Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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When we weren’t staring at the river…

We did score the best campsite in all of the Pigeon River Forest, nestled next to the river in all it’s gurgling glory. We could have sat there all day, but there was more to explore.

There’s a large elk heard residing in this park, with certain locations where you’re more likely to see them. We drove around one evening looking, but didn’t see any; I guess the elk hadn’t read the memo about where they were supposed to be. In 2014 we were luckier and saw three of them in almost exactly the spot where the map said they’d be. Now those elk knew how to follow directions!

This year I did see this guy, on our first day there, as we were driving to our campground on a narrow sandy road through the tall trees.

What you lookin at lady?

I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye and screeched to a halt. My friend, who was driving ahead of me, kept on going so she didn’t get to see him. I felt privileged to be able to snap his picture as he gazed somberly back at me.

Aside from the elk this state land is known for beautiful lakes and wonderful hiking trails. You can walk through varying topography and plant life, from wet bogs and reedy lake shores to hilly pine forests and open meadows.

Care to go for a walk?

We did all of that. We hiked around Pickerell Lake on a beautiful afternoon, the sky filled with white puffy clouds and the lake a beautiful blue.

It was a perfect day for a hike around a lake.

We climbed to the top of Inspiration Point, where the ranger said you can almost see from horizon to horizon. He was right.

Walking through the meadow on the way up the hill.

It would be a perfect place for star gazing if you’re there on a night when the full moon isn’t beating down on you.

You can see forever from here.

We walked along the river and looked up the names of all the wildflowers we could find. We were surprised by just how many there were when you stopped to really look.

I’ve already forgotten the name of this one. A variety of coneflower I think.

Mostly we just enjoyed being outside in a beautiful place during a beautiful weekend. Even when there was a bit of rain.

Walking through a misty rain.

And in the morning, when it was time to pack up and leave I felt sad, but happy too, that I got to spend time in this magical place. I know I’ll be back, likely on a dark night with no moon and clear skies. There are stars out there just begging to be photographed and I’d like to try.

The sky wasn’t dark enough with the full moon coming up behind me.

Until next time Pigeon River State Forest! It’s nice to know you’re up there waiting for us to stop by again.

Wonder what secrets the forest holds over there?


It’s good to know that the river continues to dance over those rocks, singing it’s gentle and calming song, even when we’re in the midst of whatever gets in the way of happiness out here in the real world.

Until next time, Pigeon River.

I’m lucky to have such a wilderness so close to home, and I’m pleased to share it with all of you. If you’re ever this way, stop by and explore even a little of it.

You won’t be sorry you did.

All this and more is waiting for your visit!


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A river runs though it.

Entering the magical Pigeon River Forest.


I’m back from a three night camping trip in the Pigeon River State Forest, a place that features spacious camp sites, towering pines, hiking trails, pristine lakes, and of course, the Pigeon River. A friend and I were lucky enough to score what I consider the premiere site right on the river. We got to listen to the swift water pour over some rocks just feet from our tent and we spent a fair amount of time just sitting in chairs watching it move along.

The perfect spot to spend a few days.

Of course we weren’t always sitting mesmerized by the river. We ate a lot too. But I don’t think it was typical camping fare. No, we didn’t have the burgers and dogs, didn’t roast marshmallows over the fire. Instead my friend brought along gourmet stuff like this kale and brussel sprout salad and bread baked the day before at a restaurant from her hometown. And that was just Friday’s lunch!

Very overexposed, but I thought it was cool so I’m using it anyway.

Friday evening this guy wandered by, moving slowly up the river. I heard him splashing up the river before I could see him and I swear I thought he was a bear. So I had my camera ready.

Going fishing on Friday night.

I’m sort of glad he wasn’t a bear. Though that would have been very cool.

In the morning my friend went fly fishing too. That’s what you do on a swift and shallow river like the Pigeon. First there was assembling of the rod and the attaching of the perfect fly.

I’d need a magnifying glass to do this!

Then there were a few practice casts in the road.

Practice makes perfect.

And then she was off into the water!

Come on in, the water’s perfect!

I think she had a great time, though I don’t pretend to understand it all. No fish were caught, but she got to get into the river and I got to take pictures. So we were both happy.

Here fishy, fishy!

We saw a few other people in the water, notably a couple of brothers floating by on tubes.

Looks like so much fun!

I was jealous and the entire three days I was there I considered putting on my swimsuit and my water shoes and going upstream a bit and floating back to camp. I didn’t need a tube, I care my flotation devise on my person at all times. (Smile.) For some reason I just didn’t do it. That would probably be my only regret from this trip.

So this post is all about the river

The river moves on past me to it’s own destination.

But there are acres and acres of woods to explore, elk herds to find, stars to watch. What about those?

Light plays.

Guess you’ll have to stay tuned.

The old man in the woods.


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Cee’s black and white photo challenge: Bench

I need to catch up as I’ve been traveling again, this time to a state forest campground in central Michigan. As soon as I saw this bench at the top of Inspiration Point in the middle of the Pigeon River Forest, I knew it would work for Cee’s challenge.

You could see for miles.


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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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The cricket in the drain

Saturday a bit of a pain in my back became worse and associated pains in my chest began to bother me. I couldn’t assume any longer that picking up the dog was the problem, so I headed for a local emergency room.

I didn’t really think it was much of anything, figured they’d run some tests, tell me it wasn’t a heart attack, that perhaps I had strained something. I thought they’d send me on my way after a few hours.

Instead they admitted me for observation.

The view wasn’t stellar.

Far from home and my own doctor, in a town near our lake house and with no family nearby, I began to stress. Katie was home alone and I was stuck in an ER, about to be wheeled upstairs to a hospital.

I called one of my neighbors who sprang into action, checking on Katie and arranging for her to have a sleep over with them and their dog Dixey. Katie enjoyed her sleep away from home with one of her best doggy friends.

Mama, on the other hand, got no sleep at all.

I’d had an EKG, a chest xray and blood drawn down in Emergency. They did more blood drawing upstairs, hooked me up to a heart monitor and left me alone for awhile with instructions not to get out of bed.

Eventually a doctor showed up and asked all the same questions they’d asked downstairs, but in more detail. She asked how my parents had died and I explained about my mom. She asked about dad and I told her the short version of dad’s truck crash death. She got quiet.

Then she said 4 years ago her daughter and her ex-husband and his girlfriend were in a bad crash. The girlfriend died, and her daughter sustained a traumatic brain injury. She showed me her 10 year old daughter’s picture, attached to the back of her hospital ID. We talked about the long road ahead of a brain injury patient. We looked each other in the eyes as we both spoke of our fear of being on the road these days. Then she said – “Do you hear that cricket?” I did. She investigated my bathroom, and said she thought it was in the shower drain. I said there could be worse things in a shower drain and we laughed and she left.

Around 10:30 I asked if the big light above my head could be turned off so that I could get some sleep. An aide came and turned off the light and I tried to settle down. Minutes later a LP showed up to take my vitals. Blood pressure, temp, heart rate. Did I need anything? No…just some sleep. She asked if I wanted her to take away the dinner tray which contained a pile of unknown shredded meat and a completely round scoop of white supposed to be mashed potatoes.

No thank you.

I said please do, adding that I ate the carrots. She said she’d note that and added that when she gave birth to her daughter at this hospital the food was so terrible that her mother-in-law brought her three meals a day from outside. We laughed

Someone came in for more blood. She said she was called the vampire ad said I had nice veins. We laughed. Then she asked if I had a cricket in the room? I said yes, she was keeping me company.

Sleep was elusive as I worried what all this meant.

Just after midnight the RN came in to check on me. We talked about shelties, her mom used to raise them. We talked about how smart they were. I said I was looking forward to sleeping past 4 a.m. because my sheltie was having a sleepover at the neighbors.

Twenty minutes later someone was in to do vitals again. My back continued to ache, the chest too. I couldn’t get comfortable in the narrow bed, wired to the heart monitor. I was worried about my dog. Feeling lonely.

I listened to the cricket singing in the bathroom and wished I was back at the lake.

12:30 a.m., maybe 1, a young man showed up for yet more blood. He turned on the bright light, but that was OK, I was still awake. He asked if I was from Alex City, I said no, I was from Michigan. He said, “Oh, you’re my mom’s age so I thought maybe you knew her.” He couldn’t get any blood the first two times he tried….he apologized for the bruise I was going to have. Then he tried my hand and got barely enough. I said that was the third blood draw, and I’d been told there would be three as they tested for enzymes indicating a heart attack. He said he was sorry, but he’d be back for more around 3:30 or 4.

Great.

I settled back to try to sleep. The cricket continued to sing. The RN came in to see how I was. Not so good. She went and got a nitro patch for my chest pain. A side effect, she said, was headache. Twenty minutes later my head was throbbing so bad that it hurt to touch the pillow.

I rang the bell for help.

The RN returned, listened to my complaint and said she’d see if she could give me a Tylenol for the headache. The night shift doctor showed up and asked me more questions, then prescribed an extra strength ibuprofen to be administered through my IV. The RN brought that in about 2 a.m.

Heaven.

I curled up and fell into a deep sleep which lasted until almost 3:30. I was so disappointed when I woke, the sleep had been so warm and good. I tried to will myself back to sleep. But the blood guy was taping on my door. So I gave him more blood and we discussed why they needed so much, and why there was a cricket singing in my bathroom. I said the cricket was now my friend, and we laughed. Ten minutes later he was done and I curled back up again, attempting sleep.

It wasn’t two more minutes when someone else was knocking on the door and wheeling in another cart. She was a perky lady, dressed in pink who sing-songed her “Good Morning!” brightly to me. I grunted and glared at her. She was here to do another EKG; this one would be my ticket out of the hospital if it was good, so I didn’t want to be rude and send her away. But seriously? Who thinks that 3:45 a.m. is a good time to do an EKG? She said she had 5 of them to do that morning and I was the first one.

Lucky me.

I asked her if she tag-teamed the blood guy and knew that I was already awake, and she said, “Oh no dear, I have to cover this whole hospital, I can’t be following him around.” And then she said “Hey…do you hear a cricket?”

Once she had her test done and had merrily danced away the young woman doing vitals, who hated the hospital food, arrived to take my blood pressure and temp again. Now near the end of her shift she was much less talkative, but she did mention that she heard a cricket.

Later the RN checked in on me asking how I was feeling. I said the back and chest pain were gone and the headache had been reduced to a more manageable pain. Mostly due to lack of sleep. She said she’d leave me alone. It was almost 5:00. Light was beginning to seep through the fog outside my window.

I gave up and turned on the TV to watch the news.

Looks like a good day to get some answers.

My friend the cricket wasn’t singing anymore. I guess her work keeping me company was done and she was settling in to get a good day’s sleep. I wished her well. Because I now knew something she probably already knew. There’s no sleeping if you’re spending the night at a hospital.

And what caused all that pain? We don’t know. I didn’t have a heart attack, but there are many questions left unanswered. There are probably questions I don’t even know to ask yet. But I will. I’m headed north to see my doctor, and I’m packing all those test results with me.

I hate leaving the lake, but it will be here for me when I return. And I’m grateful to wonderful neighbors on both sides of us that took care of me and my dog when I needed help. That’s the South for you. Even in the hospital people shared their lives and laughed with me. Every one of them cared about me and each was concerned that I was away from home.

I appreciate them all. Especially my best friend the singing cricket in the drain. I hope she’s comforting whoever is in that room tonight.

I bet she is.

I’ll be back.


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When truck safety visits the lake

Heading out before the sun sets.

As most of you know I volunteer for a nonprofit that works on truck safety issues. It’s made up of volunteers, most of which have either survived a crash with a large commercial truck or have had family or friends killed in a crash with a truck.

We get together in Washington D.C., usually to fight some piece of legislation that we feel will make our roads less safe than they are now. And every other year we meet there for a conference called Sorrow to Strength where we learn how to make change and where we spend days in meetings with our Members of Congress and the DOT and other agencies that make or enforce rules surrounding trucks.

It’s pretty stressful.

We’ve often talked about wanting to spend time with each other when we’re not working, not talking endlessly about our losses, not overcome with grief, not walking up and down Capitol Hill until our feet ache to match our hearts.

Lots of big puffy white clouds began to turn pink.

Three years ago some of us were able to meet in Maine. We had a wonderful time sitting around eating lobster and talking around a campfire until late into the evening.

Huge mounds of cloud build up to the South.

And this past weekend a few of the volunteers came here to Lake Martin. It felt good to be together in a less stressful place. It felt good to host them in Dad’s home. It was like having a big family reunion. In fact it was a family reunion, because these people are my truck safety family. They are people who know better than anyone what it’s like to get that call. What it’s like to be in the car.

What it’s like.

We ate too much and lazed around in the sun. We hung out together, thankful that we have each other while wishing we didn’t belong to the family at all.

And then they all turned pink.

Swimming, water skiing, just floating in the warm waters of the lake was so much fun. Even climbing the mountain and then the fire tower in the Alabama heat was fun. There were hugs and lots of laughter, and even a few tears when my sister played Amazing Grace on her bagpipes at sunset.

Headed back North the sky was entirely different.

We took pictures, of course, of us goofing off in the water, climbing the mountain and the fire tower, eating and laughing. But I need to maintain everyone’s privacy, so rather than show you those photos I’ve used last night’s sunset images throughout this post.

Floating in pink and gold.

I was out in my kayak and the sky was amazing. Sort of like spending the weekend with my truck safety family.

Simply amazing.

And then the moon came up.


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The canals of Detroit

Kayaks waiting for us to begin our adventure.


Did you even know that Detroit has canals? Me either, and I live only an hour north of the city. But I saw an advertisement months ago on Facebook for kayak tours of the canals and I thought it looked interesting.

I know, I know. An advertisement on Facebook? But a friend of mine, someone I haven’t seen in a lot of years, agreed in a comment that it looked fun, and she made all the calls to get us a reservation.

Safer to do this while still on land than once we were on the water.

So Sunday was the day and of course there were thunderstorms predicted. Our early morning 3 hour tour was delayed until afternoon, and in the end that worked out just fine.

We arrived at the marina located just off the Detroit River slightly before scheduled takeoff. We got our life vests fitted and our safety lecture, and then we were in the water.

A quick meeting with one of our guides…

We started the tour by paddling around an island, originally built out of swamp land in the 1920s for wealthy people to live in big houses away from the city. Now it’s mostly filled with homes built in the 1990s.

…and we’re off!

But there are still a few of the original homes left. Like this 30,000 sq foot 2 bedroom mansion built for the Fishers, part of the General Motors team way back when…

The Fisher mansion is in disrepair but seems to be under renovation.

…and some smaller homes, also built in the 20s. Most of the homes built during that period burned in a big fire in the early 70s because the bridge to the island hadn’t been built large enough to carry Detroit city fire engines.

A couple of the smaller original homes.

After we circled the island we headed out to the Detroit River.

Headed into some serious paddling now.

The river is a busy shipping channel, connecting the Great Lakes and lets ships get, eventually, to the Atlantic Ocean. We were told to stick together, not go too far out into the river, but stay away from the wall along the shore, where waves would be slapping and bouncing back at us.

Almost immediately we saw a huge freighter coming our way. We were in no danger, but the size differential between it and us was hard to ignore.

That’s one mighty big ship.

And right behind that ship was another, bigger, deeper more foreboding ship. I knew they’d both be kicking up some serious wake and I was eager to turn off the river back into the safety of a canal.

Another huge ship coming our way.

There was already some serious chop going on and I didn’t really want to ride out any huge waves in my little orange kayak. Soon enough we turned away from the big water and into the relative calm of another canal.

This is much more relaxing!

Turning the next corner we found ourselves in a small community of river homes complete with boat houses. Most of them looked like they’d been around a long time.

Those boathouses might need a little work.

But other boat houses seemed in better repair. And some even held beautiful vintage wooden boats.

High tech garages for beautiful old boats.

We paddled through more older waterfront homes…

Pretending we’re gliding through Venice.

…and then had something of a traffic jam under a bridge.

Some confusion about who has the right of way.

Out the other side of the bridge, around another corner and past more boat houses we headed back toward the big river.

The locals tell us the water is very high this spring.

The sun was beginning to break through the clouds as we entered the Detroit River again. To the east of us the skies were still dark…

Let’s not go toward the storm.

…but to the west of us the sun was shining and the water sparkling.

Even the water got more vibrant when the sun came out.

But the wind had picked up and the water was even more choppy than before. There was little time for taking pictures. I had to try, though, because the Detroit skyline was right there and just stunning with big puffy white clouds overhead.

It turned into a beautiful day!

And then, just as everyone was getting tired paddling into the wind we turned one last time into the safety of the canals.

Back where we started, all too soon.

We had a wonderful time. We saw some really interesting houses and boats. We were challenged on the river. And the sun came out at the last minute to make it all look brilliant.

A pop of color on the beautiful water.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I guess you can’t always dismiss those ads on Facebook. Sometimes they turn out to be pretty darn cool.

This one sure did.

Fun stuff.


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Birding with a friend

Yesterday I got to go on a dog-less adventure with a friend. It rare that either one of us spends time at a park without our girls, but today it was all about the birds. With our pockets filled with bird seed and cameras slung around our necks we headed out to my favorite park on a perfect morning under clear blue skies to see what we could see.

Almost immediately we noticed a trio of sandhill cranes snacking, not far from the trail, in a grassy wetland meadow that had been burned by the rangers days before. I especially liked how they blended with the lines of the grass stubs.

If it weren’t for that red head patch I might have missed seeing this guy.

It didn’t take them long to notice us and head our way. They were expecting breakfast and I guess they can’t read the signs up in the parking lot — “Do not feed the cranes.” Since they were almost as tall as we were we decided not to begrudge them a bit of the seed in our pockets.

After breakfast preening.

Also they were blocking the path and we had to pay the toll in order to move along. I think it’s a racket they have going there, but I’m not going to report them, because it was a wonderful experience to be this close.

Stunningly elegant.

I wouldn’t want you to think we spent all day with the cranes. We moved one way on the path and they went the other way, looking for their next patsy and another handout.

Further into the woods we were approached by several chickadees and a titmouse or two. We stopped to share our provisions with them all.

Choosing the perfect seed.

Some of them were quite choosy, and took their time picking out the perfect seed. Others barely touched down before they were off with their prize.

I’m outta here!

Directly over my head was a curious woodpecker. We thought he might come down and join the banquet but he stayed up in the tree watching me. When he turned a certain way the sun caught the bright red cap on his head. He made me smile and I dropped the seed in my hand to get a quick image of him.

Whatcha got down there lady?

I’m sure that made him smile too because after we moved on he enjoyed the meal I left behind.

Some of the birds were harder to spot than others; this blue heron sat silently in the reeds watching us go by. He wasn’t in the mood for birdseed. If we’d had fresh fish in our pockets things might have been different.

See him off in all those cattails?

Our trail followed the shore of a lake which is teeming with birds and wildlife. In the center of the lake is an island with a rookery, the tops of the trees filled with huge nests, inhabited year after year by a large group of herons

The heron condos are full up this year.

I need a longer lens to really get a good look, but you can see how fascinating it is to watch the comings and goings of the adults as they prepare for the arrival of the young ones. Later in the season it gets even more fun to watch the teenage birds try out their wings.

Maybe it was the noise at the rookery that sent that other heron off to stand among the weeds for a little peace and quiet. Understandable.

Heading out to get lunch. Or just to find a peaceful place for a nap.

Back on the boardwalk and almost back to the car we came across these guys.

Dancing to their own beat.

There were several of them all lined up, mostly staring up at the sky. I’m not sure if they were watching for the space shuttle to go by overhead, or were doing some sort of mating dance. Either way I enjoyed watching them. Look at all their colors shining in the sun!

And just so you don’t think we ignored anything without wings…

Thanks for the treat lady!

…here’s a couple of non-bird things we ran into. Not literally. Cause this guy is not someone I want to get that close to.

Whatever kind of snake this is, it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.

So now you’ve seen the most interesting things we saw yesterday. We were only going to be out there for a coupe of hours, but it was so much fun that we ended up staying well into the afternoon. It was a perfect way to spend a spring day.

Even though we didn’t spend it with our dogs.

Thanks for the grub ladies, come back any time!