Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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All hail Queen Abby!

Katie here. Mama and I received very sad news last night. Our friend, the regal Queen Abby crossed the rainbow bridge yesterday. I was heartbroken when mama told me.

Queen Abby.

You might remember that I first met Abby a few years ago in Ann Arbor when we walked in the Arboretum together. We were both younger then, and we walked a long way!

This is fun!

Abby and I had so much fun! I noticed that though she was a little younger than me she carried herself with such grace, and looked so regal. I immediately decided she was a Queen. I’m sure you agree.

She was definitely royalty.

Then the moms got us together again, in a little park on an island in the Huron River. We had a beautiful day to explore, though we didn’t walk as much as we had before, we were getting older you know.

We were always willing to pose for our moms.

I so enjoyed my time with Abby. She was the perfect park explorer companion. We liked to walk together down paths and across fields.

Abby was a happy girl.

And we loved to sit together in the shade too.

Can you believe the moms want more pictures?

Abby was such a classy Queen. She never sniffed my private parts, and she never snapped at me, even when I was sniffing hers.

How you doing, girlfriend?

We got along like we’d always known each other. If we’d lived closer to each other I know we’d have turned out to be best friends.

The Queen surveying her park.

I think Abby was an old soul, you know? She was a wise, sweet girl who liked to go on adventures in a sedate sort of way. As befits royalty.

A Queen and her chariot.

And just like me, she was happy, no matter where she was, as long as she was hanging out with her mom. A wise girl indeed.

They loved each other so much.

We met again, our last walk together, just this past fall in another park. We hardly walked at all, but the moms found shady spots for us to sit and talk. We had a good time even though Abby couldn’t see very well anymore.

The Queen resting for a bit.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t know back then that it was my last visit with the Queen. I’d have been so sad, just like I’m sad now.

Content to sit near her mom.

I wish I could go on one more walk with her, but I know that when I cross the rainbow bridge Queen Abby will be there to welcome me and show me around. She’ll have her sight back, and we’ll both be able to hear again. And we’ll be able to run and bark and explore together forever!

We had a great view of the park from up here!

So, Queen Abby, please know how much I treasured our friendship. I know you have lots of friends and siblings at the bridge, but I hope you remember to keep an eye out for me. When I get there we’ll go on our royal walks once again, and everyone will be in awe of our combined beauty, just like they were when we were together down here.

Our last picture of the Queen.

Mama says she will always remember you too, and that little white patch on your behind. It makes her smile, she says, to remember you. Mama and I are keeping your folks in our heart. We know they will miss you forever.

The royal team and their shadows.

Run free, sweet Queen Abby. We sure will miss you Your Highness.

See you later sweet Abby.


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Masked magic

Our community band has been rehearsing since September for last night’s Christmas concert. It hasn’t been easy. As librarian I sit on the board and we met numerous times, over the long months when we couldn’t play together, to access the situation.

Getting ready.

When we finally could meet again it was under the strict rules of the school system whose buildings we use. Everyone needed to be masked, even when playing our instruments. The instruments themselves had to have bell covers. And our audience had to remain masked at all times too.

Last minute instructions.

This fall we polled our members, asking whether they felt comfortable playing together under these guidelines. About 50% of the band agreed to play. I agreed too, but with trepidation. I am still uneasy being around other people in a closed space. Even if we are all masked up.

A special guest arrives.

But we all tried to be careful, and it was so good to make music again. Even if we sounded a bit ragged, given all the parts weren’t covered. Even though we only had one poor lonely percussionist, and holiday music is full of percussion!

Some rehearsals made me wonder if we’d get our stuff together in time.

We were lucky to have some high school players come in at the last moment to help us. Lots of percussionists, three clarinetists, and several others helped fill in the holes and our sound filled out.

Sleigh Ride isn’t right unless Santa conducts.

And, as is usual in community bands, when everyone shows up for the concert we show up focused, and we played so much better last night than at any one of our rehearsals.

You wouldn’t have been able to tell, because we were wearing masks, but I think every one of us was grinning by the end.

Making music is magic. We are so lucky that we were able to do that last night.

Thanks to our guest conductor, Paul!

The audience gave us a standing ovation. I don’t know if they were just anxious to leave, or glad to hear live music again after such a long break.

I think I’ll just assume they were grinning behind their masks too.


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Walktober 2021

As usual I had grand plans for Walktober. A place a couple of hours away was calling my name, but also as usual life got in the way and I can’t find a day when I can spend four hours to travel plus a couple hours of exploration.

So that adventure will have to wait for another time.

Pretty quiet at the heron rookery.

Meanwhile, it’s not that I haven’t had mini adventures right around here. Katie and I have wandered in plenty of parks this month. Any one of them would be a wonderful Walktober. But she already got to do her Walktober, and I wanted one of my own.

“Hey mama! I should be included in EVERY adventure!”

So I’ll share an adventure I recently had with a college friend I haven’t seen in many, many years. Since she retired from her career she’s become interested in birds; she’s joined birding groups online and is learning all kinds of cool things.

It was quiet enough to take a nap.

She’s seen my posts about the birds out at Kensington, and has never had a bird land on her hand before. She, like so many of you, wanted to experience that for herself. So we met out there on Wednesday.

So many choices.

I get such a kick, every time I take someone new out there, watching their face the first time a little bird lands on their hand. Every single person grins with such a quiet but intense joy.

Double the joy.

The little birds weigh next to nothing, they rest so lightly on the fingertips, you’re not sure they stopped there at all. It’s magic.

Grab and go.

So, we wandered the trails in the woods, stopping every time we heard the little ones chripping overhead, offering them special treats of peanuts and suet balls and black oilers.

I spent some time with the birds too.

Some of the birds were quite decisive, others took their time to select the perfect morsel.

“I think this seed will do.”

It was a wonderful walk in the woods, on a beautiful, perfect day. We even saw a bird new to both of us, a juvinile red headed woodpecker! We didn’t get a close look, but we saw him (or her?) flit through the trees several times.

Did you know a juvinile red headed woodpecker has a brown head? Me either.

What an extraordinary bird, so beautiful when it flies, with slashes of bright white across the back of it’s wings.

So even though I didn’t get to travel to the far-off park this time, I promise I’ll share it with you when I do. Maybe it will be in November. Maybe it will be in 2022.

The regulars were still in residence, even this late in the season.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to.

Thanks, Robin, for hosting this Walktober for all of us. It was wonderful to get out into the world and enjoy everything that October has to share.

“But next time make sure I get some treats too!”


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Adventuring

I’m off adventuring again. Mostly alone, though I did spend a day on a river with a college friend. But first, as most of my adventures go, I began with barns.

Because it’s hard to drive anywhere from my home without seeing at least one barn.

I was hoping to find yellow soybean fields, but mostly they’ve already gone brown. That was sad, but it was such a pretty day I couldn’t stay sad for long.

And eventually I made it to the river where I met a friend from way back in college, and she and her daughter and I paddled in the warm fall sunshine for a few hours.

It was totally unlike my previous times on this river when we had most of it to ourselves.

This time we were out on the river on a sunny fall weekend afternoon. There were lots of other people there too.

But we managed to make our way through the crowds of tube floaters and enjoyed people watching while we were paddling.

An interesting combination, a totally different vibe, but lots of fun regardless.

After we left the river we drove a few miles north to walk the Empire Bluffs trail. Turns out Empire was having some sort of car race. The little town was inundated with people and race cars.

It took us a long time to find a way to get to the trail, but once we did we enjoyed the scenic walk out to the bluffs.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived at the end of the trail, and we didn’t linger out there for long, but it was definitely worth the walk!

On the way back I got distracted by the low rays of sun glowing in the woods, spotlighting plants along the way.

We had a little bit of a drive to get to the hotel, though, so we moved along.

And then had dinner at The Painted Lady Saloon.

It was a pretty darn good day, and it definitely made me smile.


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Just too much

This morning when Katie-girl woke me at 4 a.m. to go outside I turned on the news to get the latest on hurricane Ida. I have a few friends in the path of the storm.

I watched a few minutes of roofs being torn off buildings and downed trees, utility poles snapped in half, blinding rain. My heart broke. Then the anchor turned to Afghanistan and the thirteen soldiers whose families are beginning their new normal and my heart broke again. And after that were images of the fires in the west. And then Corona virus hospitalization numbers.

After our storm last night.

I turned the television off.

Katie and I went back to bed. She fell asleep instantly, not burdened by worry. I lay there for awhile trying not to get sucked into despair.

But this morning, as I was fixing Katie’s breakfast (boiled chicken, white rice, Royal Canin kibble, green beans and pumpkin) I noted that the air felt fresher, the temperatures cooler than we’ve had in a very long time.

As she ate I went out to fill the birdfeeders.

Early morning of a fresh new day.

A little chickadee flitted around my head, waiting for his favorite feeder to be rehung. A hummingbird checked us both out, reminding me I needed to put fresh sugar water out too.

There was cool morning dew on the roses.

Ripe tomatoes were ready to be picked in the garden.

The sun was coming up and a kingfisher clattered through a beam of light, headed for the pond.

Yes, there are terrible, terrible things going on here at home and across the world. Yes today is a sad day, yesterday was a sad day, all of last week was terrible for so many people. Tomorrow might not be better.

But I am so lucky that when I take the time to look there is usually something good to find, even in the midst of just too much.

Watcha doing, mama?

And that makes me smile.


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Epic camping experience

Time is sliding by and I haven’t shared my wonderful camping experience from last week. And it would be a shame if you missed that because it was amazing and it definitely made me smile.

We were in sites C3 and C4.

You know that usually I camp alone with my Katie-girl, but this time Katie stayed home and I met a couple of friends at a campground on the Platt River, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The three of us had kayaked this river last fall, and checked the campground out back then.

The trail from the parking lot to our sites.

And one of my friends knew someone who told us about the walk-in sites which are even more beautiful because you’re not near anyone else. No one’s generator will be running all night. No listening to people partying around the campfire in the next site, because there’s so much space between them.

My campsite.

Plus, if you have to carry everything to your site you’re not apt to be partying late into the night! Trust me on this.

Our other site.

Our first afternoon one friend and I got tents set up on our two sites. We were at the end of the trail so no one else would be walking by. As it turns out, most of the time no one else was out there at all.

It was a short hike over the dunes to the lake.

Once we were set up we walked the .8 mile through some low sand dunes to the beach on Lake Michigan. It was a dark and pretty cold afternoon, but it was good to walk after our long drive to the campground. And you can’t beat the view once we got out to the shore!

A chilly afternoon for beach walking.

The next day we decided to take a hike on trails within the park, looking for three small lakes. We drove around on some narrow dirt roads and accidently ended up back at the beach, just further down from where we walked the day before. It was beautiful, but still kind of stormy with a threat of rain.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

Eventually we found the trailhead.

This looks inviting.

The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.

This was really tiny, but the bright color made us notice it all over the forest floor.

Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.

This ladyslipper was right next to the trail, just begging to be noticed.

We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.

Bass Lake, the smallest of the three lakes we walked around.

We continued on around the first lake; the trail led right through a deep, wet boggy place, with no option except to just get our feet soaking wet. We were compensated for that by seeing a beautiful, lush fern right there.

Worth the muddy feet.

We eventually found all three lakes as the rain continued. Of course I had left my raincoat in the car where it could stay nice and dry.

A little rain never hurt anything.

Ah well, we enjoyed seeing the woods and the flowers, and the lakes, and when we got back to our campsite our other camping friend was arriving!

Nature’s double yellow line.

We had a lovely dinner….

Yummy dinner coming up!

…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….

Did you hear something?

….and went to bed. During the night foxes yipped and owls hooted and we knew we were truly in the woods!

The next day we kayaked down the river again. We were looking forward to a nice easy paddle, but the wind picked up, and we had to work really hard across one long lake, and every time the river turned to the west into the wind.

Paddle harder!

By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!

A pretty amazing day.

But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.

Heading to the bluff.

And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.

A first peek through the trees.

But it was soooo windy by then it was hard to stand up on the bluffs and look at the view for long, so we drove down to another beach to watch a guy who was windsurfing.

Not easy to do!

And then we went to a diner and had a burger! It was my first restaurant experience since February of 2020. It was amazing.

Our last night at camp was windy with a big thunderstorm blowing over. Lightening and thunder and wind, the perfect ending to a perfect three days in norther Michigan!

Tucked in safe and dry.

We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.

Packing up always takes longer than setting up.

It took a bit of work, but it was definitely worth it to camp back in the woods away from everyone. We had so much fun, it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d do it again next week if I could.

One of many trips to the car.

Oh wait. Next week I’ll be camping in the Upper Peninsula. Not at a walk-in site, but it will be beautiful in a different sort of way.

Home sweet home.

Stay tuned.


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Remembering Ricky

Katie here.

Mama said I could get on her blog to tell you about my buddy Ricky who crossed the Rainbow Bridge last week. He was one of the original dogs with blogs, and mama found his blog years and years ago when we were all youngsters. There were a bunch of shelties with blogs back then — Ricky and Misty and Miley and Reilly and Ludo and Morgan.

Mama thinks there were more, but she can’t think straight when her eyes are leaking.

Anyway, we noticed Ricky right away because he was such a dapper little man. So much sophistication in such a little package. Mama likes to call him Little Ricky, because he was tiny.

But he had a big personality.

Ricky had fun with agility, but he liked to do it his way. His mom worked and worked to speed him up, but Ricky was his own guy and took those obstacles at a speed he deemed appropriate. Especially, as we remember, the dogwalk where he liked to survey the entire facility as he moved arcross the top. Ricky, always so elegant, never felt there was a need to hurry.

Ricky was really good at learning tricks too, and for a time he learned a new trick every week. His mom posted videos of his latest accomplishments and we were always so impressed! He learned to hold things in his mouth, and spin to the left and the right, to play dead, and so much more. He was so smart, and he made mama and lots of other people smile every week.

In fact, Ricky was something of a celebrity, he had so many people that enjoyed watching him learn new things. I told mama that we should try to meet him, and she said she’d see if she could arrange it. And guess what? I got to visit Ricky two times! It isn’t often that a girl from a small town gets to meet one of her idols in real life, you know?

In fact, visiting Ricky was one of my very first big adventures, cause they lived hours away from me and in a different state and everything! It was on a trip to visit Ricky that I proved to mama that I was a good traveler!

Ricky was such a gracious host. He shared his house and his people and his beautiful yard with me without any protest. He was such a cool dude, we got along great because we ignored each other most of the time. He didn’t even get mad when I drank out of his waterbowl!

He was so polite and nice to me that when we stayed over night at his house I decided to invite him into our bedroom (OK, it was really his room, but he let us stay there) to do obedience with mama and me so that he could get some treats from her too. Ricky really loved treats.

And that first visit he took me in his car to one of his parks! I was so excited! Ricky, of course, was too cool to be excited about a car ride with a silly girl.

It was a very very beautiful park with a little stream at the bottom of a big gorge. We walked and walked, with lots of sniffing thrown in. Wherever Ricky sniffed, I sniffed; he was sharing all the best stuff with me!

And when we climbed back out of the ravine there were beautiful gardens and we sat close to each other on this little wall so the moms could take pictures. He was much more patient than I was with the whole picture taking thing. This was way before I contracted with mama about the one picture, one treat clause, so we ended up sitting for way too many pictures for way too few treats. But Ricky never got upset.

He was such a special boy.

I visited him a second time, and by then he had a little sister who was, of course, bigger than he was. We all went to a park together again and had a wonderful time. Ricky was so patient with all the girls, his mom, my mama, his sister and me.

I am so sad that Ricky had to go on ahead. But I can imagine him exploring the whole place, and finding the best sniffing spots, and where all the good treats are. And I bet he’s found Ludo and Reilly and Denny and Morgan and Misty too by now. Just picture it, all those shelties running and laughing and enjoying snacks. All those sheltie smiles as they play together while they wait for the rest of us to arrive.

It’s got to be one amazing place, over the Rainbow Bridge. I wish he could have stayed here with his mom and dad and sister, but I know he’s happy there too. He may have been a little guy, but he sure shouldered a whole lot of love from all of us who knew him.

See you later, Little Ricky. I’m so glad I got to meet you, and I’ll never forget your friendship. You were and always will be one classy dude.

-Love, your pal forever, Katie.


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What matters in the end

Yesterday was Inauguration Day. Depending on where you stand it might have been a wonderful, uplifting day or it might have been a tragedy. I have thoughts about all that swirling around in my head – they may or may not spill out eventually.

But that’s not where my head or heart are today.

Because, you see, last night, after a day where the world focused on the big picture, after the sun set in a show we haven’t seen here in years, once the world went still, my neighbor left this earth quietly, his departure marked only by family.

The end of an extraordinary day.

I tell you this not because it was a tragedy, though they will miss him fiercely, but because it reminds me this morning of what is important. It’s not the arguments over real or imagined fears, it’s not the friendships destroyed by political influence, it’s not cabinet appointments or policy changes.

What’s important, really, are the relationships we all have, with our family members, with our friends, with our neighbors. Those are what need to be protected, those are fragile, those will not last forever. Those are what we must work on now.

Last night the birdhouse our neighbor made for us many years ago fell from it’s tree. And last night our neighbor broke free, no longer in pain, no longer confused, no longer in tears.

God speed Jack, Katie and I will miss sitting on your front porch in conversation, or near the end, in communal silence, watching the world go by. She looks toward your house when we’re out on walks and will still tug me toward your driveway. Thanks for always giving her an ear scratch. She’ll miss your, “Whatcha doing girl?”

So will I.


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Merry Christmas from our family to yours

We hope you all have a fabulous holiday, however you celebrate it. Our wish for everyone is that 2021 is a more peaceful, healthier year. We’ll do our part by wearing our mask and keeping our distance for as long as it takes, even though we are very sad not to be with family this year.

We are grateful for all your friendships, and look forward to continuing the adventure soon!

Happy cuteness from Michigan!


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Shenanigans on my deck

I’ve started putting some seed along the deck railing for the birds, and by default the squirrels.

The downside is that they are making a mess and I’ll have to go clean up after them soon. The upside is that they make me smile every day. And seriously, who doesn’t need a few smiles during these scary times?

We’ve been slowly getting over the virus, though both husband and I still have difficulty taking a deep breath.

I tried playing my clarinet a couple weeks ago but didn’t have the air to do it. Maybe that would have been the case after weeks of not playing anyway. Or maybe it’s the result of covid. It would probably be good respitory therapy to play a little every day even though it sounds, well, to be honest, bad.

I’ve been reading too much facebook, too many dog friends have crossed over the rainbow bridge lately. In particular, Sarah the bookstore dog, who I’ve met a few times and who was always glad of a head scritch and posed for me without demanding a treat. I will miss her.

And Nico, a sheltie I’ve never met in person but who showed up in my FB feed every morning with a greeting and sweet semi-worried face. I will miss him too. And the other shelties, so many, including Dallas and Dakota, I will miss hearing about all of them.

2020 has been a year of loss and I don’t suppose all that will just stop on New Years Day. But there are bird and squirrel shenanigans happening daily on my deck and there are vaccines on the way.

All told there is reason to hope. And even smile.