leaps great distances to get to lunch.

I hope you’re smiling by now. You should write a post about what makes you smile and link it to Trent’s weekly smile post. He’ll recap next Monday and share it with lots of other smiling people!

Thanks Trent! You make us all smile too!

I’d smile more if all these youngsters would leave my lunch alone!


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Starry starry night

When last I left you I had crashed for a nap inside my tent while a thunderstorm rained down and the wind blew the trees above me, brushing clouds across the sky. I fell asleep believing there would be no stars that night, my last night near the Dark Sky Park.

But when I woke, an hour or so later, the wind had stopped, the rain no longer pounded down and there was just a tiny peak of sunshine making the wet leaves glow. Maybe there was still a chance.

Yep, the sun shines to set another day.

But of course, first I had to sit through another sunset. Such an inconvenience.

Everyone was enjoying the warm summer evening.

I was not alone on the beach. Lots of families were settled in for the show, or playing in the water. They were fun to watch. I remember playing like this when I was a kid.

Did you ever walk on your hands in a lake, your legs sticking out into the evening air?

The air was warm and the sky was pretty clear. I began to get excited about seeing some stars. If the sun would ever go down. I posted on Facebook that it was the slowest sunset ever. I messed around taking pictures of nothing much just to pass the time.

I liked the way the light played on the sand filled with footprints.

And then finally. FINALLY!

The sun sighs goodnight.

Soon I was back in the car and headed six miles north to the Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full of cars and people when I arrived. Everyone figured that tonight was the night we’d see a meteor shower. Of course that pesky moon was still up there, a half moon never shown so bright, but I was just glad there were no clouds.

Once it was dark I grabbed my camera, already set on the tripod, with manual settings appropriate for night photography, and my little red flashlight and ventured out on the walkways through the dunes. Such a beautiful night.

Amazing how many stars there are, even when it’s not completely dark.

I was hoping for lots of shooting stars, and in fact while I was shooting the image below a huge one raced across the sky just off to my right. I hoped the camera caught it but it was just outside the range. People all over the park let up a big cry and applauded. It was soooooo wonderful, it looked like something out of a movie.

The light on the fence and the shadows were created by the moonlight. See the red light over on the right? Another stargazer enjoying the night sky.

I think I saw a couple of other, much smaller shooting stars, but was never quite sure what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. In fact I wouldn’t normally show you this image, but I think it’s interesting if not perfect. You can see the branches lit up by the moon, and what is probably a satellite in the upper corner. I didn’t see any of that when I took the image. I was just practicing getting shots without shake.

Taking pictures at night, you never know what you’ll see when you look at them on a big screen later.

There were lots of people there but by 11 there were only a few of us. I thought I’d wait until the moon set, but that wasn’t going to be until after 2:30 a.m. By 1:00 a.m. I was the only one left, and I decided I wasn’t even sure where the Milky Way was, or if it would be visible and I wasn’t comfortable being there alone…so I packed it in and headed back to my campsite.

A beautiful night.

I wasn’t sure what I had captured, though I knew it wasn’t what I had hoped to get. Still, I’m so glad I went and I’m pretty happy with the few decent images I got. I had to lighten these up quite a bit to put them into WordPress. The original images were pretty dark when I did my preview. I maybe have over lightened them here. I suppose everyone’s computer screen will show them differently. I think a lot of night photography, once you figure out the manual settings on the camera, will come down to figuring out how to process them. I’m still working on that.

I had to stop and take this picture, the barn was so beautiful.

I slept well that night, and in the morning packed up and headed South toward home. Right through all that farmland. With all those barns.

Barn and hawk.

Yep, had to stop a few times on the way. I’m sure you don’t mind.

I’ll go back to the Dark Sky park again someday, preferably when the moon isn’t up all night and the Milky Way is. And meanwhile I’ll mess around with the images I have to see how I can make them even more exciting. So you’ll think you’ve been there!

But you really should try to get there yourself. If you pick the right night you won’t be disappointed!

From the old days, still standing straight and tall.


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Day 2 of camping during a pandemic

I left you at midnight feeling disappointed on my first night of camping, in a dark and cloudy parking lot up in the thumb of Michigan’s mitten, with no stars in sight. After all, the entire purpose of this trip was to watch a predicted meteor shower in a dark sky park.

Certainly the small plot of dirt squeezed between two other equally small plots of dirt that masqueraded as a campsite was nothing to write home about and no reason to visit.

I should have gone into Grindstone City (the city part is a misnomer) because I hear there’s a store that sells awesome ice cream there.

Still.

The night was warm and with no schedule to follow I slept in until almost 10, as did my camping neighbors on both sides. I enjoyed my bowl of cereal and blueberries and spent a couple hours reading undisturbed. Not such a shabby vacation after all.

By noon I was ready to go exploring. After all, I was in farm country!

There’s just something about wide open spaces.

I found myself driving around big country blocks, sometimes multiple times, looking for illusive barns. Which actually weren’t so illusive.

I went around the block twice to get this shot. It’s the sweetest little stone barn with a tin roof. I think someone is living in it as a home.

There were barns everywhere!

This was one of two barns I saw with the quilt square on the side. The other one wasn’t in a safe spot for me to stop.

But eventually I found myself sitting at a picnic pavilion along the shores of the water again. It’s hard for me to stay away from water for very long.

There was a private campground out here, but no one was using this shady spot but me and the birds.

The seagulls shared it with me, after a bit of screeching they lifted off and flew out for an afternoon float on the beautiful blue water.

It was a beautiful day for flight.

I have to admit I didn’t get much reading done there, the view was too pretty. It was nice just to sit and watch the birds bob and the light on the water dance.

The colors of our Great Lakes never cease to amaze me.

And there was the lighthouse here too — even though it wasn’t open it was fun to explore the grounds. Last time I was here with Katie it was raining and we did a mad dash to get a picture then headed right back to the car.

I can never resist a lighthouse.

But mostly I was waiting for the sun to go down, so I headed back to camp in anticipation of a clear evening and bright stars. Before going to my campsite I figured I’d go check the beach, see what was happening.

This is what was happening:

As I walked down the stairs to the beach a bit of remaining sun hit this sailboat and lit it up. I squealed. Out loud.

A storm front was bearing down from the north! The weather guy hadn’t mentioned any storm front moving through! What was this? And had I left the windows of my tent open to the weather?

The sailor and I head for safety as thunder begins to sound the alarm.

After taking a few dozen shots I ran back up the stairs and to my car and drove as fast as I could through the crowded campground to my site. There I found the neighbors hurriedly packing things away and talking about ‘rain in 5 minutes’ I threw my chair into the back of the car, grabbed some fruit and my book and dived into my tent as the rain began.

I have to admit I took a nap while still wondering…

…would there be stars tonight? Would I be smiling in the dark? Or would it be another starless night?

Stay tuned.

Day two. At least I still had the barns.


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Camping during a pandemic

I’m just home from a short 3 day camping trip in the tip of Michigan’s thumb. It was my first camping trip outside my backyard of the season and I went to spend some time at a dark sky park that’s tucked into the dune grass along Saginaw Bay a few miles up the road from the state park campground.

A pretty minimal site, but I wasn’t there for the camping.

It was a last minute decision when our local weather person predicted clear skies and good views of a meteor shower.

I wandered on the drive up to my campsite on Tuesday afternoon through miles and miles of flat farmland which was filled with….you guessed it….barns!

You can’t beat red barns and puffy clouds!

So, while you might think this post would be filled with dark skies and bright stars you’d be wrong. At least for now.

The wheat is already harvested, mostly it’s soy beans and corn waiting to ripen now.

I knew you’d want to see the barns, it’s been way too long since I did a post about barns, and they are one of my favorite things to hunt down.

This was my favorite barn of the trip up, but notice the sky is filling with clouds.

And once I arrived at my campsite I had to go check out the dark sky park, to make strategic plans about where I might want to set up for prime star gazing.

Lots of low dunes and a few trees might make the perfect place for star gazing.

It’s a pretty little park with a huge parking lot and a viewing platform. But I found the low dunes and grasses more interesting.

I didn’t notice this dragonfly when I took the shot. But I like that he photo-bombed my image.

I also noticed all the clouds accumulating and wondered whether I’d have clear skies that night. But the weather guy said I would, so I tried not to worry.

If I weren’t there for stars I’d have been thrilled with the beautiful clouds.

That evening the sun went down amid the clouds in a pretty little show.

Waiting on the sun to sink.

I sat on a platform overlooking the Bay. Last year in June Katie and I visited this park, sat right here to watch the sun set. I was missing my girl, but it was much too hot for her to go camping with me. She was home enjoying air conditioning with her dad.

A nice place to watch the sky turn colors.

I went down to the beach to explore a little as I waited. High water in the Great Lakes have turned the beach into such a narrow strip of sand you could hardly call it a beach at all.

This split rail fence used to mark the beginning of the beach. Now it’s part of the bay.

The sky was pretty, but I was impatient for the show to be over so that I could scoot up to the dark sky park and see what I was there to see.

Just a bit north of the actual sun the clouds were turning pink.

Finally the sun gave up it’s grip on the day and settled with a sigh into the water.

The end of a pretty day.


The clouds seemed to be dispersing, so I was hopeful as I headed up the the night sky park. There were perhaps a dozen cars filled with other people hoping to see some meteor action.

I was hoping for stars.

And as the sky got dark an immediate problem became evident. The half moon was high in the sky and shining brightly. I checked my phone and learned that the moon would set at 1:30. I figured I could wait it out. But the longer we all sat there the more clouds moved in until even the bright moon was obscured. By midnight I gave up and headed back to camp for some sleep, not having taken a single shot.

I had one more night there, and I just knew the sky would be clear! The weather guy said so!

Stay tuned.

At least the barns were pretty.


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Coincidental photo challenges

I’m just back today, Thursday, which is the day Cee puts out her black & white challenge and Nancy issues her photo challenge.

And guess what? I have a shot of my latest camping trip that will fit each of them! One shot, two challenges! Cee wants to see any light source, and Nancy wants to see a tower.

And just yesterday I was here:

This is the Pt. Aux Barques lighthouse, one of the ten oldest lighthouses in the United States. It’s located at the tip of Michigan’s thumb, and thoughit wasn’t open yesterday, due to Covid, it’s a beautiful tower and a beautiful light even if all I got to do was walk around outside.

I haven’t had time to look at the photos I took on this quick trip north to watch the stars. Stay tuned.


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The challenge ahead

Internet image


I woke up this morning thinking about John Lewis, the scenes from yesterday playing over and over in my head. The woman speaking in Selma, “We are all John’s disciples. He left us the road map, all we have to do is be brave enough to follow it.” His ride over the bridge, stopping at the top for heartbreaking moments. The symbolism.

I never met John Lewis, though some members of my truck safety family have. He championed our causes like he championed causes for all people who were marginalized. He had a heart big enough to hold us all.

Yesterday it was said he crossed the bridge for the last time but this morning I find myself disagreeing.

I think that every time someone holds out a hand to pull someone else along, John crosses the bridge. Each time an honest conversation is had between people that wouldn’t have spoken before, John crosses the bridge. Whenever an individual gets a hand up and breaks the cycle of poverty, or abuse, or illiteracy, John crosses the bridge.

And the best part? We all get to cross that bridge with him. Over and over and over again until this country is the country it was meant to be. John Lewis’ shoulders are big enough to carry us all, and we are grateful for his strength.

Let’s be brave enough to follow the road map he left us. Because don’t think for one minute that he’s resting now, I imagine he’s making sure all things are right in the next life. And he’s watching to see what we do here with his legacy.

I wouldn’t want to disappoint him.