It all started, as things often do, with an early morning appointment.
For years Katie-girl got me up extra early and while we were outside doing her business I’d usually witness beautiful but fleeting things. Geese or swans flying low with bellies glowing in the early light. Full moons dipping below the branches of our trees. A fox slipping silently through the woods. The flick of a deer’s white tail. Wisps of fog dancing on the pond.
But I haven’t been out in the early morning light lately.
Last week, once our 7:30 a.m. oil change was completed, my sister and I were driving home just as the sun was trying to break through the fog. It was beautiful, and we looked at each other and said….”Where can we go to get pictures of this?”
And…lucky for us we were only one exit away from one of my favorite parks, Holly Recreation, where Katie and I used to camp and wander the trails.
I felt a twinge of grief as I contemplated visiting one of her parks without her. But as we entered the park I realized the best place for pictures would be down near the lake and there was a parking lot Katie and I hardly ever used that would work perfectly for morning fog photos.
I felt relieved. I could be in the park, but not in Katie’s favorite part where I would feel her loss the most. Progress ,on this grief journey, is often made with tiny steps.
We parked and walked up and down that section of the road, taking pictures of the sun rising above the water, and the fog through the trees.
The reflections were gorgeous and we probably looked like crazy old ladies as we giggled and called back and forth to “come here and look at this!”
And when our fingers were frozen and our feet were soggy we climbed back into the car laughing as we cranked the heat up and scrolled through the images on our phones, each one better than the one before.
You can’t beat a good morning adventure – Katie taught me that over and over and over again. I like to think she was with us that morning, saying “I told you mama! You have to get out of bed early in the morning to catch the best stuff!”
I know, little girl, I know.
I had a chance visit my favorite park this week, a late afternoon decision.
You’ve seen images like this before. I’ve taken hundreds of images just like these.
But of course I took the camera.
And of course there were birds — that was the point, is almost always the point when I walk these trails.
And luckily the birds were hungry.
Very, very hungry.
And of course we had a very good time. Because, really, how could we not?
I think the birds had a good time too.
For the most part anyway.
So I’m hoping you don’t mind seeing images like this again. Because I never tire of taking them.
Here in Michigan you can expect a little bit of everything with October’s weather. Kind of like an everything bagel.
I know I say it every year, but this year the autumn colors were spectacular. Truly amazing.
And we had lots of sun.
And some snow.
Then more sun.
And a bit of snow. And rain.
It was warmer than normal.
And then really cold.
But the days when the sun shown and the wind died down were truly delightful.
I don’t think we can expect November to be nearly as entertaining.
Gosh, that everything bagel sounds pretty good right about now. Toasted. With cream cheese please.
I’ve been thinking about the best way to share this, some eloquent words that capture the loss our family experienced this week. But there is no easy way.
My last post, Wordless Wednesday is an image I captured in May when my aunt and I were walking through Hudson Mills Park. She was looking for dogwood and trillium. I was trying to capture as much of the experience as she’d let me.
Which means most of my images were taken from behind.
We walked slower this spring than we had the year before, took the shorter trails, gauged whether a hill was too steep or manageable. We stopped to rest on convenient benches more often. There was, after all, no hurry. In fact there was more savoring the moments because we both knew it was our last spring together.
She’d been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and she had chosen not to take any treatment. They told her she’d have a good summer, and, right on schedule, she did.
My sister and brother came up, then my sister came up two more times. We visited her as often as we could. We attended her last symphony, brought her simple suppers rather than expecting the elaborate meals she has made for us our entire lifetimes. We swam with her at her community pool, walked in her beloved Mathi gardens and the University of Michigan Arboretum.
On our last visit, she sat in a wheelchair, pulling sheets of music for my sister and me to play, music she had written when her children were small. She sang along. We played music until she seemed tired, and then we talked just a bit. “Say Hi to Dad,” my sister said, “He’ll surely be waiting for you.”
It was a gift, she said, that she had these past months to spend with her children, with us, with her friends. And so that she could plan and arrange to make things as easy as possible for her family to carry on without her.
We all cried a bit, and then had a long, last hug.
This past Monday morning she left us to say hi to her brother, my dad, and to her husband, her mother, my mother, and so many other family members who had gone on ahead. And on Saturday we all said “see you later” at the most beautiful funeral I’ve ever attended.
She had, of course, planned it all, including her own words to all of us, the hymns to be sung, the prelude and postlude played by the incredible pianist, and the bagpipes played by my sister.
The time she spent with us was our gift as well. She was a gift to all of us, her family, her friends, musicians in her beloved symphony, her neighbors, the students she taught, the community band in which she played.
I can’t be sad, though I will miss her so much; she had a wonderful and joyous homecoming on Monday morning. And, as someone said at the funeral, she’s probably up there organizing heaven right now.
Thanks for all the good times, good meals, good conversation and good company, Aunt Becky. I’ll see you on down the road.
Decades ago my grandma told me that time speeds up the older you get. Being the superior teenager that I was, I chalked the comment up to her being confused in her old age. (Which coincidentally was just about the age I am now.)
Grandma, it turns out, was right.
And, as Robin says, here we are in October again. Another year is almost in the books and time is sliding by sideways while we aren’t paying any attention.
Which I guess is why we need a Walktober, when you stop (which is the point) and think about it. Walktober is all about getting outside and noticing stuff.
Little stuff and big stuff, pretty stuff and interesting stuff. Stuff that makes you smile and stuff that stops you in your tracks and stuff that you’d never notice because you never slowed down enough to see.
This year the coming of fall has been difficult for me. So I decided to do my Walktober in a place Katie and I had never visited together.
I have no memories of her at the Chippewa Nature Center, so there were no ghosts waiting to surprise me at every corner. She would have loved it there, trails through the woods always made her happy. But…no dogs allowed on the nature trails, so I carried her along with me in my heart instead.
Even though Katie had never been here, I visited once, last February. During that trip the weather wasn’t cooperating and I couldn’t find the trailhead, and what I could find was covered in ice. I left after taking only one picture, and you all know that’s just about impossible for me to do.
So I decided to try again, as a Walktober adventure and this time I definitely got more than one image, though once again the weather wasn’t cooperating.
There was a mixture of bits of sun, lots of clouds, and, of course torrential rain combined with strong winds. Yep, a good day to wander in the woods.
I was specifically looking for warblers, those little birds that flit around, hiding behind leaves and high up in trees. They’re hard to catch a glimpse of, much less get an actual image. I might have seen one. Or two maybe, but the images were impossible.
Not enough light deep in the woods…not fast enough to bring the camera up when I saw something, not sure what I was even looking at.
But it was fun trying.
Meanwhile the maple trees are stunning, and the trail, wandering beside the Chippewa River and through the woods was wide and easy walking. There was something pretty no matter where I looked.
And I can tell you one thing. The birds and animals knew I was in the woods way before I realized they were close.
I tried to take my own advice, learned from many other walks in the woods, to stand still and just wait quietly. I never see anything when I’m walking, even when I’m trying to be quiet.
I did see lots of birds when I stood quietly under the tall trees. The longer I stood there, the more emboldened the birds became, whizzing right by my head on a few occasions.
I smiled, recognizing that I wasn’t going to get a great image, and relaxed, just enjoying their antics.
At one point the sun poked out from the clouds and across a ravine I saw a field of red grass glowing. I know how fleeting light can be and there was no way for me to get over there in time, so I continued on with my meandering.
That turned out to be a fine decision because I ran into the most beautiful yellow tree while the sun was still shining, the trunk and limbs perfectly black against the gold.
Eventually I found a track over to the field of red grasses and was focused on a beautiful tree along the trail when the sky went dark. And then I thought I heard rain coming from far away. But it was coming fast.
Torrential rain hit as I popped out into the field and assessed how far away the car was, realizing it was too late and too far to sprint. I was going to get wet.
And I did. But that was OK too, the colors just intensified and I smiled as I wiped my glasses and increased my pace through the field.
By the time I got to the car, mopped up a bit and decided to head home, the sun came back out. Of course it did.
And on the way home the clouds were so good I just had to pull off the freeway and grab a shot or two or twelve. There might have been barns involved, but that would be content for another post.
Thank you Robin, for hosting Walktober again this year. I look forward to it every year, thinking about new places to explore, deciding when to schedule the walk, hoping for great color or at least some interesting new images.
I feel kind of sad that it’s finished, but then I remember….I get to go along with all of you on your Walktobers, and I can’t wait to see where you’re taking us this year!
Several days last week I noticed a little house finch hanging around the feeders. We have a lot of birds that hang around, but this little guy sat on the feeders, leisurely pecking at the seed, seemingly unconcerned about the comings and going of other birds.
He wasn’t concerned about me coming and going either. He never moved, though he kept an eye on me, as I was filling feeders, until I reached for the one he was occupying. Then he’d fly up to the roof, or over to another feeder to wait. I walked right by him several times, within inches, and he didn’t move. He actually flew up to land on a feeder I was carrying one afternoon.
I knew he wasn’t well, his beak didn’t seem to work right, bits of oiler hull stuck to it. His eyes seemed faded.
I looked for him every morning to see if he had survived the night. Two mornings ago he watched me fill the feeders, walking by him in the process. He wasn’t moving at all, wasn’t eating. I avoided the feeder he was resting on, so as not to make him move.
A few hours later he was dead on the deck railing. I buried him under the ninebark bush, at the base of a lily plant, with a few bright red maple leaves to mark his place.
Bye-bye little guy. I hope you enjoyed your time here with us, you sure did make me smile.
Longtime readers might remember that every October many of us bloggers deliberately take a walk, then post a few (or a lot) of images and descriptions. Robin, over at Breezes at Dawn, hosts the Walktober, compiling everyone’s posts into one at the end of the month.
This year the official dates for Walktober are October 8th through October 24th. But if you need a little bit more time just let Robin know and she’ll try to accommodate you.
It’s so much fun to take you all along on a walk. And it’s fun to read everyone else’s post, to explore a part of the country, or the world, that we might never get to visit any other way.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been on two walks, complete with friends and their dogs and I’ve considered whether I should use those walks as my official Walktober.
After all, I was walking, and it was October, and better yet, there were dogs!
But ultimately, though these were both really fun walks, I decided to take you with me to a place I’d never been before. And today I explored a new park.
But today’s images aren’t ready for the public yet, and I knew you wouldn’t want to miss pictures of dogs…so I’m sharing those here.
Maybe you’ve done a Walktober in previous years, or maybe you haven’t but think it would be fun. Either way, I encourage you to take some time out of your day and get outside.
Robin’s rules are easy. Take a walk or ride a bike, jog or go for a drive, just get outside, grab an image or two and then post about your experience. Link your post to this post of hers and she’ll be sure to add you to her list of people enjoying the beautiful October outdoors.
And if you’re worried that you don’t have any country trails to share, maybe no autumnal color, well, one year I took everyone to downtown Detroit for my Walktober submission, and had a wonderful time showing you that a city is a great place to walk too.
Look around you, there’s bound to be something, perhaps your own yard, that you’d like to show us.
Let’s spend October sharing our wonderful worlds with each other. I can’t wait to see something of your part of the world!