Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Singing in the rain and other smiles

Early in the morning the sun begins to poke through.

On my list of fun and stupendous things to do in 2019 is to run or walk the 10 mile Crim race in Flint this coming August. I know it’s something I can walk, barring some sort of injury, but walking takes forever and I’m sure I’m going to want to run some of it.

So I’m trying to stick to a training schedule of sorts.

I’ve narrowed it down to one day a week of trying to run faster, (Don’t laugh) one day of running longer, and one day of just getting some miles in.

Lots of these in bloom today.

Today was my longer run day, and the plan was to do 8 miles at my local bike path through the woods park. Usually I kind of dread the ‘long run’ days, but this morning I woke up excited to see how it was going to go.

It’s done now and I thought maybe you’d wonder how it went, so I’ll tell you, mile by mile. Come on, let’s get started.

It’s a long and winding path.

Mile one started out a bit slow. My excuse is that I was several yards away from the car when I realized I was still wearing my glasses. For a moment I thought about leaving them on, but sweat and running and glasses just doesn’t work for me, so I turned around and tossed them in the car. I’m sure that’s why that first mile went a little long even though it’s almost all downhill, and I usually use it as my shakedown run, checking to see what parts of my body are not into running and might give me a bit of grief. This time there was just a tiny, vague twinge in my right knee.

All systems go!

A bit of fungus art.

Just past the one mile marker I was startled as a grackel (bird) exploded out of a tree and across the path right in front of me. I had been looking for my (as I tend to call him) Mr. Bluebird who has regularly sat in that tree watching me go by. Last time I was out there Mrs. Bluebird sat there and observed my slow progress. I guess they’re both busy right now with babies.

And beyond the two mile marker I stopped quickly to examine the wet tracks of something that had crossed the path not long before my arrival. Maybe a dog, but more likely a coyote. Though I’ve seen them before and they never bother me, I picked up my pace, from a slow hobble to what I like to call hobble+.

See those dark spots? Wet paw prints from something.

Shortly after the three mile marker I ran into two chipmunks goofing off, chasing each other on the path. I decided to call them Chip and Dale. They were having a lot of fun until they noticed me. Then they stood up on their hind legs and watched me. I stopped to watch them. Then I moved closer to try for a picture and they streaked off making all sorts of chipmunk noises to warn the woods about the big noisy clomping person out on the path. Their warning was at least three times as big as their little bodies!

A couple of people on bikes enjoying the morning.

The beginning of mile four goes through some deep woods, one of my favorite parts of this path. Less wet than before, so fewer mosquitoes, but still pretty, and shady for those summer runs. By the end of the mile, though, the woods give way to open meadow with a bit of a breeze that I enjoyed. I had a hard time deciding what to wear this morning, and ended up with shorts and a long sleeve technical shirt. It was a damp 52 when I started my run. Turns out long sleeves were a mistake, I should have worn a tank top even though I feel fat in tank tops.

The sky got a little worrisome.

I was watching the sky as I ran through the meadow, making note of ominous clouds way off to the west. As I hit the four mile marker I felt the first drop of rain. Of course. I was the furthest from the car that I could be. Wouldn’t matter if I turned around and went back or kept going forward, the distance would be the same. I kept going and smiled at a woman on a bike going the other way. We both shrugged our shoulders as if to say….”What are you gonna do when it rains, right?” I figured if she hustled she could make it back to the car before the rain truly hit. Me? Well, I ratcheted it up to hobble++.

During mile five I concentrated on getting along faster. That one rain drop had been a warning, and I knew it could be a downpour at any moment. But I stopped to take a picture of a swath of yellow flowers down in a swampy area. I don’t know what the flowers are, but I was pleasantly surprised by two duck-like birds that rose up out of them when I took my shot. I don’t know what they were either. They were the size of ducks, but were both dark. I didn’t stay to try and figure it out. Time was ticking, the clouds were rolling, and the mosquitoes were swarming every time I stopped.

Don’t know what that yellow stuff is. If you look close you can see some blurry birds flying out of the swamp.

Mile six put me back at what I now affectionately call chipmunk junction. As I approached I saw several chipmunks running from one side of the path to the other, chasing each other and having a good time. They began to scatter as I got close, but I think there were at least six of them. Lots of warnings went up as I hobbled through, and I’m sure they were glad to see the backside of me.

With two miles left to go a few more raindrops cooled my face. Just a gentle rain, as if someone knew I was hot and tired. I slowed my hobble down and smiled. And then I heard the slow flapping of something big off to my left. Something with really big wings was taking off, though I couldn’t see it. I figured it was a hawk, or maybe a crane. But a few minutes later two beautiful blue herons flew right overhead, low and slow, they were just beautiful. I smiled wider. And then, for the rest of that mile I whistled “Moon River” from our concert last Tuesday night…and eventually that made me laugh…the incongruity of a hot, sweaty, slightly overweight, middle aged woman hobbling slowly through the woods whistling while smiling at the birds.

Tempting to sit for a spell…but it’s going to rain.

When I hit the 7 mile marker, with only one mile left to go, I stopped for a second and itched the mosquito bite behind my right knee. Then I took a big breath and contemplated the long hill before me, that last mile, mostly up, and started the slow process of getting back to my car.

And out of the woods came my Mr. Bluebird, just a quick flit out to the path, a bank of brilliant wings, and he was gone. But I smiled to see him and picked up my pace.

When I hit the steepest part of the hill I upped the game to hobble++, smiling all the way. At the top of the hill, with a quarter mile to go, two flickers flew ahead of me, the white triangles on their behinds showing me the way. I stomped in celebration on the 8 mile mark painted on the path and skipped the short bit back to the car as rain beginning to fall in earnest.

Hurry! The rain is coming!

I beat the storm with my own two feet, no bike required. The lessons learned from this run? Well, definitely that two motivators are mosquitoes and impending weather. Summer is closing in fast, no doubt about it and I’m going to have to get faster…

…because I know from experience it’s hard to outrun a black fly.

Lots of these in bloom today too.


Empty nester …or…the architect

My baby robins flew the nest on Sunday.

Today we finally took down the Christmas wreath where Mom and Dad Robin built their little home.  We spent some time examining the construction of the nest. Look how perfectly round it is.

She built it right around one of the Christmas lights.  Do you see it?

And she built a landing pad!  How ingenious is that!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.  It was a place for her to stand while she fed them and cleaned the nest.

The landing pad was also used by the youngsters to take off into their future.  I watched the last one as he stood next to the nest, and had no idea she had built such a grand launching pad!

Parents.  They think of everything.


Busy Sunday

The day started  rainy.  No surprise.  Early in the morning we noticed a visitor who was hoping to come inside and dry out.

Katie and I spent most of the day outside working in the garden.  Last fall we dug up a lot of overgrown perennials and now we have a lot of open garden.  The good news is we get to choose some new things to fill in the blanks.  The bad news is with all this rain weeds had already taken up residence.  After several days of weeding we’re almost ready to get to the fun part.

Katie supervised most of the work.

The tree peony is beginning to bloom…

…the viburnum is in bloom too.

Yet the pansy’s still look good.  I love this time of year!

This morning only one baby robin was still in the nest.

One of his siblings was over in the yard…he eventually flew, a little wobbly, into the shrubs by the flower garden.  If you click on the picture to make it bigger you’ll see the little adolescent spots on his back.

Late in the day we had tornado warnings and a lot of wind and rain.  By then all three baby birds had left the nest; I thought it was a bad time for them to take off on their own.  I hope they’re all right, wish they had stayed in the nest one more night, but I guess all parents, even foster bird parents, feel that way no matter when their little ones fly away.

So tomorrow maybe I’ll work on the vegetable garden which is, of course, a disaster.  Katie will do her usual supervising

It must be hard work, cause she’s sound asleep, upside down, pressed up against my leg as I sit in bed writing.

Silly dog.




Rainy weekend bird couples

Katie and I are getting a bit stir-crazy this weekend, stuck inside as the rain falls.  So we’ve been watching the bird feeder, Katie and I, and we got to watch a very loving cardinal couple.  She sat on the top of Katie’s kennel and he would go to the feeder, choose a special seed, then fly and feed it to her.  So sweet.

Later in the morning I saw this big bird hanging out.

Turns out she’s the female rose breasted grossbeak.  And eventually I was rewarded with seeing them both together at the feeder.

Seems it’s a couple’s day for birds around these parts.

Katie says:  “Enough with the birds Mom….what are we going to do for fun?


Mother's Day birds

My Mom always loved birds.  I have her bird book where she used to keep track of the birds she’d seen.  So I was excited when Mother’s Day here ended up being a big bird sighting day for me.

First up was a rose-breasted grosbeak.  I only see these beautiful birds a couple of times a year, always at my feeder.  They have black and white wings, a white chest and an absolutely beautiful rose colored bib. (click on the photo above to make it a little bigger.  He’s sitting over on the left side of the feeder)  I actually had two males at my feeder at the same time yesterday, then later in the afternoon as Katie and I sat in the sun on the deck one sat in the tree above us and sang.  I’ve never had the chance to listen to one before.  He was a very brave bird; he sat and sang even though Katie was going ballistic over a wayward chipmunk.  Once we went inside he popped back down to the feeder and sat there and ate for a long time.  Little pig.

I saw another one out at the park, up in a tree.  I’ve never seen one anywhere but at the feeder.  He was beautiful and I’d show you a picture of him out there if I could figure out how to import my photos to Adobe Photo-shop to crop the photo.

Then I hung the hummingbird feeder up  and though I didn’t see him I’m pretty sure I heard a hummer buzz past my head a few minutes later.

Earlier in the day I saw the little green heron fly through the back yard, the first sighting of the summer season.  We usually have one or two that nest behind our lot, back in the woods.  They make the worst noise as they come in for the evening, but they’re such cool birds I never mind.

I also saw a kingfisher over above the pond as Katie and I were driving to the park in the evening.  I rarely see one of those around here either, so that was an exciting thing to see.

And what was the most exciting, beautiful bird I saw yesterday?  Just as I was getting supper ready I walked past a window that overlooks the hummingbird feeder.  The sun was low in the west and the bright orange male oriole who was sitting on the pole drinking out of the ant moat above the feeder just glowed.  He stayed long enough, sipping at the water, for me to call my husband to see him, but not long enough for us to try to get a photo.  Trust me, he was absolutely gorgeous.  I have only seen one twice before, always first thing in the spring, and always checking out the hummingbird feeder.  I guess I need to get him some food of his own.  Soon.

So, given it was Mother’s Day, and given Mom loved seeing birds I’m thinking she just maybe sent them to visit me.   Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thanks Mom!




Mystery bird

The past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a mystery bird in my back yard.  In fact it’s out there now.  It sits on Katie’s kennel (but not when she’s in it!) then flies off catches a bug and returns to it’s perch.  It’s an elegant but small brown bird with cream markings on the wings and a gray underside.  I have never seen it before these past couple of weeks and it is intriguing.

I emailed a friend of mine who is pretty good identifying birds, but she couldn’t tell me what it was from my description.   I’ve spent a good amount of time googling “small brown bird MI” and finally narrowed it down to the Eastern Phoebe.

Here’s a link to a great photo of the bird.  I think, given that I’ve noticed it here at least three different times this week, that it’s likely been around all summer and I just didn’t see it.   The first time I noticed it I thought it was a junco and the voice inside my head said “NOOOOO!”  because juncos are only here during the winter and it was way too early for me to believe winter was around the corner.  When I noticed it flying up and catching bugs I was relieved because juncos don’t do that.

I’m really excited to see a new bird around…even if it isn’t really “new.”

Katie, on the other hand, doesn’t care.


DUCK! Literally…

Just a funny…

My brother and I were what we call “bobbing” last evening off the end of our dock.  Bobbing is sitting on a flotation device, up to our shoulders in water, chatting about stuff.   We’ve noticed a female mallard duck that seems to be quite the popular lady with the male ducks; they chase her all around our little section of the lake.  Last night as P and I were bobbing the female started flying, low and fast across the water, a mallard in hot pursuit.  I saw her coming out of the corner of my eye and yelled “DUCK!  Literally!” at my brother just as they flew past inches above our head.

So cool and so funny all at the same time!


Springtime, breakfast on the deck, and an Anna Quindlen book review

We’re sitting on the deck, Katie and I, this lovely spring morning.  I’m rocking and eating my cereal, she’s lying at my feet.  I’ve brought a book out to read, Zada Smith’s White Teeth, but to be honest I’m still too emotionally engaged in the book I finished at 2 this morning  to begin another one so soon.  And this spring morning filled with the sound of newly minted birch leaves shaking in the breeze and rambunctious birds exploring the bird feeders has me mesmerized as well.

Katie and I have been sitting still for awhile, and multitudes of birds are at our feeders, just feet from us.  The titmice have found the new feeder, and being brave, are the first to explore the treats there.  A blue heron, the first I’ve seen this spring glides just overhead, a silent dinosaur of a bird.  I’m reminded that I saw our  resident green herons a couple of days ago, a sure sign that it’s spring.  Off in the distance I can hear a sandhill crane flying somewhere, and here in my own yard a song sparrow has been singing nonstop since before we sat down.  The neighbor’s rooster chimes in.

Last night I was reading Anna Quindlen’s   Every Last One.  It’s her latest novel, the story of a family with three teenage children, told by the mother.  From the front jacket flap I knew something terrible happens, and I read the first 100+ pages slowly, not wanting to get to the bad part.  But the author tells the story almost gently, letting the details seep in slowly over the course of the rest of the book, because knowing the reality in total would just be  too much to bear.  So much like real life, sometimes we have to dull the details until later when we’re strong enough to recognize them.

Once I was past the traumatic event (I won’t tell you what because you might want to read the book.) I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s been a long long time since I stayed up almost all night reading.  Probably not since before my parents died.  It’s like Quinland gets it, gets me, knows exactly the tiniest details about the inside of my brain and the thoughts that flash unexpectedly through my head at the strangest times, the memories that catch me by surprise, the instant shaft of pain that pierces at the oddest moment.

This morning as I watch and listen to the birds and the breeze in the tops of my trees I remember bits of the book, intermingled with bits of my own life.   Here’s the last little bit of the book, edited slightly so that you can’t tell exactly what happened, so as not to spoil it for anyone.

“How are you holding up?” my mother said the other day when she called to tell me about their Thanksgiving travel plans.

I’m trying,”  I replied.

“That’s good,” she said.  “That’s all anyone can ask.”