A little bit of reminiscing about my last trip to Alabama and the lake. Shot from up at the house I liked this image of our dock…
…seeming to rest as the evening turned the lake into a liquid mirror.
I’m not a mother, unless you count Katie-girl and she doesn’t recognize holidays. My own mother has been gone almost fourteen years, and though I miss her every day, this year I just didn’t have a traditional Mother’s Day post in me.
So I went out to my favorite park to spend some time among the birds that she loved. I feel like I got to spend some time with her while I wandered the woods and wetlands.
There were lots of people, large groups, families, mostly noisy people there on this nice Sunday after days of rain. I wasn’t expecting to see much in the way of wildlife. But I was wrong.
I saw so much I don’t think I can share it all with you in one blog. So maybe I’ll just share with you a few (define few) of my favorites and not try to take you along on the whole walk.
While I was taking pictures of shaggy hickory bark I heard wings fluttering near my head. It was this little guy being quite persistent about wanting a treat.
I held out my hand and he hopped right down. He was thoroughly disgusted that I didn’t have anything for him.
He flew off and sat on a branch talking to me. OK, OK I said, reaching into my pocket for a bit of seed.
But the highlight of this walk were the pileated woodpeckers. I saw one as soon as I turned off the main path. I heard him first and I stopped to look.
I got to show the family walking behind me this amazing bird. He didn’t seem skittish and I watched him for a long time before moving on.
The family, now ahead of me, was excited to see a herd of deer not too far off the path. I didn’t expect to see anything when I got further up the path, but there they were.
I was looking for trillium, a flower that blooms in the woods here in Michigan. Around the next corner I saw a few, smaller this year than usual, but still pretty. I crawled down a steep creek bank to get an image…
…then climbed back up the bank to sit on a bench and enjoy the scenery. As I flipped through the photos I’d taken so far I heard a pounding. What was that? I looked around and found a pair of pileated woodpeckers flitting around down along the creek. I crept up closer and watched.
They didn’t stay anywhere for long, and I have a lot of really bad images of blurry bird parts. But finally one of them stopped long enough for an unobstructed view.
I sat there a long time, watching them and smiling. Eventually I realized a little friend had ventured up on the stump next to me. Begging for a bit of a treat.
Of course I tossed him a seed or two. Or three.
Just being in the woods was fun, even when there weren’t any birds to entertain me. The spring is so green, and everywhere I looked there was something interesting.
Time was passing and I felt like I needed to head back to the car. I was as far away as you could be and still be on the nature trails. I picked up my pace, intent on getting home to make dinner. Once again I heard fluttering near my head. This time it was a nuthatch wanting my attention. They’re usually a bit shy, though I’ve had them eat out of my hand before.
I held out a few seeds and the nuthatch flew in and grabbed one and then quickly flew off to some fallen trees. He did this a couple times, returning to my hand so quick that I didn’t think he was eating the seed. And then I saw him doing this.
He was hiding the seed for future meals! I think anyway, maybe he was just doing aerobics. Each time he took a seed he flew to a different spot, depositing the seed and then rushing back for more. Such a little clown.
And while he was doing that, as I was standing there in the woods, interrupted on my rush home, I saw out of the corner of my eye this couple:
They were just across the creek. She was busy eating and he was busy showing off. There were several turkeys over there, but he was the only one obviously in a relationship.
I turned and headed back toward the parking lot. On the way I ran into another cute little woodpecker. He didn’t really want his picture taken so he moved around behind the old cattail reed he was working on.
But I’m patient and eventually he worked his way around the stalk, intent on getting to something.
I was almost back to the boardwalk and I figured I’d check out the heron rookery. Turns out it was really quiet, but there was plenty of other things to look at there, including some beautiful lily pads…
…and this guy.
Most of the birds I saw during the day were making noise. That’s how they got my attention, whether they wanted it or not.
But some were pretty camouflaged while looking for good stuff.
Until one of them looked up to see who was watching them.
It was such a beautiful day, this Mother’s Day, I hope you got to see or do something fun, with family or on your own. I realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful place to explore with my mom.
I know she loved it there as much as I did.
When I saw this week’s prompt I knew immediately the sunset I wanted to show you.
I was in northern Michigan in December of 2015 when one evening the sky just exploded. To the south it was burning in orange and reds, and to the north the sky was sighing in shades of pink and purple.
The air was pinkish gold. I couldn’t shoot fast enough, and I never felt the cold.
Though I usually limit myself to one photo for a photo challenge, this time I just couldn’t decide. So since the sunset itself was divided between fire and sweet I decided to go with full disclosure.
Picture me turning from south to north and back again, trying not to miss any detail.
It was amazing and I’m so glad to be able to relive it through these shots.
And, as always, I’m glad to share them with you.
In memory of my mom. She would have loved this Alabama spring.
I see her everywhere, but nowhere as clear as in her beloved flowers and birds near her home on the lake.
Guess what? Yesterday I got to climb Smith Mountain with my mama! I told her it was about time cause she’s already been to the top of the mountain twice this trip and I haven’t been up there at all!
Why last year at this time I’d already scaled that mountain three different ways! But mama says I’m slower this trip and besides it was sort of warm out and she worries about me you know.
So we took it real slow and every time I looked at her she was offering me water. Which I took by the way, I am not a foolish sheltie, no siree.
Still, I had a really good time and we spent a lot of the climb in the shade, hiding among the long leaf pines and the big rocks.
Mama just loves these big pine cones. I have no idea why. I thought they were sort of boring and not worthy of my time.
We finally got to the top and there were lots of young people there, and a couple dogs too. All the dogs ran up and down the stairs; obviously they are not royalty. I made mama carry me.
We found this place that used to be the picnic area when the mountaintop was a ranger station. Can’t you just imagine the rangers out here in the evening roasting something yummy for dinner? I checked out the fire pit area very carefully and unfortunately there were no leftovers.
I thought this rock was interesting too and mama asked if I’d sit on it, cause it (and I) was pretty. I said no way mama, and even when she put a treat up there I wouldn’t get on it. I have my limits you know.
Finally we got to the top and mama took the obligatory picture of me with the tower just so you all know I really went all the way up there. Not up the tower you understand, just up the mountain. Mama said no way no how was she carrying me up that tower. She said I wouldn’t have liked it up there anyway. She’s probably right.
Then we started back down the mountain but I didn’t want to go! I liked it up there! So we sat around a bunch more and she took some pictures of pretty things that were not me. Like this orange rock.
And this crowfoot violet. Mama says that her mom used to look for these all the time. Mama says she’s seen quite a few this year and they make her smile. Whatever mama.
Once I got her moving down the mountain we made pretty good time. Near the bottom I was even trotting. It was time for supper don’t you know and I have a rule: Never delay the supper of a Princess.
Signing off for now, your mountaineering Princess Katie.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Khalil Gibran
For many years one of the joys of spending time here at the lake was a neighboring dog named Carson. We’ve watched him grow up from a soft fluffy bundle of joyous energy …
…to a soft fluffy sophisticated man about town of eleven.
Carson liked to visit everyone in the neighborhood, and he seemed to know when we were in town, showing up by the door to check in with us, sometimes meeting us at the car when we unloaded luggage. Each time he asked for an ear rub or a tummy tickle.
He wouldn’t decline a treat if you happened to have one on you…
…but mostly, for Carson, it was about a little loving, a little play. And the lake.
His favorite thing to do was to walk along the shoreline, knee or chest deep in the water, hunting for those pesky minnows. When he found some he’d pounce on them and then grin.
All summer you could find him in the water. And year-round you could find him on a neighbor’s porch, getting some loving.
Katie wasn’t too sure about him visiting us. It wasn’t that she was afraid of him. But he was so big…and when he barked it was with one deep baritone WOOF! She always jumped.
She just didn’t know what to make of him, but the rest of us? We loved Carson. It didn’t matter that he didn’t belong to us, we all just loved him.
Carson was most famous for being the softest dog any of us had ever touched. And he smelled good. Yes he was a dog, and yes he loved to wade in the lake, the muddier the better, but he always started each day smelling good.
I imaged he took a shower with his person each morning because he always used to smell like Irish Spring soap. This last week he smelled like some other shampoo, but he still smelled too pretty to be a boy.
Everybody loved Carson, the dog that smelled so good.
Sadly Carson crossed the rainbow bridge this week, suddenly and without warning. I’m so glad he stopped by a couple times since I’ve been here this trip so that I got some Carson loving.
But man. We are all so going to miss him. I look for him every time I leave the house, he was so often sitting on my porch. I look for him along the lake shore. I listen for his bark.
I am more than sad. But I’m trying to remember that I was lucky to know him.
Somehow it’s not enough.
I’m at the lake house, enjoying the view and the weather and what appears to be spring happening all around me. But evening comes early in this part of the country and during the long dark hours I wander the house, noticing stuff that needs to be done.
Like cleaning — especially those places that aren’t automatically done during a regular visit.
So I decide that the cold air return needs to be spiffed up. I doubt it’s been cleaned in the almost fourteen years since mom and dad left us the house. It’s not something a person would normally pay attention to, but after two weeks of living here, it’s moved to the top of my to-do list.
I look at it more closely and figure I’m going to need a phillips-head screwdriver to get it off the wall. We still have dad’s workshop set up in the basement so I traipse downstairs to search.
There’s a lot to choose from, and I quickly find what should be the perfect tool.
Back up the stairs I tromp, petting Katie-girl who is waiting anxiously at the top, unsure of where her mama went. I get down on the floor to begin loosening the screws. But darn! The screws need a flat screwdriver. I don’t know what I was looking at before.
Shaking my head I get myself up off the floor (which isn’t all that easy these days) and stomp back down the stairs to the workshop. I put the phillips-head back in it’s appointed spot and grab a flat screwdriver.
At the top of the steps Katie waits patiently, wondering what in the world mama is doing now.
Back on the floor again I get the first three screws out; both sides and the top of the grate came out pretty easily. But the screw on the bottom, right down at the floor, is smaller. And, as I peer at it my head flush with the floor, and through my trifocals, I see that it needs a phillips-head screwdriver.
“Hey Katie,” I say, “Want to go to the park?”
It was unexpected and unplanned, but our trip to Washington DC was important. I meant to write on Tuesday evening, after we watched the morning confirmation hearing on the nominated Administrator to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). But after the hearing we spent the afternoon in meetings with ours and other Senators offices and by the time we limped back to the hotel I was too tired to write.
And I meant to write about our experiences on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday night after our appointments on the Hill but each evening turned into a night of note writing from the day’s work and preparation for the day ahead. No time to write about the experience for you.
And now here it is Sunday night and the passion I felt during the week is ebbing and though I’m not as tired as I was, I somehow feel reluctant to try to capture it all, to put it down, because I don’t think I can make you understand just what it all means.
But I’ll try.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT). It issues and enforces regulations that rule the way trucks move across the country. They set the hours that can be driven, monitor safety issues like sleep and the mechanics of the vehicles, and handle many other things. They are very important to our work at the Truck Safety Coalition.
After almost a year of this Administration an Administrator for the FMCSA has finally been nominated. We at the TSC wanted to hear what he had to say, so we attended the confirmation hearing. Mr. Martinez said a lot of the right things. He comes from New Jersey, heading their Department of Motor Vehicles. He doesn’t know anything about trucks, but he seems to be committed to safety. So I’m willing to give him a chance to show us with actions.
After the hearing my husband and I, along with a staff member of TSC, met with the transportation staff at each of my Senators’ offices. We talked about things that have been left hanging at the DOT since the beginning of the year, other things in the works that have been repealed by the current Administration.
The rest of the week was spent in a similar fashion, going from meeting to meeting in either Senate or House offices, looking for support of our safety causes. We talked about the successful side underride crash tests. We are looking for support of legislation to make underride guards mandated. And we found people that are interested in the developments. It’s progress.
At each meeting I pull out the picture of my dad, Bill, and the picture of what his car looked like after his crash. I look into dad’s eyes and silently promise him that we won’t give up. We won’t give up even though I’ve been making these trips to Washington D.C. for thirteen years. Sometimes multiple times a year. In one of our last meetings of this week I told the staffer that my dad comes with me on every trip to D.C. The staffer looked confused but dad and I smiled at each other.
My husband and I ate dinner one evening in the lower level of Union Station, near the Capital. Tired, and standing just outside the diner sliding out of my dress shoes and into my running shoes, feet aching, I noticed some signs just above the counter where people were enjoying their dinner.
“Excellent food.” ” Bill eats here.”
Yes, why yes he did. Because he’s always with me when I’m in D.C. And everywhere else too. We made some progress during this past week. We talked to lots of people, even some that are usually on the other side of our arguments. There’s interest in saving lives on both sides of the aisle.
Stay tuned. I’ll keep you apprised of developments. There may come a time when I’ll need you to call your Representative and/or Senator and ask for their support on proposed legislation. Meanwhile we’ll keep fighting the fight, talking about safety and trucks and our roads to everyone that will listen.
Dad was always all about safety. He still is. I guess I am too.
I was at the grocery store this week and saw these.
Instantly I was transported more than 50 years back to a time I was five years old.
Oh I know they didn’t have mini Nilla Wafers back in 1961. But they had the original, larger version. I remember the yellow box and the taste. And I remember walking with my dad as we set out on an adventure the afternoon before my first day of kindergarten. I suppose we had something to drink too, but I only remember eating the cookies as dad and I tromped along the route I’d be taking the next day, and each day after, during my first year of public school.
We lived just over one mile from the school and I had to cross two big streets. Or so my mom told me later, I don’t remember crossing any streets at all. I do remember being late to school one morning and being scolded by the crossing guard at the last corner before the school. I’d been playing in mud puddles along the way and lost track of time.
Mom said for years that she felt like a terrible mother making me walk all that way alone. But she had three more children at home, my sister aged three, my brother aged two and another brother just a few months old. Even if she could get all four of us bundled up to go out I don’t think she had a car. I only remember us having one car, and dad needed that to get to work.
I think about the stress of a young mother sending her child out into the world every day, worrying about her safety, no cell phones, no notice of whether or not I made it to school, no information at all until she saw me reappear in the afternoon. Kind of unimaginable.
Mom thought she was a terrible mother for a lot of things that she had no control over. I wonder if other mothers of that period felt the same way. I wonder if mothers today feel something similar too. Even with the technology available now.
I told her often, once I was an adult, that she wasn’t a terrible mother. I hope she believed me.
And I hope she knew how glad I was that she made dad and me that little snack to enjoy as we headed out on our adventure so many years ago. Nilla wafers. Lots of memories wrapped up in that little package on the grocery store shelf.
Yep. I bought the package and enjoyed a few of the familiar sweets on my drive home.
Happy 65th wedding anniversary to mom and dad in heaven.
This is one of those ‘big’ anniversaries that we should be celebrating, but I couldn’t figure out how to book a hall up there for a big party.
We’ll have to be content with just thinking about and missing you like we have every single day for the past thirteen years.
I hope they have cake up there, and ice cream. And flowers, lots of lots of flowers. Music would be good too. I suppose that’s all there, I mean how could it be heaven without ice cream, but we wish you were here with us instead.
That’s not the way it worked out and we all know that life isn’t always fair.
So Happy Anniversary in heaven; eat some cake for us. We’ll see you both again someday.