Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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A guided walk

Saturday morning I walked in one of Katie’s parks along with 10 other people and an expert guide, to see the wildflowers blooming and tour some of the projects the township is working on to make more of the area open to the public.

One of several steep hills we climbed.

It was two plus miles of hills and wetlands, lots of little things blooming, and a cold, sunny day. I was very glad I’d worn waterproof shoes, and three layers of shirts!

Our guide told us what this was, but I can’t remember the name of it now.

I had just driven back home Friday afternoon, after five days of camping near the Sleeping Bear Dunes in cold, sometimes rainy, weather. I was kind of tired and thought about skipping this guided walk. It would be so easy to sleep in.

Tiny little white lady’s slippers just beginning to bloom.

But we were going to explore parts of the park I’ve never been to and I didn’t want to miss that, so I went. And I’m glad I did.

A lone trillium.

There will soon be so much more of the park available to explore, and I think it will be nice to have areas of the park that are new, without memories of Katie, that can be Penny’s alone.

Wild germanium

I can’t wait to show it all to her. They say the bridge from the parking lot to the new sections should be ready this fall. I don’t know, it seems like there is still a lot of work to do. But our guide, who is in charge of all the township parklands, says he’s confident they’ll get it all done.

Lupine

Meanwhile I’ll probably take Penny over to walk the trails Katie and I used to wander. The last time Katie and I were there she had a really good walk. Where before she had often refused to walk down the big hills, on this last walk, in the fall of 2021, she was eager to go.

I don’t know what this is, but it was pretty!

She walked much further than I expected her to, and even jumped over a tree branch that had fallen over the trail.

How fun! We got to go down trails that were normally off limits!

So I have those good memories to ease me into sharing her park with her new little sister, Penny.

Remnant.


The guided walk helped me, too, to see the park without Katie, but to realize she’ll always be there with me, just like she is in so many places.

Hi mama!

And that’s good.


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May

May is my favorite month hands down. I wish more of the year could be just like May.

So much hope resides in May. The gardens are just waking up, there’s still time to dream about what might be planted and harvested, before the heat of summer bakes the earth and the weeds and insects take over.

Walks in the woods in May are comfortable, a light breeze and sun filtering through newly opening leaves.

Lots of birds come back to town.

Trees are blooming.

Skies are blue. There’s so much to look forward to and I can hardly wait for summer.

But I want May to last a couple months first.


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A Tale (hee hee) of three parks

Penny here. I know you’ve heard from me a lot this month, but honestly, I’m the best thing mom and dad have going on right now, so I’m going to take advantage of that and get all the screen exposure I can! Cause I know things can change in an instant.

Gotta keep an eye out behind me, you never know what might sneak up on us.

Like for example…one moment I was playing with all my sisters at Mama S’s house and the next minute I was in a mom and dad’s arms and then in their car and then in my very own home!

Being aware of your surroundings is very important when you’re out in the world like this.

Sometimes I get to visit Mama S and my sister and my dog mom. That’s a lot of fun, and we play a whole bunch, but lately my mom and dad are taking me more places to explore. They say they’re exposing me to different sounds and smells, but mostly I think they just want to play.

That’s a pretty tree, mom, but you should be focusing all your attention on me.

Why last week mom took me to three parks! Three! I think she was trying to wear me out but that’s not going to happen. She said she didn’t want to waste the good weather, so we needed to go, go GO!

Sometimes mom has good ideas!

There could be something scary in this water!

The first park we visited was Independence Oaks. I’ve been there before, when mom met a friend there and we all went for a walk. But this time it was just us, and we were in a different part of the park.

I’m gonna break up this dangerous stick, OK mom?

I was a little uncertain for some reason that morning, not at all sure I wanted to be there. My mom is pretty observant and we didn’t stay too long. She says we’ll try again on a day when the park isn’t so busy.

Then on another day we went to a park I’ve never been to before! Mom said it was one of Katie’s favorites and that they used to camp here a lot.

I don’t know what camping is. Mom says that’s OK, when I’m a little older she’ll show me.

Is that another dog down there?

There was a big lake and mom took me down so I could smell the water. I think maybe I like water, but she wouldn’t let me go in. She said it was too cold.

I want to play IN the water, mom!

Too cold for a sheltie? I don’t know mom, I think it might be fun. Promise me you’ll let me wade later this summer, OK?

The lake looks pretty from up here, mom!

Then she said we were going to walk in the woods! I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go into the woods!

I don’t know, mom. Are you sure?

There could be scary things in there!

I guess it’s not so bad in the woods.

On the other hand, it turned out that there were lots of wonderful smells in there! And mom let me smell all of them.

I practiced my sit. I even did a little staying. But not much.

It took us forever to do just a little bit of the trail that Katie and she used to walk all the time.

This is pretty cool, mom.

Eventually I got pretty comfortable in the woods, but there sure were a lot of smells and crazy sounds! And there was a boardwalk I didn’t like at all!

Nope! Not walking on this, mom!

Luckily mom scooped me up and carried me off the boardwalk. I was OK after that, but I was still glad to get back out into the open where I could make sure to protect mom from any scary woodland monsters.

So this place is full of people in the summer? Interesting.

Then, on another day mom took me to Springfield Oaks! I’d been there before, so I was cool with this park. It has a giant sledding hill that we climbed last time.

What’s that over there?

We walked around behind the sledding hill this time, so I could spend some time smelling at the edge of the woods. Lots of people walk their dogs there, so there was quite a bit of pee-mail for me to read.

We’re going to go up this hill, right mom?

But what I really wanted to do was run up that hill!

Mom said we didn’t have to, but I think that was just her not really wanting to go up it. I told her we needed to go up there to see what there was to see on the other side! After all, I’m an adventure-girl!

I posed a bunch for mom. I’m figuring out the modeling business can be very lucrative with treats.

But of course first mom had to take like a bajillion pictures. Katie warned me about her.

I even got to lay down on the job!

I decided I didn’t mind too much. The treats were good. But finally I dragged her the rest of the way up the hill and guess what? We could see a school bus and a whole bunch of kids down there!

Well what do you know, that looks fun!

I thought that was very interesting. Mom thought we should avoid them and go down the other side of the hill. So we did. And on our way down mom found these yellow flowers and got all excited.

Yellow flowers, mom? Really??!

She said something about Katie getting her picture taken every spring in the yellow flowers and I should sit there for her so she could get more pictures.

I guess if I can lay down I’ll let you take some pictures of me in the flowers.


Whatever mom.

Nom, nom, nom.

But wait! These are quite tasty! Another perk to being a model!

Mom said that was enough and it was time to go.

If I hide down here you can’t see me, right mom?

Sometimes mom has no sense of humor.

Anyway, those were my adventures in three parks last week! I don’t know how many more parks there are out there. I think Katie should have left me a map or a list or something. I guess I’ll just have to stay flexible and see what the folks have lined up for me next.

Oh yea, I forgot to tell you, I got dirt on my nose when I was in the woods!

I’m in puppy school with daddy, and that’s been kind of fun. So far they’re just doing stuff I mostly already know how to do, but I get lots of treats, so whatever, right?!

Time to sign off, this is way too long and I need my beauty sleep!

ZZZZZZZZZ…

Your adventuring girl, Penny.


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Color in a drab world

A week ago yesterday the sun finally came out. We’d had weeks on end, it seemed, of nothing but cloudy skies, cold wind, and sleeting rain.

A pretty day for a run. Or a walk if you’re not a runner.

It is, after all, Michigan in February.

This week’s artsy-fartsy image.

But when the sun broke through all the grey I couldn’t help but want to get out and see if I could find any color.

There was still ice back in the wetlands.

I went to my local Metropark, Indian Springs, because it’s close to home and the bike trail meanders through wetlands, hills and woods. Perfect for testing my spring thesis.

Red twigged dogwood

What spring thesis you ask? Well…I think about February around here Spring starts flexing her muscles and if you look and listen carefully you’ll know she’s right around the corner, just waiting to burst through the last bits of winter.

Light shone through last year’s beech leaves

My husband saw a red-winged blackbird this week, though we haven’t heard them yet. If they’re here, than it’s officially spring, no matter what the skies drop on us.

Flying free in the sun.

Oh, to be sure, I know this winter has not slunk off into history yet. There will be more snow. More cold. More windy sleet. But on that Saturday, just eight days ago the sky was a brilliant blue, and it was warm enough take pictures without wearing gloves.

You can’t beat sunshine and woods to lift the winter doldrums.

I thought you’d want to know, especially those of you even further north than me, that it won’t be long now. Nope, check your gardens, especially those near your house. You might find some hope poking up, reaching for the sun, ready to put a smile on your face.

Skunk cabbage poking up, a first sign of spring around here.

And if not, go for a walk in woods near you and keep a sharp eye out for hints that we’re almost out of the deep freeze.

I know, I know. Every year, every single year, I go on and on about spring being near, that we’ve almost outrun the cold, and then we get slammed with a blizzard.

Last year’s teasel.

I know I’m being foolish (again) by believing that this year will be different.

These leaf buds are bound to pop soon!

This year we won’t have those last winter storms, when buds are opening and fruit trees are vulnerable. This year we’ll head straight into warm summer afternoons, we’ll bypass the last salt trucks and snow plows.

That blue sky just has to be a hopeful sign!

Yep. This is the year we jump straight into spring. I’m sure of it.

Aren’t you?

Head on out for a walk, you never know what you’ll see!


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The struggle is real

No, not that kind of struggle…the struggle to capture the night sky image I have in my head. Sometimes I think I should just get another head.

See that shadow hump in the foreground? That’s me hunkered down behind the camera, due to my neighbors GIGANTIC light hanging over her garage. Sigh. And the lights on the right are from my house.

This week we finally had a clear night. I swear, we hadn’t seen the sun in weeks here in Michigan, but one day this week the sun graced us with her presence and I excitedly watched the weather guy to see if we were going to keep those clear skies overnight.

Well…sort of…but it was the best we’d had in forever, so I figured I’d run over to a local park where I thought the skies would be darker than Katie’s park here in town. I was going to go over around 9 p.m., figuring it would be true dark by then. But I’m older now and was already yawning at 8. And it looked pretty darn dark to me even that early.

I moved, so it’s somewhat better. And you can see a couple stars if you look carefully, so it’s all good.

So off I went, camera on the tripod, settings already entered. Remote shutter thingy attached. Extra batteries in my pocket. Handwarmer in there too. It was 17F out there.

As I drove the few miles to the park I didn’t see another car. Good. I don’t really want anyone to know I’m at the park after dark. I just want to grab a few practice shots and get out of there and back to my nice warm house.

But just as I got to the park entrance, beginning my turn in off a narrow country road, a car came up over the hill from the other direction, bright lights glaring. We both stopped for a moment, and then I continued on, not wanting them to see me pull into the park. I drove about half a mile away, turned around at the next road and went back.

WordPress always shows images darker than I’ve edited them. Lots of light over there. Plus some clouds moving in.

All was still. I texted my husband that I was there, and was reaching for my camera when a car, possibly the same car, pulled into the parking lot and parked at the other end.

Well. I’m not getting out of my car. In fact I locked the doors and waited a few minutes. I’m pretty sure they were doing the same thing. I couldn’t think of one good reason for anyone to be out there long after dark unless, of course, they too wanted to shoot the stars. And what were the odds of that?

So I backed up, shot out of the parking lot, and went home. I think I was gone all of 20 minutes. I was so frustrated I decided to at least take a picture of the tree in our yard, still decked out in lights. I figured the camera was on the tripod, might as well get something.

When I walked into the house husband said something like ‘That didn’t take long.” and I explained the story, and he said he’d go back out with me in a little bit.

Lots of light looking behind me too.

So we did. I felt much happier sitting out on the pier knowing he was in the car just behind me. I got a few images…but there was lots more light out there than I anticipated in a Bortle 4, I think I was shooting over the next small town. I need to go further away.

Still it was fun trying to remember all the things I needed to do to get the stars. I struggled with my tripod a whole lot too. Good things to practice before the Milky Way is back up. I really want that shot that’s in my head

There were a LOT of planes that night.

Today I tried stacking a series of 10 images from that night. That’s supposed to take things that aren’t consistent between the images out and improve the noise level in the results. I think I need to figure something out, because this is what I got.

9 images of the airplane at 8 seconds each. Sigh. And another little one down near the horizon too.

Ah well, my classmates will help me with that…and meanwhile I had a midwinter adventure close to home and have another story to tell!

PS: I think you need to be looking at these images when you’re sitting in a dark room with no glare. 🙂


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Random, possibly Christmas-y, bits of thought

Anyway, I was reading Quaint Revival’s latest post about all the snow she’s getting over in Wisconsin, and she said it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas…which led her into thoughts about how those lyrics happened to be written and a request for someone to find out for her. Which, being a want-to-be librarian I felt compelled to do.

I think Santa is on some sort of exercise program.

She thought maybe the lyrics were written by Meredith Wilson in 1951 as he sat beside a pool, hopefully under warm skies. But Wikipedia says it probably was written in Yarmouth, and when I google that I can only find Yarmouth Maine, or Yarmouth British Columbia, neither of which sounds very warm, even in midsummer!

Looking for her Christmas gift. Or a peanut, whichever’s available.

But looking for this information did remind me that we played this very piece of holiday music at our recent concert, so I went to listen to it again. Well, actually, I went and listened to it for the first time. Music sounds very different when you’re sitting in the middle of the band than it does when sitting in the audience, and I haven’t taken time to listen to our concert until now. (I recommend listening to this with a good set of earphones…it sounds a LOT better with earbuds than just using your laptop speakers.)

Holiday music always makes things better.

Last Sunday I had a couple friends come for lunch and painting. Well, truthfully, they brought most of the lunch (roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches) and most of their own painting supplies too. After we ate the yummy lunch we settled in to paint Christmas cards. It was so much fun to experiment together. Plus it increased my stock of cards waiting to be mailed out to unsuspecting friends and family. I should do this on a larger scale next year!

Seems like birds infiltrate all aspects of my life.

We have a little bit of snow, enough to make things look pretty, but not enough to interfere with driving. Not that I’m driving much. One of the benefits of retirement is not having to go out unless I want to. When it’s cold and snowing I rarely want to. And though I miss my Katie-girl soooo much, I am kind of glad to roll over in bed and go back to sleep in the dark early hours of these winter mornings.

“I used to put up with an awful lot, mama.”

Speaking of not traveling, we’re staying home this Christmas. We have had invites to holiday gatherings, but this year we just can’t quite make ourselves wander out. Twenty Twenty-two has been a long, hard year for us. Instead of going out this year I’ll fix some of the family mealtime favorites, and we’ll snuggle up on the couch to enjoy the quiet.

I look forward to seeing these guys every year.

Though it might not be entirely quiet. We’re going to have a houseguest for awhile, a little 10 year old doggie will be staying with us while his mom is visiting family out of town. We’ve practiced him being here without his mom a couple of times and I think he’s going to settle in, but he sure does love his mom.

“Does this peanut make my head look flat?”

I saw a movie trailer this morning for something staring Tom Hanks. There was a year, a long time ago, when my husband and I watched several movies, unusual for us, realizing later that all of them were Tom Hanks movies. You know, Castaway, Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan. This movie is called something like A Man called Otis. While I was watching the trailer something felt familiar…and then I remembered one of my favorite books, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, about an elderly man who’s quiet life is interrupted by a family that moves in next door. I think the movie is based on this book, and I think I really need to go see it. Maybe during the Christmas holiday week, as a gift from me to me.

Sometimes Christmas feels like this.

I did get out to feed the birds at Kensington this morning. A lot of the photos in this post are from that visit. I didn’t look at the weather, or even the temperature before I left home when it was still dark. By the time I got to the park the wind was blowing the snow sideways. Not surprisingly no one else was around.

“I don’t eat out of hands, lady. But if you’ve got a spare peanut I’d enjoy it.”

I went out to the boardwalk to see if I could entice the Queen to my hand, but she wasn’t having any of it. In fact none of the birds were willing to get too close, though they were happy enough to come to the railing if I’d leave my treats and back off.

“Not today, lady, not today.”

I wandered in the woods a little, to get out of the wind, and even there things were very quiet. And then I stood still and waited.

“My turn!” “NO IT’S NOT! It’s MY turn!”

And soon enough I heard the flutter of wings and saw, through the trees, the fast moving little bodies of hungry birds. So fun. Even though my hands were freezing and my toes were freezing I stood around out there for a long time.

“Hey Lady! I’m waiting patiently over here!”

I stood there just smiling and watching them, all puffed up against the cold.

“Puffing up helps you keep warm lady, you should try it.”

Merry Christmas to my little birds, and to all of you too. May you all enjoy this holiday season, in whatever way seems right for you this year.

And here’s hoping 2023 is amazing.


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Foggy glow

It all started, as things often do, with an early morning appointment.

For years Katie-girl got me up extra early and while we were outside doing her business I’d usually witness beautiful but fleeting things. Geese or swans flying low with bellies glowing in the early light. Full moons dipping below the branches of our trees. A fox slipping silently through the woods. The flick of a deer’s white tail. Wisps of fog dancing on the pond.

But I haven’t been out in the early morning light lately.

Last week, once our 7:30 a.m. oil change was completed, my sister and I were driving home just as the sun was trying to break through the fog. It was beautiful, and we looked at each other and said….”Where can we go to get pictures of this?”

And…lucky for us we were only one exit away from one of my favorite parks, Holly Recreation, where Katie and I used to camp and wander the trails.

I felt a twinge of grief as I contemplated visiting one of her parks without her. But as we entered the park I realized the best place for pictures would be down near the lake and there was a parking lot Katie and I hardly ever used that would work perfectly for morning fog photos.

I felt relieved. I could be in the park, but not in Katie’s favorite part where I would feel her loss the most. Progress ,on this grief journey, is often made with tiny steps.

We parked and walked up and down that section of the road, taking pictures of the sun rising above the water, and the fog through the trees.

The reflections were gorgeous and we probably looked like crazy old ladies as we giggled and called back and forth to “come here and look at this!”

And when our fingers were frozen and our feet were soggy we climbed back into the car laughing as we cranked the heat up and scrolled through the images on our phones, each one better than the one before.

You can’t beat a good morning adventure – Katie taught me that over and over and over again. I like to think she was with us that morning, saying “I told you mama! You have to get out of bed early in the morning to catch the best stuff!”

I know, little girl, I know.


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Walktober 2022, Chippewa Nature Center, Midland Michigan

Decades ago my grandma told me that time speeds up the older you get. Being the superior teenager that I was, I chalked the comment up to her being confused in her old age. (Which coincidentally was just about the age I am now.)

I stopped, early in the morning, on my way to Chippewa Nature Center, at Overlook Park just in case there were eagles. No eagles, but several bucks were having breakfast near the retention ponds at Dow.

Grandma, it turns out, was right.

And, as Robin says, here we are in October again. Another year is almost in the books and time is sliding by sideways while we aren’t paying any attention.

It was still quite early when I arrived, so I spent some time exploring a little pioneer farm display while I waited for the sun to come up.

Which I guess is why we need a Walktober, when you stop (which is the point) and think about it. Walktober is all about getting outside and noticing stuff.

A face only a mother could love.

Little stuff and big stuff, pretty stuff and interesting stuff. Stuff that makes you smile and stuff that stops you in your tracks and stuff that you’d never notice because you never slowed down enough to see.

The sun finally came up, trying to break through the clouds.

This year the coming of fall has been difficult for me. So I decided to do my Walktober in a place Katie and I had never visited together.

The morning light reflected in the schoolhouse window as I headed to the woods.

I have no memories of her at the Chippewa Nature Center, so there were no ghosts waiting to surprise me at every corner. She would have loved it there, trails through the woods always made her happy. But…no dogs allowed on the nature trails, so I carried her along with me in my heart instead.

Lots of color and shapes to focus on.

Even though Katie had never been here, I visited once, last February. During that trip the weather wasn’t cooperating and I couldn’t find the trailhead, and what I could find was covered in ice. I left after taking only one picture, and you all know that’s just about impossible for me to do.

This visit there was no ice on the trail, just a carpet of beautiful fallen leaves.

So I decided to try again, as a Walktober adventure and this time I definitely got more than one image, though once again the weather wasn’t cooperating.

A bit of fungus, a colorful leaf, against the backdrop of a decaying stump. Art in nature.

There was a mixture of bits of sun, lots of clouds, and, of course torrential rain combined with strong winds. Yep, a good day to wander in the woods.

A carpet worthy of attention.

I was specifically looking for warblers, those little birds that flit around, hiding behind leaves and high up in trees. They’re hard to catch a glimpse of, much less get an actual image. I might have seen one. Or two maybe, but the images were impossible.

Not a great image. And I don’t know what bird this is, with the little yellow dot near the eye.

Not enough light deep in the woods…not fast enough to bring the camera up when I saw something, not sure what I was even looking at.

Don’t know what this is either.

But it was fun trying.

Meanwhile the maple trees are stunning, and the trail, wandering beside the Chippewa River and through the woods was wide and easy walking. There was something pretty no matter where I looked.

Changed the lens to the wide angle for this beautiful spot.

And I can tell you one thing. The birds and animals knew I was in the woods way before I realized they were close.

Pay attention, lady, I’m standing right here!

I tried to take my own advice, learned from many other walks in the woods, to stand still and just wait quietly. I never see anything when I’m walking, even when I’m trying to be quiet.

We’ll let you get this one shot, and then we’re out of here!

I did see lots of birds when I stood quietly under the tall trees. The longer I stood there, the more emboldened the birds became, whizzing right by my head on a few occasions.

Good thing the leaves stood still for me.

I smiled, recognizing that I wasn’t going to get a great image, and relaxed, just enjoying their antics.

The little birds were flying circles around me.

At one point the sun poked out from the clouds and across a ravine I saw a field of red grass glowing. I know how fleeting light can be and there was no way for me to get over there in time, so I continued on with my meandering.

I love it when the sky is dark but some trees are still in the sun’s glow.

That turned out to be a fine decision because I ran into the most beautiful yellow tree while the sun was still shining, the trunk and limbs perfectly black against the gold.

The sun was just on the other side of this tree. For a moment anyway.

Eventually I found a track over to the field of red grasses and was focused on a beautiful tree along the trail when the sky went dark. And then I thought I heard rain coming from far away. But it was coming fast.

Such a pretty spot. Makes you want to linger and enjoy it….unless……is that rain I hear coming my way?

Torrential rain hit as I popped out into the field and assessed how far away the car was, realizing it was too late and too far to sprint. I was going to get wet.

Even the turkeys were heading for cover.

And I did. But that was OK too, the colors just intensified and I smiled as I wiped my glasses and increased my pace through the field.

I need to get way over there.

By the time I got to the car, mopped up a bit and decided to head home, the sun came back out. Of course it did.

I could go explore more trails…but I was soaked all the way through.

And on the way home the clouds were so good I just had to pull off the freeway and grab a shot or two or twelve. There might have been barns involved, but that would be content for another post.

Who could resist this scene?

Thank you Robin, for hosting Walktober again this year. I look forward to it every year, thinking about new places to explore, deciding when to schedule the walk, hoping for great color or at least some interesting new images.

Good advice on a stone at the exit.

I feel kind of sad that it’s finished, but then I remember….I get to go along with all of you on your Walktobers, and I can’t wait to see where you’re taking us this year!

My artsy-fartsy image from my Walktober at Chippewa Nature Center, October 13th, 2022.