Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Northern Lights

No, I’ve never seen them in person. Well. I might have seen a tiny bit of some once, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been watching all the great Northern Light images popping up on Facebook. Many are being shot in northern Michigan, often very near where I used to live a lifetime ago. Sometimes I can tell exactly where the photographer was standing because I’ve stood there myself.

Creating pollution, light and otherwise while waiting for the Northern Lights.

Now days I live far away from the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsulia which would be my first choice of viewing locations. It’s just not practical to jump in the car when conditions are right and drive ten hours on the off chance the dancing lights appear.

It was a crazy night.

But I’m sure, sooner or later, I’ll be in the right place at the right time. In fact I was, kind of, a couple years ago.

I never saw this fist cloud that night, only when I reviewed images later.


These are photos from 2019 when we were in the UP in the fall and northern lights were predicted. Not only predicted among local northern light buffs, but also on national news networks. Everyone knew there should be lights that night.

Is there some green light over there?

Which is why we found ourselves on a beach looking out at Lake Superior along with a few thousand of our closest friends, all of whom were enjoying bonfires producing smoke obscuring the sky.

Bad composition, but the Milky Way is there.

Yep. That’s the closest I ever got to seeing the Northern Lights.

They’re out there somewhere. I never did figure out what that red spot was in the water.

It was a crazy night, and though I was facinated by the others on the beach, mostly Michigan Tech students, we couldn’t see much of anything out over the water. I didn’t even look at these images when we finally made it home from our adventures. We’d seen so many other wonderful things that trip I never thought about these shots at all.

But I have to say…maybe, just maybe I did see some Northern Lights that night. In spite of myself.

There were people and bonfires as far down the beach as we could see. In both directions.

Note: These aren’t great images, but to see them at all you’ll probably need to be in a dark room and looking at something larger than your phone.


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Both ends of the road

While camping midway on M-77 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last week I decided to explore both ends of that road.

The colors are changing on M-77 north of M-28 in the UP!

I’d been up at the northern end, which terminates at Grand Marais along the coast of Lake Superior, in June, but it’s such a pretty spot I thought I’d go see what the lake was up to again.

I always love the color of the water against the purple grey clouds during a fall storm on this lake.

As seems to be usual when I visit, it was a stormy day on Lake Superior. Heavy dark clouds made the sky facinating, but made me dash to the car several times as bands of cold rain swept in.

Good thing I brought my raincoat.

That didn’t deter the rock pickers and there were even a few beach walkers out there even during the worst of it.

This guy was riding the waves and wind, while a flock of sandhill cranes in the distance fly against the wind.

But amazingly, the sun won the weather battle and the sky began to brighten. More people instantly appeared to revel in the beauty that is a beach walk in Grand Marais.

Nothing like a brisk walk along the beach once the rain lets up.

I always enjoy my time on the shores of Lake Superior, and this time I didn’t pick up one single rock! Though that might have been due to the weather and not my willpower.

The next morning I headed south on M-77 down to where it ends at M-2, then a bit west to Manistique. My goal was to visit a spring my husband and a friend had both told me I had to see. But first there was this pretty lighthouse off the shore of Lake Michigan.

Reminds me of us, decades ago.

Who can resist, right? It was still windy and cold, but this family out there on the rocks was having lots of fun. Four little kids, they reminded me of my family when we were all that young.

But I was really there to see Kitch-iti-kipi.

This deep, photogenic spring resides within a state park.

What is that, you ask? And how do you pronounce it? Well, maybe I better let you read about it first.

It’s a deep, beautiful spring that maintains a 45 F temperature all year around, even in the cold upper Michigan winters. There’s a barge like flotation that runs on a cable out over the top of the spring.

The colors really are this intense. Especially when the sun shines.

The barge is moved by turning a wheel near the back. Anyone on the barge can turn the wheel and be captain for awhile.

Pull hard to the starboard side!

The center of the barge was open so you could see straight down into the water.

Some big fish down there!

The water was so beautiful, it was mesmerizing. Everywhere I looked people were smiling and happy and chatting and exclaiming over how beautiful it all was.

Such amazing colors!

So, that’s what there is to see at the north and south ends of M-77 in the UP. Since you can’t all get there this fall, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I shared.

Hope you’re smiling now too!

Note: You really should look at these images on something bigger than a phone. You’ll smile wider I promise.


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And then…

My adventuring continues into the Upper Peninsualia of Michigan where I intended to spend a few days exploring the Seney Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge is a giant wetland, with lots of water and grasses.

Years ago when I lived in the UP I always thought I’d visit, but you know how it is when you live near somewhere cool. You always figure you can do it next week, and next week never comes around.

I couldn’t find an eagle’s nest

Late Sunday afternoon I drove the seven mile wildlife drive under pretty skies. I had the big lens on the camera, expecting to see lots of birds. But all I saw was a pair of sandhill cranes flying and a couple of ducks. I didn’t even hear much of anything.

I heard them before I saw them.

One issue I can see with driving a wildlife route rather than walking, is you’re never going to sneak up on anything. Though to be honest I didn’t even scare up anything.

These are the same two cranes that flew by.

But the trees and water were pretty, so I decided to switch lenses and just enjoy what there was to enjoy.

Light through dying ferns.

The refuge is beautiful, but I wondered what I’d do for four nights camping nearby. I decided to worry about that when I got there.

Meanwhile, I had a reservation at the Pleasant Moose Lodge for one night while I waited for my campsite to be available. I was tired by now, driving up from downstate, then exploring the refuge. I was ready to find the hotel.

But darn it, neither my GPS in the car nor on my phone could find this pleasant moose. I drove up and down the road looking, and saw plenty of places with moose art displayed, but all I saw whenever I was told “you have arrived at your destination,” was a decrepit rundown set of cabins. No way. It was getting on toward evening now and I was going to have to find somewhere to stay if these cabins were really the lodge!

Guess I didn’t notice this big green moose when I was driving by.

So I pulled into a parking lot called the Pleasant Moose and a pleasant guy answered the phone and talked me in.

Whew!

Imagine my relief when I saw it was a real hotel, just tucked way back behind some other stuff. I spent an uneventful evening, enjoying my last night of a real bed, shower and television before heading out to camp for 4 nights.

The next morning I needed to find something to do while I waited to check into my campground. I remembered seeing pictures of Crisp Point Lighthouse that was somewhere around here. Checking the map, and putting it into my GPS I set off. It was about 20+ miles away, but GPS said it would take me an hour.

The trees are beginning to turn up here.

What GPS didn’t tell me is that more than 15 miles of the trip will be on increasingly narrower dirt and sandy roads.

More narrow, and sandier.

Roads that wind up and down and around. My average speed on the last 15 miles was 14. The last 7 miles it was closesr to 8 mph. I couldn’t believe it when, with only 5 more miles to go there was actually a stop sign.

Seriously? Is there an intersection coming up?

But all that crazy driving was worth it to find this.

My first glimpse of Crisp Point Lighthouse.

The lighthouse is absoutely beautiful. And yes you can go up to the top for a donation.

As I wandered the beach the clouds moved in.

The beach is equally beautiful.

Nobody can resist these rocks!

It’s strewn with wide swaths of smooth, rounded stones. A rock picker’s paradise.

The water was too cold to go wading after these beauties.

I kept telling myself not to pick up any rocks. Not to even look closely at any rocks. I have plenty at home.

I had to touch. They were so smooth, this one reminded me of an granite egg.

But they were soooo beautiful!

I was also facinated by what I guess was an old wooden breakwall.

I love how the sun made it glow.

It was actually two rows of logs driven into the ground.

Engineering from a generation ago.

Eventually I walked back up to the lighthouse and checked out what was on the other side. The light was better over there anyway.

People were picking rocks….

The beach was sandier with fewer rocks on that side.

…and climbing the tower.

A lighthouse selfie.

It was beautiful out there! But it was time to head back down that winding, sandy road.

Quintessential beach photo.

The trip back out to the main road wasn’t nearly as scary as it had been driving in.

I enjoyed the leaves on my way back and didn’t worry about the road as much.

My campsite was waiting for me.

When I arrived the office was closed, but they had taped instructions for me to the door. I gathered those and drove to my site, a big, grassy relatively flat spot with a view of the river. I pulled the tent out of the car and realized as I was unfolding it that the rainfly was missing. And it was beginning to rain.

OH MY! What to do.

Obviously I couldn’t tent without a rainfly. Especially since it was already raining. Disgusted I threw the tent back in the car, went up to the office, put the rest of my reservation money folded into their instructions, along with an explantion note, and taped it to the door.

Then I drove back toward town, intent on calling the Pleasant Moose to see if they had a room. But a few miles away I thought I should call the campground and tell them there was money taped to their office door, wanting to make sure they got it rather than some nefarious camper.

The owner answered, and I explained and she was as sad as I was. Then she said she had a tent I could borrower! Really! Yes, she said, it’s just a 4 person tent, nothing fancy. That’s all I had myself, I replied. She said she’d go set it up on my site if I’d come back.

So I did. And this is what I found:

Isn’t this cute?

This campground comes with a mascot.

He waited around to make sure I was OK, then he went off on his rounds.

So….here I am camping in the UP in someone else’s tent, ready to visit a refuge I’ve already explored.

What will happen next?


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Epic camping experience

Time is sliding by and I haven’t shared my wonderful camping experience from last week. And it would be a shame if you missed that because it was amazing and it definitely made me smile.

We were in sites C3 and C4.

You know that usually I camp alone with my Katie-girl, but this time Katie stayed home and I met a couple of friends at a campground on the Platt River, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The three of us had kayaked this river last fall, and checked the campground out back then.

The trail from the parking lot to our sites.

And one of my friends knew someone who told us about the walk-in sites which are even more beautiful because you’re not near anyone else. No one’s generator will be running all night. No listening to people partying around the campfire in the next site, because there’s so much space between them.

My campsite.

Plus, if you have to carry everything to your site you’re not apt to be partying late into the night! Trust me on this.

Our other site.

Our first afternoon one friend and I got tents set up on our two sites. We were at the end of the trail so no one else would be walking by. As it turns out, most of the time no one else was out there at all.

It was a short hike over the dunes to the lake.

Once we were set up we walked the .8 mile through some low sand dunes to the beach on Lake Michigan. It was a dark and pretty cold afternoon, but it was good to walk after our long drive to the campground. And you can’t beat the view once we got out to the shore!

A chilly afternoon for beach walking.

The next day we decided to take a hike on trails within the park, looking for three small lakes. We drove around on some narrow dirt roads and accidently ended up back at the beach, just further down from where we walked the day before. It was beautiful, but still kind of stormy with a threat of rain.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

Eventually we found the trailhead.

This looks inviting.

The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.

This was really tiny, but the bright color made us notice it all over the forest floor.

Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.

This ladyslipper was right next to the trail, just begging to be noticed.

We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.

Bass Lake, the smallest of the three lakes we walked around.

We continued on around the first lake; the trail led right through a deep, wet boggy place, with no option except to just get our feet soaking wet. We were compensated for that by seeing a beautiful, lush fern right there.

Worth the muddy feet.

We eventually found all three lakes as the rain continued. Of course I had left my raincoat in the car where it could stay nice and dry.

A little rain never hurt anything.

Ah well, we enjoyed seeing the woods and the flowers, and the lakes, and when we got back to our campsite our other camping friend was arriving!

Nature’s double yellow line.

We had a lovely dinner….

Yummy dinner coming up!

…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….

Did you hear something?

….and went to bed. During the night foxes yipped and owls hooted and we knew we were truly in the woods!

The next day we kayaked down the river again. We were looking forward to a nice easy paddle, but the wind picked up, and we had to work really hard across one long lake, and every time the river turned to the west into the wind.

Paddle harder!

By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!

A pretty amazing day.

But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.

Heading to the bluff.

And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.

A first peek through the trees.

But it was soooo windy by then it was hard to stand up on the bluffs and look at the view for long, so we drove down to another beach to watch a guy who was windsurfing.

Not easy to do!

And then we went to a diner and had a burger! It was my first restaurant experience since February of 2020. It was amazing.

Our last night at camp was windy with a big thunderstorm blowing over. Lightening and thunder and wind, the perfect ending to a perfect three days in norther Michigan!

Tucked in safe and dry.

We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.

Packing up always takes longer than setting up.

It took a bit of work, but it was definitely worth it to camp back in the woods away from everyone. We had so much fun, it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d do it again next week if I could.

One of many trips to the car.

Oh wait. Next week I’ll be camping in the Upper Peninsula. Not at a walk-in site, but it will be beautiful in a different sort of way.

Home sweet home.

Stay tuned.


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Remembering Ricky

Katie here.

Mama said I could get on her blog to tell you about my buddy Ricky who crossed the Rainbow Bridge last week. He was one of the original dogs with blogs, and mama found his blog years and years ago when we were all youngsters. There were a bunch of shelties with blogs back then — Ricky and Misty and Miley and Reilly and Ludo and Morgan.

Mama thinks there were more, but she can’t think straight when her eyes are leaking.

Anyway, we noticed Ricky right away because he was such a dapper little man. So much sophistication in such a little package. Mama likes to call him Little Ricky, because he was tiny.

But he had a big personality.

Ricky had fun with agility, but he liked to do it his way. His mom worked and worked to speed him up, but Ricky was his own guy and took those obstacles at a speed he deemed appropriate. Especially, as we remember, the dogwalk where he liked to survey the entire facility as he moved arcross the top. Ricky, always so elegant, never felt there was a need to hurry.

Ricky was really good at learning tricks too, and for a time he learned a new trick every week. His mom posted videos of his latest accomplishments and we were always so impressed! He learned to hold things in his mouth, and spin to the left and the right, to play dead, and so much more. He was so smart, and he made mama and lots of other people smile every week.

In fact, Ricky was something of a celebrity, he had so many people that enjoyed watching him learn new things. I told mama that we should try to meet him, and she said she’d see if she could arrange it. And guess what? I got to visit Ricky two times! It isn’t often that a girl from a small town gets to meet one of her idols in real life, you know?

In fact, visiting Ricky was one of my very first big adventures, cause they lived hours away from me and in a different state and everything! It was on a trip to visit Ricky that I proved to mama that I was a good traveler!

Ricky was such a gracious host. He shared his house and his people and his beautiful yard with me without any protest. He was such a cool dude, we got along great because we ignored each other most of the time. He didn’t even get mad when I drank out of his waterbowl!

He was so polite and nice to me that when we stayed over night at his house I decided to invite him into our bedroom (OK, it was really his room, but he let us stay there) to do obedience with mama and me so that he could get some treats from her too. Ricky really loved treats.

And that first visit he took me in his car to one of his parks! I was so excited! Ricky, of course, was too cool to be excited about a car ride with a silly girl.

It was a very very beautiful park with a little stream at the bottom of a big gorge. We walked and walked, with lots of sniffing thrown in. Wherever Ricky sniffed, I sniffed; he was sharing all the best stuff with me!

And when we climbed back out of the ravine there were beautiful gardens and we sat close to each other on this little wall so the moms could take pictures. He was much more patient than I was with the whole picture taking thing. This was way before I contracted with mama about the one picture, one treat clause, so we ended up sitting for way too many pictures for way too few treats. But Ricky never got upset.

He was such a special boy.

I visited him a second time, and by then he had a little sister who was, of course, bigger than he was. We all went to a park together again and had a wonderful time. Ricky was so patient with all the girls, his mom, my mama, his sister and me.

I am so sad that Ricky had to go on ahead. But I can imagine him exploring the whole place, and finding the best sniffing spots, and where all the good treats are. And I bet he’s found Ludo and Reilly and Denny and Morgan and Misty too by now. Just picture it, all those shelties running and laughing and enjoying snacks. All those sheltie smiles as they play together while they wait for the rest of us to arrive.

It’s got to be one amazing place, over the Rainbow Bridge. I wish he could have stayed here with his mom and dad and sister, but I know he’s happy there too. He may have been a little guy, but he sure shouldered a whole lot of love from all of us who knew him.

See you later, Little Ricky. I’m so glad I got to meet you, and I’ll never forget your friendship. You were and always will be one classy dude.

-Love, your pal forever, Katie.


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Truck rant

(This was written in January 2012. It was sitting in my draft folder, never posted, probably because I was afraid of offending someone. Now, nine years later, the same issues are still being studied by the DOT. Other than mandating unboard recorders nothing has been accomplished there.)

Warning – this is probably not going to be politically correct.  And I remind myself that what’s put out on the internet stays on the internet.  Good or bad.  But I’m working on truck safety stuff again, which makes me relive some of the initial moments and days after Dad’s crash.  And some things just need to be said.  Out loud.  Emphatically.

I’m heading to Washington again, for more meetings with the DOT; Secretary LaHood, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro and then members of Congress, to talk about things that can be done to improve safety.  Sometimes it all feels pointlessly repetitive, like we’re just wasting time, ours and theirs.

But then I remember.

I remember getting the call at work.  I remember signing papers to have Dad cremated and faxing them to the funeral home from a retail UPS store the night before Christmas Eve. I remember suffering through the holiday cheer of the employees as I waited for my confirmation while trying not to cry.  I remember sitting in my brother’s Alabama living room the night of Christmas Eve listening to the county coroner explain what happened.  I remember not understanding.

And this is what I can tell you now that I know more, understand more.

I know that though Dad was the kind of guy that would fix things and make them better, dead is forever and dead can’t be fixed.  And as much as I want to I can never make my family whole.  I told my sister, a couple of years into this journey, that if we could save one life through our efforts with the Truck Safety Coalition we’d be even.  She said “No we won’t.”  And she’s right.  We will never be even, not ever again.

So we can’t fix the fact that Dad is dead.  But we can fix fatigued driving.  And though common sense says that the easiest way to fix fatigued driving is to lower the number of hours a person can consecutively drive, well, maybe I’m just a naive civilian.

I received an emailed response from Administrator Ferro to my own emotional email expressing my displeasure with the new Hours of Service rule.  She says, and rightly so, that reducing truck crashes will take a complicated combination of rules, a push toward safety from many fronts –  and that reducing the number of allowed hours would continue to be studied.  She assures me a reduction in consecutive hours of driving could still be on the table.  OK.  So let’s study this for another year or more.  Apparently the people that will be killed by fatigued drivers during this period of study are expendable…collateral damage if you will.

Or maybe they’re just the cost of doing business.  After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, don’t you know.  So what’s good for the ATA (American Trucking Association) is good for all of us.   Right?  Well maybe good for everyone except those of us who get calls in the middle of the day, those of us signing our family member away to a funeral home, those of us left with a hole that can never be filled.  Those of us angry in our grief.

I’m not apologizing for this rant.  It’s your choice to read or not read.  Comment or not.  It wasn’t written for you.  It was written for me.  Because I have to go back to Washington and talk to these people again about common sense safety issues.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t have to explain simple concepts to people that are in power and are supposed to be experts in their fields.  I shouldn’t have to exploit Dad’s death to get something done.  I shouldn’t have to relive the whole thing over and over and over so that they can justify ‘studying’ things some more.

Give it up people.  The time for studying and discussion is over.  We need some action.  People are dying.

I don’t know what more I can say.


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Don’t miss this waterfall!

On my drive north from Alabama last week I took a quick (or not so quick) detour 50 miles east of my route home to see Burgess Falls. Husband and I had been to see it several years ago in the middle of a summer when there was significantly less water flowing than this time of year.

A little waterfall on the hike back to the big one.

It rained hard the evening and night before I drove over to the falls, and it has been raining for months in the Southeast. There was a squishy walk of about a mile back to the falls. I didn’t mind, there were plenty of pretty things to see along the way. Plus I knew I had hours of driving ahead of me. A little walk would be just the thing.

Everything was damp and green and muddy.

The river was roaring, over it’s banks and moving fast. Just like all the other rivers I’d crossed the day before and would cross on my trek north.

My first clue that the waterfall would be ferocious.

I remembered, as I walked, our last visit to this park where we had trekked down a steep metal staircase, and then climbed over boulders to sit at the base of the falls. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be possible, judging from the volume of water rushing down the river.

And I was right. See those boulders and trees down there in the river? That’s an island and we sat on those rocks and watched people swimming in the pool below the waterfall.

So much water. And the noise!

You wouldn’t want to be out there now. Still, some steps led down ‘to the falls’ so I went down to see what was what.

Wonder what’s down there?

Personally I think those stairs should be closed. It leads you right to the top of the falls where it would be so easy to slip and fall into the raging river.

Teenagers throwing sticks into the water. I couldn’t watch.

I scurried right back up, and told the family at the top who were contemplating the trip down not to do it, it wasn’t worth the climb, and it was too dangerous for their kids.

Other than that I enjoyed my brief time at the falls, and I’d go back again when some of the water dries up. I’m sure there will be plenty of repair work to do before it’s safe to go down to the bottom again.

It was worth getting a little muddy.

Regardless of the water flow this is one stunning waterfall and worth a detour to see it! And I got to see a few barns on the way over there.

Couldn’t resist stopping for this one.

And some more cows.

Cows and their barn.

So even though it added a few hours to my trip home I think it was all worth it. That’s the best part about a road trip –turning left instead of right once in awhile.

Such a pretty place, Tennessee.


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Torn

I’m back in Michigan, and it’s lovely here, with sun and blue sky, a bit of white snow left on the ground. It might get to 50F this afternoon.

My last night at the lake the sky finally cooperated and provided a worthy sunset.

Still.

The fact that it was a foggy morning made it somewhat easier to leave.

In Alabama it was beginning to warm up too, daffodils were blooming, and when the sun broke through the rain clouds we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s.

For weeks, this trip, I passed this field and remembered one year when cows where there and how photogenic the spot was. But I never saw any cows there until the day I was leaving town.

My last day in Alabama I sat on the deck and enjoyed listening to the birds singing. The brown thrush were chasing each other around the yard. Blue birds were flitting everywhere. Robins sang in the morning and ducks and geese gathered in the lake.

I took tiny little two lane roads that curled through the mountains as I headed north. The better to find interesting things to photograph.

It would have been wonderful, after almost a full month of rain, to sit there for a few more days.

There were a lot of interesting places along the way.

Still.

You don’t always have to have a structure to make an image interesting. Especially with fog.

My husband and my Katie-girl were in Michigan and I’d been gone a long time. I felt somewhat guilty lounging around in the South while my husband dog-sat the demanding princess.

So many old, abandoned homesteads tucked in the hills.

Still.

I think about all the families whose dreams moved on to somewhere else.

My sister and brother are in the South and I hadn’t seen either of them in more than two years, so it was great to spend weekends with them, painting with my sister, going on a boat ride with my brother. It would have been nice to stick around and spend more time with them.

So many barns hanging on.

Still.

So many decisions to make.

My girl, who lives in the moment, had spent enough moments without her mama. She must have felt like she’d never see me again.

A high point in Alabama. Plus the sun started to break through the fog.

Still.

Lots of barns still in use.

There were more adventures to be had in the south.

I turned around to get this, because of the car.

Still.

A cozy barn nestled in the hills.

There are adventures to be had in the north too.

Solidly facing a new day.

So here I am, enjoying sunshine while wearing a coat, tickling the princess tummy, feeding my birds, watching the squirrels. And it’s good.

Some grey barns are by design, not by age.

Still….

Photos in this post are from my last evening at the lake, and my drive north.

Kinda missing this place now.


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Smiling?

I’m still driving home from my month in Alabama. I should be home tomorrow afternoon.

Walking on the Gulf of Mexico beach early in the morning.

Today I left a friend’s house in TN a bit later than I might have had I stayed in a hotel, but it was so much fun to visit that I didn’t mind. And then I took a 3 hour detour in the wrong direction so that I could see a big waterfall.

Sunset at our lake house.

Which I saw, but the pictures of which are still on my camera and I don’t have time to download them tonight, my last night on the road.

Sun making water sparkle.

I’m not even totally sure what day it is…or whether I posted a ‘smile’ post this week.

A long walk in a wildlife preserve.

So in case I did not, which is highly likely, here are a few things that made me smile this week!

Light in general.