Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The mighty Mackinac Bridge

Pronounced Mackinaw, the Mackinac Bridge was finished in 1957, and it connets the lower and upper peninsulia of Michigan.

My first evening at the Straits State Park.

It’s just about 5 miles across, and once a year, on Labor Day, they close one side of it to traffic and let people walk across. I’ve done that once, and it was amazing.

The bridge lit up for the night.

This past week I booked 3 nights at the Straits State Park which is located just over the bridge, on the UP side of the water, hoping to practice some night photography. I booked three nights because you just never know about the weather. Would there be a clear night to shoot? Or would we have cloudy skies and rain?

I has lovely campsite, a grassy spot right on the beach with my own private path down to the water. That, of course, aforded me numerous opportunities to run out there and shoot an image. Or a dozen of them.

Lots of people around, but my site was large and grassy.

The first night I was there was clear, and after messing around in the evening getting some shots I set my alarm for 1 a.m. and went for the star and bridge combination. As I figured, the lights from the bridge washed out most of the stars, but I had a nice warm night playing around with settings, so I didn’t mind. And I figured I’d have a couple more nights to try again.

Trying to get some star in the shot.

The next day was another beautiful clear morning. I wandered down to the shore, noting the family of geese that had slept there and the freighter going under the bridge. All of that was fun, but I was planning on traveling up to Whitefish Point to see if I could get some more interesting night photography in. So I headed out.

That ended up being a story in itself. Though it was 85 and muggy on the Straits, it was 58 and pouring rain up at the point. So no night photography there! I headed back down to my campsite, and found this:

Fog overtake the bridge at sundown.

I was so glad I didn’t miss this, glad that it was cold and rainy where I had intended to spend my evening. The fog was so beautiful.

Things are turning pink.

And then the sun began to set. I could tell this was going to be spectacular.

Oh, this is going to be good!

And I wasn’t wrong.

People on the beach were as excited as if it were the 4th of July fireworks.

We all sat out there on the beach until the last bit of pink light faded and the fog rolled the rest of the way in. No night photography for sure, but I didn’t mind at all. And in the morning we woke to this:

No view to speak of.

So much fog I couldn’t even see the beach! So I headed out to find something interesting somewhere else. As soon as I left the park the fog lifted, it was hanging around over the water, but the rest of the penninsula was warm and sunny. But that is also another blog post.

There’s always something to photograph. Bug and buttercup.

When I got home I had one last chance to try for the pretty lights on the bridge. You’d think I had enough images of the Mighty Mac (and I did have several hundred) but you’d be wrong. I hadn’t quite got the one image I had in my mind.

Pretty, but not quite.

You know the one. The one people line up on beaches on both sides of the Straits to see every clear summer night.

This one.

When I got it a smile spread over my face. I’m sure the others on the beach didn’t know why I was giggling. But I did. When you get the one, you know.

And in the morning, to say goodbye, the bridge again cloaked itself in fog just so I could get one more artsy-fartsy image. Because she knows I’m always looking for that special shot.

Floating in air.

Such a fitting way to say goodbye. For now.


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Epic camping experience

Time is sliding by and I haven’t shared my wonderful camping experience from last week. And it would be a shame if you missed that because it was amazing and it definitely made me smile.

We were in sites C3 and C4.

You know that usually I camp alone with my Katie-girl, but this time Katie stayed home and I met a couple of friends at a campground on the Platt River, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The three of us had kayaked this river last fall, and checked the campground out back then.

The trail from the parking lot to our sites.

And one of my friends knew someone who told us about the walk-in sites which are even more beautiful because you’re not near anyone else. No one’s generator will be running all night. No listening to people partying around the campfire in the next site, because there’s so much space between them.

My campsite.

Plus, if you have to carry everything to your site you’re not apt to be partying late into the night! Trust me on this.

Our other site.

Our first afternoon one friend and I got tents set up on our two sites. We were at the end of the trail so no one else would be walking by. As it turns out, most of the time no one else was out there at all.

It was a short hike over the dunes to the lake.

Once we were set up we walked the .8 mile through some low sand dunes to the beach on Lake Michigan. It was a dark and pretty cold afternoon, but it was good to walk after our long drive to the campground. And you can’t beat the view once we got out to the shore!

A chilly afternoon for beach walking.

The next day we decided to take a hike on trails within the park, looking for three small lakes. We drove around on some narrow dirt roads and accidently ended up back at the beach, just further down from where we walked the day before. It was beautiful, but still kind of stormy with a threat of rain.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

Eventually we found the trailhead.

This looks inviting.

The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.

This was really tiny, but the bright color made us notice it all over the forest floor.

Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.

This ladyslipper was right next to the trail, just begging to be noticed.

We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.

Bass Lake, the smallest of the three lakes we walked around.

We continued on around the first lake; the trail led right through a deep, wet boggy place, with no option except to just get our feet soaking wet. We were compensated for that by seeing a beautiful, lush fern right there.

Worth the muddy feet.

We eventually found all three lakes as the rain continued. Of course I had left my raincoat in the car where it could stay nice and dry.

A little rain never hurt anything.

Ah well, we enjoyed seeing the woods and the flowers, and the lakes, and when we got back to our campsite our other camping friend was arriving!

Nature’s double yellow line.

We had a lovely dinner….

Yummy dinner coming up!

…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….

Did you hear something?

….and went to bed. During the night foxes yipped and owls hooted and we knew we were truly in the woods!

The next day we kayaked down the river again. We were looking forward to a nice easy paddle, but the wind picked up, and we had to work really hard across one long lake, and every time the river turned to the west into the wind.

Paddle harder!

By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!

A pretty amazing day.

But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.

Heading to the bluff.

And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.

A first peek through the trees.

But it was soooo windy by then it was hard to stand up on the bluffs and look at the view for long, so we drove down to another beach to watch a guy who was windsurfing.

Not easy to do!

And then we went to a diner and had a burger! It was my first restaurant experience since February of 2020. It was amazing.

Our last night at camp was windy with a big thunderstorm blowing over. Lightening and thunder and wind, the perfect ending to a perfect three days in norther Michigan!

Tucked in safe and dry.

We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.

Packing up always takes longer than setting up.

It took a bit of work, but it was definitely worth it to camp back in the woods away from everyone. We had so much fun, it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d do it again next week if I could.

One of many trips to the car.

Oh wait. Next week I’ll be camping in the Upper Peninsula. Not at a walk-in site, but it will be beautiful in a different sort of way.

Home sweet home.

Stay tuned.


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The rollercoaster that is Katie

Katie has been sick. The kind of life-threatening sick that makes a sheltie parents’ hearts quicken as they contemplate what life will be like someday when a fiesty little girl isn’t around to make things interesting.

She had emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder in early April, at the age of fourteen, and came through just fine. She’s a strong one. Twenty-one staples held her little shaved tummy together, and she never once tried to mess with them.

But they found some bacteria in the samples they took for biopsy, so she was prescribed two anti-biotics, strong ones, to be taken for six weeks. And they wanted her to change her diet over to a kidney supporting food. And thus the struggle began.

Lucky girl, they told us to feed her a bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice for the first two days. She was fine with that. But she wasn’t going to eat that KD dog food. Nope. Not interested. So we suplemented with more chicken, different types of rice, homemade broth made from chicken bones, fresh green beans steamed just so, oven roasted sweet potatoes.

Every day we’d try different flavors of the KD dog food. Sometimes she’d accept the kibble, hand fed as a treat, quite eagerly. The next day she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The wet food made her turn her face away in disgust.

We’d order more flavors, try to entice her to eat. As the days went on and we kept filling her with antibiotics we learned that a side effect was lack of appetite. She stopped wanting to eat chicken, rice was off the table. Sweet potato sometimes worked. Sometimes not.

We were having more and more trouble getting the pills into her, as she became suspicious of all hand held food, worried about what was in it. Pill pockets didn’t work anymore. Peanut butter was hit and miss. Cheese was a no go.

Every morning I’d start the day trying to get her pain pill administered. “What do you like today, Miss Katie?” I’d ask her. Her face would light up at the memory of getting a wonderful treat, but she’d drop her smile in disappointment when she was offered a pill covered in some previously delectible spread.

By the sixth week I was disparing of ever getting her to eat again, watching her as she slept, missing my fiesty, noisy, curious, happy little girl.

And then, twenty-four hours after her last pill she begged us for something to eat. And we offered her the KD dog food and she gulped it down. “Got any more, mama?” The kibble, offered as a treat? “No problem daddy, I love my kibble treats!”

These days, when she’s being her noisy, curious, happy self, I sit and watch her, storing the memories. Though she’s acting like her old self, the truth is she’s still almost fourteen and a half. We got more time, but time isn’t infinite.

This early morning she wanted to go out and sit on the deck. She won’t do that without me being there too, and I had a long list of things I wanted to get done. But I smiled and took my laptop and we went out. She’s out here now, on high alert, breaking up twigs while watching the road for anyone who might pass by without her specialized sheltie permit. They must be barked at.

I’m sitting here watching the birds and squirrels as they venture out for their morning meal. The nuthatch is peeking at us from the backside of the birch tree which is glowing in the morning light. He’s not sure it’s safe to flit over to the birdfeeder for a tasty treat. Eventually, after scolding us for some time, he decides we are not a threat and he picks out the best seed and hurries away. The female oriole is on the grape jelly feeder, not caring about us at all. There’s our wren warbling further out in the yard, guarding the nestbox where little ones are growing. A male bluebird sits very high in the tree above us, the sun catching the rusty glow of his chest. A chipmunk scurries along the deck, checking us out, and a black squirrel has just climbed the railing, but finding us there, scurries back down again.

Katie is oblivious to all of it.

The black squirrel approaches from a different direction, and she sees him. Much barking and prancing ensues. My happy, silly, curious, noisy girl is back. And oh good, the garbage truck is coming down the road. Another danger to protect mama from. Good thing for all of us that she’s still in charge.

Katie-girl. Our roller-coaster girl is back.

And we are grateful.


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Memorial Weekend Musings

I recognize that not everyone has a National Cemetery close at hand to visit. And I know I just shared with you the one near me.

It’s a new day.

But that was before volunteers placed flags on the graves of our veterans. Flags that glow when the sun is just rising on the Sunday before Memorial Day.

Adding color to the memories.

And because you couldn’t all get there I decided to go for you, and for me, to see those glowing flags and reflect for a moment or two what it all means.

Our local version of Arlington.

What does it mean, on this Memorial Day weekend, that so many people are on opposite sides of so many issues leaving no middle ground to talk?

Row upon row of lifetimes.

Yet, both sides profess to love this country, a country that allows for differences of opinions. Just, apparently, not those opinions so different than our own.

Nature’s flyover.

When you walk among the white headstones in the early morning light, alone with no sound but the birds and a distant train, you have to wonder if we’re all so very different. If maybe, rather than different, we’re just stubborn.

Quiet company.

Still. I know it’s complicated, I have strong opinions too. Things that seem so obvious to me. But, it turns out, things seem obvious to the other side too.

Talking louder doesn’t make you right. Or wrong for that matter. Just louder.

Expressing an opinion.

In this quiet place, on this quiet morning louder seems obscene. Even the birds and animals that roam here at night are quietly moving to the outskirts as the sun comes up, willing to give the place back to the humans for their special day. We might learn from them how to share the world.

Live and let live. Both sides. Everyone.

Time to move on.

It’s easier to listen in the quiet, and it’s quiet out here. So many people, so many families represented. So many stories to be told if we care to listen.

Missed every day.

The folks out here cared enough to give a part, or the whole, of their lives to keep this country safe. And strong. We should care enough not to harm it now. We need to stop yelling, trying to make our point, and quiet ourselves the better to listen.

Sometimes it’s hard to let the light in.

So many people are missed this holiday weekend. So many families bear the burden and deserve our respect and understanding.

Dreams, achieved or not, make the world worth living.

Both sides must move toward the middle in order to preserve what these families gave to us.

Both sides.

Life is made of shadows and light together.

It’s a choice we each have to make within ourselves. Find a quiet place this weekend and think about what it all means to you.

The light will always shine.

And if your family is missing someone today…know that we’re all out here sending you hugs.


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Weekly smile

I have so many things to smile about this week, so many that there’s not enough time to sort through them all.

“A guy can’t get any privacy around here.”

As you have likely guessed I was camping way over by Lake Michigan again. Lots of pictures to sort through. Not enough time.

“If I stay still, she’ll take that blasted camera out of here.”

So this week I’ll stick to things around the house that have made me smile. You will note I don’t show you the garden as the grass and weeds infiltrating it do not make me smile.

“Hurry, children! They’re watching us from both sides!”

But my little friends sure did!

“I don’t think you’re doing that right down there!”


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Joyous Lilacs

I’ve seen pictures of the Pt. Betsie lighthouse in lilac season. I’ve been covetous of those images because I’ve never seen it myself, never timed a visit to the lighthouse, one of my favorite places in this state, at exactly the right time.

I always get a happy feeling, deep down inside, at the first sight of the Pt. Betsie beach.

Yesterday, on my way home from a 3 night camping trip near the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I finally got to check that as done.

I mean…how can it get better?

The lilacs were at their peak, the sky was cerulean blue with a few wispy white clouds, we were the only ones there.

Perfection.

The view the other way was pretty striking too.

I have many reason to love this lighthouse, one being it’s where my parents visited during their honeymoon in 1953, and where they went for their 50th wedding anniversary a year before they died.

Gentle waves lapped at the base of the lighthouse.

I like to sit and think about them there, and I hope they were close when I squealed at my first sight of the purple blooms against the white of the lighthouse.

The iconic image. Even though I have hundreds of these I can’t resist this angle every single time I visit.

I imagine they were, possibly, even squealing along.


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Eagle search

In the past weeks we’ve seen stunning portraits of an eagle on Facebook, taken in the nearby Great Lakes National Cemetery. There’s a nest out there, says the photographer, so I thought I might head out early one morning and see if I could find the noble family too.

Pink light.

I got to the cemetery a little after six, just as the sun was beginning to think about emerging. There was no one out there but me and the stirring wildlife, moving quietly in the mist rising from the water into the cool morning air.

The sound of geese wings were the only noise on this beautiful early morning.

I drove to the very back of the cemetery which borders on a small lake. The photographer had said he parked at the back and walked across a field. I could see there was a newly plowed field adjacent to the very back of the cemetary.

How hard could it be to find an eagle’s nest?

Early spring in Michigan, the colors almost look like fall.

I tromped around that field with my feet getting increaingly wet and muddy. I saw plenty of spots I thought an eagle’s nest should be, but I never found the nest.

On my way past the lake again, headed toward the car, the rising sun was making the mist glow.

And the grave markers were beginning to glow too, hit from the east with the first direct rays of the day. Row by row names were being iluminated, making the sheer size of the loss overwhelmingly obvious.

Each one was someone’s family.

I decided that was enough to call the photo shoot a success.

Thank you for your service.

Even though I never saw an eagle.