Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The written word

A runner friend of mine has an elderly friend who lives in an assisted living facility. She used to meet him regularly, not so long ago, for breakfast and conversation.

I went to a park one morning this week to see the sunrise.

Now she can’t do that and she’s worried about him being lonely during this scary time when he can’t get out and visit. So she posted a request on Facebook that some of her friends send him a note. And of course she has received many offers.

His mailbox should be overflowing any day now.

A lot of clouds and not much color, but still stunning.

But that, and other pieces I’ve seen on the news and online, has me thinking.

Some years ago one of you, I can’t remember who — maybe Robin or Katybeth or Kathy or Beth Ann — proposed we write letters to friends every day for a number of days, maybe 30, one letter to one friend each day.

Looking west, the hills waited to glow.

It was a way to reconnect or stay connected to people in our lives who maybe had drifted away. Maybe we were the one that drifted, maybe they were. Maybe it was a mutual drift.

Back in the east the sun was creeping up.

I remember that I wrote, some long letters, some just quick notes, for several days. I don’t know that I made it for thirty days, but it was a good long time.

Interesting things hugged my feet while my eyes were fixated on the sky.

I remember that I worried I might not have 30 friends to write. I was wrong. And I remember getting a few letters in return.

It was so good to be wandering in the hills at sunrise.

Do you remember the days of letters? The excitement of going to the mailbox hoping to see a handwritten envelope hiding among the bills and junk mail?

I do.

As the sun rose the grasses turned red.

When I was in college my mom wrote to me every week, and I loved seeing her handwriting on a postcard or envelop. When I worked at a job far from home she continued the practice, right up until emails took over, and then we stayed in touch more frequently but somehow less connected. As if emails were easier and commanded less respect.

Not to say I wouldn’t love to get an email from her now you understand. But there’s something special about old fashioned snail mail, as she called the kind of connection that comes with a stamp.

A place to sit and breath.

So I’d like to propose that during these times of social distancing we stay connected and perhaps accept the challenge of dropping a note in the mail every day for a month. Imagine the surprise. The smiles.

Time to reflect on the new day.

Maybe start with a friend you might have who is isolated now, maybe elderly, maybe with a compromised immune system, maybe just overwhelmed with kids home from school.

My favorite row of trees.

And if you’re not into paper and pen and stamps….well…an email a day to someone you can’t hang out with in person right now will work just fine too.

Deep breath. We can do this.

Stay home if you can. Stay home even if it’s inconvenient. Stay home even if you’ve run out of your favorite coffee or bananas. Stay home and stay safe.

We are strong.


25 Comments

Guilty pleasure

The big picture.


Denise commented that she enjoyed my last post, the one about smiling with the birds. She thought it was better than fixating on the latest virus news, and she suggested that I sort through my pictures from the Southwest and see what else I could find that might elicit more smiles.

Well.

When we got home from Arizona at the end of February I was so sick that all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, and sorting more pictures wasn’t even on my radar. And then days went by and I felt better but the trip west seemed to be a distant memory.

Standing strong against the winds of time.

And I figured you’d all moved on anyway.

But she has a point. I hadn’t even looked through pictures from our last days of the trip when we stood in awe at the Grand Canyon.

Who knows what’s way off in the distance.

So I thought I’d share a few of those images while I talk just a tiny bit about how I’m processing the latest news and self isolation.

Because I’m feeling a bit guilty about enjoying the time to myself.

Trying to see what’s in the future.

Sure I’m sad that band has been cancelled, our next concert in jeopardy, but we got to perform just a couple weeks ago,and I’m grateful for that.

There’s still beautiful color in the world.

And I’m sorry that the Ann Arbor Symphony won’t be doing their concert next weekend, I’d been looking forward to the program and seeing my aunt again after several weeks where bad weather and illness kept us apart.

Lots of angles to life these days.

But…having an empty calendar in front of me feels peaceful. Nothing more to do than find ways to stretch the food I have in the house as far as possible. Time to read. To watch the birds at my feeders.

To take Katie on walks around the yard.

Peaceful.

I know that I’m lucky – I’m not dealing with children home from school or trying to do my job from an unfamiliar computer system set up in the bedroom. I can use this time to learn how to entertain myself the old fashioned way, at home, with my husband and my dog.

Everyone will have to decide for themselves what is right.

So, if you can, my advice is to use this time to internalize, to settle, to work the stiffness out of your shoulders and necks.

To slow down.

We are all on this trail together but separate. There’s no way to go but forward, doing the best we can to not make things worse.

Hopefully the path isn’t all downhill.

We can use this time to watch the news incessantly, or we can use this time to grow as people and perhaps figure out just what is important.

Looking for light amid the shadows.

Me? I’m going to watch the news for a few minutes each morning, just to make sure something hasn’t blown up. Then I’m turning the TV to the music stations. Right now I’m listening to show tunes.

The sun will shine again.

It works for me. I hope you find whatever works for you as well.

Look for the colors. And stay safe.


46 Comments

We could use a smile

Things have gotten kind of crazy here in the States. No matter which side of the virus crisis argument you stand, it’s gotten crazy. I feel like I need to write something about all of this, but I also think we all need to stop and take a deep breath and maybe even smile.

This guy is a red-bellied woodpecker, showing off his red belly.

So, for now, I’m going to go for the smile.

Yesterday I took my neighbor out to my favorite park to feed the birds. She and her husband have just moved into the neighborhood and I’ve told them about the experience of having wild birds land in your hand.

The usual suspects stopped by for a snack.

This week we both had time to spend out there, and the timing was good. The sandhill cranes are back and the red-winged blackbirds arrived just a couple days ago.

This couple greeted us soon after we got out of the car.

Both are hungry.

I told her that the blackbirds wouldn’t come sit on our hands, they are always interested in the food happenings but will usually wait around until we move off and then go in for the leftovers. Just as I was saying this a huge blackbird landed on my hand.

“Thanks, Lady, this peanut is irresistible!”

I guess they were really hungry, because several of them swarmed around for a treat. I’ve never had them come in like that before, and it was pretty cool.

Of course the cranes were intent on getting lunch too. As we were feeding the little birds these two sauntered up the path behind us.

The cranes that welcomed us to their park stopped by to see if we had anything good.

We had seen them over by the parking lot, but apparently they were interested enough in us to follow us as we made our way into the woods.

We wandered through the woods, over hills and across streams. Just about everywhere we stopped little birds came flying. It was so much fun!

On our way back to the car I noticed these three coming to see us at a fast jog.

“It’s a race! Whoever gets to those ladies first gets the best treats!”

They were absolutely beautiful, look at the colors in their heads…

They almost look fake.

…and in the feathers on their back. The sun wasn’t even out and they still glowed.

Stunning!

Speaking of bird heads…I was speaking of those right? Look at these two closeups of the crane heads….one of them had more feathers making the red part look like a heart.

A heart shaped forehead.

And the other in this particular pair didn’t have similar facial feathers at all.

A more streamlined face.

I wonder if one is a female and one is a male…or is one just different?

Now, a turkey head…well…these are just weird. I think Dr. Seuss designed the turkey.

“What you looking at lady?”

Anyway, we had the best time, and we were serenaded out of the park by another pair of cranes in conjunction with our new best friends, the three turkeys!

Do you see them? They’re both screeching. The turkeys behind us were gobbling. It was pretty intense.

My neighbor shared our stories with her husband and he wanted to experience it all for himself. So this morning we headed back out. Today we had blue skies and big puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.

We were met by the parking lot greeter cranes.

Nom nom nom…

And then we ventured back into the woods. At first it took a lot to entice those little birds to come out of the trees for a treat.

“I’m not sure I’m coming down there, people!”

But eventually we found a spot with lots of the little guys and we spent a long time letting them flit around us looking for good stuff.

“Thanks, mister!”

And of course a pair of cranes came wandering up to see if we were worth investigating.

“Good stuff hiding under these leaves!”

So we had two days of smiles this week which, thankfully, eclipsed all the news on television. I guess things will probably get worse before they get better, but as long as we have retreats like this to escape into, we’ll get by just fine.

The sun always comes back.

I hope you are all finding something to smile about too. If you do, share them in your blog and link back to Trent’s smile post. He’ll post a recap on Monday of everyone’s smile.

These days sharing smiles is something of a public service.


31 Comments

And then there was sun, so we all smiled

Katie here! Ha!! I bet you forgot all about me! Here it is January 21 and this is my first post of 2020!

Blue skies always makes it seem warmer out there.

Mama says I shouldn’t get my fur in a wad, that people aren’t really thinking about me anyway, that I’m not that important, and seriously why don’t I go take a nap.

Sometimes mama can be a bit insensitive.

I told her that may be but I bet everybody out there needs a smile by now, January being so cold and long and stuff. Why I heard it got down to the 40s in Florida! Heavens! 🙂

I bet this dock is a lot busier in July mama!

So today, with the sun shining on fresh white snow and the sky a deep blue, I told mama that we needed to go for a real walk, not just down the driveway to the mailbox. And do you know what she said?

She said “You are absolutely right baby-girl (she calls me baby-girl when she knows she was wrong but she doesn’t want to apologize.) And the next thing I know I’m at a park!

Limbs reaching toward the sky.

Hot diggity dog! I love going to parks when it’s cold out. I just prance my little hiney right down the path. Mama didn’t even take too many pictures (though to be honest, can there be too many pictures of me?)

A nice wide path sure was fun to walk (and sit) on!

We couldn’t go down mama’s favorite paths, deep in the woods, cause now that there’s snow those are all cross country ski trails. I told mama she could rent some skies for her and me and we could still go up and down those hills and she said if we did that it would be a sight to behold. Plus we’d probably break something important. Like our legs.

So we just walked where the signs said we could.

Winter walkers go left please.

Mama thought it was sort of boring, but I thought it was perfect. A nice, plowed path for me to trot on, lots of pee-mail to read. Can’t beat that.

Then mama said she wanted to go up this hill where some people with snowshoes had hiked. I said “no way mama! Why would I want to tromp through deep snow? You try walking through snow that comes up to your chest!”

Let’s go see what’s up there!

She just laughed and kept on walking so I scampered up the hill to make her happy. I even let her take a picture or two. The things I put up with just to make mama happy.

You’re right, mama, it IS pretty up here!

Anyway, I figured you’d need a Katie fix by now. I hope this made you smile. If it did, or if you smiled about something else this week, write a post and link to Trent’s blog. He’ll do a recap of all the weekly smiles next Monday.

Come ON, mama! Let’s get going, you’ve got plenty of pictures already.

Meanwhile, if the sun is shining make sure you get outside even if it’s only for a little bit. It makes the winter go by faster, and even though winter is my favorite season, I like to see mama smile more, so I’m rooting for spring to arrive any time now.

Signing off for now, your smiling sheltie-girl Katie.

I need my supper and a nap now!


28 Comments

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.


8 Comments

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.


38 Comments

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!