Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Birding in a pandemic

I think I’d be happy spending the majority of my days photographing birds. Or trying to anyway. And I’m lucky that, even with the pandemic keeping us home more, I still have lots of birds to study, right in my own backyard.

I get a lot of images like this. Not intentionally.

Of course I am frustrated by reflections in windows, and sheltie girls that move just as I’m getting that shot, disrupting the carefully posing feathered ones.

The male cardinals get so much attention, but if you really look, the females are just beautiful.

I’ve tried to get around the sheltie interruption by sneaking past her when she’s sleeping, but it sure seems like she only closes one eye lately and she’s always up to see what I’m focused on. She assumes there’s trouble outside if I spend too much time at the window, and she feels a responsibility to handle it for her mama.

Look at all the different colors she carries around with her.

And of course I’d love to be outside with the birds, not shooting through a window, and I’ve tried that. The birds aren’t too frightened if I stand in the far corner of the deck and stay still. I’m sure they’d get used to having me around and come down from the trees when I put out fresh food if I keep trying.

A dancing chickadee comes down for an irresistible peanut.

But then again, there’s the sheltie-girl who puts up a howl when I’m outside and she’s not. So more sneaking around might be in order.

OK, the guys are pretty too. It’s just that they’re so OBVIOUS about it.

Once I tried taking her with me out on the deck and only the chickadees would tolerate her. Plus she doesn’t know how to stand still. She’s a princess you know, and a princess does not stand in the corner.

My first time seeing a Carolina wren at my feeder. She (I decided it’s a she) was sooooo cute!

And I’m thinking about getting a longer lens so I don’t have to crop so much. So much detail is lost, and so many interesting things are just outside the reach of the lens I have, though it’s a very nice lens.

Lots of people don’t like these starlings, but just LOOK at the color!

Still. I have so much fun trying. I’m pretty sure you don’t mind looking at my birds either, right?

This little guy used to be shy but now he’s one of my vocal visitors. Especially if the feeders are empty.

Katie says she thinks you’d rather look at her, and that might be so, but this is not called Katie’s blog, so once in awhile I think we have to focus on something else.

Now this is another prevalent bird…er….how did HE get in this series?

But don’t tell her that, I don’t need a mutiny here at home. Especially during a pandemic.

So much fun to watch!


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Multiple smiles

Even if you don’t live in the United States you might have heard that this was a very big week here. Yes, Wednesday was Inaugural Day, where we had a peaceful transition of power between Presidential administrations, based on the November election. You probably also know that this year it wasn’t so easy because the former President never conceded that he lost the election.

But this post isn’t about all that controversy. It’s about things worth smiling about.

My first broad smile on Wednesday was also laced with tears, as I watched the honor guard salute Kamala Harris as she walked with her husband toward the West Front of the Capital where she would be sworn in as Vice President. The fact that they were saluting her made me realize the importance of the moment. I was witnessing history.

Smile one.

Then there was the President’s speech, full of hope even as we face huge challenges, politically, racially and from the virus. So many things that need immediate attention. I smiled a few times while he spoke, but I smiled the deepest when he said:

“Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”

I think this is key to our moving forward as a nation. I don’t think it will be easy, we’ve all pretty much entrenched ourselves in our respective views. But suppose, just for a moment, that we could try to put what we believe aside and ask pertinent questions and then listen to the answers from those that think differently from us. Just suppose what we might be able to accomplish.

Smile two.

And of course there’s Amanda Gorman, America’s Youth Poet Laureate. She radiated fire and hope and possibility and made me smile as soon as she stepped up to the lectern. She was spellbinding, both her words and her movement making their points so fast I was afraid I was missing something and I focused in a way I haven’t for a very long time.

I read her poem in full the next day and realized I had indeed heard every bit of it, but it’s something I think we’d all do well to read periodically. There’s something to be learned and understood in her words. Right now my favorite lines:

“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished”

“That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division”

“A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation”

And of course the end…

“The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it”

Yes, Amanda Gorman made me smile, through tears I admit, the broadest of all. Because she represents the future of our country. And just see what we have to look forward to!

Smile three.

And then, as just a bit of an extra smile this week, a Carolina wren landed on my feeder this morning.

Just to make sure my week kept on smiling.

What made you smile this week? Write a quick post and link it by Sunday to Trent’s blog so we can all smile together!


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What matters in the end

Yesterday was Inauguration Day. Depending on where you stand it might have been a wonderful, uplifting day or it might have been a tragedy. I have thoughts about all that swirling around in my head – they may or may not spill out eventually.

But that’s not where my head or heart are today.

Because, you see, last night, after a day where the world focused on the big picture, after the sun set in a show we haven’t seen here in years, once the world went still, my neighbor left this earth quietly, his departure marked only by family.

The end of an extraordinary day.

I tell you this not because it was a tragedy, though they will miss him fiercely, but because it reminds me this morning of what is important. It’s not the arguments over real or imagined fears, it’s not the friendships destroyed by political influence, it’s not cabinet appointments or policy changes.

What’s important, really, are the relationships we all have, with our family members, with our friends, with our neighbors. Those are what need to be protected, those are fragile, those will not last forever. Those are what we must work on now.

Last night the birdhouse our neighbor made for us many years ago fell from it’s tree. And last night our neighbor broke free, no longer in pain, no longer confused, no longer in tears.

God speed Jack, Katie and I will miss sitting on your front porch in conversation, or near the end, in communal silence, watching the world go by. She looks toward your house when we’re out on walks and will still tug me toward your driveway. Thanks for always giving her an ear scratch. She’ll miss your, “Whatcha doing girl?”

So will I.


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Escaping to my park

Katie here! Hey! Whatcha all doing these days? Me, I’m pretty much sleeping and stuff. I had my annual wellness check a week ago, and I have apparently put on the “Covid 2 pounds” so mama says I need to get more excercise.

This was my park this afternoon!

Silly mama. Doesn’t she know I have people for that?

Anyway, today I was minding my own business, getting my pre-nap nap in, sleeping right next to a nice cool door when suddenly I knew something wasn’t right!

I’m smiling because I’m going for a walk at my park!

I checked out my windows and there were people in my yard! Yes there were! Two people and they were right up close to my house and everything! So of course I had to sound the sheltie-alarm, which worked just fine.

I was a little worried about whether or not it would work, cause I haven’t used my sheltie-alarm voice in quite awhile. Everything being all quiet around here and stuff.

Come on, mama! I’m always waiting for you!

But it worked fine cause mama came right over to me. She checked outside and tried to reassure me that it was just daddy and some tree guy. But I wasn’t having any of it and kept the alarm sounding. I am a very responsible sheltie, even though I am in semi-retirement.

You know all the good smells are under the snow.

Daddy came in finally and said the guy and his team were going to be trimming trees right outside my window and mama sighed and said maybe she and I would go on an adventure. Even though she was busy painting pretty things and all.

I keep telling mama these trees are not as pretty as me.

So she hurried up and packed my adventure bag (treats, water, poop bags, you know, the essentials) and the next thing I know she’s putting stuff in the car and I’m not sure if I’m invited, so I follow her right down the steps into the garage.

Mama was taking a picture of something not me when she noticed I was posing for her in the pretty brown grass.

Mama laughed and put me in my car so I knew I got to go. I was all wiggle butt. And I was even more excited when I got to get out of the car in a few minutes and we were at my park! Last time I got to go somewhere I ended up at the vet. I was not so wiggle butt there, I can tell you that!

I posed for mama a lot, before it started sleeting.

The only thing that didn’t go exactly right on our adventure is mama didn’t check the weather. We got sleeted on. Mama said hurry up baby, because we were at the very back of the park…but as you know a princess does not ‘hurry up.’

So we got wet.

Maybe we should head back to the car mama!

But that’s OK, I had a wonderful time sniffing stuff. I just love going to the park when it’s cold. I prance my little hiney all around and I never want to get back in the car.

Well. This time I did because, did I mention, sleet?

Still smiling, even if we DID get wet!

So that was my adventure for today. I knew you’d all want to hear about it cause you are my super fans! I’d post on Instagram but I don’t know how. Plus I really don’t need a gazillion fans to know I’m already a princess.

Don’t you know.

Signing off for my pre-bedtime nap,

Your gal Katie.

Snow caps on seed pods.


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Escape to the lake side

Here it is Saturday already, and I’ve inadvertently left you hanging on my last two posts. Wednesday many of you wanted to know, “What IS that?”

What??

and in the post before that you wondered where I went on my little mini adventure.

From a crispy but beautiful morning.

Both posts were related to the same adventure I was inspired to take last weekend, on our one completely sunny day so far this year. After so much rain, snow and dark skies I eagerly set out early Saturday morning anticipating bright blue skies and endless sun, looking for something magnificent to photograph.

But, as those of you who have been reading know, I got tangled up in beautiful frost before I made it more than a couple miles away from the house. Not a bad thing, you understand, but it certainly slowed me down.

So nice to see sunlight!

My first stop was Katie’s park right in my own town, where the tall grasses were shining. The Wordless Wednesday post was in the parking lot there, a car had driven over the unplowed lot, probably the day before, and then deer had crossed that track. In the early morning light what was concave appeared to be convex and I couldn’t resist capturing the image.

As to where I went next? Well, I had no destination in mind, and even though the sky was bright blue and there was still a little snow on the ground, as I drove nothing in particular caught my eye. So I kept going.

Surely I can find pretty stuff on a day like this!

Eventually I found myself half way to my favorite lake, so I went for it and headed for Warren Dunes State Park, someplace I’ve always wanted to visit.

I’ve always liked images of sand and snow. Blue sky doesn’t hurt either.

It’s down near the Michigan/Indiana border, quite near Chicago. I didn’t know what to expect, but the first sight of the giant dune sure made me smile.

It’s a long way to the top.

I watched families as they trudged up the dune or ran back down. Everyone was having a lot of fun on a chilly but sunny Saturday afternoon.

A long line of trees led to the water.

Of course I couldn’t be at Lake Michigan and not walk on the beach, even though the sun was beginning to descend and the shadows were growing longer.

Pretty patterns.

So I headed down the beach, just for a bit, so that I could say hello to my lake. There weren’t many people out there, the wind was picking up and my fingers were chilled. But I know there’s always something pretty to photograph when you’re walking on a Great Lakes beach.

A chilly afternoon on a beautiful beach.

And of course there was.

Ripples in the sand, driftwood, and the brilliant sky.

Soon enough, though, I knew I should head for home. I hadn’t seen the St. Joseph lighthouse, something I really hoped I would have time for, but it was 30 minutes further south, the wrong direction. I checked to see what lighthouses might be north of me and found one near Saugatuck, not so far away. I put it in my phone and headed out.

Not real, but still pretty.

Turns out it was a replica of a lighthouse, tiny, being used for educational purposes. But it was still photogenic. As was the giant tug boat moored next to it.

All prettied up in festive holiday colors.

It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but what the heck, it was still an adventure, so after a couple shots I headed toward where I thought the freeway to home should be.

I was wrong, and ended up lost in Holland, which turns out to have several murals painted on the sides of it’s downtown businesses. I only stopped for one, because it had a parking lot where I could park and get my bearings, study the map, and set a true course for home.

One mural in Holland, there were more.

Early that morning I set out to find some barns, always a goal of mine on any adventure. I didn’t find any on the way over to the lake, not because they weren’t there, I suppose, but because my heart needed something more.

The last light of day made the barns glow.

Satisfied by a visit to my lake, I found several, all red, on my trip back home.

Worth stopping for.

Since last Saturday we haven’t had another day that was all sunny. No bright blue sky, no warming rays.

Just waiting for me to find it.

But I know we will again someday. And I hope, when the sun shines, I’ll be off on another adventure.

There’s always my lake.

You just never know where or when.

Every sunset promises a new tomorrow.


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First there was frost

Saturday was predicted to have sun, the first day of sunshine this year. I needed to get out of the house, where I’d been stewing since Wednesday, the day our Capitol was stormed.

The early morning road was calling my name.

I planned on taking a little photo road trip, to parts unknown. But first I couldn’t resist shooting some images close to home. I was headed out of town when I passed Katie’s park and noticed the hills were all silver with frost.

Our local library, next to Katie’s park, with preservation hills behind it.

Turning around I tromped around a field of grasses, noticing how their details were more beautiful with the beading they were sporting.

Everything was etched in sparkles.

I got pretty cold, and time moved on without me while I was there, still only a couple miles from home.

Early morning light always makes me smile.

Eventually I made myself leave, the sun was rising and I hadn’t gotten anywhere yet. But only another mile down the road I had to stop again.

One of my go-to places where I can see the open sky.

There’s some wide open farm land there, and an old farm, that if you look closely, is falling into dumpy disrepair. I’m sure it won’t be there forever, and I’ve always meant to stop and capture it.

Somebody’s farm in the early morning light of a new day.

So I did.

Plus, where I happened to stop there was this fence…

The fence was glowing as the sun was rising.

…with barbed wire along the top. All of it incrusted with frost.

More time went by and the sun moved higher. If I was going to find more pretty stuff I needed to get moving.

Should I go that way? Or the other way?

But where did I go? What did I find?

I guess you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out.

At least the blue sky prediction turned out to be true!


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Sending cards in new directions

Since this pandemic became overwhelming, way back in March, I’ve been painting little cards and mailing them off to people.

These were birthday cards.

It started as a little project to keep me occupied, and a way to send smiles to people who were stressed or homebound or lonely or all of those things. I planned on producing and mailing one little painting a day until we were through with all this virus stuff, which would certainly be, I thought, just a few months. At most.

Sympathy, birthday and happy retirement!

I was naïve.

Christmas kept me busy.

Now many many months have passed and I’ve mailed cards to almost everyone in my address book and then some. I stopped painting every day and I didn’t have a plan for what to do next.

The foot went to someone who broke his ankle, and the rose was sent in sympathy to someone who lost a sibling.

And then I happened across a Facebook friend’s post about getting recognition for her 1000th donation of a handmade card to a nonprofit group who in turns sends them to people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes. People who are stressed, homebound and lonely.

A Christmas card based on somebody’s holiday doormat. You know who you are.

The name of the group is Bring Smiles to Seniors and they have two offices, one right here in Michigan, just a few miles from where I live!

More last minute Christmas cards.

I emailed them and after a few messages back and forth I knew I had found a worthy group, people that would find good homes for my little paintings.

One of my favorites, a birthday card.

I’ve done my first group of 5 and sent those off. Now I’m working on my next group. I don’t feel pressure to paint every day, but when I feel like making a little picture I know I have a place to send it.

My first batch of 5 cards sent to make seniors smile.

I know the group is called Bring Smiles to Seniors, but it’s also making me smile. I guess that makes sense, I’m a senior too.

Christmas just kept going.

Some of you may see paintings here that look very much like paintings you’ve received from me. That’s because I’ve started doing some that I’ve done before, don’t look too closely, these might be better than the originals I sent you months ago!

Christmas was fun.

It’s true what they say. Practice does make perfect. Or, in my case, nearly perfect.

Some of these got mailed way after Christmas, but I hope people love them anyway.

There’s no real perfect in art, right? The artist always knows where something didn’t go as planned. Sometimes that makes a picture better, sometimes not so much. But either way, I hope those lonely seniors who get my next bits of art smile.

I think they will.

Moving on from the holidays now.


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Sharing sheltie smiles

Hey everyone! Katie here, checking in to see how all your new years are starting out. I have to say that mine has been stupendous! Cause we got snow both Saturday and Sunday! Fresh, pretty, light, beautiful, photogenic snow!

So many things to sit in front of!

Well, not as photogenic as me, but still pretty. And of course mama said we had to get right out in it so as to enhance the photogenic-ness of our yard. On Saturday I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.

It’s pretty nice out here, mama.

But once I got out there and realized that mama and I were going for a walk in my yard and she wasn’t just leaving me in my pen, well, then I decided I’d have a good time!

I kept posing for her, even when she was trying to get a photo of some stupid leaf. I’d just go around in front of her and sit. Repeatedly. Even after I figured out she hadn’t brought any treats for me.

I wonder if anyone over THERE has any treats?

Eventually she got the idea and took some pictures of me before she went back to her artsy fartsy stuff. I swear, I don’t know why anyone would want to look at anything besides me.

Mama kept looking over my shoulder at this stupid leaf. She thought it was cool.

Then on Sunday, oh my, oh my, oh my…this is what we woke up to!

Isn’t this amazing??!

It was even more beautiful than Saturday’s snowfall! Mama and I just couldn’t wait to get out there with the camera.

Let’s go exploring!

I was less interested in posing for her Sunday. After all, I’d sat for a bunch of pictures on Saturday and gotten zero treats. I figured she wasn’t any more organized Sunday morning and I was right.

What? I’m not sitting in front of this bush, I did that yesterday and it netted me nothing.

But I did grant her a picture or seven dozen. Sigh. You just can’t get mama to stop taking pictures, even when there are much more interesting things to do. Like breaking up sticks. I found this perfect stick and went right to work on it.

This stick is oversized and needs to be reduced in length. Pronto.

Mama said, ‘stop baby, you don’t want to hurt your teeth.’ But I kept on working on that stick because it needed to be broken up into little tiny bits.

Yep, it’s a pesky stick, that’s what it is.

It’s my purpose in this world to break up sticks. And protect mama from squirrels, but a girl has priorities and Sunday morning it was all about stick breakage.

Come on you stubborn stick!

So mama kept shooting pictures and I worked on that stick until it was nothing but stick dust.

Take THAT you stick!

And then I thought maybe mama was laughing at me, and I was not happy.

What? You think this is funny woman? You don’t know what I sacrifice to make you safe from stick assult!

I expected to get a treat for my bravery in defeating the dangerous stick.

I would like extra treats please.

Mama felt bad about almost laughing (and also about not bringing treats), so she asked me if I wanted to chase a snowball or three. Really mama!?!?!

I’m ready mama!

Throw it, mama, just throw it!

I’ve got it mama!

It’s mine, mine, mine!

Everybody back off, this one is mine!

You can’t get away from me, snowball! I will chomp you with my teeth!

I’m a natural, I tell you!

Here comes the world famous stick breaker and snowball chompper!

Making a run for it.

Well, geeze, mama, if you’re going to throw it way over there….I’m not going to go get it. You can find it yourself.

Really, mother?

And so the game was over. Mama failed miserably at making sure I could catch that last snowball. Sometimes she forgets I’m a princess and a princess should never miss. Therefore the princess servant should make sure to only toss things that are catchable.

Sometimes mama forgets.

After all these years I should not have to explain this to her. Again.

Anyway, don’t tell her, but I had a fabulous time and when we went inside I happily spent time pulling tiny snowballs out of my furs and depositing them all over the house so that my folks could enjoy the full meaning of winter wonderland even while they were inside.

Good thing I’m beautiful.

They haven’t thanked me for that yet, I’m sure it’s just an oversight on their part.

Mama says she guesses she’ll write about the pretty snow in her own post. She says I have hijacked this one and it’s all about me. As usual.

Me and my yard.

Well of course it is, mama.

I always say you should give the people what they want. Right? That way a sheltie-princess can share the smiles…another life purpose, but don’t tell mama. It would ruin my image.

Smile!

Outdoor lights make people smile too, so I have decreed that they will stay lit until spring.


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Feeling sad for my buck

Our visiting buck walked through the backyard this morning.

Not more pictures lady!

He’s not putting any weight on his left front foot, so he limps slowly as he moves through the yard. I remember thinking his front leg was folded weirdly in the images I shot a couple evenings ago.

Stopping to look both ways before he crosses the road.

When Katie and I went out to do snow photography later in the day we could see his tracks, one foot dragging. When he runs, though, you wouldn’t know he’s injured.

Startled by some people walking on the road he heads for the woods.

I know it’s the same buck that visited with his girl earlier in the fall. In those photos I noticed a big bloody gash on his back hip. Today I got a shot of him from that side and there’s definitely a healed over wound back there.

Over exposed so I can see the wound on his back right haunch.

I hope his leg doesn’t hurt too bad, but I think it might, and that makes me sad.

I’m sorry, big guy.