Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Cello Tales

A year ago, January 9th, 2019, I posted a list of fun stuff I hoped to do. Better than resolutions, these were things that I’d thought about doing over the years but just hadn’t accomplished.

Making a sound on a cello was one of my crazier ideas. It was so crazy in fact that I could never successfully explain just what I meant – or even why it was a thing for me.

A cello at rest.

Probably because I wasn’t even sure myself.

But as of Wednesday, one day short of a full year later, because of two lovely ladies who went out of their way to make my wish come true, I can check hugging a cello off my to-dream list.

Learning the basics, with Joan, our host, standing in the back and Carol with her cello.

And I’m not so sure I can find words to share the experience with you.

Joan got a lesson too.

Our host was a professor from my days at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. We’ve kept in touch off and on over the ten years since I graduated and last month she read about my cello hugging dream and knew that she could help me realize it.

Learning how to hold the bow.

She coordinated with a cello playing friend of hers who, it turns out, didn’t mind at all letting some novice stranger sit with her cello and hold her bow while making noises unrelated to music.

Carol was so patient.

There’s a lot to playing a cello. Two hands doing different things, one bulky instrument leaning against you, knees and arms encircling it’s girth. Fingers to grip the bow just so, relax the shoulder, movement from the elbow only, the angle of the bow on the strings, how the fingers of the left hand press down just from the tips. What to do with your left thumb.

Turns out Joan’s husband was a natural.

So much to remember.

But when I got everything right a low round tone would swell out of the instrument. Not as beautiful a sound as when our instructor played, but still pretty nice. And each time I played a clear note I could feel the sound reverberate right though my soul and fill me up.

Not quite a virtuoso, but smiling.

Amazing.

There was so much to remember that I couldn’t take my eyes off of my own hands to look at music. Which is just as well. Because, well, cello music!

I thought it was written in base clef and it often is. But when the notes get high enough it switches to treble clef! So you could be reading along and suddenly your brain would have to switch clefs? And to make it even more insane, there’s also a tenor and an alto clef!

Carol played for us after we were finished making noise on her cello.

I saw at least three clefs on one of the pieces of music she shared with us. The different clefs are needed because the cello has such a wide range of notes, from very low to quite high. All those notes won’t fit on any single staff…so the composer can just include several different clefs in a single piece, and those talented cello players deal with it.

Mind boggling.

The next time I’m enjoying cellos playing in the symphony or a quartet, or even in a DC subway, I’ll have a better understanding and admiration for their talents. The sounds are spectacular. The brains and hands of the artists are astounding.

Those fingers on the left hand had no clue what they were doing.

It was so much fun. I am indebted to the women who willingly shared their lives and time with me just so I could learn something about an instrument I have always admired. If everyone could hug a cello the world would be a better place, and I’m grateful to have had the experience.

I drove home in late afternoon sunshine under fat, purple bottomed clouds that were chasing a three quarter moon. I tried to pinpoint what the experience had felt like.

It felt round and strong and deep and soft, sort of like the golden light falling all around me as I drove.

It felt beautiful.

The moon rises over a wonder filled day.


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That stupendous things to do list from 2019

A few of you will remember that in January 2019 I put together a list of interesting, stupendous and fun stuff to do. Sort of like a list of resolutions but much more relaxed.

I’ll admit I only studied the list on occasion, never put together a process of reviewing it once a month, and never added anything to it during the year like I thought I might. In fact it sat on my dresser for several months and then, as with most resolution type things, it got covered up in the debris of every day life.

But I didn’t forget it, and I thought it might be interesting to see how many of the fun things I actually got to do last year!

2019 Interesting, Stupendous and Fun Things

*Visit the Point Betsie lighthouse in the winter to see the ice formations.
Thanks to a friend who got excited at this idea, got us a hotel room and drove, I headed north right away. It was fun and very very cold! Point Betsie is beautiful no matter what season, and we saw other beautiful things the next day too!

*Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (not in winter).
While I didn’t actually camp in the UP I did spend some time there this past September. We saw a whole lot of beautiful things before we headed up into Canada for our drive around Lake Superior. And last month I made two reservations for camp sites in the UP for this June. I can’t wait.

*Try acrylic painting.
I purchased a few colors and a few small canvases and I mooshed some paint around a couple times. That was fun. But it didn’t really seem like it was a good try. This year I think I need to make a space to work where I’m not afraid of making a mess. So this will stay on the 2020 list.

*Find someone willing to teach me what it’s like to make a sound on a cello.
This is the stupendous thing that is most difficult for me to explain to anyone. And it’s very dependent on being able to find someone to help me. The bad news is that I didn’t get this worked out in 2019. The wonderful news is that next week I have a date with a cello! One of my library school professors knows someone who is willing to let me hug her cello, and we’re all going to get together in Ann Arbor on Wednesday. It almost makes me tear up, and I can’t explain why. I hope I’ll have words to tell you all about it soon.

*Gain confidence on the new Nikon camera, and figure out what the optimum lens is.
This is another one that I’ve made some progress on, but couldn’t say that I’ve completed. I am definitely better with manual settings; I’ve been experimenting all year. Sometimes I think I’ve got it…and then often I have to figure it all out again. And more good news, I am taking a class from a professional photographer at the end of January that revolves around choosing lenses. I’m excited about that, and I’m sure you’ll hear more on this topic soon.

*Improve night photography skills.
Oh I have a blog post to write about this one. While we were in the UP in September the northern lights were predicted to appear. And we had the perfect location too. But you will note that you never heard about it…even though I have pictures to share. I think about posting them, and then I think….just another failure, and I’ve shown you so many night shots that weren’t what I was hoping for. Still…it makes a really good story and I suppose I should share. I’ll keep trying this year. In fact, those two UP campsites I booked were reserved specifically with the hope I have clear skies during the nights I’m there.

*Spend a week in the Southwest.
This didn’t happen. Mostly because I fell and injured both wrists a couple weeks before we thought we were going out there. And then we ended up traveling so much we couldn’t fit it in…and then I fell at the end of summer and broke my finger and was stuck here doing physical therapy. But it’s definitely on the 2020 list!

*Visit husband’s family in Norway.
This was our big trip of the year. You saw several posts from Norway – it’s a beautiful country and we only saw a tiny part. We’d like to go back and explore more.

*Walk the CRIM 10 mile race in August.
Well, I ran and walked it. I had fun right up till the last two blocks when I fell and broke my finger. I am debating whether to do it again this year.

*Spend a month or more in Alabama, invite friends to visit while I’m there.
It’s amazing, but I never made it to Alabama at all in 2019. The last time I was there was July of 2018. I just couldn’t seem to carve out enough time, between injuries and trips, to get there. But Alabama now a high priority for 2020!

*Look into the purchase of a 2nd kayak for the lake.
I’ve done a little looking but this is something I want to do when I’m down in Alabama, so I’ll just tag that onto the “get to Alabama soon!” bullet point.

*Read 50 books, and try at least one from a genre I don’t usually read.
According to Goodreads I read 66 books in 2019, though I don’t think I read any that were definitely different genres then my typical reading. I read a couple books written by women who had decided to give up coloring their hair and had let it go naturally grey. I’ve decided, after much thought, to do that too. So far I’m 3 months into it and it’s kind of making me nuts. I see my hair person next week for a trim, we’ll see if I’m still going grey after that.

*Ride my bike on some of the rail-to-trails around here, maybe a one day bike trip complete with lunch along the way, maybe with a local bike group.
I never did this. Never road my bike at all. This is very sad. I think I need to move it up in importance for 2020.

*Walk and photograph the Dequindre Cut here in Detroit.
Again, thanks to the same friend who went with me to Point Betsie, we explored the Dequindre Cut last spring. It was so much fun!

*Meetup with sheltie mom(s) for adventure.
In November Katie and I got to go for a walk with Abby, a sheltie-girl and her mom. They live a couple hours away and we met in the middle and had a lovely walk on one of the last nice days of fall. We hope to get together again, and I hope to meet with more shelties and their parents in 2020!

So…I got to do a lot of the fun stuff on my list…and missed getting a few others done by just a little. I’m debating if I should put together an official list stupendous things to do in 2020.

What are you planning on doing for fun in 2020? And do you think I need a list or should I just wing it?

I think you should have more stupendous things on your list that include me mama!


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The last smile post of 2019 plus Nancy’s photo challenge: Clouds

You wouldn’t think heavy weather would be the underlying reason for smiles. And unless you have a camera and a habit of watching the sky it probably isn’t.

The first image I got this morning.

This week’s smile comes to you in conjunction with Nancy’s weekly photo challenge where she asked for images of clouds.

I loved the gold of the shorn corn field against the navy of the angry sky.

Today’s post also comes to you compliments of high winds and a cold front that blew through Michigan today. I couldn’t resist grabbing the camera and heading north.

Sentry poles stand against the storm.

I was looking for open fields so that I could highlight the sky. And if I got a barn in the shot – well – that would be even better.

A flash of red had me stopping on the empty rural road.

I was traveling on roads unfamiliar to me, and the land just wasn’t opening up. I traveled through small town after small town, feeling frustrated as the clouds I chased were blowing away faster than I could drive.

And just as I was turning around, heading home, the sun came out.

But I kept driving and eventually I found the country dirt roads lined with big empty fields that I’d been looking for. And lucky me, a whole new batch of clouds obliged by posing over barns and fields alike.

Love the sun on the field and the white clouds overtaking that navy sky.

You can’t keep me from smiling when I’m on the hunt for barns and weather.

Thank you Trent and Nancy, for coordinating challenges that get me out, usually with my camera, but always noticing the world around me. The world is a better place when we stay open to the beauty and the smiles that surround us daily.

Happy New Year everyone!

Farms and clouds, both guaranteed to make me smile!


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My gift to me

You’d think that this week’s smile would center around Christmas day. A lot of people find that day the culmination of weeks of preparation, but for me, this year, I didn’t have to prepare much of anything. Which left Christmas Eve day open to do anything I wanted to do. Most of you can guess where I spent it.

And you’d be right if you guessed the woods.

Dried beech tree leaves are the only leaves still clinging to their branches.

Monday had been in the 50s (10C) and Katie and I enjoyed a long sunny walk. But Tuesday it was cold, the high temperatures only half of the day before, and of course I didn’t pay attention and was under-dressed. But once I got moving everything but that darn broken finger warmed right up.

I went out to Kensington, my favorite park and nature trails, on the hunt for something different. This is the park where the little birds come down and perch on people’s hands if they are offered seed. And I always love that experience, but I wanted to see what else was out there.

The bridge to the fun begins here.

Of course I wasn’t surprised when I stopped on a bridge not far from the car to change some settings on my camera and heard the familiar fluttering of wings near my head. A silly little downy woodpecker landed on the bridge railing and insisted that I give him something. No picture, because I wasn’t prepared, though I think he would have waited right there for me to get the camera settings right. Instead I just reached in my pocket (because of course I had something for him!) and handed him a peanut.

Little stinker didn’t even say thank you before he took off to enjoy his treat.

No snow around here at the moment.

I headed to the trails furthest away from the parking lot, trails that I had never explored before. I know that the further away you go from the parking lot and nature center the fewer little birds you’ll see or hear. They’re smart and hang out where most of the people wander. But the further away you go the fewer people you’ll run into and that was my goal, at least for the first part of my walk.

Moving further away from the crowds.

I did hear and see a big pileated woodpecker, he was sounding the alarm about me, I think. When I stood still and watched him he went back to pounding on a dead tree. He was too far away and directly into what sun there was, so no picture of him either.

I was OK with that, after all my goal wasn’t more bird pictures. No, I wanted to see what else was out there. And even if I didn’t see anything interesting, I was enjoying just being out in the woods.

Seed fluff, wonder why the birds don’t eat this?

There was a lot of interesting colors…

Would make cool wallpaper.

…and textures everywhere I looked.

Like it was knitted.


Not to mention the moss that was everywhere…

Fuzzy.

…just about every downed log had something growing on it.

A squirrel’s emerald highway.

After a bit I had the feeling I was being watched. Glancing over to my left I almost missed them. There are two faces watching me, do you see them?

Way over on that ridge, I’m being watched.

How about if I crop it?

Look to the left of the first face you see…there’s another peering between the trees.

The mama deer, laying down and chewing her cud just like a cow, watched me watch her. She didn’t move as I took off my backpack, changed the lens on my camera, and took a shot.

Guess I’m not very scary.

She just kept chewing. Eventually I noticed there was a whole herd of deer just over the ridge. They were all watching me, but none of them ran as I moved away.

After that sighting I was headed back toward the nature center, but I didn’t want the fun to end, so I connected with another trail, one I’ve been on many times. It was late in the day now and I didn’t expect to see much.

I was reminding myself that once, right along this trail, I came across a huge flock of turkeys. I glanced over to my right and saw what looked like, from far away, three stumps. Could it be?

Three turkeys were asleep, lined up on a log.

Don’t bother us lady, we were sleeping here!

The trail was going to take me about 2 feet from their log. I kept taking pictures because I was sure they were going to wake up and move away. They did, indeed, wake up, but they never moved. Three sets of eyes watched me walk past them.

And then they tucked their heads back under their wings and went to sleep.

Boy, it’s sure hard to get rest around here! (Notice way to the right, the turkey assigned to guard duty shirking his responsibilities.)

Then, as I got closer to the parking lot the little birds started hovering. If I stood still getting a shot of anything they flew down to see if I had a treat.

I changed the camera settings and had some fun. These aren’t great shots, but they show the frenzy that can happen when the birds are hungry.

Two at once!

The shots I find most interesting are the ones that show movement. I couldn’t tell what I had until I got home and looked at them on a bigger screen. They aren’t what I was hoping for, but they do give me ideas of how to tweak things to get more of the bird in focus.

All this wing movement would be fun to capture with the head more in focus.

I think I will try shutter speed priority, and set the shutter speed way high, then adjust the rest of the settings to support that. I’d also like more of the bird to be in focus, so that means a higher Fstop too. I have a camera that will allow some of these extreme settings…so it’s worth a try!

And of course I did get a few images of birds in focus. Like this titmouse. Look how elegantly perfect he is! The feet are extraordinary, and the wings are just beautiful.

Perfect!

So I’ll be back. On my way out to the trails I passed a squirrel in a tree enjoying his breakfast. An hour later he was still there, still munching away.

Nom nom nom…

I guess to get the bird shots I want I’ll have to be just as methodical and persistent as this little guy.

I have high expectations for success soon.


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Birthday girl is all smiles

Katie here,

Guess what, guess what, GUESS WHAT?!

Today is my birthday! My very own special day when my folks have to pay attention to me! When I get whatever I want. Like to go to the park, and then take a nap and then have cake and ice cream. With presents!

We went for a walk earlier this week. But this wasn’t my birthday walk.

Well, maybe not the cake and ice cream, and maybe not presents either, but definitely the park and the nap! And because it’s my birthday mama says I can use her “Weekly smile” post too. Cause there’s nothing so easy to smile at as a happy sheltie-girl.

Mama, you’re being silly now.

And let me tell you, this birthday girl is happy!

Cause you know what mama got me for my birthday? She got me SNOW!

My birthday walk today was special cause it was snowing!

I just love snow. It’s so cool on my face, and enhances my natural beauty. Mama said she didn’t know what to get me, I’m now a teenager in addition to being a princess, so she ordered up my favorite thing next to supper. Snow.

We had this part of the park all to ourselves.

We went out to one of my parks and walked a long way through the woods. Mama was very busy taking pictures of me in my snow.

This is my supermodel pose.

I didn’t mind because she brought treats. In fact I started looking for good spots for pictures too. I figured the more pictures she took the more treats I got!

This tree trunk is pretty cool, mama, and I look good next to it.

But then mama said since it was my birthday she’d put the camera away and we’d just enjoy the walk. I was OK with that too, there was lots to sniff and I pulled her around to a bunch of places.

I’d look over in one direction and she’d say “Do you want to go check that out sweetie?” and then we would! It was a great morning! We just kept exploring.

We were near some picnic tables when mama asked me if I wanted to be a special birthday girl and leave something for someone else more needy than me. I said sure, so she left some birdseed for the squirrels who were running around the park.

I hope you enjoy this squirrels! Happy birthday to me!

I figured it was the least I could do, cause I know I’m pretty privileged.

We walked for a long time. And then something amazing happened. The sun came out!

The sun smiled down on me, perfect for my birthday walk.

Well! The camera came back out, right away. Mama said I glowed like a true princess! But the sun only stayed out for a moment or two and then we were back to a typical cloudy December day.

It was a perfect walk on a perfect sheltie-girl birthday!

I didn’t mind at all.

Mama said it was pretty perfect for her too, she watched me sniff and explore and enjoy the snow and she forgot her own wet feet and cold fingers. She couldn’t stop smiling herself.

Isn’t the snow beautiful on my fur?

So that was our smile for the week – my snowy birthday walk.

We hope you all had a wonderful week too. As we head into the busy holiday season we remind you all to slow down and enjoy the time you have with family and friends.

The woods are so beautiful in winter.

And if you can, take a walk in the woods, especially if it’s snowing. You’ll smile too.

Happy Holidays!


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Owl prowl

Have you ever been on an owl prowl?

I went Saturday, out into the woods in the dark of night, where I met with a park ranger, an owl expert and about 80 other crazy people.

We met at a pavilion with a warm fire roaring in the big stone fireplace. The experts told us about the owls we might hear in our area, how their eyes worked, their ears, why some feathers are different than others. We learned that they fly silently and that they can hear a mouse rustling a leaf on the forest floor.

I imagined owls sitting silently way up in tall trees secretly smirking as 80 humans moved as quietly as 80 humans can move below them. I didn’t imagine we’d hear or see anything.

We broke into two groups, about 40 each and went in different directions. We tried to walk quietly, but seriously, some people were wearing snow suit pants that made that irritating noise when they walked. Yes, it was cold, and I’m sure they were all comfy warm, but still. Plus we were walking on fallen oak leaves — oak leaves that crunched with each step.

It was a dark and cloudy night.

Still I love being out in the woods at night, even with so many people around me. I didn’t even care that we never heard or saw an owl, I was enthralled with the black branches silhouetted against the sky filled with puffy clouds, a half moon and a few stars.

I wished I had my camera and tripod.

I didn’t and the images here were blindly shot with my phone, then lightened up a bit. Sort of artsy fartsy, in an attempt to get you to imagine what it’s like to stand under bare trees on a moonlit night staring up at the sky.

It’s pretty magical, I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t hear an owl.

Moonlight magic on bare limbs of winter.


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Holiday smiles

Trent is still hosting the Weekly Smile, and though sometimes I don’t get moving fast enough to include my smiles in his recap, this week I wanted to make sure I shared. This week’s smile is all about music, specifically the Christmas music our community band played last night at our annual holiday concert.

Getting ready for the concert.

I love it when our concert is early enough in December to feel like it kicks off the holiday. This year it seemed perfect, just after Thanksgiving and with a few weeks until the big day.

We shared the stage again this year with a high school choir group. They add just the right touch of elegance to the music, with their formal attire and lovely soaring voices.

Look who arrived!

And of course we had a visit from Santa, who showed up right after the children in the audience came up on the stage and rang their jingle bells as we played Here Comes Santa Clause.

The little ones were in awe of the big guy in red. We kind of like him too.

Children ready to shake those bells? OK, let’s go!

And he stuck around to conduct our last piece, Sleighride, the perfect way to end a fun evening.

A perfect way to end a lovely evening.

You couldn’t count all the smiles that were in that auditorium last night. And that makes it my smile of the week.


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Sharing a smile – musically

You ever have one of those weeks that just flies by and you’re pretty sure you had plenty to smile about but you can’t really remember anything specific? Well, that’s been my week. So this week’s smile comes to you from this very afternoon, the last afternoon of the week.

Today I attended a band concert at our local high school. But this isn’t just any band – it’s made up of band directors, private music teachers and a few assorted graduate music students. Talk about talent filling a hall!

Though the house wasn’t full (and it should have been, all the students of all these teachers should have been there) those of us in the audience were serious appreciates of good music. During one piece I noticed a guy up one row and to my left conducting along with the music. And there was plenty of head bopping going on all around me. Yep, the place was filled with musicians and musician’s families.

And in the middle of their last piece, Danzon No. 2 by Marquez, where the piece gets extra wild and a bit raunchy, (about 7:38 into the piece, see link above.), I actually got goosebumps.

That was definitely cause for a smile.