Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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It’s gonna be a long list

About this time a couple of years ago I decided to put together a list of interesting, stupendous and fun stuff to do in the coming year. You know, sort of like resolutions, but way better.

I got some of the things on the list done in 2019, but had to carry a few of them over onto the 2020 list. The title of that post was “2020 sounds so cool.” Little did we know what 2020 would really turn out to be.

So I’m looking at my 2020 list of fun stuff and realizing that today is the last day of the year and the odds of completing any more of these fun things before the year expires is remote. Ok, impossible. But I think I should give myself a pass and use the virus as an excuse. I’ll just move some of these things to my “Fun and interesting and stupendous things to do in 2021” list, which I will put together in a future post.

Meanwhile, here’s what I did do, before chaos reigned in all our lives.

**Improve my night photography skills** Well, I did get to go to northern Michigan several times this past summer and fall, and each time I did some night sky photography. I even got some decent shots of the Neowise comet! So though there is still much room for improvement I think I made progress on this one. And because I love it so much night photography is probably going to get a place on my 2021 list.

**Spend a week in the Southwest.** We got out to Arizona in February, before we realized what was going on with the virus. It was a wonderful trip, we got to visit with a friend, and also see some amazing sights, like Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon and even more wonderful, a slot canyon! I’m so glad we went, I hope we get back out there again someday.

**Walk in at least 3 5K races.** Well. I did one race, virtually, with a friend from California. It was fun, and preparing to keep up with her (she’s a really fast walker!) got me out and walking for several weeks prior. I could have done more. Should have probably, but they’re not cheap and I sort of felt like I could go do a 5K without paying someone for the honor. But did I? No, I did not. So maybe a few 5K races will be in my future.

**Purchase a set of extension tubes for the camera and explore macro photography.** I did get a set of tubes, and I’ve tried them a couple times, neither time with success. I can’t figure out the focus, seems to be a theme in my photography lately, and I get frustrated and stop. I need to just take the camera with the tubes out into my own back yard and figure it out. How hard can it be, right?

**Take Katie camping at least twice this summer.** Well. I went camping several times but only took her along with me once to our local state park, and that was when summer was just about over. She had a good time, but doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about it as she used to be. We also camped in the back yard a few times over the summer. Each night she wanted to go back inside around 3 a.m. so I’d take her in and then head back out to finish my own sleep under the stars. When I really think about it, she probably just had to go to the bathroom and she’d most likely have gone back to bed in the tent if I’d taken her back, but to be honest, I sort of liked being able to sleep in out there and not get up at 5:30 to make her breakfast. Win/win, right?

**Meet up with other sheltie moms for doggie adventures.** Katie and I were lucky enough this year to meet up with one sheltie mom and her girl Abby this past fall. We social distanced and met outside so it all worked out. It was so nice to see them on a beautiful day down in Ann Arbor. Hopefully there will be more of that in 2021.

So…what didn’t I get done?

My camping trip to the Upper Peninsula got cancelled, and I never rode my bike once, not even in my driveway. That’s two years in a row with no bike riding. Maybe I shouldn’t even add bike riding on local trails to my 2021 list. I never made it to Alabama, haven’t seen my family down there in over two years, so that’s got to be on the top of the list, and I didn’t make it to Florida to see the sheltie boys, and here they are already over a year old!

I never took a drawing class, but I did morph my watercolor painting into a continuous project, sending smiles out almost every week since March. I’ll post more about what that’s turned into another time. And I hardly made a vegan meal, certainly not one a week like I had planned. I’m trying to go to the grocery store much less frequently and I run out of fresh stuff really fast. That’s my excuse, though it might not be the only reason. I’ll have to debate with myself over this one.

What will be on the list of fun, stupendous and interesting things to do in 2021? I don’t know yet. I might be cautious, given the virus hasn’t been stalled yet, or I might go all out.

You’ll have to wait for another post to find out.


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Random thoughts from the yard

Covid has made me random in many ways. Random meals put together from whatever is here rather then running to the store to pick up a missing item. Random camping trips to get away while remaining isolated. Random walks through the yard instead of parks to avoid running into other people.

The sugar water is getting a little low, lady!

That’s not all bad, you understand. Some things we’ve learned to do during this strange time would benefit us to continue once the world returns to normal. If that ever happens.

Things like eating at home together instead of catching a meal on the fly. Doing with what’s in the pantry and not wasting gas and engery rushing to the store every day. Talking to neighbors on walks through the neighborhood instead of waving at them from your car as you drive somewhere else.

Three stages of bloom.

Recognizing your home is not such a bad place to be, even while yearning for exploration and adventure.

I was weeding when I noticed a large monarch butterfly hovering around a hydranga tree filled with beautiful white blossoms. Such a pretty image I went inside and got the camera.

Pink zinnia impersonating purple coneflowers.

Of course he (or she) wasn’t anywhere to be found when I got back outside. But lots of other things were.

The images in this post were from that brief weeding interlude. I should be content in my yard, it’s a pretty amazing place.

In the wild part of the yard.

But the road has always, and continues to, call me.

I have a friend in the UP (Upper Peninsulia of Michigan for those of you not from around here) who has a group of women friends that gathers regulary to camp, along the shores of Lake Superior or the banks of a river. They kayak and sit around the fire and talk and I wish I could be there too.

Centering.

I think I need to put together a group like that down here in lower Michigan. A few other women who like to camp and would like to camp together somewhere once in awhile.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my camping solitude too, and Katie and I love to spend that time together. But sometimes it would be nice to have a group of people who would like to explore together.

The light bounces.

So who’s in? Could we manage to socially distance while camping? Dogs or no dogs, tents or RVs, who’d like to go…and where?

Pink and green coexisting.

The possibilities are endless.

New possibilities.


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Let’s take a vote, people!

Katie here. (Who else would come up with a title like that?)

As most of you are aware (but I was not), mama went camping up north at one of my favorite parks and in my all time favorite camp site. WITHOUT ME!

This was mama’s camp, site 43 at Hartwick Pines.

I thought she was just taking a really long time at the grocery store or something. You know she’s getting older and sometimes she wanders around for ages doing not much of anything. And other times she gets lost (she calls it exploring), so I wasn’t all that concerned that only daddy was feeding me and stuff. Cause mama is always around somewhere.

This was up at Pigion River Forest, where she was scouting out places to do photography.

Heck, lately I’m used to falling asleep right next to her and waking up to find she’s moved to another room! It’s hard to keep track of her, so sometimes I just don’t try.

She had beautiful weather, except for Monday night when it poured for hours.

But this time she was gone for 28 dog days! (That’s four days in human terms.) After awhile I got sort of sad, thinking I’d never see her again. I kinda like mama. But daddy is fun too, so like I said I wasn’t too worried.

There were lots of these pretty little blue flowers.

And then one afternoon I saw a shadow at the door and I knew daddy was right next to me on the sofa and I wondered, could it be, could it be mama came back to me??

One of the little lakes. Mama thought the stars would be pretty reflected here. But she didn’t go out there at night by herself.

And it was! And she smelled like smoke and marshmallows…and…and…she smelled like camping! CAMPING without ME?!?!?!

But it was pretty in the daylight.

I was all wiggle butt when she first came in and she picked me up and hugged me and then I realized the truth and I wanted down. I wanted down and I wanted to bark at her so I did.

A lot.

This trail is too long for me, so mama took advantage of not having me to hike it. Isn’t it beautiful?

Mama started unpacking the car and it became obvious that she had a great time and that great time had not included me so I barked at her some more. She got sort of annoyed, but not too much because she knew she was guilty.

Yep, my mama is always looking for light on things, even deep in the woods.

She said she didn’t pet any other dogs (as if that lets her off the hook) and she missed me a lot. She even said she got all teary eyed one evening remembering all the fun we have had camping in that very spot!

I don’t think mama was missing me while she was eating this!

She said the whole trip was sort of shadowed by the fact I wasn’t there, and she said the only reason I wasn’t was because it was so hot and she didn’t have an air condioned tent. She said I would have been miserable.

It’s a big park, up there, and I love to explore. Mama does too.

Sure mama.

Well. Maybe she’s right. Maybe she was only thinking of me.

I hope mama is reflecting on the error of her ways.

Let’s take a vote, people! Let’s hear from you! Do you think mama should not go on any more camping trips unless I get to go? Or do you think it was OK that she left me with daddy in my airconditioned house with my doggie beds and my special frozen banana treats?

Of course mama stopped to get a picture of a barn on the way home. More delays while I waited at home for her.

I’ll tabulate the results and present them to mama. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a camping trip out of this.) I’ll try not to make her feel bad, but that won’t be easy. She says she already feels really guilty.

She thought this was beautiful too. I say, no sheltie? Not pretty. Yep that’s what I say.

I think that’s fair. Don’t you?

Get those votes in everybody! This princess needs your support!

I think mama forgot, this is MY tent.


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Watching the sky

I’m in northern Michigan watching the sky. This makes me smile. I lost count of the number of shooting stars I saw last night. Never, of course, while my camera was recording.

Still, it was fun.

One more night and I’ll head home. Some little short furry thing is going to be upset if she finds out where I was. I’m camping in our favorite site at her favorite park. But she got air conditioning and I slept on the ground. I think it’s a wash.

She might not feel the same.


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Starry starry night

When last I left you I had crashed for a nap inside my tent while a thunderstorm rained down and the wind blew the trees above me, brushing clouds across the sky. I fell asleep believing there would be no stars that night, my last night near the Dark Sky Park.

But when I woke, an hour or so later, the wind had stopped, the rain no longer pounded down and there was just a tiny peak of sunshine making the wet leaves glow. Maybe there was still a chance.

Yep, the sun shines to set another day.

But of course, first I had to sit through another sunset. Such an inconvenience.

Everyone was enjoying the warm summer evening.

I was not alone on the beach. Lots of families were settled in for the show, or playing in the water. They were fun to watch. I remember playing like this when I was a kid.

Did you ever walk on your hands in a lake, your legs sticking out into the evening air?

The air was warm and the sky was pretty clear. I began to get excited about seeing some stars. If the sun would ever go down. I posted on Facebook that it was the slowest sunset ever. I messed around taking pictures of nothing much just to pass the time.

I liked the way the light played on the sand filled with footprints.

And then finally. FINALLY!

The sun sighs goodnight.

Soon I was back in the car and headed six miles north to the Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full of cars and people when I arrived. Everyone figured that tonight was the night we’d see a meteor shower. Of course that pesky moon was still up there, a half moon never shown so bright, but I was just glad there were no clouds.

Once it was dark I grabbed my camera, already set on the tripod, with manual settings appropriate for night photography, and my little red flashlight and ventured out on the walkways through the dunes. Such a beautiful night.

Amazing how many stars there are, even when it’s not completely dark.

I was hoping for lots of shooting stars, and in fact while I was shooting the image below a huge one raced across the sky just off to my right. I hoped the camera caught it but it was just outside the range. People all over the park let up a big cry and applauded. It was soooooo wonderful, it looked like something out of a movie.

The light on the fence and the shadows were created by the moonlight. See the red light over on the right? Another stargazer enjoying the night sky.

I think I saw a couple of other, much smaller shooting stars, but was never quite sure what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. In fact I wouldn’t normally show you this image, but I think it’s interesting if not perfect. You can see the branches lit up by the moon, and what is probably a satellite in the upper corner. I didn’t see any of that when I took the image. I was just practicing getting shots without shake.

Taking pictures at night, you never know what you’ll see when you look at them on a big screen later.

There were lots of people there but by 11 there were only a few of us. I thought I’d wait until the moon set, but that wasn’t going to be until after 2:30 a.m. By 1:00 a.m. I was the only one left, and I decided I wasn’t even sure where the Milky Way was, or if it would be visible and I wasn’t comfortable being there alone…so I packed it in and headed back to my campsite.

A beautiful night.

I wasn’t sure what I had captured, though I knew it wasn’t what I had hoped to get. Still, I’m so glad I went and I’m pretty happy with the few decent images I got. I had to lighten these up quite a bit to put them into WordPress. The original images were pretty dark when I did my preview. I maybe have over lightened them here. I suppose everyone’s computer screen will show them differently. I think a lot of night photography, once you figure out the manual settings on the camera, will come down to figuring out how to process them. I’m still working on that.

I had to stop and take this picture, the barn was so beautiful.

I slept well that night, and in the morning packed up and headed South toward home. Right through all that farmland. With all those barns.

Barn and hawk.

Yep, had to stop a few times on the way. I’m sure you don’t mind.

I’ll go back to the Dark Sky park again someday, preferably when the moon isn’t up all night and the Milky Way is. And meanwhile I’ll mess around with the images I have to see how I can make them even more exciting. So you’ll think you’ve been there!

But you really should try to get there yourself. If you pick the right night you won’t be disappointed!

From the old days, still standing straight and tall.


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Day 2 of camping during a pandemic

I left you at midnight feeling disappointed on my first night of camping, in a dark and cloudy parking lot up in the thumb of Michigan’s mitten, with no stars in sight. After all, the entire purpose of this trip was to watch a predicted meteor shower in a dark sky park.

Certainly the small plot of dirt squeezed between two other equally small plots of dirt that masqueraded as a campsite was nothing to write home about and no reason to visit.

I should have gone into Grindstone City (the city part is a misnomer) because I hear there’s a store that sells awesome ice cream there.

Still.

The night was warm and with no schedule to follow I slept in until almost 10, as did my camping neighbors on both sides. I enjoyed my bowl of cereal and blueberries and spent a couple hours reading undisturbed. Not such a shabby vacation after all.

By noon I was ready to go exploring. After all, I was in farm country!

There’s just something about wide open spaces.

I found myself driving around big country blocks, sometimes multiple times, looking for illusive barns. Which actually weren’t so illusive.

I went around the block twice to get this shot. It’s the sweetest little stone barn with a tin roof. I think someone is living in it as a home.

There were barns everywhere!

This was one of two barns I saw with the quilt square on the side. The other one wasn’t in a safe spot for me to stop.

But eventually I found myself sitting at a picnic pavilion along the shores of the water again. It’s hard for me to stay away from water for very long.

There was a private campground out here, but no one was using this shady spot but me and the birds.

The seagulls shared it with me, after a bit of screeching they lifted off and flew out for an afternoon float on the beautiful blue water.

It was a beautiful day for flight.

I have to admit I didn’t get much reading done there, the view was too pretty. It was nice just to sit and watch the birds bob and the light on the water dance.

The colors of our Great Lakes never cease to amaze me.

And there was the lighthouse here too — even though it wasn’t open it was fun to explore the grounds. Last time I was here with Katie it was raining and we did a mad dash to get a picture then headed right back to the car.

I can never resist a lighthouse.

But mostly I was waiting for the sun to go down, so I headed back to camp in anticipation of a clear evening and bright stars. Before going to my campsite I figured I’d go check the beach, see what was happening.

This is what was happening:

As I walked down the stairs to the beach a bit of remaining sun hit this sailboat and lit it up. I squealed. Out loud.

A storm front was bearing down from the north! The weather guy hadn’t mentioned any storm front moving through! What was this? And had I left the windows of my tent open to the weather?

The sailor and I head for safety as thunder begins to sound the alarm.

After taking a few dozen shots I ran back up the stairs and to my car and drove as fast as I could through the crowded campground to my site. There I found the neighbors hurriedly packing things away and talking about ‘rain in 5 minutes’ I threw my chair into the back of the car, grabbed some fruit and my book and dived into my tent as the rain began.

I have to admit I took a nap while still wondering…

…would there be stars tonight? Would I be smiling in the dark? Or would it be another starless night?

Stay tuned.

Day two. At least I still had the barns.


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Coincidental photo challenges

I’m just back today, Thursday, which is the day Cee puts out her black & white challenge and Nancy issues her photo challenge.

And guess what? I have a shot of my latest camping trip that will fit each of them! One shot, two challenges! Cee wants to see any light source, and Nancy wants to see a tower.

And just yesterday I was here:

This is the Pt. Aux Barques lighthouse, one of the ten oldest lighthouses in the United States. It’s located at the tip of Michigan’s thumb, and thoughit wasn’t open yesterday, due to Covid, it’s a beautiful tower and a beautiful light even if all I got to do was walk around outside.

I haven’t had time to look at the photos I took on this quick trip north to watch the stars. Stay tuned.


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Camping makes us smile, no matter where we are

I don’t know how it happens that a week can slip away before I realize it. But here it is Saturday morning, almost afternoon, and I still haven’t posted a smile for Trent’s Weekly Smile compilation. If you haven’t read his weekly smile post from Monday yet you should. He has the most beautiful foxglove flowering over there.

So anyway. Katie and I have been sleeping in the tent in our backyard almost every night for the past week. It’s been beautifully cool with clear skies and she loves it, even though some nights I am kind of cold.

Katie here, this is my “I’m going camping!” smile!

She starts prancing around the back door and whining as soon as the sun even begins to think about heading for the horizon. I’m never ready to go to bed that early and sometimes I just ignore her, in which case she’ll sigh in disappointment and go to sleep somewhere else.

Once I’m ready to head to bed I change into several layers of clothing, grab her leash and wake her up. When she sees me dressed in sweats and holding her leash she gets so excited and she happily pulls me across the back lawn to our tent.

Silly girl.

But it’s not just her, I’m pretty happy to be sleeping outside too. She gets me up every morning between 3 and 4:30 and we head back to the house where she settles in to snooze with her dad and I go back out to the tent to finish my own sleeping. Those three hours of early morning sleep are usually my best sleep each night.

Hey mama, are you awake yet? Cause I’d like to go pee please.

Who’d have thought that sleeping in a tent on a narrow sleeping pad would garner a great night of sleep!

Katie and I put the tent away yesterday afternoon in preparation for a few days of bad weather. They predicted 60 mph winds and potential hail. Of course, as usual, the weather people got overly excited and all we got was a little rain. But it is going to be much warmer this week, so we’ll probably stay inside with the air conditioning for a few days. But when we get the tent back out both Katie and I are going to smile!

Guaranteed.

Me and my tent!


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Smiling in the night

Katie and I have been camping, though it’s just been in the backyard during these Covid-19 days. She starts crying and circling near the backdoor around 8 every evening, so excited to sleep in her tent. Of course that means she goes to bed early.

Mama was a little slow.

So she gets me up between 3:30 and 4:30 every morning. We wander back into the house after she does her jobs, and then, usually, I go back out to the tent to finish sleeping.

Sleeping under the stars.

But the past two nights I’ve spent about an hour taking pictures of the night, honing my night photography skills before I head back to sleep.

The neighbor’s house with a couple planets above.

Last night was really, really cool.

I was taking a picture of the house with a band of clouds and a couple stars overhead. The camera, sitting on it’s tripod was going through the 25 seconds shoot and then the lengthy noise reduction process, and I was staring at the sky directly above me while I waited. And the most spectacular shooting star blazed across the sky. No, it didn’t cross into my picture, darn it, but I saw it and that made me smile.

A layer of clouds was beginning to obscure the stars.

The next shot I pointed the camera straight up, knowing there wouldn’t be another shooting star right there, but wondering what I’d capture. And while the camera was going through it’s process I was watching the cloud bank climb higher in the sky just above the house.

And that’s when I saw the oddest thing.

The sky above.

A line of small dots, lights about the same size and brightness as a star, were moving from south to north, right above the cloud bank, quite fast, but slow enough for me to blink a couple times, adjust my glasses, and process that I was seeing something strange. I had time to consider whipping the camera back from it’s upward image capturing, and to swear at myself for moving it away from the house in the first place, but not long enough to actually do anything but watch, fascinated, until they all moved off into the clouds.

There were probably at least 20 lights, a long straight line of them, then a break and then 5 or 6 more. It was 4:20 in the morning. I’d been shooting the sky since about 3:45. I wasn’t sleepy and I wasn’t hallucinating. I don’t know what they were, but I’m hoping someone else saw them too and has an explanation.

Meanwhile, I’ve figured some more stuff out about night photography and someday I hope I’ll be able to stare at the stars and whatever else is up there from a more exotic location than my backyard.

And then I’ll really be smiling. Guaranteed.

Edit: I found out what it was! Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink Satelite Train. You can put in your data and find out when it will be flying near you!

Gee, I always miss the good stuff.