Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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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When Katie smiles

We’re on a roller-coaster around here. Katie has mostly good days, but even during those I can sometimes detect, if I’m observant, her underlying kidney disease.

During an early morning neighborhood walk today.

When I took her to a park to celebrate her 15th birthday a couple weeks ago, I thought we were both having fun. She was walking through the woods with me, sniffing things like always. But our walk was much shorter than normal, and when I looked at the photos after, I didn’t see the usual joy in her eyes. She wasn’t smiling in any of the images.

It was a frosty sort of morning.

That made me stop and really think about the quality of her life, and whether or not she would let me know when she was done. It’s hard to consider end of life procedures when she’s still excited about her meals, still wants to go outside. Still wags her whole behind when you walk in the door.

Is still so beautiful.

You know it’s my supper time again. Right mama?

And then we had a day like today, sunshine and 30 degree temperatures. Perfect sheltie weather. We went on multiple walks around the neighborhood, none of which she wanted to end.

Today, checking her park.

We went to her park — I was thinking we’d just walk around the pond, sure that she wouldn’t have the stamina to walk all the way around the park.

What are you doing taking pictures, mama? We have a whole park to explore!

But once we were there I let her make the decisions and she never once sat down or asked me to pick her up. We took it slow, but we walked all the way around her park’s perimeter, just about a mile.

It sure is a pretty day mama. I get a treat for posing, right?

That, on top of all the walks in the neighborhood should have exhausted her, but she’s been asking for her (numerous) meals right on schedule. And we’ve been on another walk around the neighborhood this evening.

It was a good day, mama!

I’ve looked at the images I took during our park adventure today. I’m pretty sure she was smiling. I guess it’s not time yet. Not today anyway, probably not tomorrow or the day after that either.

Yep, I’m still the Princess Katie and this is my park!

My girl. She and I are lucky we have more time together.

Still so beautiful.


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The Princess celebrates a birthday

Katie here! Guess what, guess what, guess what??!!

Today is my 15th birthday! I wanted to share it with all of you because I was sure there would be balloons and presents tied up in pretty ribbon and visitors singing to me, and of course, cake!

I got to go on a birthday walk over the weekend! Don’t tell anyone but it’s not really a wilderness.

I mean, 15 is a milestone age, right?

There were a few times this year my folks didn’t think I’d get to see this day. With the surgery back in April to save my life when my gall bladder filled up with sludge and then the harsh antibiotics I had to take because they found infection in me and then the kidney disease…well…things haven’t always look so good this year.

The late afternoon light was amazing.

Mama says it’s been a roller coaster. I don’t know what that means cause I never get to do anything fun, but I can tell mama and daddy have been stressed.

All the more reason to spend today celebrating me and eating cake! I’m sure you agree.

Years ago there were farm fields here, this is part of a rock fence line.

But mama says I need to be more realistic, and that cake isn’t good for me, and balloons would just scare me and that I can’t expect people to just show up and start singing to me. Besides I’m deaf, so singing might not be the best way to celebrate.

Plus she said I’d just bark at people and balloons anyway.

So you know what we’re doing instead? We’re going to the vet, that’s what we’re doing!

We didn’t walk real far, but I was so glad to be in the woods!

Yes, you read that right. Mama made a vet appointment for me on my birthday. I swear the woman has no sense of appropriatness at all.

I’m just a little girl in the big woods.

To be honest, she didn’t make the appointment until yesterday. And she only made it because I’ve been throwing up after I eat. Three times this past week. She and daddy are worried and the vet said to get me in there, so she scheduled it even though it was my birthday.

This was a giant fungus. Mama made me pose next to it a few years ago too.

And then she said seeing the vet and making sure we do everything we can to make me more comfortable is the best present they could give me.

I guess. But cake would have been good too. Just saying.

This was a nice spot to stop and rest. Or get a treat.

I did get a real present from my daddy this past weekend. It came in a box from the nice guy who drives the big noisy brown truck. I got to sniff it and everything. I was excited because everything that comes into this house should be for me.

What’s in there daddy?

I’m sure you agree.

Daddy ordered it for me after mama told him I was having trouble eating out of my bowl on the floor. My bad right foot kept slipping out to the side as I tried to get my head way down there.

Those of you that are older like me know how hard it is to get up off the floor the older you get. Well, I was having trouble getting my nose way down there into the bowl, but I love eating so I wasn’t complaining.

Hey daddy! This is perfect!

The day mama noticed my problem she ended up holding the bowl up higher for me, and letting me brace my sliding foot against her. Eating is much easier with a little help.

I just love the dinner and water dish thingy daddy got me! It’s the perfect height for a girl of my stature. And it has the perfect angle too, though it’s designed to have the bowls propped up at an angle or flat. I like them propped up.

You really get me, don’t you daddy!

So I can’t say I didn’t get anything for my birthday. I just didn’t get cake. Mama is such a strict dietitian. If any of you want to sneak me a treat I won’t tell.

And if you want to sing to me while you’re slipping me that biscuit, I’ll smile and pretend I can hear you.

A birthday walk AND a new dinner dish. Guess my birthday wasn’t a complete washup after all.

Talk later,

Your 15 year old Katie-girl.

Birthday nap. Daddy got me the pink princess rug too.


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Shiawasee Nature Refuge part two

So where did I leave you? Ah yes….at the viewing platform overlooking the wetlands, about two miles from the car.

An excellent place to watch the birds.

Since we’ve been lugging the camera backpack filled with lenses and spare batteries all this way, this would be a good time to change to the long lens. Don’t you think? And perhaps take a sip from the water bottle that’s been adding weight to the bag for the long trek out here.

I loved the stripes of color.

There, that’s better.

So, out here in the open marsh you can here sandhill cranes and Canadian geese as they fly in and out. A few trumpeter swans too. No pelicans this time, and that’s disappointing, but I’m too late in the season for much of a variety.

These guys decided to move on to a place less habited by nosey humans.

The other people on the viewing platform have high powered binoculars, and they are watching a northern harrier harrass a young bald eagle. I can’t see any of that of course, but I enjoy listening to them talk about it.

Yep way over there is a tree that often hosts eagles. In fact that might be one to the left, or that might be the harrier.

Mostly I watch the geese that were nearest to me and enjoy the sun and the sitting down for a bit.

And then I decide I’ll head back, but take a path I’ve never chosen before, out past the tree where, on a previous visit, I’d seen so many eagles, out along the edge of the wetlands, because you just never know what you’ll find.

It was a beautiful day, even if I didn’t get any great shots of an eagle.

And I do find the juvinile eagle, I think, though I can’t get a close enough view of him to be sure. I have a longer lens than I had last year, but he was still a long ways away. For all I know, this is the harrier, rather than the eagle. He (or she) is fun to watch either way, soaring high above the grasses, searching for a meal.

A super cropped image of a bird. Might be an eagle. But I think it’s the harrier. Cool either way.

I come across a passel of cranes, standing around out there in a clump. No noise, just hanging out. When they see me noticing them they begin to walk away at a fast clip, so I move on, not wanting to upset them.

Moving quietly back into the grass so as not to attract any more attention.

And then I begin the long wander back to the car. It is a beautiful day and I’m not at all disappointed that I don’t have anything spectacular to shoot. But wait! There’s an eagle’s nest! Wow, that thing is huge! Now I know which way I’ll walk next spring when there might be some activity there, maybe early in the season before leaves obscure the view.

This won’t be easy to see once the tree leafs out.

It’s not far from the tree where I’ve seen eagles, adult and juviniles…and it’s in the direction I always see them flying from out there. Now it all makes sense. I’m excited for next season!

But other than that my walk back is just filled with beautiful fall sights. I am walking on a path less traveled, and mostly not mowed, so I am glad for my waterproof hiking shoes keeping my feet dry.

Even though I am on the lookout for birds of any size, and though I hear a few, I don’t see any. I probably need to sit in one place, as I’ve considered on other visits to this park, and wait for something to come by in stead of tromping noisily through the woods.

But I am hungry, and tired, and still a long way from the car, so I trek on.

I like the spunkiness of the little tree growing in the remains of it’s ancestor.

The views don’t disappoint. Just about any direction I look there is something pretty.

Another dyke flanked by leaning trees. These always remind me of Marines at a wedding, with their swords forming a tunnel for the bride and groom. Actually, a wedding woud be amazing here.

I can’t stop taking pictures, but that’s no surprise to anyone. Right?

Such great colors and shapes, it’s impossible to resist taking just one more shot.

But eventually I put the lens cap back on, resolving to move faster toward the car and the banana waiting for me. I even pass up the opportunity to sit on a bench, because I know I am only half a mile away from the parking lot.

A tempting bench. If I’d had my lunch with me I might have stopped.

I promise myself I’m not taking any more images. Just going to forge ahead, eyes front, no stopping. Really.

Hmmmm….what’s making all that noise over there?

But I can’t ignore the huge ruckus coming up from a field just beyond the trees to my right. When I come to an opening I see what must be the party room for cranes. Because they are dancing up a storm. So I had to take the lens cap back off. You would have too, I’m sure.

And then I hear this little guy, and since he is the only little bird I’ve seen clearly all day, well, the lens cap comes off again.

It’s not even a good shot, but he is the only one that cooperated, so he gets to be in the blog.

And then, finally, I make it back to the car. My 4+ mile walk through the woods is over, and I know I wouldn’t be back until spring. Unless I decide a winter hike is in order. I guess I’ll put that idea into the ‘things to ponder’ file drawer and see what the winter weather is like this year.

Always notice the light.

More likely I’ll be back in the spring, when northern migration is happening and there will be more activity to wittness. I’ll be sure to bring you along whenever I go back. Maybe I’ll even carry a banana with me so I can stay out there longer.

Come along with me, the walking is marvelous!

You’ll be responsible for your own snacks. And your waterproof shoes.

Stay tuned.


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Sharing something magical

Do you want to join me on a magical walk? Well, come along! I’ve sorted my more than 800 images down to only a few dozen to represent the wonderful morning I spent at the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday.

I knew I was late in the migration season. The herons and egrets were long gone. No pelicans to watch. I figured even the sandhill cranes should have moved on by now, though I still see them out at my favorite park. I wasn’t even sure why I was out there when the chances of seeing anything special were so slim.

Waiting for sunrise from the trailhead parking lot for Fergeson Bayou Trail.

But since it was one of our last beautiful fall days I thought I’d stand there on the observation deck in the parking lot and wait, just see what the sun would bring.

After a few minutes in the cold silence I went back to the car to get my gloves.

And right about then I heard a sound. I couldn’t quite place it. It sounded like a gentle wave was rising softly against the sand on some distant beach. It got louder. And louder. And then, squinting in the dim light, I saw them. Thousands and thousands of little birds coming across the marsh toward me in the pinking morning sky.

Just a tiny bit of the huge swarm of little birds, the first ones up and out that morning.

The sound swished and washed and surrounded me for only a moment and then they were gone, disappearing into the light in the east. The experience was so amazing that I thought if I saw nothing else, heard nothing else, I’d still be glad I made the hour plus drive so early in the morning.

And then I heard the cranes. (Click on the link to hear them, in fact listen to them while you read this, it will feel more like you’re really there!) It started with just a couple of those distinctive cries coming from somewhere far away. And then the sound grew.

Already high in the sky the crains were headed out by the dozens.

I saw the first three cranes flying out for breakfast. And then a few more. And more. And then more and more and more and more.

The sun was still low, and it lit the undersides of the birds as they flew overhead.

I don’t know how long I stood there, alone in an empty parking lot, fingers no longer cold, grinning like crazy trying to get the shot, the feeling, of what it was like to have so much craziness just above my head in the pink sky.

And then there was a different sound, lower, almost hidden under the screeching of the crane voices. What could that be? I lowered the camera and searched for the source.

These two announced themselves as they flew under the chaos above.

Trumpeter swans! Just a couple of them, making a more gutteral sound, announcing their presence. As if to say, notice us! We’re here too!

Then my attention was back on the waves of cranes still coming toward me. Wave after wave of them.

The rising sun made the colors almost as intense as the sounds of the flying birds.

Even with all the activity I began to wonder…how many images of flying cranes does a person need? Well, just one more.

On their way to breakfast, they danced overhead.

Well, I thought to myself, I could stand out here all day, but there’s more to explore. Best to get moving.

There aren’t many days left for wandering these trails before the winter sets in. In fact, there are some weeks where hiking is prohibited as the preserve allows hunting to manage the deer population. I’ve never been here this late in the season and I was startled to see the hunting blinds places strategically along the trail.

Hidden in plain sight.

I understand the need, but I wished the couple of white-tailed deer I glimpsed good luck next week when the hunters will be back on the job.

The trail here is on top of a series of dykes, most of the time there’s water on both sides. When I’m here earlier in the season the water is filled with migrating ducks, but in November their safe places are filled with fallen leaves instead.

Almost as pretty, though less exciting for sure.

Pretty, but quiet, without the ducks flying up out of the water as I approach.

Along the way, while trying to get a shot of trees in early light, I stepped on something soft that exploded around my knees in a foggy mist.

If I didn’t know better I’d have thought this was part of a destroyed seat cushion!

That was cool, but it reminded me to watch more carefully where I was going. And to listen better too, as this early morning walker startled me with her quiet approach.

She was moving fast, getting her cardio.

We smiled hello to each other and she briskly moved on past. I stayed to get this shot:

Not so much cardio in photography I guess.

And then I heard that distinctive low sound overhead again. I pointed the camera up and waited.

More trumpeter swans!

Once they did their fly over I tried to pick up my pace. I was still a distance away from the turn around point, a viewing platform out in an open wetland. By now I knew there were other people already there, the woman, her lovely husband with the English accent who followed her and another birder I’d met earlier in my walk. All three of them had passed me as I lolly-gagged along, taking photos.

Still lots of color back in the woods.

There’s all sorts of reasons you’d enjoy your time here, birding and photography are just a couple. It would be worth the walk just to see such beautiful places. But since you can’t all get there, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

One of my favorite places to grab an image.

I have more, but this seems long enough. Do you wonder what I saw when I got out to that viewing platform? There’s always something to see out there.

What’s that over there?

I’ll share the rest with you in the next post. Katie demands attention now. And you know how she is.

Best to get to getting, she says.

So I will.

Let’s just see what’s around that next corner…


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Come on over, Canada!

The United States opened it’s borders today to all Canadians, even those with nonessential business. We’ve missed our neighbors and encourage them to come on over!

This leaf, seen on today’s walk, reminded me of the Canada/United States border.

There are rules, of course. Everyone coming across the border has to be fully vaccinated. And to get back into their country they’ll need a recent negative covid test.

Change is still hard.


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My advice – when you’re stressed, take a walk in the woods

Katie here.

Yes, I know you heard from me quite recently, but mama has been really busy and being a responsible dog, I feel the need to fill the void here on mama’s my blog.

Deuce and me before our walk in the woods!

Because mama is so busy it’s pretty easy to make her feel guilty about neglecting me. So I’ve been exploiting using that guilt to get her to take me on walks at several parks.

Sitting together for our obligitory picture in the fall leaves.

Having wonderful October weather doesn’t hurt either. I think mama should thank me for getting her outside to enjoy the last bit of warm weather before it starts snowing.

Anyway…last week I got to meet up with my friend Deuce and explore Dinosaur Hill, a park over near where he lives with his mom.

Deuce thinks he’s going to get a treat photo-bombing my shot!

As you can see, somebody had decorated the park, getting it all ready for Halloween which is coming up soon here in the United States.

What is all this stuff, mama?

We had a real nice walk. So nice in fact that we walked all the way around the little park two times! I felt wonderful, and sometimes I even led out front, something that I never did even back when I was a youngster!

Hurry up you guys, it smells great over here!

Mama was real happy that I was real happy.

I guess I should tell you guys, if you don’t already know, that I have some days when I don’t feel so good. It turns out my kidneys aren’t working at full strength.

Don’t feel bad for me, I’m still a happy girl.

A few weeks ago the vet said I had progressed to stage 4 kidney disease and that made mama and daddy very sad. But then last week my numbers were a lot better, so now they feel a little bit better.

I don’t know what’s in my future, but you can be sure I’ll parlay it into more walks!

Deuce thought he’d find treats up there, but nope!

In fact, a couple days after my Dinosaur Hill adventure mama took me to one of my own parks, Davis Lake Overlook which is right by my house. I call it Katie’s Park II.

It was another beautiful day, kind of windy, but I don’t mind that, wind just makes me more beautiful.

Me at my park on another beautiful day!

Mama said we were only going to go a little ways down the trail. She didn’t want me going too far because she didn’t want to have to carry me back. Silly mama!

I thought we should keep going, right down this big hill. Mama thought I was over estimating my ability.

We got to the top of a big hill and mama said we should turn back. I said no way! We argued about that for quite some time.

I love being in my woods.

And then I won and we went down the big hill and up the other side and around to my favorite part of the park. I walked all the way back too, I never once asked mama to pick me up.

We saw a little bit of color. Of course mama had to take a picture.

So there mama, you don’t have to coddle me! On these bright beautiful fall days I can’t wait to get outside and into the woods!

I thought maybe I’d find something good under the picnic table. But nope.

In fact, mama took me to another of my parks tonight, but I’ll save those pictures for another post.

Hey! Do YOU guys have any treats? Cause mama is restricting treat dispersment around here.

I figure you’re pretty much overstimulated with all these images of me. Though I have to say, there’s not a bad picture in the bunch. Naturally.

Always a cover girl.

Talk later,

Your Katie-girl, rock star, hiker extraordinaire, and all around glamour girl.


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Reunion in the woods

After more than a year of near isolation, this week I was finally able to travel to Ann Arbor to visit my Aunt. We used to get together regularly, to attend concerts and theater, to walk in gardens or around her neighborhood. But since February of 2020 we’ve only connected on the phone.

Backlit may apple blossom hiding under the leaves.

But we’re both fully vacinated and when the CDC lifted some restrictions we both felt comfortable meeting for a walk through the woods.

I’m not sure what this plant is. It was tall, with small leaves on the flower stem, but larger leaves at the ground.

She said she’s been walking at a metropark and that the dogwood was gorgeous this year. I hadn’t noticed dogwood in my woods yet so I was excited to see it for myself.

The yellow flowers were beautiful around this bench.

It was a Monday, when most people were working, so we had the woods to ourselves. The sun was shining, and it was warm enough to take off the sweatshirt early in our walk.

Happy little violets were tucked away everywhere.

We had such a lovely time, chatting and bringing each other up to date on things we’d been doing during the pandemic year.

Little vignettes like this were easy to find.

The woods glowed for us, with trillium….

Not the sweeping waves of trillium of last week, but elegant in it’s own way.

…and wild geranium….

Such a simple shape, but so pretty.

…and even several jack in the pulpit plants!

A clump of 4, two facing each way.

But it was the dogwood that stole the show. It was everywhere toward the end of our walk. I loved the shapes…

A hint of color, but a distinctive shape in silhouette.

I loved the color.

I loved the optimism that dogwood provides, proof summer is on the way.

Dogwood lined the bike path.

Everything in the woods that day made me smile, but what made me smile the most was finally spending time with my Aunt. That’s priceless.

Into the woods.


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When all you can do is take a walk

I was lucky enough to get my first covid vaccine yesterday. Health workers at the clinic were congratulating people as they were being injected. The air crackled with optimisim. I felt optimistic too.

Hey everybody, what’s that up there?

But this morning, with a very sore arm and unable to sleep I began to scroll through Facebook. I got tangled up in reading about Georgia’s new voting rules, put into effect by it’s governor yesterday. Feelings of optimisim began to fade.

I know I’m beautiful.

This isn’t going to be a political post, suffice it to say I don’t see how these new rules can be viewed as anything but voter supression. But I know there are others out there with different opinions.

Anyway. I got so depressed scrolling that I finally just up and left the house. I wasn’t sure where I’d go, but I ended up where I usually go when I’m needing some alone outside time.

I really want to come get a treat, but I’m too cool to sit on your hand.

We had torrential rains this morning, but the rain was letting up as I got to Kensington. Because the weather had been so bad there were very few other people there. The wind was brisk, the air heavy with the last of the rain.

It was cold.

I kind of felt like I shouldn’t head out on a hike around the lake. After all, what would I see? But I dug out my hat and gloves and, putting my head down, headed out anyway. Going home didn’t seem a good option.

The titmouse grabs a treat while Mr. ‘too cool to sit on your hand’ watches.

And I’m glad I went for that walk. Pictures here are straight from the camera today, none are edited. They aren’t anything you haven’t seen from me before, but they are a few of my favorites, and the reason I began to smile even in the rain, even with my sore arm.

Well hi there!

Even if the country still seems terribly divided, even if covid is spiking in my state again.

And by the time I left the park four hours later the sun was breaking through the clouds and the sky was blue. I even put my gloves back in my pocket.

Cutest little titmouse ever!

Kensington succeeded at raising my spirits, as it always does. I hope each of you has a place like this to go when you have a bad day. And if you don’t, I hope these images help just a little.

I’m happy to share them with you.

Turns out it was a beautiful day!