Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Random thoughts from the yard

Covid has made me random in many ways. Random meals put together from whatever is here rather then running to the store to pick up a missing item. Random camping trips to get away while remaining isolated. Random walks through the yard instead of parks to avoid running into other people.

The sugar water is getting a little low, lady!

That’s not all bad, you understand. Some things we’ve learned to do during this strange time would benefit us to continue once the world returns to normal. If that ever happens.

Things like eating at home together instead of catching a meal on the fly. Doing with what’s in the pantry and not wasting gas and engery rushing to the store every day. Talking to neighbors on walks through the neighborhood instead of waving at them from your car as you drive somewhere else.

Three stages of bloom.

Recognizing your home is not such a bad place to be, even while yearning for exploration and adventure.

I was weeding when I noticed a large monarch butterfly hovering around a hydranga tree filled with beautiful white blossoms. Such a pretty image I went inside and got the camera.

Pink zinnia impersonating purple coneflowers.

Of course he (or she) wasn’t anywhere to be found when I got back outside. But lots of other things were.

The images in this post were from that brief weeding interlude. I should be content in my yard, it’s a pretty amazing place.

In the wild part of the yard.

But the road has always, and continues to, call me.

I have a friend in the UP (Upper Peninsulia of Michigan for those of you not from around here) who has a group of women friends that gathers regulary to camp, along the shores of Lake Superior or the banks of a river. They kayak and sit around the fire and talk and I wish I could be there too.

Centering.

I think I need to put together a group like that down here in lower Michigan. A few other women who like to camp and would like to camp together somewhere once in awhile.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my camping solitude too, and Katie and I love to spend that time together. But sometimes it would be nice to have a group of people who would like to explore together.

The light bounces.

So who’s in? Could we manage to socially distance while camping? Dogs or no dogs, tents or RVs, who’d like to go…and where?

Pink and green coexisting.

The possibilities are endless.

New possibilities.


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Cedar waxwings redux

A couple weeks ago I posted about the flying bits of gold I saw across the street over the neighborhood pond. Cedar waxwings, birds we don’t see very often, were chasing insects in the fading evening light. (For this post you really should click on the images to see them larger.)

Such a beautiful bird.

Two nights ago while eating dinner I caught a glimpse of gold over the pond again.

Their golden color glowed in the setting sun.

Last time I struggled with the dim light and the quick slivers of golden wing.

Artsy fartsy image.

Focusing was pretty much impossible.

Heading out looking for dinner.

So this time when I headed over with my camera fitted with the long lens I knew better then to try to get them flying across the pond.

Incoming!

And I knew just where the dead tree was that they landed in regularly to rest between flights.

A fly-over.

So that’s where I stayed, right below that tree, catching them coming and going.

Whatcha doing down there lady?

Still, I had to move the ISO up very high so there’s quite a bit of grain, especially when they’re cropped.

The lowering sun lit the birds up as they rested.

I like to think of those as art. So many of them show the elegence of these birds, in an almost stylized manner. I think some of these look like paintings rather then photographs.

And I’m OK with that.

Juveniles joined in as well.

Each of these images makes me smile. I hope you’re smiing too.


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Chickens emulate pendemic behavior

This week a number of college campuses opened to returning students. I felt my blood pressure increase as I watched news footage of back-to-school parties. Hundreds of students were partying together, no social distancing, no masks in evidence.

A chicken sorority house.

I realized then that it’s possible I’ll be virtually trapped in my house for months more. My imagination went rogue and I wondered if maybe I’ll be stuck inside for the rest of my life.

I am, after all, elderly.

Hot headed rooster is the first one out of the chicken sorority each morning.

If I am stuck here forever, I have to admit my yard is pretty to look at, and there’s room to get out and walk. Or weed.

Brave zinnia getting ready to face the world.

And at least for now I have my Katie-girl to remind me that not everything is out of control, and there are still pretty things in life.

Complicated things make me sleepy mama.

She says there’s always hope. And maybe someday people will take a moment to consider the consequences of their actions. Though she’s not sure people can think independently any more.

Hens streaming out of the sorority house eager to experience their freedom in the yard.

Still, it irks me to no end to think that irresponsible kids and others like them hold the key to my freedom.

Cranky rooster lords over the freedom of his hens.

And it turns out venting doesn’t make me feel any better about any of it.

Partying chickens don’t do social distancing.


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Let’s take a vote, people!

Katie here. (Who else would come up with a title like that?)

As most of you are aware (but I was not), mama went camping up north at one of my favorite parks and in my all time favorite camp site. WITHOUT ME!

This was mama’s camp, site 43 at Hartwick Pines.

I thought she was just taking a really long time at the grocery store or something. You know she’s getting older and sometimes she wanders around for ages doing not much of anything. And other times she gets lost (she calls it exploring), so I wasn’t all that concerned that only daddy was feeding me and stuff. Cause mama is always around somewhere.

This was up at Pigion River Forest, where she was scouting out places to do photography.

Heck, lately I’m used to falling asleep right next to her and waking up to find she’s moved to another room! It’s hard to keep track of her, so sometimes I just don’t try.

She had beautiful weather, except for Monday night when it poured for hours.

But this time she was gone for 28 dog days! (That’s four days in human terms.) After awhile I got sort of sad, thinking I’d never see her again. I kinda like mama. But daddy is fun too, so like I said I wasn’t too worried.

There were lots of these pretty little blue flowers.

And then one afternoon I saw a shadow at the door and I knew daddy was right next to me on the sofa and I wondered, could it be, could it be mama came back to me??

One of the little lakes. Mama thought the stars would be pretty reflected here. But she didn’t go out there at night by herself.

And it was! And she smelled like smoke and marshmallows…and…and…she smelled like camping! CAMPING without ME?!?!?!

But it was pretty in the daylight.

I was all wiggle butt when she first came in and she picked me up and hugged me and then I realized the truth and I wanted down. I wanted down and I wanted to bark at her so I did.

A lot.

This trail is too long for me, so mama took advantage of not having me to hike it. Isn’t it beautiful?

Mama started unpacking the car and it became obvious that she had a great time and that great time had not included me so I barked at her some more. She got sort of annoyed, but not too much because she knew she was guilty.

Yep, my mama is always looking for light on things, even deep in the woods.

She said she didn’t pet any other dogs (as if that lets her off the hook) and she missed me a lot. She even said she got all teary eyed one evening remembering all the fun we have had camping in that very spot!

I don’t think mama was missing me while she was eating this!

She said the whole trip was sort of shadowed by the fact I wasn’t there, and she said the only reason I wasn’t was because it was so hot and she didn’t have an air condioned tent. She said I would have been miserable.

It’s a big park, up there, and I love to explore. Mama does too.

Sure mama.

Well. Maybe she’s right. Maybe she was only thinking of me.

I hope mama is reflecting on the error of her ways.

Let’s take a vote, people! Let’s hear from you! Do you think mama should not go on any more camping trips unless I get to go? Or do you think it was OK that she left me with daddy in my airconditioned house with my doggie beds and my special frozen banana treats?

Of course mama stopped to get a picture of a barn on the way home. More delays while I waited at home for her.

I’ll tabulate the results and present them to mama. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a camping trip out of this.) I’ll try not to make her feel bad, but that won’t be easy. She says she already feels really guilty.

She thought this was beautiful too. I say, no sheltie? Not pretty. Yep that’s what I say.

I think that’s fair. Don’t you?

Get those votes in everybody! This princess needs your support!

I think mama forgot, this is MY tent.


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Watching the sky

I’m in northern Michigan watching the sky. This makes me smile. I lost count of the number of shooting stars I saw last night. Never, of course, while my camera was recording.

Still, it was fun.

One more night and I’ll head home. Some little short furry thing is going to be upset if she finds out where I was. I’m camping in our favorite site at her favorite park. But she got air conditioning and I slept on the ground. I think it’s a wash.

She might not feel the same.


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Bits of gold flit over the pond

Last night, while eating dinner, I noticed a bunch of little birds, darting around like bats, over the pond across the street. What caught my attention was that they were glowing in the early evening sunlight.

What ARE those?

There’s a lot of shrubs and trees between me and the pond so I couldn’t get a very good look. But there seemed to be a flurry of unusual activity. All I usually see over there is one kngfisher, a heron and sometimes an egret.

Now I was seeing dozens of birds darting up and down and around above the water.

Darting around like bats, it was hard to get them in focus.

So after dinner I put my long lens on the camera and wandered over there. I tried to stay in the shadows so as not to spook the birds that were wheeling high overhead, then darting down near the water and back toward the trees.

Shooting into the sun was creating unrecognizable sillouettes.

With the sun so low they were lit up like gold ornaments, but I couldn’t get a good look at them myself. Staring into the sun I couldn’t even get the camera to focus on them, no matter how high I set the shutter speed.

A little bit of a hint here.

I was just about to give up when I noticed several of the birds were roosting in the dead branchs of a tree.

I think these might be….

But every time I moved to get a better angle they’d fly away. I wasn’t sure, but I was beginning to think I knew what they were.

Flashing a wing at me.

The distinctive shape. The flash of yellow on the tail.

If you love birds you’ve probably already figured out what they were. I never got really good pictures, but it was fun trying.

And if you guessed cedar waxwings you’d be right!

I got much better images of cedar waxwings last year at a rest stop, but this little photo shoot, resulting in not much more than out of focus blobs, was fun too.

And then the sun lit up the thistle.


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Starry starry night

When last I left you I had crashed for a nap inside my tent while a thunderstorm rained down and the wind blew the trees above me, brushing clouds across the sky. I fell asleep believing there would be no stars that night, my last night near the Dark Sky Park.

But when I woke, an hour or so later, the wind had stopped, the rain no longer pounded down and there was just a tiny peak of sunshine making the wet leaves glow. Maybe there was still a chance.

Yep, the sun shines to set another day.

But of course, first I had to sit through another sunset. Such an inconvenience.

Everyone was enjoying the warm summer evening.

I was not alone on the beach. Lots of families were settled in for the show, or playing in the water. They were fun to watch. I remember playing like this when I was a kid.

Did you ever walk on your hands in a lake, your legs sticking out into the evening air?

The air was warm and the sky was pretty clear. I began to get excited about seeing some stars. If the sun would ever go down. I posted on Facebook that it was the slowest sunset ever. I messed around taking pictures of nothing much just to pass the time.

I liked the way the light played on the sand filled with footprints.

And then finally. FINALLY!

The sun sighs goodnight.

Soon I was back in the car and headed six miles north to the Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full of cars and people when I arrived. Everyone figured that tonight was the night we’d see a meteor shower. Of course that pesky moon was still up there, a half moon never shown so bright, but I was just glad there were no clouds.

Once it was dark I grabbed my camera, already set on the tripod, with manual settings appropriate for night photography, and my little red flashlight and ventured out on the walkways through the dunes. Such a beautiful night.

Amazing how many stars there are, even when it’s not completely dark.

I was hoping for lots of shooting stars, and in fact while I was shooting the image below a huge one raced across the sky just off to my right. I hoped the camera caught it but it was just outside the range. People all over the park let up a big cry and applauded. It was soooooo wonderful, it looked like something out of a movie.

The light on the fence and the shadows were created by the moonlight. See the red light over on the right? Another stargazer enjoying the night sky.

I think I saw a couple of other, much smaller shooting stars, but was never quite sure what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. In fact I wouldn’t normally show you this image, but I think it’s interesting if not perfect. You can see the branches lit up by the moon, and what is probably a satellite in the upper corner. I didn’t see any of that when I took the image. I was just practicing getting shots without shake.

Taking pictures at night, you never know what you’ll see when you look at them on a big screen later.

There were lots of people there but by 11 there were only a few of us. I thought I’d wait until the moon set, but that wasn’t going to be until after 2:30 a.m. By 1:00 a.m. I was the only one left, and I decided I wasn’t even sure where the Milky Way was, or if it would be visible and I wasn’t comfortable being there alone…so I packed it in and headed back to my campsite.

A beautiful night.

I wasn’t sure what I had captured, though I knew it wasn’t what I had hoped to get. Still, I’m so glad I went and I’m pretty happy with the few decent images I got. I had to lighten these up quite a bit to put them into WordPress. The original images were pretty dark when I did my preview. I maybe have over lightened them here. I suppose everyone’s computer screen will show them differently. I think a lot of night photography, once you figure out the manual settings on the camera, will come down to figuring out how to process them. I’m still working on that.

I had to stop and take this picture, the barn was so beautiful.

I slept well that night, and in the morning packed up and headed South toward home. Right through all that farmland. With all those barns.

Barn and hawk.

Yep, had to stop a few times on the way. I’m sure you don’t mind.

I’ll go back to the Dark Sky park again someday, preferably when the moon isn’t up all night and the Milky Way is. And meanwhile I’ll mess around with the images I have to see how I can make them even more exciting. So you’ll think you’ve been there!

But you really should try to get there yourself. If you pick the right night you won’t be disappointed!

From the old days, still standing straight and tall.


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Day 2 of camping during a pandemic

I left you at midnight feeling disappointed on my first night of camping, in a dark and cloudy parking lot up in the thumb of Michigan’s mitten, with no stars in sight. After all, the entire purpose of this trip was to watch a predicted meteor shower in a dark sky park.

Certainly the small plot of dirt squeezed between two other equally small plots of dirt that masqueraded as a campsite was nothing to write home about and no reason to visit.

I should have gone into Grindstone City (the city part is a misnomer) because I hear there’s a store that sells awesome ice cream there.

Still.

The night was warm and with no schedule to follow I slept in until almost 10, as did my camping neighbors on both sides. I enjoyed my bowl of cereal and blueberries and spent a couple hours reading undisturbed. Not such a shabby vacation after all.

By noon I was ready to go exploring. After all, I was in farm country!

There’s just something about wide open spaces.

I found myself driving around big country blocks, sometimes multiple times, looking for illusive barns. Which actually weren’t so illusive.

I went around the block twice to get this shot. It’s the sweetest little stone barn with a tin roof. I think someone is living in it as a home.

There were barns everywhere!

This was one of two barns I saw with the quilt square on the side. The other one wasn’t in a safe spot for me to stop.

But eventually I found myself sitting at a picnic pavilion along the shores of the water again. It’s hard for me to stay away from water for very long.

There was a private campground out here, but no one was using this shady spot but me and the birds.

The seagulls shared it with me, after a bit of screeching they lifted off and flew out for an afternoon float on the beautiful blue water.

It was a beautiful day for flight.

I have to admit I didn’t get much reading done there, the view was too pretty. It was nice just to sit and watch the birds bob and the light on the water dance.

The colors of our Great Lakes never cease to amaze me.

And there was the lighthouse here too — even though it wasn’t open it was fun to explore the grounds. Last time I was here with Katie it was raining and we did a mad dash to get a picture then headed right back to the car.

I can never resist a lighthouse.

But mostly I was waiting for the sun to go down, so I headed back to camp in anticipation of a clear evening and bright stars. Before going to my campsite I figured I’d go check the beach, see what was happening.

This is what was happening:

As I walked down the stairs to the beach a bit of remaining sun hit this sailboat and lit it up. I squealed. Out loud.

A storm front was bearing down from the north! The weather guy hadn’t mentioned any storm front moving through! What was this? And had I left the windows of my tent open to the weather?

The sailor and I head for safety as thunder begins to sound the alarm.

After taking a few dozen shots I ran back up the stairs and to my car and drove as fast as I could through the crowded campground to my site. There I found the neighbors hurriedly packing things away and talking about ‘rain in 5 minutes’ I threw my chair into the back of the car, grabbed some fruit and my book and dived into my tent as the rain began.

I have to admit I took a nap while still wondering…

…would there be stars tonight? Would I be smiling in the dark? Or would it be another starless night?

Stay tuned.

Day two. At least I still had the barns.


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Camping during a pandemic

I’m just home from a short 3 day camping trip in the tip of Michigan’s thumb. It was my first camping trip outside my backyard of the season and I went to spend some time at a dark sky park that’s tucked into the dune grass along Saginaw Bay a few miles up the road from the state park campground.

A pretty minimal site, but I wasn’t there for the camping.

It was a last minute decision when our local weather person predicted clear skies and good views of a meteor shower.

I wandered on the drive up to my campsite on Tuesday afternoon through miles and miles of flat farmland which was filled with….you guessed it….barns!

You can’t beat red barns and puffy clouds!

So, while you might think this post would be filled with dark skies and bright stars you’d be wrong. At least for now.

The wheat is already harvested, mostly it’s soy beans and corn waiting to ripen now.

I knew you’d want to see the barns, it’s been way too long since I did a post about barns, and they are one of my favorite things to hunt down.

This was my favorite barn of the trip up, but notice the sky is filling with clouds.

And once I arrived at my campsite I had to go check out the dark sky park, to make strategic plans about where I might want to set up for prime star gazing.

Lots of low dunes and a few trees might make the perfect place for star gazing.

It’s a pretty little park with a huge parking lot and a viewing platform. But I found the low dunes and grasses more interesting.

I didn’t notice this dragonfly when I took the shot. But I like that he photo-bombed my image.

I also noticed all the clouds accumulating and wondered whether I’d have clear skies that night. But the weather guy said I would, so I tried not to worry.

If I weren’t there for stars I’d have been thrilled with the beautiful clouds.

That evening the sun went down amid the clouds in a pretty little show.

Waiting on the sun to sink.

I sat on a platform overlooking the Bay. Last year in June Katie and I visited this park, sat right here to watch the sun set. I was missing my girl, but it was much too hot for her to go camping with me. She was home enjoying air conditioning with her dad.

A nice place to watch the sky turn colors.

I went down to the beach to explore a little as I waited. High water in the Great Lakes have turned the beach into such a narrow strip of sand you could hardly call it a beach at all.

This split rail fence used to mark the beginning of the beach. Now it’s part of the bay.

The sky was pretty, but I was impatient for the show to be over so that I could scoot up to the dark sky park and see what I was there to see.

Just a bit north of the actual sun the clouds were turning pink.

Finally the sun gave up it’s grip on the day and settled with a sigh into the water.

The end of a pretty day.


The clouds seemed to be dispersing, so I was hopeful as I headed up the the night sky park. There were perhaps a dozen cars filled with other people hoping to see some meteor action.

I was hoping for stars.

And as the sky got dark an immediate problem became evident. The half moon was high in the sky and shining brightly. I checked my phone and learned that the moon would set at 1:30. I figured I could wait it out. But the longer we all sat there the more clouds moved in until even the bright moon was obscured. By midnight I gave up and headed back to camp for some sleep, not having taken a single shot.

I had one more night there, and I just knew the sky would be clear! The weather guy said so!

Stay tuned.

At least the barns were pretty.