Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Katie does Walktober

Katie here. Am I first? Huh? Huh? Am I? Huh? I bet I am! If so I deserve a treat and if not it’s mama’s fault and I should get a treat anyway. I am, after all, a princess.

I think this pumpkin looks a lot like a Walktober gourd, don’t you?

So I told mama that I wanted to do my own Walktober and she said I couldn’t go out and do it all alone. She said she had to go with me. I don’t think that’s fair, she goes for walks by herself all the time. I think she’s just trying to horn in on my walk, but since I don’t have my driver’s license, and I wanted to do a Walktober somewhere besides my own backyard, I had to let her take me.

Here I am in front of a great smelling restaurant.

At first I thought she pulled an epic failure. She didn’t take me to a park! She took me to a town! When she got me out of the car I was shaking cause I knew it wasn’t any of my parks and I thought maybe we were going to the vet or the groomer or maybe even camp!

Mama’s been known to be sneaky that way.

But no, she took me to this little town that always dresses up with pretty fall arrangements. Including a huge pumpkin.

Isn’t this just the coolest pumpkin? It compliments my colors too!

Mama likes to take my picture with it, and this year I even stood on a little bale of hay for her. I don’t usually like standing on top of little things, so she was real impressed with me. I got double treats for that. Score!

Mama thought these were pretty. I thought they were boring.

Then we walked down the street to see what else was pretty. That’s where the Walktober comes in. It’s a real nice downtown, with lots of cute stores.

A lot of the stores had their doors open and I tried to go into every single one of them. I don’t know what the heck was wrong with mama, she kept saying “No baby, you can’t go in there.” She didn’t even try to get me inside and some of them smelled real good! Mama is a loser.

When we turned around I figured that was it for my Walktober and I was quite disappointed to say the least. I gave mama the stink eye in several of the photos she tried to get.

Really mother? THIS is a ‘walk?’

And I did my best never to look at her while she waved her hand around and called my name. That usually makes her give up and take me home. I was sort of glad when the photo shoot was over and I took a nap in my car on the way home.

But imagine how surprised I was when she opened the door and we were at one of my favorite parks! I secretly think she felt bad about me not having a good time in town. All those people walking by and noisy trucks and cars on the roads made me nervous. So I guess she figured she owed me.

Hey! It’s one of my parks!

She was right.

I even got to run around off leash because nobody else was out there! Boy oh boy it felt so good to run, especially since we got cold weather that day!

This feels so GOOD!

It was my kind of day at the park, cold and windy. Perfect!

A cool breeze, perfect for a Walktober!

I didn’t even mind posing for her on the sledding hill that was all green and beautiful. I got lots of treats and the wind in my fur. We walked for a long time.

This is the toboggan run. It looks beautiful in winter too.

It was all good. Well, mostly all good. There was this one time when I was sitting on the sledding hill and the sun came out and mama said the tips of my furs lit up like a halo and she was trying to get the shot and the stupid memory card was full. That wasn’t such a great moment.

Oh and I guess since this is a Walktober I should at least show you that we have a little bit of fall color. Not a whole lot, but we found some to share with you.

See? We found a little color for you!

All in all I had a pretty good day with mama, going on my very own Walktober. I want to thank Miss Robin for hosting the walk, and mama for taking me and providing bribes treats.

And my advice to all of you that are planning your own Walktobers? Make sure your memory card has a whole lot of memory left. Cause you’re going to need it to capture the pretty places you’ll be sharing with us!

I think we should come back next week mama!

We can’t wait to see what you all come up with. Mama says she’s going to do one by herself, but I don’t see how it could top this one unless she’s going to run down a hill too, but that would be copying.

Try to think outside the box mama.

Talk later, your park guide Katie-girl.


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Magic

Saturday night was the Ann Arbor Symphony’s first concert of the new season. If you weren’t there you missed something pretty special.

Beautiful music in a beautiful venue.

It started out with the premiere playing of Ann Arbor Saturday, by composer William Bolcom. The piece was commissioned for the symphony and depicted Ann Arbor on a football game day, from the initial flow of cars coming into the quiet town to the intense game itself, with the University of Michigan finally coming out on top. Of course.

Along the way it pays homage to other universities with bits of their fight songs woven into the main themes. The audience, most staunch supporters of University of Michigan football got all the jokes and nuances. Being a Michigan State graduate myself, I guessed at some of them, but thoroughly enjoyed the music.

And we heard Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (in honor of the symphony’s 90 anniversary), “From the New World.” It was accompanied by visuals, shown on a huge screen hanging above the musicians, of landscape photographs and videos depicting the natural beauty of this country.

There are four movements. My favorite, musically, is movement number two, the Largo. The spiritual “Going Home” was adapted from this movement and every time I hear it I get teary thinking about my parents and wishing they were coming home even though I know they are, now, truly home.

At the end of the piece there was a long moment of silence as the maestro and his symphony orchestra shared that connection of a piece well done. Then they stirred and the audience stood and applauded to acknowledge the beauty of the entire experience.

But the biggest, most magical moments of the evening occurred during Aaron Diehl‘s performance of two Gershwin pieces, I Got Rhythm” Variations and Rhapsody in Blue. He’s a jazz pianist who improvised during the cadenzas, those parts of the music where only the piano played. Maestro Lipsky said, during the lecture prior to the performance, that his blood pressure was higher than normal during rehearsals of this piece because “I have no idea when or how Aaron is going to come out of the cadenzas. Each rehearsal has been different.” And as the music unfurled above us, rollicking, bouncing off the walls and ceiling of Hill Auditorium, you could see both Lipsky and members of the orchestra listening intently, waiting for the cue to come back in as Diehl’s fingers flew over the piano keys.

I was lucky enough to have a seat in the hall where I could see the artist’s face as well as his hands. He exuded pure, sweet joy that manifested itself into magic that flowed from his fingers and into all our hearts. His hands moved so fast it’s a wonder that, by the end of Rhapsody, the keys hadn’t all but melted. And speaking of Rhapsody – be still my heart – the clarinet in the beginning of the piece almost made me swoon.

Both pieces were extraordinary. And as the second one was coming to an end you could feel the anticipation building in the audience. We were on our feet cheering before he lifted his hands from the keyboard, before the last note had a chance to fade. The sound from the audience exploded with a noise so loud I’m surprised we didn’t make the evening news. You’d have thought someone had just kicked the winning field goal in a championship football game.

So I guess Ann Arbor won twice yesterday. The football team did, in fact, win their game. And music lovers who were lucky enough to be sitting in Hill Auditorium won too. Thanks Ann Arbor Symphony, for giving us, yet again, a wonderful gift.

I haven’t stopped smiling.

A little night glow.


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How to smash a whole lot of stuff into one weekend.

I’m retired, so one day is pretty much like another. Weekends have no real significance, and Monday is now my favorite day of the week because most of you go back to work and I don’t have to.

Welcome to the 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise!

I know. That’s just cruel.

But then again sometimes weekends are filled with so many fun things that I actually am sorry to see them end. Like this past one.

It started out with me volunteering on a campaign for a woman who is running for Congress in my district. Our district has been represented in Congress by one party for as far back as I can remember. This year there’s a serious contender, a woman with military experience, who has worked for the Pentagon and was willing to sit with my husband and I for over an hour discussing truck safety issues.

It’s unique.

She’s got my vote.

So, though I am not political and have never worked on a campaign before, Saturday morning found me sitting in a small stuffy room with several other people my age, all of us peering through our bifocals at our laptops as a young campaign worker explained the data entry project we volunteered to help with.

Good to have a matching umbrella to ward off the sun.

She was so patient with us as we fumbled through connecting to their WiFi, stumbled over the password, then tried to understand the data entry program. Never once did she roll her eyes, though I have to admit I did at least once.

Lots of color and detail.

Turns out she had just graduated from high school, and was taking a gap year before she went to college just to work on this campaign. Amazing. She was nineteen and had the ability to make us not feel stupid when we asked questions as we worked through the huge pile of reports filed with information from volunteers out canvasing neighborhoods.

It wasn’t restricted to just cars.

Her enthusiasm was contagious and we willingly worked past the time we originally committed to get the job done.

And to reward myself for sitting in that small room straining my eyes for hours I took myself to the Woodward Dream Cruise that was happening in a town not so far away.

There was plenty for sale if you caught the car bug.

If you’re asking what that is, well, you’re not from around here.

In the old days, on Friday and Saturday nights the locals would drive their muscle cars up and down Woodward Avenue, through and between several towns. These days, for one weekend every August, people come from all over the country, some bringing their antique muscle cars, to do the same.

Muscle from the old days.

The streets are lined with people who enjoy watching the beautiful cars go by. Parking lots are filled with more of the vehicles.

Lots of money in this lot next door to the Porsche dealership.

They’re everywhere.

Back in the neighborhood a few blocks away from the main drag.

I fell in love with this pair of vehicles.

There’s a sort of elegance that most cars today lack. I guess we’re more functional and less stylish these days.

I enjoyed wandering around, though I walked less than one mile down Woodward Avenue, and spent maybe an hour there. I loved taking pictures of old cars, the lines so beautiful, the colors so vibrant.

Hard to miss this one!

Anyway. That was Saturday. Sunday a college friend and I went kayaking at my favorite park.

Spending Sunday morning on a lake. Perfect.

We rented kayaks there, for only $8 an hour. We told the (very) young lady there we’d be out for an hour at most, after all we were old. She smiled politely.

Pretty.

We were out for 2 hours and I’m not even sore this morning. Pretty good for a couple of old broads!

Two hours later the skies began to cloud.

And I slept out in the backyard in the tent all weekend too, getting geared up to take at least one camping trip this summer…before summer slides away!

Katie says she hasn’t gone on one camping trip all summer. She says that’s unacceptable. I have to agree.

Stay tuned.

These looked fun too, maybe next time!


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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Mirror images or reflections

Many years ago I was visiting a friend up in Northport, Michigan. We were out taking pictures, mostly in the woods and along the lake shore. But we also stopped in town where I noticed this interesting shop window and grabbed a shot without even leaving the car.

Can you find the reflection?


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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.