Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Introducing a Pretty Penny

Katie here. I know you haven’t heard from me much since I crossed the bridge.

My sister Payton and me.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working. Mama asked me awhile back if I’d help her and daddy find a little sheltie girl. She said they had been real lonely without me and she knows shelties are a working breed, so she thought maybe I’d work at finding the perfect little girl for them.

And guess what? My half sister Payton’s human mom knew a breeder who knew a breeder, and last night mama and daddy picked up my little sister! Meet Penny!

This was her first evening, sitting on my sofa. She was a little overwhelmed.

She’s nine weeks old and just the cutest little thing! And you know what? I’m not even jealous like I used to be when mama or daddy paid attention to anyone else but me. Living here across the bridge teaches us lots of lessons, and one of those is that our folks’ hearts are expandable and there’s always plenty of love for every doggie.

Her first meal at my house….eating from one of my many bowls. I guess it’s her bowl now.

I’m really happy for mama and daddy….and I promise to supervise things to make sure they teach her all the stuff I taught them when I was there. You know. Like my one picture one treat rule. That’s probably the most important thing Penny needs to enforce because you know how mama is with that camera of hers.

Little puppy in a big new world.

But she also needs to knows it’s OK to get mama up at 4 a.m. if she feels like it, cause mama will get up with just the tiniest little whine. Mama is a softie.

Penny, some of her siblings and her mom at her breeders house.

And she needs to know that daddy likes to cuddle on the sofa some, and even if she’s not in a cuddle mood (you know I was not a cuddle bug) she should snuggle with him a little bit cause it makes him feel good.

Checking whether daddy has anything good to eat

And that’s her most important job … to make mama and daddy smile. In return they’re going to show her such a good time! Oh the adventures! And the walks at all my parks! And school, I need to tell her about all the treats she’ll get at school. And the lake house, she’s going to love the lake house! Why, she might even get to meet some of you! I sure loved my visits, you guys are the best!

Notice how these photos are blurry? Mama was using her phone and Penny doesn’t stay still very much!

I can’t wait to watch her grow up, she’s going to be a looker, but in her own way, you know? Mama really believes every sheltie is different and it’s her job to find out what each one is most passionate about. Me? I was passionate about food, um, camping, but Penny might love doing something else.

Mama and daddy will let her try different things, and Penny will decide what she thinks is the most fun. Because fun is what it’s all about, right? That was another of my rules, that mama and daddy provided me fun adventures, and I recommend Penny strictly adhere to it! It’s important for her to ask them every single day what fun thing they have planned. Otherwise they get lazy, you know. She needs to keep after them for their own good.

Dreaming about all the fun she’s going to have.

Anyway, I know you guys will give her a resounding welcome, she’s going to fit right in. Yep, this is going to be fun to watch, and you can be sure I’ll be watching over her and my folks just to make sure things go well.

A princesses work is never done. But I don’t mind one bit.

Welcome to my world, pretty Penny! Welcome to your world!

Looking out the back door at her backyard.


Searching for a barn-ican

Wednesday I suddenly found myself with a few hours free in the afternoon. And we had sun with the rest of the week predicted to be cold and rainy. What should I do?

What would you do?

On the road looking for interesting barns.

I decided I should head out in search of a few photogenic barns. I wasn’t sure where I’d be going, but just going in search of barns felt great. I told myself it didn’t matter if I found any. I had a full tank of gas and nowhere I had to be.

The barn’s kind of boring, but the tree is nice.

But after a couple of hours I wasn’t thrilled with what I’d found. I seemed to be in familiar territory and hadn’t seen anything new. Then I turned one more corner and found this one. It was perfect.

This was exactly the kind of barn I’d been looking for.

Maybe I wasn’t going to find any more great barns, but it was still early, going on 3:30. I knew I wasn’t far from Overlook Park in Midland, where another photographer had seen pelicans this winter. I’d been there twice before, searching for the pelicans, but hadn’t seen anything more interesting than geese and ducks.

But she’d told me, just recently, that it was always dusk when she saw the pelicans. Would it be worth it to hang out there until the sun went down? I decided to go see.

Can’t get too close, but it was fun to watch the ducks.

Overlook Park, located in Midland, Michigan, is basically a parking lot perched on a hill looking out over the retention ponds of DOW Chemical. I’ve seen eagles and hawks and geese and ducks and deer there. But never pelicans.

Most of the action was happening way over there.

When I first arrived there was one other car parked there, somebody with binoculars scanning the ponds. I pulled in and immediately saw something big headed our way. It landed in a tree on the outer edges of the park, not so far from the parking lot. I thought maybe it was a juvenile eagle. But I was wrong.

Do you see it in the top of the tree on the right?

It’s a hawk, I think, though I’m no expert on differentiating between hawks. As soon as I got out of the car he (or she) spotted me and I knew right away it was going to take flight. I wasn’t wrong about that!

We have lift-off!

I tried to keep it in the frame, but that was just about impossible.

Beautiful bird.

It flew off to my right, into the woods where it could have some privacy. I sighed and returned to my search of the water, looking for pelicans.

I wondered if the pelicans were way over on the other side of the pond, with the hundreds of geese and ducks over there. If they were, there wasn’t a chance I’d ever see them. Even as I considered what else I could shoot, hundreds of geese lifted up, at once, in groups of a dozen or two and flew overhead.

I’m always fascinated by how nature just settles right in next to industry.

The noise was amazing. I don’t know if they were headed to their night roosts, or just stirring up trouble because they could. After they moved on I hunkered down to wait some more. The sun was going down and it was getting colder.

A steady parade of deer headed out to the end of a peninsula and settled down for the night.

I wondered if I’d be lucky. I had no idea from which direction the pelicans would come or where they’d land. So much of the water was far away from where I waited. I reminded myself this wasn’t Disney World, the pelicans weren’t on the clock. There were no guarantees they’d show up at all.

Meanwhile I was entertained by some adorable diving ducks. You’d see them swimming…

Lots of little ducks

…and then suddenly they’d disappear, leaving only a ring of ripples to show they had ever been there.

Where’d they go?

Then they’d pop back up again somewhere else. It was so fun to watch.

Hey! Wait up!

Still…I was there for pelicans. Would they come in as the sun went down or arrive under the cover of darkness? Would it be at the other end of the pond? Had they migrated on to somewhere warmer? Were they even still in the state?

Would they show up at all? How long should I wait?

How long would you wait?


Deer reader

When I left you and the birds last I was headed to the back regions of Kensington Metropark in search of deer. It’s almost guaranteed to find one or two back there if you’re quiet. If you’re not quiet you won’t see any. But they’ll be watching you.

This little guy was the one that got my attention by his incessant whining as I was walking through the woods.

As I worked my way toward the back a woman coming the other way said she had seen two beautiful does in the furthest back corner of the longest loop. Since I was headed that direction anyway I smiled my thanks. I knew they wouldn’t still be there when I arrived, but I also knew there were some back there.

This guy chimed in, so I had to stop and feed them for awhile.


On the way I had a few birds begging for treats, so I stopped and tossed them a few peanuts. I was busy doing that when a guy came up the path. He apologized for interrupting my bird photo shoot. I said no problem, there would be lots of opportunities to get more pictures.

This one was quite insistent too.

We talked for awhile. He said there was a thicket to the right around the next corner where he often saw multiple pairs of cardinals. I thanked him and got back to work shooting my birds.

I had only seen a couple of deer far off in the woods so far, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see many more. But a whole lot of cardinals? That would be fun!

She was pretty far away, but I was glad to see at least one deer that morning.

And then I rounded the corner, and saw the guy down at the end of a long slope, taking pictures with his phone of several deer that were standing around quite close to him. I stopped so as to not startle them.

There was a group of about six does hanging out together.

At first they were focused on him, hoping for a handout. Then they noticed me.

She decided to smell the air to see if I was a threat.

The guy moved on and now I was the main attraction.

There was a buck too, but he wasn’t interested in me.

I know they wanted something to eat, but all I had was seed for the birds. Not nearly enough to feed the herd. I moved on trying not to startle them, until I came to the thicket around another corner, quite a ways from the herd of dear, where the cardinals lived.

She could flip one ear back to listen for things behind her, while keeping one ear and her eyes focused on me.

There was only one that I saw that morning, but he delighted me by flying up to a sunlit branch.

He was posing for me.

I had the camera up to my eyes, trying to figure out the best shot when I heard footsteps. I thought maybe another person was coming along the trail so I pulled off a few shots of the cardinal, knowing he’d fly away.

And then I lowered the camera and glanced back to see who was coming.

The whole herd was coming down the trail, following me.

I guess they hadn’t given up on me. I felt even worse that I had nothing to give them. One in particular was out front. I thought he was a youngster, less wary, perhaps more hungry.

She was asking with her eyes. I imagine some people do feed them, but I don’t think very many people walk this far back in the woods.

I stood and watched them as they gave up on me and wandered a bit looking for something to eat.

I’m sorry, girl. I hope you made it through this cold snap out there.

Then I moved as swiftly as I could away, climbing a hill and making a couple turns as soon as I could to put some space between me and them. I found myself next to another thicket that had all sorts of birds, including a cardinal couple.

They were interested in me but not interested in getting too close. In fact, Ms. Cardinal took great delight in not giving me a clear shot to a great image.

Yep, that branch across her face was deliberate on her part.

She flitted from here to there.

She moved and her face was showing, but now the branches covered up her beautiful body.

Always making sure there were twigs and branches between her and me…

Different branch, same story.

…while making sure she showed enough of her beautiful colors to keep me intrigued.

She had a lot of spots to hide, but she couldn’t hide her beauty.

She let me chase her down the trail, always keeping something between us.

Yep, she won the game, bet she’s still smiling.

After awhile I just gave up and went on down the trail. It was getting late and I was a long way from the car.

My artsy fartsy picture of the day

But there were a whole lot of birds waiting for me, so it wasn’t a fast trip back to the car.

“Hey lady!”

No, they dropped out of trees and flew around my head as I walked, landing on my camera lens if I ignored them.

Missed the bird, but I liked the image anyway.

They were everywhere. I was surprised because usually that far back in the woods, where fewer people walk, the birds are not as eager to engage.

Such cute little ones.

As I got closer to the parking lot the birds because more assertive. I emptied my pocket of seed, sharing some with a squirrel or two along the way.

Pretty sure he knew I had seed in my pocket.

Eventually I made it out of there, completely stripped of all treats, but with a full card of wonderful images, and great memories.

Getting his own lunch.

Even though I didn’t gain an audience with the Queen of the Boardwalk.

Looking for lunch in their refridge.


The birds tell it like it is

It was sunny yesterday. Cold, but sunny, and there’s no way I wanted to waste a sunny day doing laundry. Plus I figured the birds would be hungry. So I headed out to my favorite park, dressed in layers, with cleats on my boots, and a long lens on my camera.

The heron rookery waiting patiently for spring.

I visited the boardwalk first, to see if I could garner another audience with the queen, but though she was in the thicket, she didn’t deem me worthy. It was early, but other small birds were more than happy to jump aboard the hand for breakfast.

This little one glowed in the morning light.

Ms. Redbelly, however, would only eat from the railing. Though she seemed very interested in what I was doing out there on such a cold early morning.

“If I hurry I can come back for seconds!”

I spent entirely too much time out there trying to coax the queen in, and finally my frozen toes and fingers insisted I move on or go home. I moved on.

“No time to lose, the queen could snatch up the rest of breakfast if I don’t move fast!”

I specifically wanted to hike the trails at the back of the park, looking for deer. But I think I’ll let the birds tell you the story.

“Bout time you got here, lady. We’ve been waiting.”
“I’ll just let everybody else know you’re finally arrived.”

“I heard you had peanuts!”
“My private dining table is at the top of this tree.”

“Hey! I’m wearing my red badge, I was supposed to get preferential treatment!”

“You better be here when I get back!”

“Those woodpeckers think they’re all that.”

“Yea, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. She drops plenty of stuff for all of us.”

“But she didn’t leave ANYTHING in my favorite feeder!”

“Really??! Not ANYTHING?”

“You silly little Titmouse, you didn’t look hard enough!”

“Why, I got a suet nugget!!”

“I’m TELLING! You always get the good stuff!”

“Seriously lady, I’m very disappointed in you. And I bet you don’t see any deer either, if you don’t get going.”

And did I see any deer? Well, these demanding birds have taken up all my time.

You’ll have to wait and see.

“Drama queens, all of you!”


Musical memories

My husband and I heard the Ann Arbor Symphony Saturday night at the Michigan Theater. We’ve been going to the symphony for years with my Aunt who lived in Ann Arbor. She attended and supported all sorts of musical venues both professional and at the University of Michigan. We was lucky to be invited to many of them.

This season I bought the tickets, instead of her, two of them, intending that she and I would enjoy the music together until she couldn’t any more, and then my husband would fill in. As most of you know she enjoyed the September concert, but then things took the turn we all knew was coming and she died in October.

Sitting in the audience on Saturday night listening to Mozart I imagined that the woman next to me was my Aunt.

It almost worked. If I squinted and looked up at the ceiling I could, out of the corner of my eye, still see my Aunt’s face turned up to the stage, enraptured by the music, totally immersed.

I tried to feel that way too.

But it wasn’t the same, and at the end of the concert I felt sad. I still feel sad tonight.

I know I should be happy and grateful for all the wonderful memories I have of concerts and musicals and theater we shared together. All the meals and laughs and conversations…but tonight I just feel sad.

And that’s OK. There’s plenty of time to smile about the fun things we did together, and I will someday soon. These early days in the grief process I’m just going to go with the feelings that present themselves. Sad, happy, a little of both, it’s all good.

I had her in my life for 66 years. It’s going to take some time to adjust to having her around in a different sort of way.


How to enjoy snow

Once upon a time I lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where snow arrives early and stays late. You learn how to enjoy it or it will beat you down.

Your choice.

“You think it’s gonna snow all day?”

Of course I was younger then.

I learned how to use a U-per Scooper to clear my parking place, and how to snowshoe and cross country ski. It was all self defense, of course, but I learned to love most of it. Maybe not the U-per Scooper so much.

The back yard looks more exotic with snow.

I’ve lived in lower Michigan for 37 years now, my bones have become more brittle and I’m more careful when choosing my adventures. Lucky for me we don’t usually get snow in the amounts I remember from up north.

Even luckier for me I’m retired.

“One picture one treat, lady. I heard that was the rule around here.”

Yesterday, during our all day gentle snow I didn’t have to be anywhere. Husband cleared the driveway multiple times.

Abstract art.

My only responsibilities involved keeping the birdfeeders full. In return I got to watch dozens of beautiful birds all vying for a spot to grab a snack.

The feeder looked Victorian with it’s cap of snow.

At one point I counted 8 male cardinals in my shrubs, on the deck railing, and on the feeders at the same time. There were lots of females as well, they’re just harder to see. I couldn’t count all the blue jays, titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, starlings, nuthatches, ravens and woodpeckers.

“I guess I’ll share my favorite tree with the others. This time.”

Today looks like more of the same, in the bird world anyway. It’s stopped snowing, but it’s still wildly beautiful.

I even took a walk down the road, wearing grippers on my boots, for a little look see.

Didn’t have to go far to see I liked the yellow against the white.

Yep…beautiful down there too.

I wish you all could experience it from a lazy-boy chair inside a nice warm house with big windows and a lot of birds to entertain you.

Hey lady! There’s snow on my suet!”

Winters in Michigan. Be careful, or they’ll get the upper hand.

And then the sun showed up for a moment or two.

But if you can learn to enjoy them…well…then you win.