Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Windy smile

As you know, Trent hosts a weekly prompt over on his blog looking for smiles. And, as you know, one of the things that makes me smile is Lake Michigan – especially Lake Michigan and light houses.

So I picked up a friend of mine, the same friend that went with me last year to Pt. Betsie in -13 degrees with an unimaginable windchill, and we headed on over to Michigan’s west coast. Sunday the weather was better, with a temperature hovering around 32 degrees (0C).

We were very appreciative of that alone.

It was a blustery day on the Lake.

When we got to Grand Haven there was wind, but not nearly as much as we had hoped – the waves were perhaps five feet high. Still it was so pretty. There was a guy in his kayak bobbing among the waves. We thought he was crazy.

Crazy man.

I noticed later when I was reviewing pictures, that he was wearing a GoPro. Somewhere on YouTube there is likely a very cool (literally) video. I should go try to find it. He got out of the water shortly after we arrived, and the rest of our time there we took a few pictures, interspersed with longer periods of sitting in the car waiting to see if the wind picked up.

It didn’t, so we went to lunch, then traveled further south to South Haven, where the wind seemed stronger, but the lake floor was deeper and the waves not as big as we’d hoped.

But the sun came out!

The sun made even the wind a little more bearable.

It was pretty there too, but not exactly what we had envisioned. We drove up onto the bluff to see if we could capture the turquoise of the lake better from a higher vantage point.

A different angle shows off the colors of the lake.

It was getting late, but we decided to stop at one more beach. We drove up the coast to Holland. By then the sun had hidden behind dense clouds again and the wind was howling.

And there we found a wind surfer.

Getting ready to be crazy.

I had trouble keeping him and his sail in the frame. The wind was grabbing me and my lens and focusing was almost impossible.

I missed getting the sail in this shot, but it shows how high he went.

He let the sail pull him high up into the air, where he began doing acrobats, twisting and turning, sometimes feet above his head.

Even the surfers were busy watching the guy with the wind sail.

We both got our feet wet on the beach in Holland as we were focused on the kite and it’s passenger, instead of the waves racing on the sand.

Riding the wind.

But we were smiling so much we didn’t even care.

Fun under a dark sky.

What made you smile this week? Write a post and link to Trent’s blog and he’ll send out a recap on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing what perked you up this early January week.

South Haven lighthouse enjoys an early winter bath.


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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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Healing walk

This morning was the 15th anniversary of the semi-truck crash that killed my dad. Fifteen years of working on issues to make our roads safer. Fifteen years of missing him every single day.

For whatever reason this year was rougher than usual. So after my physical therapy session I planned to take myself off for a walk in the woods. Unseasonably warm, at 52F (11.11C) this December afternoon, I packed extra water for Katie-girl who insisted on going along. “We can’t waste a day like today mama!”

Early afternoon sunlight felt warm on this December day.

Though it was a Monday there were plenty of people enjoying the sunshine. Everyone we met smiled at the cute sheltie who was showing off her good side by letting little kids pet her. We even ran into a woman who said she used to handle shelties at dog shows and that “someone did some good breeding” with Katie.

A perfect day to walk in the woods.

We moved at Katie’s speed which means we walked very slowly. There was so much to see and sniff. I was in no hurry either, thinking about Dad and Mom, and how much they would have enjoyed a walk in this woods on such a beautiful day, and that made me smile.

Do I get to choose which way we go mama?

About an hour into the walk my phone, which I had set to map our walk, intoned “Mile 1, split time – not moving.” I laughed out loud. We were so slow that the GPS in my phone didn’t think we had moved at all. Katie was insulted.

We’ll come back here soon.

All in all it was a lovely walk in a beautiful park. It’s new to us, we were introduced to it just this past fall by a friend. Katie says we owe her cookies or something else equally nice, as this is a wonderful place to walk. While we were there I bought a pass for 2020 as I’m sure we’ll be back!

Sometimes life throws you curves.

There’s nothing quite like spending time outside to shake the blues. I’ll always miss my parents, but it felt good taking them with me on today’s walk.

And I bet they enjoyed it just as much as we did.

Made it through another Dec 23rd.


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Smile in remembrance

A few years ago there was a cool dog named Norwood. Long time readers might remember that he and his Mom used to go for long runs in the woods, and that we were all devastated when he became suddenly ill and crossed the rainbow bridge long before his time.

His mom knit stars and sent them to some of us to hang in special places. Katie and I hung our star in her park where it fluttered for quite a long time before it disappeared.

Well today a very good friend and her boy Deuce joined us at Katie’s park. She brought along three metal stars, one for Norwood, one for Reilly and one for Denny, and we hung them on a tree tucked into the back of the park.

It’s our tribute tree where we will remember those special dogs that have gone before us, and who we hope to see again someday. The engraver got confused and dubbed Norwood a Cowspot Dog instead of Denny, but that’s OK, Norwood can be an honorary Cowspot Dog, because he was just that cool. And I’m sure Denny and Reilly would share.

In fact I’m sure they were all together while we were out at the park, smiling at us as their stars went up. People are honored with a star on the walk of fame, but dogs? Well they’re a lot more interested in a good tree.

Do you see the stars way up above Katie’s head?

And now three special dogs have one, and that makes me smile.


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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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The weekly smile is buried in snow.

Trent hosts a collection of smiles each week. People post on their own blogs, describing things that made them smile that week, and link their posts to his. On Mondays, a day when we could all use a few smiles, Trent posts a recap so that we can all visit everybody else. It’s a nice way to start the week.

So this week, in Michigan, we got snow. Record breaking snow, more snow this early in the season than we’ve ever received in the history of our weather.

Sure it was pretty, but nothing to smile about.

Did we smile?

Well, not so much, not after the first “Oh it’s so pretty” wore off. My husband went out three times during the day to clear the driveway. And then he went and bought a bigger snowblower.

We all wanted to fly away.

To add more drama to our lives, this week we’re having drywall put up in the garage, so the car had to stay outside. In the accumulating snow.

Is this supposed to be fun mama?

I took his truck with four wheel drive to my morning physical therapy appointment. Driving in blowing snow, through snowdrifts, and finding out, after the appointment, that there was no snow scraper in the truck meant I was still not smiling.

My feet are cold. This is not fun.

And Thursday and Friday we had painters doing the inside of our house. Katie and I were relegated to one bedroom with the door closed so she didn’t end up a painted dog. She wasn’t smiling.

Camping makes me smile, but not in the snow!

And when Katie is unhappy everyone is unhappy. So most of Thursday and some of Friday she and I explored her parks.

About time you found me a park where they plowed the path!

And then the sun came out. Which made us all smile!

Now this is perfect weather mama!

After two long days of exploring cold, snow covered parks, we spent last night playing hide the sheltie-girl.

You can’t hide from me mama!

And the smiles continued.

What made you smile this week? Share it with us! Those of us up here in snow country could use more smiles.

Adventures always make me smile mama!


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Living large as befits a princess

Katie here.

Welcome to Davis Lake Overlook Park! Or as I call it – Katie’s Park Two.

Boy I’ve been busy; mama says you wouldn’t know I’m going to be a teenager next month. After lolling around all summer I’m now all energy and bark. Maybe too much bark, but it gets me what I want so I’m not going to stop.

Even when mama calls me “KATE!”

Stop lolly-gagging around mama!

So when I kept barking and getting under her feet, mama gave in and took me to a local park. It was a beautiful, if a bit windy, day. Mama said that worked in our favor because no one else was out there.

The wind is taking down the last of the leaves!

She was intent on taking pictures of these yellow trees out in the wet swamp.

It was such a pretty day!

She does this every year and every year she gets her feet wet. I chose to stay up on the hill and wait for her; I haven’t forgotten how I got my feet wet following her last year.

I’ll wait here.

Then she started focusing on the light shining through this young oak tree leaf. I was bored and figured she should be focused on me and my treats, so I photo bombed her shot and she got the message. After that it was all about me.

Which is more pretty? This stupid leaf of me?

Still, this was just a local park and I thought I deserved a bigger adventure. After all, this year I’ve spent weeks and weeks at ‘camp’ and she feels quite guilty about that. I milk it for everything I can, so I kept bugging her to take me somewhere more fun and guess what?

Whatcha going to do for me next, huh mama?

She made a date with another sheltie and her mom down in Ann Arbor at Nichols Arboretum!

Meet Abby!

Abby is going to be 12 soon. She is a very elegant lady.

Mama and Amy’s mom have been Facebook friends for a long time, and it turns out Ann Arbor is sort of halfway between where we each live, so we met there yesterday.

Isn’t Abby pretty? She has a regal air about her don’t you think?

Abby and I got along just fine, mostly because we ignored each other. If I’m honest I sniffed her behind a couple times, but she was polite and didn’t try to sniff mine at all.

Abby’s mom didn’t bring her any treats, and she still posed when asked. I, of course, demanded payment after each shot.

At first we weren’t too excited to pose too close to each other, but almost right away we recognized if we just did what they asked we got to go off and sniff sooner. And there are so many good smells in the woods there!

This is Abby’s mom Shaun.

Since I had been there before I showed Abby some of my favorite places. There was one spot with lots of pretty leaves on the ground.

Abby didn’t mind hanging around getting her picture taken at all.

Then mama saw this tree. Well. You know we had to pose by that!!

“Does she always make you stop and take pictures on your walks Katie?”

We walked for a long time, but Abby and I didn’t get tired at all, mostly because mama was always stopping for more pictures. You know how mama is.

I think Abby had a good time too!

On our way back to the car I asked Abby if she wanted to come back sometime and explore more. She said she was definitely interested!

“I think this was a good idea, Katie!”

It’s a good thing we went for that walk yesterday. Cause this is what’s happening today!

Oh yea, Fall is over!

So, as you can see, I’ve had a pretty good time lately. I didn’t even tell you about the new park I explored last week with my friend Deuce!

Me and my friend Deuce as the sun set on another perfect day.

Yep, mama’s keeping me pretty busy. She says she’s trying to get me to sleep through the night. Yea. Like that’s going to happen.

Talk later, your park advisor pup, Katie-girl.

I always have fun with my friends.