Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Smiling in spite of the Polar Vortex

Trent, from Trent’s World, reminds us that we all have much to smile about. Each week he asks what made us smile, and surprisingly, even with -14F temperatures (-25.5C), and wind chills in the -50s (-45C), I find myself grinning.

This afternoon I bundled up, (sweatshirt with hood pulled up over the hat I was wearing, coat with hood pulled up over that, long underwear, heavy socks, boots and heavy gloves) and ventured out to put more birdseed in the feeders.

Though it is still very very cold, today the wind has subsided a bit, and we have sunshine! If you’re inside it’s just beautiful!

The sun came up this morning on another brutally cold day.

While I was out there scattering seed I felt, rather than really saw, a fat bird fly just over my head. I turned around to see what it was and saw the brilliant blue of a male Eastern bluebird, the sun glinting off his wings. He landed in the redbud tree at the other end of the house.

Of course I scurried back inside, urging Katie the dog to hurry up too. Grabbing my camera I tried to walk nonchalantly back toward the door, hoping she wouldn’t want to go back outside. She likes to explode from the door out onto the deck which always scares all the birds and squirrels away.

She says that’s the point.

But of course she wanted to go out too. So obviously there was no bluebird in the tree by the time I got out there. I was sad, but still smiling. Just having seen him was pretty amazing.

Back inside I switched back to the short lens and was turning to put it away when I saw him. The bluebird was back, drinking out of my heated birdbath.

I crept around to the window. The light was bad. There were reflections in the window, and I could barely see him over the top of the recliner. Plus his head was in the birdbath. Still. If this was the only shot I’d get of him, I was smiling.

Pretend you can tell this is a bluebird.

I tried to move to a better angle to reduce the reflections. Katie took that as an invitation to storm the recliner, barking excitedly, sure that if mama had her camera out there was something out there!!! The bluebird flew away. Katie got scolded.

I figured I’d stand there for a bit and see if he came back. I was staring out one window, looking in the direction he had gone. Nothing. I decided to focus on the birdbath so I’d be ready if he arrived. I turned the camera back to the original window.

And found three bluebirds sitting there, quietly drinking.

Yummy water you’ve got here lady! We like it icy cold!

The images I got were still bad, dark and backlit with sunshine and brilliant snow, and there were still reflections in the window. But there were three bluebirds at my birdbath!

The reflections really didn’t matter.

Do you guys think it’s a bit chilly here in Michigan? Maybe we should have migrated.

After cropping and lightening and working to get rid of the reflections I had a somewhat barely passable set of images. Not great images…

This is a really bad picture but I love how the one on the right is all puffed up and they look like grumpy old men.

…but oh my….it’s still freezing cold outside…and I can’t stop smiling.

Yep, it’s a regular water bar for bluebirds around here.


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Can’t help but smile

Trent hosts a weekly post soliciting smiles. Since I believe we could all use a smile, I try to participate. This past week I’ve had lots and lots to smile about, much of which’ve blogged about and includes a cold Great Lake and snow and ice.

Can you see the birds hidden among all that fruit?

But this morning back at home the dog wanted to go out, a much less glamorous event than shooting a lighthouse glowing in the morning light. Plus it’s cold here, 10 F (-12.22 C) with a brisk wind. I wasn’t eager to traipse around in the yard.

I usually catch their yellow bellies, or the red tips to their wings…

After I bundled up we headed out to do her job. I was urging her to hurry, she was dawdling as usual. Then I heard it. The sound of a bunch of birds somewhere behind me.

I turned my head and saw a flash of yellow in our crab-apple tree. And a distinctive shape.

…but for me the defining bit of a cedar waxwing is the yellow strip along the tail. (Thank you Mr. Waxwing for showing us your colors!)

I grabbed the dog up in my arms and ran for the house and my camera. I had to change lenses. The dog was mystified. Racing back outside I told the dog to “STAY!” on the porch and I crept closer to the tree.

See the red tips at the end of the wings?

I was in such a hurry I didn’t consider my depth of field, and I have many blurry shots of nothing in particular. And even the ‘good’ images aren’t sharp, but the slightly blurry edges adds to the magic of the moment. Or so I’m telling myself.

Hungry in this cold weather, they stopped on their travels to visit my buffet.

Cedar waxwings fly through here as they migrate. I only see them once or twice a year, if at all, and those times it’s only a singular event. They don’t hang around. If the dog hadn’t decided she wanted to go out, if she had continued her nap, I never would have seen these.

So…that’s what made me smile today!

Hard to see even when I crop the image!


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Saying goodbye to the seasons of 2018

Seasons come and seasons go.

Spring

Summer

Fall

Winter

So long 2018, you showed me lots of pretty things but I’m looking forward to finding even more amazing and beautiful images in 2019.

And Happy New Year to all of you, dear readers, Katie and I appreciate your visits to our blog more than you know. We wish for all of you a wonderful 2019!


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Trent’s Weekly Smile or A Bird in the Hand

During the holidays I’ve lost track of Trent’s Weekly Smile challenge, but surely there are things to make me smile this week. After all Christmas was just this past Tuesday.

Come along with me, there’s got to be something to smile about down here!

Still, I was feeling kind of blue, typical for me around this time of year, with the anniversary of my dad’s death on the 23rd. And this year I had the loss of two people I’d call friends, one in his 80s who was a big supporter of our community band, another a friend from almost forty years ago, someone I haven’t seen in many years but still count as a friend. Both died this week of cancer before Christmas had a chance to arrive.

So early this morning I headed out to my favorite park with my new camera, intent on figuring some camera stuff out while searching for a smile. This park never lets me down.

Even though it’s winter there are still colors here.

My goal was to figure out the manual settings on the new camera, how to set the aperture, the iso, the shutter speed. I’d read the manual and I’d searched youtube. Still, though it made sense while I was sitting on the sofa, I hadn’t been successful on the fly once in the woods.

New ice.

Maybe without Katie to distract me I could figure it out today.

I hadn’t intended to grab images of the birds eating out of my hand this time. You’ve seen those before.

Sure, I’ll pose next to these berries for you lady. That will be one seed please.

But I did have a pocket full of seed, hoping to lure them to me so that I could get good photos of them in their ‘natural’ habitat.

Got anything for breakfast lady?

But darn they were cute on my hand too. They were so hungry! I think I was the first human out there and as soon as I started down a trail they’d be swarming overhead.

Wait your turn!

So I set the camera back to auto and tried to get those iconic ‘eating out of my hand’ shots.

Back off titmouse!

One thing I noticed is that it was harder to get a clear focus. I think I’ll need to work on that. And I haven’t figured out how to fire off a bunch of shots at once yet. So I missed a lot of stuff. But I still had a blast.

Does this seed make me look fat?

I didn’t spend too much time feeding the birds at the beginning of the trail, I dropped some seed and moved along, and around the next corner was the flock of turkeys.

Nom nom nom nom.

I tossed them a bit of seed and kept on walking. The birds were following me and making a fuss so I stopped and took a video with my phone just to show people how crazy it was. And while I was doing that a male cardinal showed up.

Surprise!

This has never ever happened. I’ve had a cardinal here and there that was interested in the fact I was feeding the birds, but they’ve always been too shy to hop up on the hand themselves. They generally waited till I tossed some seed on the ground and moved away.

Good seed lady!

This guy startled me, I’d been focusing on the little birds and suddenly my hand was full of a big red bird!

He sat there and ate until he finished all the seed. I talked to him, stopped the video and clicked through some stills, he tipped his head and looked me in the eye, then casually selected another seed.

Yep, I’m pretty from all angles.

He was obviously king of the birds, because all the little birds waited on the ground or flew around my head while he was eating. One chickadee was braver than the rest and did a fly-by and grabbed a seed without stopping. Everyone else waited respectfully.

Meandering makes me smile too.

Finally he finished the seed, nodded at me and flew off across the swamp. I couldn’t stop grinning.

And that’s my smile for the week. A cardinal sat on my hand for a long time. Maybe he was sent from Aunt Vi, or my friends who have recently moved on. Maybe he was just a hungry bird. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

These guys are still hanging around. They make me smile too.

I couldn’t ask for a better smile, it’s one I’ll remember forever.

And when I got home this little bit of nature was napping on our deck.

I hope the images here made you smile too.

Magical.


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Birding

Tamarack trees provided what little color was left out there.


I got to head back to my favorite park with a friend yesterday. It was cold, almost sleeting and I figured those little birds would be hungry.

You see, I’d taken her out there last summer so that she could experience feeding the birds out of her hand and we had not one bird visit us!

Even without color the woods was still beautiful.

She sort of thought I’d made up the whole thing about the birds out there swooping down into people’s hands for a snack. But yesterday was an entirely different story. Those little ones were all over her!

Three birds visit at once!

And at the end of our walk we ran into some turkeys. They were hungry too.

The colors in the turkey feathers was just amazing.

I trust none of them will be on a table come this Thursday.

Dressed in red bowties, but not planning on attending Thanksgiving dinner.


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A photo a week challenge: Attitude

Angry bird

WordPress stopped sending out weekly photo challenges, and though I didn’t post each time they had a suggestion, I did enjoy trying to fulfill the challenge when I could.

Nancy Merrill Photography is sending out challenges now, and when I saw this week’s I knew I had one particular image that showed a certain amount of attitude.


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Music fills the sky

I love outdoor concerts, and Tuesday evening I was treated to a band concert played on a lovely stage facing a green hill filled with people enjoying the music.

Pretty music and a lovely venue.

The band is made up of musical professionals in Southeast Michigan. Band directors at school districts across the region and other musicians get together to rehearse and then put on a fun and varied concert for all of us.

These people are good!

It was a lot of fun, especially listening to some pieces that I’ve played myself. It was an entirely different experience to sit in the audience where I got to hear parts of the music I’d never heard before.

What a lovely evening. Children laughed and ran up and down a hill off to the side. Birds sang from the trees, and swallows swooped and twittered overhead.

Swallows turned and swooped to the music.

One little boy in particular wasn’t interested in playing with the other children. He was mesmerized by the band and continually tottered down to the front to get a closer view.

Look between the two adults….see him down there conducting the band?

His mom would come and get him, carry him back up the hill, but the next thing you knew he’d be down front again, engaged in the whole experience.

Sometimes when I’m enjoying a concert at a hall I imagine all those notes rising up and layering high on the ceiling. I think about all the music that’s been played in the hall over the years. I like to think it’s still there, tucked into the curtain material, etched into the paint. Floating in the air.

Accepting well deserved applause.

Tuesday night as I watched the birds flying overhead I thought about this music having no roof, rising up and up into the clouds where it could be enjoyed by the world. Like ripples in still water always moving outward, I imagined the music gliding up into the clouds with nothing to restrain it. Moving into the heavens and then into space.

That thought made me smile. And so did the Southeastern Michigan Wind Ensemble.

You can likely have a similar experience this summer. Check around your town, there’s probably a concert in a park near you. They are mostly free, just bring a chair and spend an evening watching birds and children chatter while you listen to music as it floats on it’s way up to forever.

And then, hopefully, you’ll have a sunset like the one we had on your drive home.

I had to pull off the road, but this picture doesn’t do the sky justice.

And it got better, morphing into this when I got out into the country near home:

Pretty stunning.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

A great group of musicians.


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Lake living – the view from here

Sometimes the clouds just glow.


I am sitting in the living room, keeping one eye on the big picture window that overlooks the lake and the other on my computer screen. With any sign of movement out there the window gets my entire attention.

The doggy jet ski just went by!

I mean, what’s the point of living on the lake if you’re not watching it? Early in the morning the first thing I do every day is check the lake and the sky above it to see whether there’s anything interesting yet.

Morning earlier this week when the moon was full.

There almost always is.

Woman and her dog take a paddleboat ride while fish jumps in joy.

In fact, my Facebook friends are probably tired of getting that early (and sometimes not so early) morning image of the lake outside my window. But I never tire of it.

Summer slide waits for storm clouds to dissipate.

Oh sometimes, perhaps once every couple of days, I leave my picture window and get out on the water. Sometimes we fly out to the ‘big water’ in the ski boat to see what’s new. Perhaps to bob in the warm water and watch the sunset unrestrained by landscape.

Sunset on the ‘big water.’ Picture taken by my sister from our boat.

More often it’s just me and my little kayak that venture out, either in early morning or late afternoon. Sometimes even as the sun is going down, always in search of something beautiful.

An evening paddle.

The lake never disappoints me.

Early night boat wake as the last of the sunset disappears.

So I’m sharing random photos of life on the lake. Just things I’ve seen and captured, moments in time all revolving around sky and water and weather.

Crazy skies over a lake playground.

Sometimes I’m sitting at the house, watching the world go by.

Two guys in their kayaks enjoy a summer day.

Sometimes I’m out in the water letting the sky point the way.

Late evening light as we head home in the boat.

I don’t think there’s a better way to live than on water, any kind of water. A river, a pond, a lake, an ocean. Water changes all the time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to get the camera (which is rarely far from me) and by the time I get the lens cap off the light has changed, the boat has moved, the sun or moon has ducked behind a cloud.

Just as I’m typing this the sky changed from bright blue with white clouds piling up to pouring down rain. Honest…it was sunny as I was typing the previous sentence and now I can’t see across the lake. Good thing I went down to the dock and got the last image down at the bottom of the post when I did.

An afternoon swim is always good too.

The moment is lost.

A little rain cools things off and never sticks around for long.

I’m always sad for an instant, but then remember that I was thrilled to have seen it at all. Sometimes I even go for a walk or a paddle without a camera, just to prove to myself that I am capable of enjoying the sights without recording them all.

Clouds and water make for a perfect evening.

But that’s very hard for me. I seem to see almost everything as a series of images. Sometimes I can’t help myself but to point out something to the people I’m with. The angle of a tree, the light behind a building, the shape of a cloud.

Trees frame a visitor to our dock.

My family usually just nods and smiles as they indulge me. So here I am, sharing with you, these random water and sky images. Because I can’t help myself.

I hope you’ll indulge me too.

Clouds gather every afternoon before our daily rain.