Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


21 Comments

I met a boy and I liked it!

Hey there, Peeps!

Penny here. Mom says she has more star pictures and camping pictures and barn pictures to show you, but I told her you’d rather see me! Cause I have to tell you about my date with Lance!

My friend Lance

Yep, my mom and Lance’s mom arranged a play date on Tuesday. Lance turns 1 year old tomorrow, so he’s about 6 months older than me. Isn’t he handsome?

I was smitten as soon as I met him. We hit it off right away because we both love to run! All four of our folks sat in chairs in the shade and talked and watched us play.

Our first nose touch.

Of course they made us take breaks pretty often, but we still played a lot!

Our first run together.

And Lance told me lots of secrets about how to get what you want from your parents. After all he has six more months of experience than me. I appreciated the intel.

He gave me lots of good advice.

But mostly we were just two crazy dogs having a wonderful time.

You can’t catch me!

And in between runs we got treats! What a wonderful day!

An excellent break from all that running!

Neither of us could believe our luck, to have a nice sunny day and a big yard to play in and four people to pay attention to us and provide drinks and treats!

Lance has the biggest water dish ever!

I’ll tell you a secret. I think Lance sort of likes me.

I think he’s blushing.

And I sort of like him too.

Whispering sweet nothings in his ear

Then of course the moms decide they should get a picture of the two of us sitting together.

Hey Lance! Let’s make them work for it!

Why do moms always do this? Does it seem like a good idea? I haven’t even graduated from puppy school yet, why would I want to sit and stay?

What is this stay thing you keep asking for?

Yep, it went about as well as you could expect.

OK, get the shot quick, cause I’m not sitting here one more second!

And just to add another little wrinkle to this photo shoot idea, they brought out Payton, Katie’s half sister, and decided they wanted a picture with all three of us!

This should be interesting.

Well. Payton is an old pro and sat stoically while all sorts of shenanigans went on beside her. It helps, I guess, that she’s deaf.

Stay means jump really high. Right?

I’m sure she was tired of sitting there, but finally mom got one shot of the three of us.

Payton was pretty disgusted by then.

We weren’t exactly all sitting. Ahem. But I did the best I could.

Mom ended up just taking pictures of the other two….

Handsome brother Lance and beautiful sister Payton.

…and then just of Payton, because mom says she looks so much like Katie, she couldn’t help but take a bunch of pictures of her. Mom was really glad she got to see Payton again.

Mom’s eyes leaked just a little bit.

And I got jealous and decided maybe I did too want my picture taken with my sister’s half sister.

Hey! Maybe I’ll pose for a picture after all!

And then Lance and I went back to playing!

Hey Lance! Wanna PLAY???

We played and played, and I started a lot of it!

I think we’ve met our match!

I couldn’t resist jumping on him to see if he’d run with me.

Come on! Let’s PLAY!!

And then the folks said we should go for a walk! A walk? Are you crazy? Lance and I just ran about a gazillion miles!

This was the perfect way to end our first date!

But their property was so pretty and shady that we all had a wonderful time exploring. Next time I expect I’ll be able to be off my leash and explore even more, just like Tally, Lance and Payton’s really big sister, and Payton.

Meet Tally. She’s such a good girl!

Isn’t she beautiful?

And then, after our walk when I thought we were going home, Lance’s mom and my dad got my loose ear glued down again.

What the heck, people!

And then it was time to say goodbye for now.

Three little shelties all in a row. Then mom said one had to go.

Boy I had a wonderful time.

Bye for now, Lance!

Today I sat by one of my windows and watched the clouds go by and dreamed of running in a big field with my friend Lance.

Sigh…

Missing you, my friend.


17 Comments

Shiawasee continued

When I left you last I was sitting on a bench, feeling defeated having walked a couple miles through the Refuge looking for great images and feeling as though I had missed the mark. I was tired and hungry and, slumped on a bench, was eating an apple when suddenly a bird flew low and fast, just missing my head, and landing somewhere behind me.

“Don’t call me a Red-bellied, lady!”

I didn’t know what it was, I thought maybe a Red-bellied Woodpecker, as those have been known to divebomb me during spring walks at Kensington. I grabbed the camera from the bench and got a couple of shots. Whatever it was was extremely noisy, but I couldn’t tell from the image in the viewfinder just what it was.

It was only after I got home and did some research that I knew there was such a thing as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. So cool! This image is better than I thought it would be, and though not perfect, you can see the yellow and red on the bird.

From earlier in my walk.

I think I was very lucky to see two of these guys that day!

And then, then…..just as I was putting the camera back down a flash of something caught my eye back cross the trail. I heard the sound of wings and something landing in a bush just over there. Could it be? Even though it was mostly hidden behind the branches I was thrilled to see an Eastern Towhee!

What’s that back there?

I clicked off some shots, praying I had the bird in focus and not just the branches in front. Either way I was happy just to see him.

I rarely see this bird at home, I think in the 30+ years I’ve lived where we are now I’ve seen a Towhee twice. They’re supposed to be here in Michigan all summer but they’re rare in my world. I was thrilled to see him, even if I didn’t get a better look.

And then, as if he was reading my mind, he hopped out onto a branch and stared at me.

“What are you looking at, lady?”


He sat out there for a long time. I was shooting as fast as I could. He gave me a good look at both sides of his profile…

“Make sure you get my good side. Oh wait. Both sides are good sides!”

… and then he got bored with the whole model for hire thing and flew off for parts unknown.

“Well, that’s enough of that! Does she think I work for free??”

I looked at the images I had captured and tried not to squeal. This bird, this one little bird made my entire day. All the walking and lugging the heavy camera equipment, all the missed opportunities and focus issues, all the aches and pains were worth it for this one experience.

This is my favorite crop of him, including the graceful curve of the greening branches.

And, after a bit of reflection and giggling, I picked myself up and wandered happily down the trail, where I eventually found another bench and thought I’d try my luck and sit there for a moment or three, just to see what might stop by.

“Lots of people overlook us sparrows, but we’re pretty cute if you just spend some time with us!”

And this little guy, perhaps a swamp sparrow, graced me with his presence. I liked his (or her?) butch haircut on top. He didn’t stay long, so I moved along too. It was getting late and I wondered if the cinnamon teal was still in the pond back at the parking lot.

I was almost back to the parking lot when I saw this pretty mourning dove sunning.

“I know I’m beautiful.”

He or she wasn’t shy about showing off subtle colors in the afternoon sun. I appreciated the display and moved on toward the car.

I was almost back on the main drive when I noticed these two killdeer standing together in the road.

“Hey lady, we could use some privacy if you know what I mean?”

And then I realized they weren’t exactly innocently standing there.

“Geeze lady, give us a break!”

But rather they were enjoying a little afternoon delight. He seemed pretty happy and let me get one last shot. She was out of there, totally embarrassed.

“Hey! I get a cut of any profits you get selling my image…right?”

And when I finally got back to the parking lot and the pond? Nope, no cinnamon teal to be seen, but the turtles were fun.

“Those birding people have mostly gone home, thank goodness. We could use a little peace around here.”

And I met a wonderful nature photographer who happened to be up on the viewing platform looking for the teal too. We had a nice conversation and I told her where the towhee was and she headed off into the woods.

“Those photographers will follow you anywhere!”

I headed home, exhausted but oh oh so happy. And that, dear readers, is the end of this story.

Until next time.


27 Comments

In search of cinnamon

An hour north of me is another magical place. I keep track of it on Facebook, where people, dedicated to photographing the wonders there post images and after periods of time away I am always itching to go back and see for myself.

I always try to arrive before sunrise, to witness the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge waking up. Sometimes it’s very noisy, but last Friday it was quiet, no flocks of cranes flying over, just some little birds and a couple swans.

Waiting for sunrise.

But the moon was coming up and that kept me company as I waited for daylight. I was there to see the cinnamon teal I’d been hearing about. A bird that doesn’t frequent our part of the country had been sighted regularly, in a pond right next to the parking lot.

Absolutely beautiful moonrise, big and golden, it came up just ahead of the sun.

Just as the sun rose a car roared into the parking lot, and a woman, dressed in waders and lugging a camera with a huge lens eased her way into the water beneath the viewing platform. I was still in the car.

Ummmm….what would this angle afford that standing on the viewing platform wouldn’t?

As the light brightened I figured if she was that prepared I didn’t want to disturb her or any potential shots, and I avoided the viewing platform in favor of the parking lot itself. And guess what? The cinnamon teal was there, with his lady friend.

Yep he’s out there, and not that far away from where the woman was standing.

But the light was still low and I was far away. Still…I have proof that I saw him and that was enough for me. I left her to her project and started down the road to the trails, intent on what other wonders I could see.

He really was beautiful.

There was this female merganser swimming all by herself in the ditch along the road. I wondered where her mate was.

Sometimes a girl just needs some alone time.

And this killdeer was be-bopping along in the wet grasses. He didn’t really want his picture taken but I got what I could.

If I hide behind this piece of grass she won’t see me.

Mostly I was just happy to be out there in the golden early morning light. But I kept thinking about that teal…and when another car pulled in and a guy clompped his way up the viewing platform I figured I had as much right to be there as either of them and I walked back, tiptoed up the viewing platform and saw that the teal, and his lady were nowhere to be found.

She’s still under there, and he’s stomping around up top. People…sigh…

I wasn’t surprised, with all the commotion. So I took a couple pictures and walked on back down the road. I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t have a clear shot of the teal. But I had a couple of tree swallows dive bomb me. They were so fast I didn’t get a good focus, but it was kind of cool.

People are kind of overbearing, don’t you think Harvey?

I resigned myself to the fact I might only get images of common birds, like robins who seems to pose for me as if to say they were tired of being overlooked.

Say lady! I’m sort of cinnamon colored!

And there was this little bird, that was cute, but I couldn’t tell in the low light what he or she was. I figured a sparrow and I wasn’t too excited. When I got home and began to process the photos I realized it was a phoebe with nesting material! What a cutie! But at the time I was feeling sort of sad.

I know I just look like a little brown bird, lady, but I’m really cute!

I trucked on, stopping when I heard something, looking for opportunities. I talked to a birder who was walking behind me for quite awhile. He said he was out there to see deer and eagles. I assured him he’d see eagles near the back of the trail, and there had been deer earlier, by the parking lot.

What’s that over there?

Just after he left me I noticed these guys in a field to my left. I wonder if the birder noticed them at all.

Shhhhh, don’t tell him.

I moved slowly down the path. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that when I’m walking I don’t see much, but the wildlife sees me. I’ve missed lots of opportunities by moving around too much. And by changing lenses.

No wildlife here. I just liked the colors.

I almost always think I have the wrong lens, and plenty of times on this walk I wished I didn’t have my long lens on the camera, but this hike I was determined to use one lens and stop often.

In the end I think it worked out.

Not in focus, but he was flying directly at my lens, so I just instinctively pushed the shutter. Kind of cool.

I noticed this little bird hopping along a big limb. Turns out, though I couldn’t tell at the time, that it’s a cute little junco. You can tell it from the phoebe by it’s pinkish bill. They should be migrating further north any time now.

He definitely wanted his picture taken.

As I moved closer to the back of the trail I concentrated more on the beautiful reflections in the still water.

Not everything beautiful here comes with wings or fur.

And the angles of the light and trees as another birder passes me looking for anything interesting.

What’s that up there?

About then I heard what I thought was a woodpecker right above my head. Well darn it, I thought, so far I haven’t gotten images of much of anything…where IS this woodpecker? And then…there he was.

Not a hairy woodpecker.

I thought maybe he was a hairy woodpecker, he was bigger than a downy, but it was hard to tell. Guess what? When I got home, and after looking at some other photographers’ work, people out there the same day, it turns out this is a yellow bellied sap sucker! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. Or if I have, I didn’t realize what it was.

So exciting. Still, while I was out there I didn’t know what I had and I was still pretty discouraged. I trudged on, out to the eagle’s nest. I figured I’d at least see an eagle or two or three…and yes, way off in the distance, in a massive nest was one eagle, mostly cleaning the nest with his or her back to me. Hardly anything to look at.

Yep, there’s an eagle in there, tending to the nest.

But there’s a bench out there and I was tired so I sat and watched the swans chase each other around in the water just past the eagle’s nest.

Lots of angst, all in the name of love.

There seemed to be quite a rivalry going on. The light was still low and they were far away and I was having the hardest time getting a focus, but I tried.

And in between the swan shots I’d check the eagle. Finally I could see the adult eagle more clearly and I got the best shot I could.

Well that’s a better image.

Then I wandered on, past the dueling swans…

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Oh wait…that doesn’t apply here.

…where I met another birder coming the other way. He told me that there were lots of little birds on the next section of trail. Kinglets, thrush, swamp sparrows, towhees, just lots of little birds.

He says he lives just down the road and does this walk almost every day. Lucky guy.

Great I thought, I’m having trouble getting BIG birds in focus, and I’ve never been very good at getting the littles. Those guys never hold still.

Plus, did I tell you that Thursday evening my husband and I, with the help of a neighbor and his tractor with a frontend loader, moved 30 yards of mulch? I was a little sore and a lot tired and I was double thinking even being out at the Refuge, much less walking the four mile loop. Especially when all I had so far was a bunch of out of focus bird shots.

Kinda like this one.

Or so I thought.

So I trudged on along the water, then turned to head back south for the last mile and a half to the car. I was starving. My back was tired. My eyes hurt from straining while looking through the viewfinder.

But there was a mama goose, all curled up on her nest. How pretty. How peaceful.

I’m watching you lady.

And there, up ahead was a bench. And I had an apple and a bottle of water in my camera backpack. I gratefully slid the backpack off and sat down. The camera sat on the bench beside me, backpack at my feet and I munched the best ever apple and contemplated my day.

No matter what it was still spring and the sky was blue and the trees were in bloom and the birds were singing.

I was still glad to be out there, but I was tired. I didn’t really think I’d see any little birds. I was pretty unhappy with the cinnamon teal image, the eagle image, the combating swan images. I didn’t know I had a phoebe or a junco or anything else.

But the apple tasted really, really good.

I could always call them artsy-fartsy images….right?

And the blue sky and warm sun made me smile too. Would it be enough, just sitting in this beautiful place? Or would I ultimately be disappointed by my hike through a Michigan wonderland?

These guys were interesting.

You, dear readers, will have to wait and see.

Because this is already way too long.

Don’t worry, she’ll be back!


35 Comments

Wordless Wednesday lost

Mom says we missed Wordless Wednesday. She says it’s Thursday now and I need to move on, but seriously, I think Wednesdays are perfect days to showcase me, especially during my cute puppy days.

Cause everybody knows that puppyhood doesn’t last forever.

Mom called my name, so I turned right around.

So I have tasked mom with making sure she posts a picture of me, her Adventure Girl, every Wednesday.

I figured I better speed it up, in case there were treats.

And, because she messed up already, I am requiring additional photos today. Sort of an advance on future Wednesdays, just in case she loses track of time again.

Just the THOUGHT of treats made me leap for joy!

I’ve only lived with mom and daddy a month and I can already tell I’m going to have to keep them in line. They mumble something about being retired but that’s not going to fly with a puppy in the house!

I’m coming, mom!

I’ve got so much to tell you, but for now, over and out,

Really mom? One piece of kibble for all that?

Your feisty chewing whirlwind Adventure Girl, signing out!

Play hard, sleep hard, that’s my motto.


28 Comments

Searching for a barn-ican

Wednesday I suddenly found myself with a few hours free in the afternoon. And we had sun with the rest of the week predicted to be cold and rainy. What should I do?

What would you do?

On the road looking for interesting barns.

I decided I should head out in search of a few photogenic barns. I wasn’t sure where I’d be going, but just going in search of barns felt great. I told myself it didn’t matter if I found any. I had a full tank of gas and nowhere I had to be.

The barn’s kind of boring, but the tree is nice.

But after a couple of hours I wasn’t thrilled with what I’d found. I seemed to be in familiar territory and hadn’t seen anything new. Then I turned one more corner and found this one. It was perfect.

This was exactly the kind of barn I’d been looking for.

Maybe I wasn’t going to find any more great barns, but it was still early, going on 3:30. I knew I wasn’t far from Overlook Park in Midland, where another photographer had seen pelicans this winter. I’d been there twice before, searching for the pelicans, but hadn’t seen anything more interesting than geese and ducks.

But she’d told me, just recently, that it was always dusk when she saw the pelicans. Would it be worth it to hang out there until the sun went down? I decided to go see.

Can’t get too close, but it was fun to watch the ducks.

Overlook Park, located in Midland, Michigan, is basically a parking lot perched on a hill looking out over the retention ponds of DOW Chemical. I’ve seen eagles and hawks and geese and ducks and deer there. But never pelicans.

Most of the action was happening way over there.

When I first arrived there was one other car parked there, somebody with binoculars scanning the ponds. I pulled in and immediately saw something big headed our way. It landed in a tree on the outer edges of the park, not so far from the parking lot. I thought maybe it was a juvenile eagle. But I was wrong.

Do you see it in the top of the tree on the right?

It’s a hawk, I think, though I’m no expert on differentiating between hawks. As soon as I got out of the car he (or she) spotted me and I knew right away it was going to take flight. I wasn’t wrong about that!

We have lift-off!

I tried to keep it in the frame, but that was just about impossible.

Beautiful bird.

It flew off to my right, into the woods where it could have some privacy. I sighed and returned to my search of the water, looking for pelicans.

I wondered if the pelicans were way over on the other side of the pond, with the hundreds of geese and ducks over there. If they were, there wasn’t a chance I’d ever see them. Even as I considered what else I could shoot, hundreds of geese lifted up, at once, in groups of a dozen or two and flew overhead.

I’m always fascinated by how nature just settles right in next to industry.

The noise was amazing. I don’t know if they were headed to their night roosts, or just stirring up trouble because they could. After they moved on I hunkered down to wait some more. The sun was going down and it was getting colder.

A steady parade of deer headed out to the end of a peninsula and settled down for the night.

I wondered if I’d be lucky. I had no idea from which direction the pelicans would come or where they’d land. So much of the water was far away from where I waited. I reminded myself this wasn’t Disney World, the pelicans weren’t on the clock. There were no guarantees they’d show up at all.

Meanwhile I was entertained by some adorable diving ducks. You’d see them swimming…

Lots of little ducks

…and then suddenly they’d disappear, leaving only a ring of ripples to show they had ever been there.

Where’d they go?

Then they’d pop back up again somewhere else. It was so fun to watch.

Hey! Wait up!

Still…I was there for pelicans. Would they come in as the sun went down or arrive under the cover of darkness? Would it be at the other end of the pond? Had they migrated on to somewhere warmer? Were they even still in the state?

Would they show up at all? How long should I wait?

How long would you wait?


18 Comments

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.


14 Comments

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?


19 Comments

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.


14 Comments

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!