Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Smiling on a hot summer evening

The county fair is back. The fairground is in my tiny town, a little over a mile from the house. When Katie and I camp in the backyard during fair week we can hear the monster trucks, the announcer, the fireworks, the roar of the crowd.

What do you think is the best part about a fair…the food? Or the rides?

The noise doesn’t bother me, it’s only for one week and it’s the epitome of summer in the midwest. I have so many memories of the county fair, not this one, but the one we used to go to when we were kids.

Food? Or rides?

Which pretty much is exactly like the one I wandered this week. Big barns full of rabbits, goats, chickens, cows, and sheep waiting with their young person for their turn in the ring to be judged. Another barn full of sewing, knitting, canning, flower arrangements, and artwork, each a project of some young person, some with ribbons already attached.

Maybe the best thing is the games, though nobody really wins anything. Do they?

I was a 4-H kid in the 60s. I knit, mostly because I hated sewing which seemed to be my other option. Each year I entered a misshappen sweater at the fair. I think sometimes I won a ribbon, but I don’t remember.

The excitment that only the young can experience on these things.

I also don’t remember riding the midway rides, though I’m sure we did. We probably had some number of rides budgeted. We sure didn’t have free reign to ride as many and as often as we wanted.

I bet their hearts were beating fast while they swung in the darkness.

This year I noticed that there were bracelets available that let you into everything at the fair. All the rides, the shows, and who knows what else. They were $25.00 each.

How many funnel cakes can you buy with $25?

I don’t think I’d be able to ride enough to make that purchase worthwhile. Not without throwing up at least once. And there’s no way my folks would have sprung for a wrist band, even if there had been such a thing back then, for all four of us kids.

The Sizzler sizzled into the night.

Nope, I’m sure we could pick out one ride that we wanted to do and that was probably it.

Maybe the best part of a fair is just spending time with your friends.

But I do remember a booth where you could drop paint onto a spinning canvas, then you got to take your creation home. I had that painting for years. That was probably 50 years ago and it’s the most vivid memory I have of the county fair growing up. It still makes me smile.

I think I could ride this one.

We don’t go to the county fair every year these days, even though it is right in our town. And of course last year there was no fair.

Or maybe not.

So it’s been a long time since I’ve gone. But this year it seemed like a celebration of the return of something fundamental, and I looked forward to going back for a walk around.

There’s no calories in cotten candy. Right?

Wednesday evening turned out to be the moment, and I arrived just as the sun was going down on a hot afternoon.

This ride might be safe for me.

Most of the families with little kids looked exhausted. Many of them were leaving, but the young people were just arriving. I was there to mess around with the camera once it got dark and the midway lit up.

At least you could get your vegetables.

It’s not a big fair, it takes only minutes to see everything. But with each round I made I saw different images. I should have had a tripod, but I didn’t want to haul anything extra.

Ride this one before you eat any of the fair food.

All of these shots were handheld, most of the time letting the camera choose the ISO. Sometimes I delibertaly made the exposure longer to blur the lights. That was the most fun, just to see what came through.

Add the moon and it was a pretty special night.

Mostly I was there to have some fun, just like all the rest of the folks standing in lines for rides and food. It’s just my idea of fun involves more about the camera and less hanging upside down from a midway attraction.

Round and around they go.

But if I was 50 years younger I might just have tried those flying swings. I think even my stomach could have handled that.

Best view at the fair.


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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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This week’s noisy smile

It’s been a crazy winter, right? Some parts of our country have seen snow where no snow is expected. Other parts are flooding, or fighting wildfires. I think we’ll all be glad to say goodbye to this winter, and for me, the first true sign that spring is right around the corner is the sound of the red-winged blackbird.

Hmmmmm…this peanut looks good.

It’s a distinctive cry that I haven’t heard around my house yet this year. Other people, not so far away from me, are hearing them already and have for awhile. My Facebook memories say that it was on this date when I heard them first last year.

I’ll just fluff myself up and let out my best territory protection scream. I’m sure the girls will be flocking to me in no time.

Today it’s too windy to hear much of anything here, but yesterday was a beautiful morning and I headed out to Kensington where I almost always find something beautiful or exciting or just fun.

I’ve picked out the perfect patch of cattails to build our home. Now I just need to find the perfect sweetie.

I found all of that in the massive flocks of red-winged blackbirds all screeching for a mate, while flocking to food, hanging on to swaying cattails, or flying up into trees to sing even louder. Their combined sound was almost overwhelming.

I can’t find the ladies anywhere! And trust me, I’ve looked!

But it sure made me smile!

I guess I’ll just keep singing.


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Don’t miss this waterfall!

On my drive north from Alabama last week I took a quick (or not so quick) detour 50 miles east of my route home to see Burgess Falls. Husband and I had been to see it several years ago in the middle of a summer when there was significantly less water flowing than this time of year.

A little waterfall on the hike back to the big one.

It rained hard the evening and night before I drove over to the falls, and it has been raining for months in the Southeast. There was a squishy walk of about a mile back to the falls. I didn’t mind, there were plenty of pretty things to see along the way. Plus I knew I had hours of driving ahead of me. A little walk would be just the thing.

Everything was damp and green and muddy.

The river was roaring, over it’s banks and moving fast. Just like all the other rivers I’d crossed the day before and would cross on my trek north.

My first clue that the waterfall would be ferocious.

I remembered, as I walked, our last visit to this park where we had trekked down a steep metal staircase, and then climbed over boulders to sit at the base of the falls. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be possible, judging from the volume of water rushing down the river.

And I was right. See those boulders and trees down there in the river? That’s an island and we sat on those rocks and watched people swimming in the pool below the waterfall.

So much water. And the noise!

You wouldn’t want to be out there now. Still, some steps led down ‘to the falls’ so I went down to see what was what.

Wonder what’s down there?

Personally I think those stairs should be closed. It leads you right to the top of the falls where it would be so easy to slip and fall into the raging river.

Teenagers throwing sticks into the water. I couldn’t watch.

I scurried right back up, and told the family at the top who were contemplating the trip down not to do it, it wasn’t worth the climb, and it was too dangerous for their kids.

Other than that I enjoyed my brief time at the falls, and I’d go back again when some of the water dries up. I’m sure there will be plenty of repair work to do before it’s safe to go down to the bottom again.

It was worth getting a little muddy.

Regardless of the water flow this is one stunning waterfall and worth a detour to see it! And I got to see a few barns on the way over there.

Couldn’t resist stopping for this one.

And some more cows.

Cows and their barn.

So even though it added a few hours to my trip home I think it was all worth it. That’s the best part about a road trip –turning left instead of right once in awhile.

Such a pretty place, Tennessee.


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Smiling

Things are beginning to get back to normal here. At least as far as Katie is concerned.

If this is all the snow around here, it must be spring…right mama?

She and I went for a walk at her favorite park this afternoon. She hadn’t been there in more than a month.

Are you going to carry me across this big, cold puddle?

We had sunshine, but it was still chilly out. Just the way she likes it.

I guess maybe it’s not quite spring after all.

I’m pretty sure, when she wasn’t busy sniffing out the best smells, she was smiling.

I sure love my park!

So was I.

Can’t beat a walk in my park!


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Torn

I’m back in Michigan, and it’s lovely here, with sun and blue sky, a bit of white snow left on the ground. It might get to 50F this afternoon.

My last night at the lake the sky finally cooperated and provided a worthy sunset.

Still.

The fact that it was a foggy morning made it somewhat easier to leave.

In Alabama it was beginning to warm up too, daffodils were blooming, and when the sun broke through the rain clouds we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s.

For weeks, this trip, I passed this field and remembered one year when cows where there and how photogenic the spot was. But I never saw any cows there until the day I was leaving town.

My last day in Alabama I sat on the deck and enjoyed listening to the birds singing. The brown thrush were chasing each other around the yard. Blue birds were flitting everywhere. Robins sang in the morning and ducks and geese gathered in the lake.

I took tiny little two lane roads that curled through the mountains as I headed north. The better to find interesting things to photograph.

It would have been wonderful, after almost a full month of rain, to sit there for a few more days.

There were a lot of interesting places along the way.

Still.

You don’t always have to have a structure to make an image interesting. Especially with fog.

My husband and my Katie-girl were in Michigan and I’d been gone a long time. I felt somewhat guilty lounging around in the South while my husband dog-sat the demanding princess.

So many old, abandoned homesteads tucked in the hills.

Still.

I think about all the families whose dreams moved on to somewhere else.

My sister and brother are in the South and I hadn’t seen either of them in more than two years, so it was great to spend weekends with them, painting with my sister, going on a boat ride with my brother. It would have been nice to stick around and spend more time with them.

So many barns hanging on.

Still.

So many decisions to make.

My girl, who lives in the moment, had spent enough moments without her mama. She must have felt like she’d never see me again.

A high point in Alabama. Plus the sun started to break through the fog.

Still.

Lots of barns still in use.

There were more adventures to be had in the south.

I turned around to get this, because of the car.

Still.

A cozy barn nestled in the hills.

There are adventures to be had in the north too.

Solidly facing a new day.

So here I am, enjoying sunshine while wearing a coat, tickling the princess tummy, feeding my birds, watching the squirrels. And it’s good.

Some grey barns are by design, not by age.

Still….

Photos in this post are from my last evening at the lake, and my drive north.

Kinda missing this place now.


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Smiling?

I’m still driving home from my month in Alabama. I should be home tomorrow afternoon.

Walking on the Gulf of Mexico beach early in the morning.

Today I left a friend’s house in TN a bit later than I might have had I stayed in a hotel, but it was so much fun to visit that I didn’t mind. And then I took a 3 hour detour in the wrong direction so that I could see a big waterfall.

Sunset at our lake house.

Which I saw, but the pictures of which are still on my camera and I don’t have time to download them tonight, my last night on the road.

Sun making water sparkle.

I’m not even totally sure what day it is…or whether I posted a ‘smile’ post this week.

A long walk in a wildlife preserve.

So in case I did not, which is highly likely, here are a few things that made me smile this week!

Light in general.


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Evening surprise

I wasn’t going to go down to the Gulf Shores beach to watch last night’s sunset because I figured it would be the same as the night before. The day’s sky had been a similar, boring and cloudless blue after all.

But just to be sure I took the camera out to the beach balcony here on the 5th floor of my hotel. And saw this.

Where did those clouds come from?

Uh oh, I better get out there, this could be good!

Looking east with the sun at my back.

In the end the sky wasn’t spectacular, but the subtle colors were.

My favorite shot. Look at those colors!

So I enjoyed my last night on the beach, reveling in the 60 something degrees, the gently rolling waves, the moon being quietly swallowed up by clouds.

The pelicans were enjoying the evening too.

I’ve got so many photos to show you from my two days here, but nothing as crazy beautiful as that last night on the beach.

That’s a wrap on a good mini vacation.

So that’s what you get to see. If I get to the rest, you’ll see more, but I sure didn’t want you to miss that sunset!