Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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VanGogh in America

I got to see the VanGogh exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Art Wednesday, thanks to a friend who had tickets. Given the show is sold out I feel very lucky.

We’re here!!!

My husband, two friends and I drove down to Detroit in the morning, a few hours before our ticketed time to view the VanGoghs. We wanted to wander the rest of the museum first because there’s so much to see there.

Waiting behind the Q-line to turn into the parking lot for the DIA.

We saw a lot of really interesting and pretty stuff in the couple of hours that we wandered the other galleries.

Mother and child, one of several we saw during our visit.

There were a lot of sculptures, many of them were Mary and child. But there were others as well.

In the middle of a room, surrounded by huge paintings stood a pensive Abe.

And of course lots and lots of paintings, from different periods of time and from all over the world.

I loved the light in this, and his face as he looks at the image of someone he loved.

We visited one of my favorites, which turned out to be one of my friend’s favorites as well.

This is a wedding dance, with so much going on that you could stand in front of it for a long time and see more and more.

But we were there to see VanGogh, or Vincent as he signed his work, so I’ll show you a few of those.

This one, the Novel Reader, is involved in a court case to determine just who owns it. You may have seen that story in the news.

Most of his famous pieces were there, but I was just as interested in those pieces I hadn’t seen before.

This one, called The Picnic, reminded me of my parents who went on a picnic for their first date and have a photo very similar to this painting.

Some were small, in different mediums that his big oil canvases.

This was the only watercolor I saw in the show.

But of course there were a lot of large oils as well, including this one that isn’t what you think.

Called Starry Night, different than the other starry painting we’ve seen so often.

I loved the rows of trees in this one, they reminded me of the olive orchards in Italy. Turns out they were olive trees in France outside the hospital where he lived for a year.

I loved the blues and greens with the hint of red, all tied into the trees and shadows and movement in this one called The Oliver Trees.

I loved the faces he painted as well. I could sit and study them for hours.

He couldn’t afford to pay for models, so he painted himself, more than 40 times.

But of course we had to move along, there were plenty of people waiting behind us.

Another of my favorites, called A Pair of Boots. I have a photograph of my husband’s boots on the porch that I’ve thought about painting…

The whole thing was just so much fun.

So much to see…

Thanks to my friend for the tickets and to both friends and husband for the good company!

Called A Field of Poppies, this made me smile.


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Crane watching

While I was walking the boardwalk searching for the Queen I noticed these cranes through the bushes and across the road.

Is our lunch being delivered?

What were they watching, I wondered?

You gotta make sure you check both ways before you cross this road!

Oh. You wouldn’t think there’d be so much traffic on a cold mid-week afternoon.

That guy’s got skinny legs.

Don’t worry, no cranes (or runners) were injured in the capturing of these images.

Guess our lunch is delayed.

But I wonder if these guys don’t think it’s about time to head south?


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Misty-eyed Christmas Pops

Friday night we attended the Ann Arbor Symphony’s Christmas Pops at Hill Auditorium where I’ve enjoyed many AA Symphony concerts with my aunt. Friday my husband sat on one side of me but there was an empty seat on the other side.

I was lucky enough to hear Sleighride and Christmas Festival again, pieces I play every year with my own community band. I have to say I think CCB’s whip instrument was more effective than the one used Friday night, but having strings really makes those pieces extra wonderful.

At one point Silent Night was filling the auditorium, voices and instruments singing softly, the sound rising up to hover near the ceiling and I thought about my aunt and how she would have loved this concert. I wished she could be there, I could imagine her, dressed in holiday red, grinning back at me as we silently acknowledged just how good it all was.

I got sort of misty-eyed.

Then I noticed some movement in the lights up near the stage. One of the big round lights near the ceiling was flickering faintly. And, as I watched, it blinked. Twice.

And I grinned.

Because I knew right then and there that my aunt had figured out a new way to grin back at me. Merry Christmas, Aunt Becky, I think you had the best seat in the house.


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A little bit of Christmas

A friend and I got to visit the Meijer Sculpture Garden this week. The conservatory building was all decked out for Christmas, which is why we planned our visit.

There’s been lots of expansion to the building since I was there, notably a huge room with giant marble sculptures of faces on all four walls.

But the main attraction were the Christmas trees, each decorated as they might be countries from around the world.

They were all beautiful, and it was so much fun to stop and examine them.

All those trees, lined up or tucked into corners sure got me into the holiday spirit!

And then we wandered in the desert room, filled with catus and seasonal poinsettias…

…and the tropical room filled with jungle plants and more poinsettias….

…and watched a model train wander through a village filled with iconic Grand Rapids buildings made out of natural materials…

…surrounded by more poinsettias.

We even spent some time trying to figure out a couple of art installations.

Even after reading the notes on the wall we didn’t really get it. But it was fun trying.

We stopped at the gift shop, where I stared at a bag of marbles for a long time, remembering all the games we used to play back a few decades when I was in grade school. I still like the way marbles feel, and almost bought this bag, just for fun.

But I didn’t. We bought lunch instead and then headed home, taking the back roads the better to find some barns. Of course we found one…

.

..or two…

…or three.

So fun!

Thanks, Linda, for driving us around on our latest adventure. Let’s schedule the next one soon!


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A tale of two concerts

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and along with holiday lights and temporary lots filled with fragrant greens, there are holiday concerts happening in towns everywhere.

Thursday afternoon, while scrolling through Facebook I noticed an announcement for a community orchestra concert in a town just twenty minutes from me. I didn’t know the city of Fenton even had a community orchestra.

The concert was free. What did I have to lose?

Excited to hear the program.

Turns out it was nothing but a win for everyone that attended, both the musicians and those of us in the audience. A multi generational musical organization, much like my own Clarkston Community Band, the group had a wonderful, full, sound, and played a variety of music, some of which most of us recognized.

I couldn’t help but smile through the whole thing.

Was the performance perfect? Of course not. There were times intonation was off, a few, rare, wrong notes. A squeak. But I learned something. I learned that, as an audience member, these small errors didn’t ruin the experience. Each little blip disappeared under layers of beautiful sounds, the overall enthusiasm of the musicians and music director, and the obvious love and support from the people around me in the audience.

A large crowd turned out to support their local community orchestra.

I left the auditorium with a big smile on my face, humming Leroy Anderson’s Christmas Festival, something I’ve played multiple times, but had never heard while seated in an audience.

Testing the sound system in advance of our concert.

And on the drive home I thought about all the concerts I’ve played where I’ve been focused on the parts that didn’t go perfectly, felt bad afterwards because something had gone wrong. The reality is, for most in our audience, the overall experience at our concerts is probably good, maybe even great.

And if members of our audience leave our venue with smiles on their faces, maybe even humming a bit…well…then the concert was a success.

Making our audience smile.

My own Clarkston Community Band played our holiday concert Friday night. We had less than an optimal number of rehearsals, and though I practiced, I was still nervous. The nerves were well founded, as I lost my way on one piece of music, missing almost an entire page of music before I could join back in.

Santa shows up with the world’s largest whip slap percussion instrument!

But the reality is, one 2nd clarinet’s loss of concentration did not ruin the concert. Most likely no one but the clarinet playing next to me even knew. And the overall feeling of the evening was happy, fun, perhaps even joyful.

Sleigh Ride is guaranteed to make an audience smile. Especially with a whip that can be heard into the next county.

Cookies and cider at a reception for Santa afterward didn’t hurt either.

Smiles all around.

Happy Holidays, everyone! May all your days be warm and inviting and fun. And look around your community, there’s likely a group out there that would love to have you in the audience!

I guarantee you’ll be humming on the ride home.


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Chasing windy weather

Last week the weather people started talking about a wind advisory for Saturday. Lots and lots of strong wind, they said and I wondered if there would be big waves over on Michigan’s west coast.

Heading out to surf Lake Michigan’s waves.

I wondered if it would be worth driving over there to see. It’s a long drive, between 3 and 4 hours, depending on where I go. Still…it was going to be warm, unlike other drives I’ve made to see storms roll in.

St. Joseph lighthouse, taken from a safe place with a long lens.

So about 10 a.m. I made a snap decision, grabbed my camera and jumped in the car. Even on the way I wasn’t sure exactly where I’d go…but construction on the roads made the decision for me.

People NOT in a safe place on the other breakwater.

I ended up at St. Joseph Michigan, where I’d never visited before. I knew there was a lighthouse out on the end of a cement breakwater, and I was hoping to see big waves crashing over it.

A beautiful place with dunes and a big sandy beach.

But what I found was very different.

The wind was coming from the southwest, and just south of the lighthouse pier was another breakwater, which did what it was supposed to do, and broke up the waves before they reached the lighthouse. So…in reality it was sort of boring, even though the wind was blowing very hard and just as I left the rain began to whip sideways.

And then it started to rain.

I figured the trip was something of a bust…and was going to head back home when I decided to just stop by Grand Haven on the way (even though it isn’t exactly on the way home. At all.) for a sort of drive-by look to see what the waves were doing there.

Of course there was a barn waiting to be noticed along my way.

Well. Even though I’ve been to Grand Haven before, seen waves crashing there before, I was thrilled to see it again. The red lighthouse against a changing sky is always photogenic.

My first glimpse on Saturday of the iconic lighthouse under dark skies.

When you add white capped green waves, well, it’s just stunning.

Lake Michigan’s green, almost tropically colored water froths around the brilliant red building.

I don’t know how many images I took…but it was a lot. Sometimes I was just holding the shutter down while trying to stay upright in the gusting wind.

Wind gusts changed the image, always something photogenic.

I actually turned around to go back to the car a couple times then turned back because it was so mesmerizing.

I was not alone out there on the beach!

I tried to find different angles, moving up and down the beach…running away from the water whenever a rogue wave slid up the sand overcoming where I’d just been standing.

Standing safe behind the rocks at the base of the breakwater.

The sun actually peeked out for a brief moment just as I was leaving, so of course I stayed. But the wind was getting stronger and I had plenty of images.

A bit of sunshine makes the lighthouse glow.

Luckily I was inside the car when a huge burst of wind began throwing sand around and people began running for their vehicles.

The dark clouds moved off to the east.

I smiled all the way home, even though I arrived long after dark.

Was it worth the drive?

Nice place to walk the dog.

Oh yea.


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What to send?

The library here hosts a photography contest every fall. Residents of our township submit up to three 8×10 images which are numbered and affixed to big display boards.

#1

We have the month of September to submit photos. Then they are on display at the library through the end of October.

#2

People get to vote on their favorite. There’s an adult and a kids division.

#3

The only rule is that the images have to have been taken in our township.

#4

I love looking at all the pictures. Lots of times I think, “darn! I’ve seen that exact image and always thought I should stop and take a picture!”

#5

The first year I submitted three images, things I thought were artsy, interesting, technically good.

#6

I realized right away when I saw which images won that the people voting are not judging skills, but rather are voting with their hearts on things that touched them.

#7

So I changed my strategy and tried to see my photos from a casual observer’s point of view.

#8

What would catch someone’s eye? Make them smile or even laugh?

#9

What image would make them come back and look again?

#10

All of these photos are from around my yard. You’ve seen most of them before. I have to pick three.

#11

What’s your vote?


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A Shiawassee walk in the park

My sister is visiting from out of town and we’ve been busy exploring. I took her to Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge one very early morning a couple weeks ago.

A pretty pink early morning light gilded everything.

I hadn’t been there in mid-summer before, preferring migration season, when the cranes are coming and going, but you never know what you’ll see on any given day. We arrived at the park before the sun was up, and it seemed pretty quiet.

Almost boring.

Here comes the sun.

I was feeling kind of disappointed that nothing seemed to be flying when suddenly the sound of wings came up from our right, moved directly overhead and then off into the distance to our left.

All those little black dots are birds.

I don’t know what kind of birds they were, they were just black silhouettes, but thousands of smallish dark shapes flew by, heading out for breakfast and their day in the sun.

It was pretty cool.

A chilly start to our bird-watching day.

Then we hopped back in the car and started down Wildlife Drive where, once again, I didn’t initially see anything interesting Though there was this beautiful field of something, glowing in the early light.

This reminded me of the tulip fields in Holland though of course it wasn’t.

And as I was standing outside of the car taking that photo these guys rose up with a ruckus from the ditch right next to me.

It’s hard to have a peaceful morning when people keep stopping to stare at us.”

And a little further up the road we disturbed this blue heron. I loved his long legs as he took off.

Lift off!

He was less than thrilled with us…

“Darn humans anyway.”

…so we moved on down the road.

No one out there but us and the wildlife.

At the next corner I saw an adorable duck. So of course we stopped.

There’s a duck under there. Somewhere.

Turns out he was some kind of diving duck, and the best image I grabbed of him wasn’t him at all.

And then right after the duck was a juvenile eagle hanging out in a tree.

“I’m not going to look at you, ladies.”

The light wasn’t really right to get a great shot of him, so I started looking around at what else was waiting to be photographed and found my artsy-fartsy image of the day.

The morning’s art piece.

I don’t know why the line of dead trees caught my eye, but something about it demanded to be captured. So I did.

Then we ran across something of a bird flasher. He seemed intent on showing off everything he had. Or maybe he was just drying off from a morning swim.

“Geeze, ladies, if you don’t want to see, don’t look.”

And while we were watching him my sister saw a bit of gold flitting around in a stand of thistle.

Hanging upside down to get the best thistle seed fresh from the blossom.

I spent a long time getting an image of him eating out in nature what I usually see goldfinches eating from my feeder at home.

These ducks were swimming as if they had some sort of mission to achieve somewhere else. I have no idea what kind of duck they are. Looking in my Michigan bird book I wonder if maybe they are female wood ducks? Or maybe juveniles.

“We might have red eyes, but we’re not hung over.”

And this family of ducks were adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before either.

I think mama is on the right and the other 3 are babies.

But the bird that made me smile the widest was this guy. We’d been watching, through binoculars, a couple of bald eagles perched in a tree very far away when I happened to glance to my left and saw this:

“Just minding my own business, nothing to see here.”

There was an adult bald eagle in the top of a tree much closer to us. Still far away, but much closer than those eagles across the field.

Heavily cropped image.

We spent a long time taking shots of him, as I was struggling with my focus all day. I kept trying, manually adjusting, trying to find a place to prop my long lens because I was worried about camera shake.

“Keeping a watch on you ladies is a full time job!”

My glasses were fogging up and sliding off my nose which irritated me so I put them on top of my head and then realized I couldn’t tell if anything was in focus without them. I decided to trust the lens.

Eventually I figured, what the heck, I’d try to move closer to him. I walked, under cover of the tree line toward him, moving slowly and as quietly as I could given the gravel road. I couldn’t tell if he was watching me.

“Really lady. I’m an eagle. I’m where the term eagle eyes comes from.”

I caught a bit of him through the trees then tried to move out into the open to get an unobscured shot. But he wasn’t having any of it, and that was the end of that.

I’m outta here.”

But man that was fun.

We were nearing the end of Wildlife Drive, but there was still a bit more to see. We’d noticed monarch butterflies all morning, flitting among the milkweed, wings glowing in the early morning sun.

Nom nom nom.

And now that the sun was higher warming the air we noticed even more.

I loved the colors in this shot, the butterfly and the background too.

Having not learned my lesson with the egrets, the heron, the diving duck, and the eagle, I tried to move around the butterfly to get a better angle.

“I’m outta here.”

But he wasn’t having it and that was the end of that.

Ah well.

Turns out there was so much to see along the road that had initially looked empty, and just before we left the Refuge we saw one more image that made us smile.

” Hey look Clyde, there’s another car full of camera happy fools. I swear we should start charging a fee.

I know it’s not easy being green, but these guys seemed pretty comfortable in their own skins. Or should I say shells. At least they didn’t take off when I took their picture. Maybe because I shot it from the car window.

I can learn, contrary to what Katie always used to say, yes I can.


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Two opportunists or just one con-bird?

I was back out at Kensington this week, on a dreary and damp Wednesday morning. The birds were overjoyed to see us. And of course I have loads of images. Some are quite good.

But my question today is about one particular little bird. Or perhaps two.

We were still very near the nature center when a rose-breasted grosbeak demanded a treat. This is the first year I’ve ever seen a grosbeak come in for a hand held treat. But these days I often see, on Facebook, a picture of one enjoying himself. It kind of looks like the same bird I’ve fed out there.

And I wonder if there is only one that comes in to eat our treats, or if the entire rose-breasted population has figured out the secret.

So here’s the bird that ate from our hand near the nature center.

And here’s the bird that flew down from a high branch of a dead tree to get the last of the snacks just before we left for the day.

What do you think? Is it the same bird? Or did we have two hungry birds begging for attention?

Inquiring birders want to know.