Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Something to smile about

These days, in order to make people feel better and less isolated, everyone is sharing things that make them smile. It’s sort of a trend.

But Trent has been collecting smiles for months, maybe years, and this week, crazy as it’s been, is no exception.

A bit of yellow points toward spring.

So as the week has run it’s excruciating course I’ve been on the lookout for something to smile about. And this morning, as I was staring out the window at my bleak, brown yard I smiled.

Because my goldfinches are turning yellow.

He knows he’s looking quite dapper.

It’s proof that no matter what the humans in this world do, what destruction we bring down on our own heads, mother nature just keeps moving along.

Spring will come regardless of whether we’re ready or not.

Some of us were wearing our bed-head look this week. Understandably.

Might as well just sit back, watch and smile.


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The written word

A runner friend of mine has an elderly friend who lives in an assisted living facility. She used to meet him regularly, not so long ago, for breakfast and conversation.

I went to a park one morning this week to see the sunrise.

Now she can’t do that and she’s worried about him being lonely during this scary time when he can’t get out and visit. So she posted a request on Facebook that some of her friends send him a note. And of course she has received many offers.

His mailbox should be overflowing any day now.

A lot of clouds and not much color, but still stunning.

But that, and other pieces I’ve seen on the news and online, has me thinking.

Some years ago one of you, I can’t remember who — maybe Robin or Katybeth or Kathy or Beth Ann — proposed we write letters to friends every day for a number of days, maybe 30, one letter to one friend each day.

Looking west, the hills waited to glow.

It was a way to reconnect or stay connected to people in our lives who maybe had drifted away. Maybe we were the one that drifted, maybe they were. Maybe it was a mutual drift.

Back in the east the sun was creeping up.

I remember that I wrote, some long letters, some just quick notes, for several days. I don’t know that I made it for thirty days, but it was a good long time.

Interesting things hugged my feet while my eyes were fixated on the sky.

I remember that I worried I might not have 30 friends to write. I was wrong. And I remember getting a few letters in return.

It was so good to be wandering in the hills at sunrise.

Do you remember the days of letters? The excitement of going to the mailbox hoping to see a handwritten envelope hiding among the bills and junk mail?

I do.

As the sun rose the grasses turned red.

When I was in college my mom wrote to me every week, and I loved seeing her handwriting on a postcard or envelop. When I worked at a job far from home she continued the practice, right up until emails took over, and then we stayed in touch more frequently but somehow less connected. As if emails were easier and commanded less respect.

Not to say I wouldn’t love to get an email from her now you understand. But there’s something special about old fashioned snail mail, as she called the kind of connection that comes with a stamp.

A place to sit and breath.

So I’d like to propose that during these times of social distancing we stay connected and perhaps accept the challenge of dropping a note in the mail every day for a month. Imagine the surprise. The smiles.

Time to reflect on the new day.

Maybe start with a friend you might have who is isolated now, maybe elderly, maybe with a compromised immune system, maybe just overwhelmed with kids home from school.

My favorite row of trees.

And if you’re not into paper and pen and stamps….well…an email a day to someone you can’t hang out with in person right now will work just fine too.

Deep breath. We can do this.

Stay home if you can. Stay home even if it’s inconvenient. Stay home even if you’ve run out of your favorite coffee or bananas. Stay home and stay safe.

We are strong.


25 Comments

Guilty pleasure

The big picture.


Denise commented that she enjoyed my last post, the one about smiling with the birds. She thought it was better than fixating on the latest virus news, and she suggested that I sort through my pictures from the Southwest and see what else I could find that might elicit more smiles.

Well.

When we got home from Arizona at the end of February I was so sick that all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, and sorting more pictures wasn’t even on my radar. And then days went by and I felt better but the trip west seemed to be a distant memory.

Standing strong against the winds of time.

And I figured you’d all moved on anyway.

But she has a point. I hadn’t even looked through pictures from our last days of the trip when we stood in awe at the Grand Canyon.

Who knows what’s way off in the distance.

So I thought I’d share a few of those images while I talk just a tiny bit about how I’m processing the latest news and self isolation.

Because I’m feeling a bit guilty about enjoying the time to myself.

Trying to see what’s in the future.

Sure I’m sad that band has been cancelled, our next concert in jeopardy, but we got to perform just a couple weeks ago,and I’m grateful for that.

There’s still beautiful color in the world.

And I’m sorry that the Ann Arbor Symphony won’t be doing their concert next weekend, I’d been looking forward to the program and seeing my aunt again after several weeks where bad weather and illness kept us apart.

Lots of angles to life these days.

But…having an empty calendar in front of me feels peaceful. Nothing more to do than find ways to stretch the food I have in the house as far as possible. Time to read. To watch the birds at my feeders.

To take Katie on walks around the yard.

Peaceful.

I know that I’m lucky – I’m not dealing with children home from school or trying to do my job from an unfamiliar computer system set up in the bedroom. I can use this time to learn how to entertain myself the old fashioned way, at home, with my husband and my dog.

Everyone will have to decide for themselves what is right.

So, if you can, my advice is to use this time to internalize, to settle, to work the stiffness out of your shoulders and necks.

To slow down.

We are all on this trail together but separate. There’s no way to go but forward, doing the best we can to not make things worse.

Hopefully the path isn’t all downhill.

We can use this time to watch the news incessantly, or we can use this time to grow as people and perhaps figure out just what is important.

Looking for light amid the shadows.

Me? I’m going to watch the news for a few minutes each morning, just to make sure something hasn’t blown up. Then I’m turning the TV to the music stations. Right now I’m listening to show tunes.

The sun will shine again.

It works for me. I hope you find whatever works for you as well.

Look for the colors. And stay safe.


46 Comments

We could use a smile

Things have gotten kind of crazy here in the States. No matter which side of the virus crisis argument you stand, it’s gotten crazy. I feel like I need to write something about all of this, but I also think we all need to stop and take a deep breath and maybe even smile.

This guy is a red-bellied woodpecker, showing off his red belly.

So, for now, I’m going to go for the smile.

Yesterday I took my neighbor out to my favorite park to feed the birds. She and her husband have just moved into the neighborhood and I’ve told them about the experience of having wild birds land in your hand.

The usual suspects stopped by for a snack.

This week we both had time to spend out there, and the timing was good. The sandhill cranes are back and the red-winged blackbirds arrived just a couple days ago.

This couple greeted us soon after we got out of the car.

Both are hungry.

I told her that the blackbirds wouldn’t come sit on our hands, they are always interested in the food happenings but will usually wait around until we move off and then go in for the leftovers. Just as I was saying this a huge blackbird landed on my hand.

“Thanks, Lady, this peanut is irresistible!”

I guess they were really hungry, because several of them swarmed around for a treat. I’ve never had them come in like that before, and it was pretty cool.

Of course the cranes were intent on getting lunch too. As we were feeding the little birds these two sauntered up the path behind us.

The cranes that welcomed us to their park stopped by to see if we had anything good.

We had seen them over by the parking lot, but apparently they were interested enough in us to follow us as we made our way into the woods.

We wandered through the woods, over hills and across streams. Just about everywhere we stopped little birds came flying. It was so much fun!

On our way back to the car I noticed these three coming to see us at a fast jog.

“It’s a race! Whoever gets to those ladies first gets the best treats!”

They were absolutely beautiful, look at the colors in their heads…

They almost look fake.

…and in the feathers on their back. The sun wasn’t even out and they still glowed.

Stunning!

Speaking of bird heads…I was speaking of those right? Look at these two closeups of the crane heads….one of them had more feathers making the red part look like a heart.

A heart shaped forehead.

And the other in this particular pair didn’t have similar facial feathers at all.

A more streamlined face.

I wonder if one is a female and one is a male…or is one just different?

Now, a turkey head…well…these are just weird. I think Dr. Seuss designed the turkey.

“What you looking at lady?”

Anyway, we had the best time, and we were serenaded out of the park by another pair of cranes in conjunction with our new best friends, the three turkeys!

Do you see them? They’re both screeching. The turkeys behind us were gobbling. It was pretty intense.

My neighbor shared our stories with her husband and he wanted to experience it all for himself. So this morning we headed back out. Today we had blue skies and big puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.

We were met by the parking lot greeter cranes.

Nom nom nom…

And then we ventured back into the woods. At first it took a lot to entice those little birds to come out of the trees for a treat.

“I’m not sure I’m coming down there, people!”

But eventually we found a spot with lots of the little guys and we spent a long time letting them flit around us looking for good stuff.

“Thanks, mister!”

And of course a pair of cranes came wandering up to see if we were worth investigating.

“Good stuff hiding under these leaves!”

So we had two days of smiles this week which, thankfully, eclipsed all the news on television. I guess things will probably get worse before they get better, but as long as we have retreats like this to escape into, we’ll get by just fine.

The sun always comes back.

I hope you are all finding something to smile about too. If you do, share them in your blog and link back to Trent’s smile post. He’ll post a recap on Monday of everyone’s smile.

These days sharing smiles is something of a public service.


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A photo a week photo challenge: Red

This is the time of year, at least here in the Upper Midwest, when we could use a bit of color. So I was happy to see this week’s photo challenge was “red!

As I chopped stuff for my morning oatmeal today I thought about where I could go to look for some red. Red isn’t so easy to find in early March in Michigan. Maybe I should drive to my favorite park and look for a cardinal. But I’ve taken plenty of pictures of birds before. I needed something different.

And then I looked down and began to laugh.

Yep, sometimes you don’t have to venture far from home to find what you’re looking for.

I hope you have a great day and that you find a little color in your life too!


33 Comments

A roller coaster week

Katie here. You might have noticed that mama hasn’t posted in a week. That’s like 7 weeks in dog math, and almost unprecedented! I’ve been noticing a distinct lack of smiles on mama’s face too, so I decided I needed to take action.

A little snow always makes the world look better.

And this morning, when it started to snow I knew just what I had to do.

I had to get mama off the sofa and out into the snow! Cause who doesn’t like snow? I mean, what’s not to like? It’s white and clean and fluffy. Mama says it’s also cold. And wet. And a precursor to mud.

Yep, a little bit of snow makes everything look better.

Mama tends to get a bit negative toward the end of winter.

Anyway, we went out and explored the backyard. It was simply beautiful, even mama had to agree. And it wasn’t all that wet and cold either. I thought maybe, just maybe, mama would smile.

While mama was busy with her camera, I was busy breaking up sticks. It’s a never ending job.

And she did lighten up a bit when she was focused on that silly camera of hers and all the pretty things in the yard.

Pretty in white.

Including me, of course.

Just the perfect amount of snow to play in.

But you know what really got her to smile? It was these little green nubby things she found in one of her gardens.

Huh…green made mama smile!

And the three red winged blackbirds that sang to us just as we headed back inside. She said that was really worth smiling over!

Though I have to say I should get more credit. Cause really, a sheltie in the snow? That has to make you all smile!

Admit it. I just made you smile.

PS: Mama says that she was feeling very sad because a friend’s sheltie crossed the rainbow bridge Monday and he was just about exactly my age and she feels really really sad for his mom and human brother. Mama almost didn’t let me post today because she was worried it might make the mom even more sad. But I said that we could send our love to her this way, and if she ever needs a sheltie hug I’m available. I hope she’s doing OK, though I know her eyes are probably leaking right now. I wish I could make it all better for her.

Thinking about our friend on this snowy morning.


33 Comments

Music decompression smile

You know how astronauts, when they come back to earth, need a period of time to adjust to their normal lives again? Though I haven’t been orbiting the earth that’s how I feel now that I’m back in Michigan after twelve lovely days in the sun.

Not to say there’s never any sun here. But it seems to be rare. And it hasn’t stopped snowing since we arrived home. Today the windchill temperatures will be in the single digits, and the driveway needs to be cleared of last night’s snow. Perhaps we can just wait until it melts sometime in April.

I’m still battling the major cold I got while I was out there enjoying the sun. I’m not blaming Arizona for my cold, I figure I got it on the plane ride home from Washington DC the week before. I almost always get some sort of sniffle after I fly, but this one is a doozy.

I’ve been taking over the counter drugs every four hours for more than a week. The cough is low in my chest and the tickle in my throat is constant. I should buy stock in Kleenex and my nose is raw.

I’m pretty miserable.

We took the red-eye flight home from Phoenix on Sunday night. Our plane left at midnight and we arrived in Detroit at 5:00 a.m. By the time we got our luggage and got out to the car we were looking at driving home in rush hour traffic. Yep, that was fun.

I got a couple of hours of sleep at home, then went to pick up the Princess from camp. I hoped that she would be exhausted from all the fun she had and we could all settle down to a long winter nap.

I was wrong.

So anyway, by the time Tuesday night’s community band rehearsal came around I was really dragging. And I still couldn’t breath well, was still taking drugs to function. And I hadn’t practiced in almost two weeks. I really wanted to stay home.

But have I told you that we have a concert in one week?

So I went, not expecting to be able to stay the entire two hours. Uncertain if I could even play. And guess what?

The music filled me up with such peace. Even the hard parts. We didn’t sound too bad, and though there are definitely places we each need to work on before next Tuesday, some of the time we sounded quite beautiful. And my head cleared and my throat stopped hurting and I only coughed once.

That’s the power of music.

So this is a long post to relay a simple idea. If you’re feeling down, emotionally or physically, if you’re stressed and tired and worn out, if you need to get through another cold, dark, snowy day, well…play some music. Whether it’s on the radio, or your mobile device or an actual instrument or your very own voice, play some music.

It’ll make you smile. And that’s the first step to feeling better.

Guaranteed.


45 Comments

Where the antelope play

I left you last in the wide open spaces of Monument Valley, where you can see for miles across a desert spiked with rock formations that lend themselves to imaginative interpretations.

Kind of looks like a fort, doesn’t it?

And what’s the opposite of wide open spaces? Why slot canyons, of course!

Don’t you just want to go inside and see what’s in there?

A slot canyon is exactly what it sounds like, a narrow canyon formed by wind and water, winding it’s way through rock.

You’ve probably seen photos taken in slot canyons, the orange, reds and greys swirling rock and light together. The images look like modern art.

The sunlight coming down from the top illuminates parts of the canyon.

And if you’re a photographer or a painter you’ve wanted to see one of these for yourself.

One of the largest ‘rooms’ in the canyon.

I know I’ve always wanted to.

The colors all swirl around each other.

So I was excited when we were able to book a tour to one of the Antelope Canyons near Page, Arizona.

It looks like the set of some sci-fi movie.

I didn’t really know what to expect.

I couldn’t do this with a paintbrush, much less with wind and water.

But we were lucky, our group was small and our guide was all about photography. He stopped us at several places and told us where to look for the iconic shot.

Every corner we rounded caused new gasps of wonder.

He even suggested camera settings and took a few pictures of each of us using our cameras.

The texture was unbelievable.

I wasn’t sure what I got until that evening when I downloaded the images. There were a few that made me stop and say ‘oh’ and then grin.

I can’t tell if I was shooting straight up, or along a wall. Doesn’t matter, it was beautiful in every direction.

I hope they made you grin too.

You’re smiling…right?

And for absolutely sure, if you’re near Page you need to get yourself booked on a tour. Try to go in the off season so you get a smaller group, but go, no matter when you can go, just go.

Do you see the heart?

Camera or no camera, you’re going to be in awe as you walk through these canyons. And you won’t forget it, guaranteed.

All that rock carved into beautiful shapes and hidden away waiting to be found.

One more post about this Southwest trip is coming up. Stay tuned.

What’s over there?

Meanwhile…Katie-girl, we’re coming home soon sweetheart. I’ll make it up to you I promise.

One last look.