Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Besides the night sky

Sometimes when I go north to camp it’s with the sole purpose of getting night sky images. Those trips I don’t care much about the campground, it’s just a place to nap during the day. Mostly I care if there’s a dark sky park nearby, or at least some open sky with something interesting in the foreground.

Our campsite, tucked up on a knoll, deep in the woods.

Those trips I usually spend the days sitting around at the campground reading and nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for me. When I begin to fall asleep over my book I tuck myself into my sleeping bag and take a nap.

It was spring in the woods, with the pine trees in ‘bloom.’

Sometimes that’s the best part about camping…eating, reading, napping. Repeat. I’m usually impatient for the sun to set, eager to try again for the shot I can see in my head but rarely get captured on my camera.

This trip, planned months ago, just happened to coincide with clear dark skies and no moon. So I got lucky.

I had my stove and my friend brought most of the food.

During last week’s camping adventure I had company, and a more varied agenda. We were camped in a walk-in site, we were the only people camping on our loop which was wonderful and so quiet we could hear owls at night as we sat around the campfire.

Thank goodness we were able to buy dry firewood!

OK, full disclosure. Mostly we sat around the campfire to get warm because it was stinking cold out there! Last year, on our camping trip the exact same week, we were wearing shorts. This year we were wearing long underwear, layers of sweatshirts, jackets and winter coats. I slept, the first night, wearing gloves and a hat, as well as my winter coat while in a sleeping bag and under multiple layers of blankets.

Not your typical sleeping attire.

But the next day, after a night of shivering and then squealing over the Milky Way, the sun came out and we paddled down the Platt River, almost all the way out to Lake Michigan. We got out of the river at the exact location I shot the Milky Way the night before.

Grateful for the sun while we were on the river.

That made me smile.

Lake Michigan is right on the other side of those dunes.

We had the site reserved for three nights, Monday through Wednesday, but though the second night wasn’t quite as cold as the first, I still slept in all my clothes and piled towels on top of the blankets on top of the sleeping bag.

Being cold all the time can wear a camper out.

Looks warm. Wasn’t.

Plus the weather people said it would get warmer but we were going to get rain Wednesday afternoon, and that it would rain all day Thursday, the day we were scheduled to leave.

Time to pack things up.

We decided to pack up on Wednesday morning and hightail it out of there. There’s nothing worse than packing up camp after a night of rain. Wait. In truth it’s worse to pack up camp after a full night of rain, while it continues to rain. Trust me on this.

The sun just tipping the trees above us made me want to stay….for a moment.

So we abandoned ship a day early. I think I did that almost every camping trip I took last summer, and always because of rain. Rain while camping in a small tent is not that fun after the first few hours of listening to it drum on the rainfly. Rain accompanied by wind and thunder can be pretty terrifying.

This could be another good spot to shoot the Milky Way, don’t you think?

Anyway, we chose to bail, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back. Camping in the woods without big RVs next to you is a delight.

I stopped at Pt. Betsie on my way home, but the lilacs weren’t open yet. And the storm was coming in.

I just hope next time it’s warm enough that I can sleep without wearing my hat and parka.

On the beach waiting for the sun to set on our last night.


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Magic

Some of you know that I’ve been taking an online photography course centered on getting images of the Milky Way. There are many many modules, but I’ve been stuck in the first set because I haven’t been able, for months, to get that first single image. And for me it was hard to go on to the next modules that talked about panoramas and stacked and stitched images when I couldn’t get the single image.

A friend and I had a camping trip scheduled for this week. It’s been exactly one year since we camped at this same campground, with it’s walk-in sites far from the world of mega RVs with their generators and large noisy families. Yes, carrying all your stuff down a wooded path to your site is a lot of work. But once again, just like last year, we were the only ones in that section of the campground, and it was heaven.

And, coincidently, this campground is located in a Bortle 2, a part of our state with less light pollution than where I live in a Bortle 4. AND the moon wouldn’t be up to interfere with finding the Milky Way. AND there was one night out of the three we’d be there that the weather folks said would be clear.

Win/win/win

According to my Planit app, the Milky Way would rise high enough to see it over the trees by 2 a.m. But my friend and I went out at midnight, after sitting around the fire all evening waiting for it to get dark, just to check out my chosen site, which was at a park at the mouth of the Platt River, where it empties into Lake Michigan.

An image I took of the Platt River while we were waiting for the Milky Way to show up.

It is a wonderful place to star gaze, but of course the Milky Way wasn’t putting in an appearance early, so we went back to the tent to take a nap.

I set my alarm for 2 a.m.

But when the alarm went off I didn’t want to crawl out of my warm(ish) sleeping bag. The temperature was hovering around 40F (4.44C) and everything in me wanted to stay in the tent and hunker down. But when would I ever again be in a dark location on a night that was clear?

So I crawled out of the tent and looked up. Stars, thousands of stars, were there, just hanging in the pine tree boughs above me. I scrambled down the path to the car and headed out to the river, smiling.

And as I carried my camera, already affixed to the tripod, around a building to the river I squealed. Because there it was….the illusive Milky Way, in all it’s glory.

There she is, as if she were just waiting for me to get my act together.

And suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore. Suddenly I didn’t care that it was 2 a.m. I wasn’t worried about waking up early the next morning after being up all night so we could kayak down the river ending up at this very spot.

No, all I could think about were the stars, all I could see were the stars. And in the quiet pre-dawn hours that morning I shot images and grinned, and then just stood there in awe for a very long time. Alone in the quiet I listened to gentle waves lap the shore and watched the stars move across the sky and there was no place I’d rather be.

You’ll have to image that part on your own.

From the boat launch, looking out over the Platt River and then, past the small dunes, to Lake Michigan. See the big dipper up there?

But if you ever have a moment like that you’ll know….It’s magic.


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Backyard spectacular

I’m so excited by the birds in my backyard. Some come every day, no matter the weather.

“I hope she’s provided a better quality jelly this morning.”

Some only show themselves to me for moments…

“Please note my subtle beauty.”

…in all their finery.

“I know it’s hard not to stare at me.”

And this one has only visited once and luckily I was standing in the window with my camera.

“Do you see me?”

If I could, I’d stand all day long at my windows with the camera.

“I’ll pose for you!”

Pretty amazing.


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Looking for spring

Last weekend I got to enjoy a walk in the park with my aunt. And here another weekend is approaching and I haven’t shared with you what we found.

I guess I better get cracking.

A perfect spring day spent out in the woods.

We went to Hudson Mills, a park over near Dexter Michigan, not so far from where she lives, but far enough away we don’t get there very often. It reminded me quite a lot of my favorite park, Kensington, and in fact it’s part of the same park system.

Such wonderful light falling through the new leaves.

There was a paved bike/walking path, and then lots of wooded nature trails to explore. We walked some of my aunt’s favorite trails, looking for evidence of spring, especially a particular dogwood tree she enjoys every year .

We found her dogwood in full bloom, shining in the morning light.

Luckily for us we had sunshine and slightly warm temperatures for our walk. Perfect. These are trails she knows well, and she knew just where to look for the early wildflowers too.

Spring beauty, so delicate with it’s pink stripes, was everywhere.

We walked in the dappled shade of newly leafed trees and watched the ground intently for surprises.

A trillium hides waiting to be discovered.

You could walk right past many of these wonderful bits of spring. But if you’re vigilant, you’ll see very special things.

My mom loved these jack-in-the-pulpit plants. Later in the season there will be red berries too.

It was so much fun when one or the other of us found something special and explained “Look!”

Wild geranium added color.

There was something to see no matter where we looked.

Tiny, deep purple, violets made us smile.

You could spend hours wandering these nature trails any time of the year and see beautiful things.

Purple is such a great color for spring!

We had such a good time walking in the woods together.

Walking just for the sheer joy of being out there.

And when we headed back to the car, we ran into a goose family with one little one trying to be grown up before he or she was old enough to care.

“And another thing! My mama’s gonna whip your….”

It was a fun end to a perfect day at the park.

“Geesh, kids today…”

Can’t wait for our next one!


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I’m the neighborhood Mrs. Kravitz

There’s an older widow living across the street. I swear her adult kids must think I’m the nosiest person around. Seems like any time one or another of them pulls in to check on their mom I’m out front.

Walking my dog in her ditch. Letting Katie sniff her mailbox. Wandering in my own yard or down my driveway.

What’s going on over there?

Yep. Always out there.

Other neighbors might think the same. For example I know that the newish neighbors next door got a sofa, loveseat and big plush chair delivered a couple days ago around 7 a.m. I was walking my dog across their lawn when the truck backed into their driveway. Katie insisted on watching the guys unload the truck.

The new furniture is beige.

What are YOU doing?

The people that live three houses away haven’t been there for a very long time. The adult son is still living there, and I wonder where his folks went. He and I wave as I’m walking the dog early mornings and he’s headed to work.

Got to keep an eye on everything around here.

Next door to him is a house that just sold. I saw a steady stream of cars head down their driveway the weekend it was put on the market. I figured it would sell fast; it’s on a lake and there’s no real estate inventory around here. About 5 days later I watched as a young man in a black jeep drove slowing past me as I was walking the dog, then back up and head down the driveway. An appraiser or maybe a home inspector. The house must have sold.

Bet they got full price, or more.

If you want to keep track of things you need to sit way up high.

I knew the people on the other side of me were back from an extended trip when I saw, as I was walking the dog, the husband put the garbage out. That’s how I know when they’re home or when they’re traveling, by the garbage cans waiting to be sniffed by a little sheltie-girl.

I watch another neighbor pull out each morning, towing his work trailer behind him. He doesn’t work every day, but I’m usually walking the road with a short fuzzy furball when he does. We wave.

So I’m thinking, when Katie crosses the bridge I’m not going to know anything about what’s happening in the neighborhood! No more sitting in the front yard watching everybody’s comings and goings. No more wandering slowly up to the third driveway and turning around to sniff our way home multiple times a day.

Always note what’s above too.

No more sticking our heads in places they don’t belong. Mrs. Kravitz will fade away.

Apologies to those of you too young to know who she is. You can google her.

All this watching people is exhausting.


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Hanging with my sister

Katie here. Even though I’m a princess and sometimes come off as being a bit….well…high maintenance, I know that I have a pretty good life. My folks and lots of other people make sure I get to have special times with friends and family.

Sharing my park with my friends.

And this past weekend I got to see my half sister, Payton, and show her (and her parents and her sister Tally the Gordon setter) my park! I was so excited to share Katie’s Park with my sister. And, like sisters do, we joined forces to make sure mama couldn’t get a decent picture of the two of us.

Discussing our strategy to foil mama.

That was part of the fun!

It was a perfect day for a walk, not too hot, and a bit of a breeze to cool those of us still wearing winter coats. The folks made sure we walked at a leisurely pace, though at the beginning I was raring to go!

This is Payton’s mom and dad and her sister Tally!

We stopped at the overlook deck halfway around the park to rest and enjoy the view. I told Payton all about finding a cracker there once and how I’ve been looking ever since for another one. Payton’s dad gave me a treat to make up for the lack of crackers.

“Make sure you remember not to let your mom get us together, Katie!”

I even shared my annual photoshoot in the yellow flowers with Payton! Mama takes my picture over at my park every year during the yellow flower season.

“OK, we can let her have ONE picture of the two of us!”

Payton’s like me – she doesn’t get why that’s so special, but mama is insistent and it’s easier to just let her get the picture than arguing with her.

Tally got her picture taken in the yellow flowers too.

Most of the time, though, we were able to foil mama’s attempts at getting a nice picture of the two of us together. She did manage to get several sweet pictures of Payton though!

She’s such a pretty girl.

I decided it wasn’t all that bad for her to be focused on someone besides me! That way I got to nap mostly uninterrupted under the picnic table.

“Geeze mother, can’t a girl get a break?”

We had a great time and I’m really glad Payton’s parents brought her over for a visit. We decided we’d get together again next fall when it’s cooler outside for another walk.

“Don’t stand still, out of focus pictures mess with mama the most!”

On a much sadder note, we learned yesterday that our friend Sophie got her wings on Friday. It’s a shock because we hadn’t heard that she was ill. She was one year younger than me, and still exploring her yard, swinging with her mom on her swing and supervising everything in the house.

Photo credit, Sophie’s mom.

We will miss her daily posts terribly. Mama has been giving me extra hugs and kisses on top of my head and her eyes are all leaky again. It’s hard to understand why some things happen, but we know that we’ll get to see her again, she’s just on the other side of the bridge. Please send good thoughts to her mom and dad who are very very sad right now.

Sophie on her porch swing this past week. Photo credit, Sophie’s mom.

Talk later, I have to get mom some tissue cause her eyes are damp again. I promise not to shred it immediately, I’ll do that later in honor of Sophie, who, just like me was an expert shredder!

-Your sad but still happy Princess Katie.

Sending hugs and kisses to Sophie’s mom and dad.