Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Missed it by THIS much

A few weeks ago I drove an hour north to visit a wildlife refuge and found the trail was closed for hunting. I left not knowing if there was anything there enticing enough to make me drive all that way again.

Three cranes drift noisily over the trail.

But it’s stayed in the back of my mind, a little whisper nagging me. What if it’s beautiful?

So Sunday I got up early (OK, Katie got me up early as she does every day) and jumped in the car heading north. I arrived about 8:30, the refuge opens at 7:30. As I was driving down the last dirt road toward the parking lot I heard cranes. Lots and lots of cranes.

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is out in the middle of farmland.

I realized I should have arrived earlier, because there were hundreds of cranes flying high overhead, and odds were they had just left the very place I was going. I was missing the mass exodus by minutes.

I stopped in the middle of the road, leapt out and pointed my camera blindly at the sky, trying to capture just a bit of it; I had no idea what I got, but I kept snapping until most of the birds were gone.

Then I drove to parking lot and began to explore.

On the drive north I had been watching the sky, the clouds were really interesting and I was assuring myself that even if the park was a dud, the clouds would make the drive worthwhile.

Early morning art.

Turns out the park was not a dud, though with the heavy cloud cover and a bit of morning fog the colors were initially muted. Still, I was there mainly to see what kind of birds I could capture. So I moved along, further into the preserve.

The over 9,000 acres was once mostly farmland. There are a series of earth dams, pumps and drains to manage the wetlands now. Most of the time I was walking along the top of a dam, with water on both sides of me.

Not a lot of color right at the beginning of my walk, but still beautiful images everywhere.

I seemed like maybe the water was high this year, as full grown maples and hickory trees were standing in water to my right.

Young cottonwood trees glow on the other side of tall trees.

And to the left, on the other side of a tree lined and water filled ditch were open fields.

Splashes of red from maples that lined the ditch.

I was headed down a long straight path toward a ‘wildlife viewing area’ that turned out to be a bench sitting in a nondescript place along the path.

Looking for wildlife.

Along the way I accidentally flushed out two blue herons who had been standing in the ditch. I guess I’m a noisy walker. Both of them startled me and I missed catching their images. No time to get the camera up, turned on and focused. I barely figured out where they had come from when they were gone from sight.

All I got was that little dark spot in the sky. But I know it was a blue heron, and I’m OK with just seeing him.

Darn. Missed each of them by seconds.

I turned around after half a mile, working my way back to the path intersection. A sign said there was a viewing tower 2 miles in another direction. I switched to my long lens and began the trek.

Walking along another earthen dam, water on both sides, I was focused on trees turning colors over to the left. It was pretty amazing.

Mostly maples turning, our first trees to give in to fall.

Then I happened to glance to my right and I laughed out loud.

Fall hasn’t made it over here yet.

It was so green even the air seemed tinged with jade.

I thought I caught a glimpse of a little bird, then two, flitting in some nearby shrubs. Ah…maybe I could catch them before they flew off. From their tail feathers I thought they might be dark eyed juncos, though I hoped not. Juncos are only in our area during fall and winter, and they are my first harbinger that winter is really on the way. It’s a reality check I hate to accept. I never got pictures, the little birds remained hidden in the dense underbrush.

I missed them by micro seconds.

I continued on and the colors of the trees got more and more intense. At least the leaves stood still for me while I messed with my settings.

Kind of unbelievable.

Even though there was no sun, maybe because there was no sun, the colors were intense. It was taking me forever to walk that two miles out to the viewing stand.

Loved the shape of the trunk.

The long lens was heavy and I hadn’t seen any other birds. But there really wasn’t a good spot to stop and change it, so I slogged on. Even when there weren’t colors it was still beautiful.

Oh wait…there’s something, a family of geese enjoying a quiet moment together. Good thing I still had the long lens on the camera so I could be far away and not disturb them.

They stood still for me too.

I finally got out to the viewing “tower” which was a large, elevated deck overlooking a huge pond. A long way away were hundreds of geese and swans and probably cranes too, all making a lot of noise.

Lots of birds way down there.

I was too tired to walk further in order to get closer, and I figured if I went down there they’d all leave, so I sat on the deck and watched and listened for awhile. And then I changed my lens back to the lighter and shorter version.

The view was pretty from up there. The subtle colors in the fields and marsh looked like an oil painting. But I knew I had over 2 miles to get back to the car and and hour drive home, so I reluctantly started back.

Not as flamboyant as the maples but just as pretty.

Glancing to my left I stopped as a doe and I stared at each other. She was several yards away from me, but well within range if I still had my long lens on the camera.

She showed me her white tail of alarm as she ran the other way.

Darn. Missed again.

The walk back was faster, mostly because I was focused on not taking any more pictures! Well, maybe one more. And that over there is stunning. But no more!

And then the sun came out.

The world began to glow.

I couldn’t resist, even though my stomach was rumbling with hunger, and my back ached from carrying the camera, and my poor little finger, still aching from being broken was telling me it was time to stop. I couldn’t resist.

Light is what it’s all about.

But eventually I got back to the parking lot where several cars full of people were contemplating if it was worth it to walk back into the preserve.

Gold trees, blue sky. What’s not to love?

I don’t know…what do you think? Even though I didn’t get one single fabulous wildlife image I still had a great time.

Far far away, but still beautiful.

And I learned a few things.

One, now that I have the lay of the land scoped out, I need to sit in one spot and see what comes by. Walking around only makes the wildlife nervous. Two, I need to leave the camera turned on, lens cap off, and not regret whichever lens I happen to be using.

And three, I need to go up there again before it gets too cold.

Soon all the color will be gone.


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Walktober- city style

One of my favorite things about October is Robin’s Walktober post where she invites all of us to get out and take a walk and then shares them all with the blogosphere. And here it is the middle of October already and I haven’t posted about my October walk yet.

Let’s go see what’s just past those planters!

Sure, I tried last week, drove an hour north only to find the trail I wanted to explore closed. And sure I could have taken you to any number of local parks, but I’ve dragged you out to those parks numerous times over the years.

I wanted to do something different. And since the color around here is only beginning I decided not to wander into the woods, rather I’d go in the opposite direction – literally – and travel about an hour south to the city of Detroit.

Detroit’s skyline, as seen from Belle Isle state park, in the middle of the Detroit River.

Sunday morning I drove down, avoiding the freeway as everything is under construction. That worked fine as I got to see many beautiful churches, all filled with people coming and going. Someday I’d like to do a post about the churches on Woodward Avenue.

This church is down near the river.

The Riverwalk has lots of fun stuff, including a nature themed carousel…

I want to sit on the heron!

…small waterfalls…

It was a little chilly to play in the water on Sunday.

…places to meet your friends and enjoy a drink…

This place would be hopping on a warm summer evening.

…and plenty of comfy chairs to sit and watch the river traffic go by.

A good spot to sit and watch for a freighter.

Down at one end is General Motors’ headquarters, a combination of tall glass circular towers. It’s one of Detroit’s skyline landmarks.

It used to be called the Renaissance Center…the Ren Cen for short and some of us still call it that.

They’ve added a glass enclosed ballroom to the back of it with a stunning view of the river and Windsor, Canada sitting on the other side.

Built years apart, the two meld together into a beautiful facade.

The General Motors building sits next to Hart Plaza, a central park that hosts lots of music and art festivals during the summer. There’s several permanent pieces of ‘art’ located at the plaza.

Not sure what this is supposed to represent.

Most of them I’ve never understood. OK. I’ve never understood any of them.

Maybe this is the circle of life?

But down by the river there is a piece of sculpture here in the plaza that makes more sense.

Looking toward freedom.

It’s a sculpture honoring the Underground Railroad. The people are looking and pointing toward Canada across the river. It was dedicated in October of 2001.

Come this way!

Turning my back on the river I looked at the city. It beckoned me, so I decided to walk a few blocks and see what there was to see.

The city’s skyline includes more than just the Ren Cen.

Turns out there are a lot of shapes and colors just steps away from the Plaza…

All angles and straight lines.

…and not all of them were modern.

The Wayne County Building is from another era.

There’s an elevated train that circles the city. I liked the way it curved against the square shapes of some of the architecture.

And look! A bit of fall color too!

Historic buildings were reflected in the glass of those more modern.

Reflecting on history.

Just about everywhere I looked there was something interesting. And I was only a block from the river.

All these angles caught my eye.

I headed back toward the river, and watched the People Mover above against another iconic building.

Moving on up.

Then I was back at General Motors headquarters. The sun was glinting off the glass, flags blowing in the stiff wind.

What’s inside?

Don’t you wonder what’s inside all this curving glass? Nothing about a Walktober says it has to be outside, right? Let’s go in!

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Back outside, I headed east again toward my car. Not everything is all shiny and modern. But things are getting better in the city of Detroit, and getting better doesn’t mean forgetting where we came from.

Different shapes, different eras.

No, there’s still lots of work to be done in the city. New neighborhoods are sitting next to the relics from another age.

The renaissance is not complete.

But it’s not scary anymore to be down on the riverfront. And that’s promising. I hope you enjoyed our walk and that you’ll come visit Detroit someday. We have more to show you!

Smiled at this bar door.


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Walktober – epic fail

Looking at my calendar it was obvious that yesterday was the only available day between now and the 19th to get my Walktober in. Especially if I wanted to go anywhere further away than my own back yard. Which I do.

So yesterday morning I packed up the camera and headed out to the Shiawasee Nature Preserve, about an hour north of me.

Last year, on the way home from a camping trip without Katie (dogs aren’t allowed at the Preserve) I got there the day after they closed for the season. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since.

This year I figured there’d be few people out there in the middle of the week, but there might be better color in the trees since it was north of me. I was sort of excited about checking it out.

My GPS took me down a couple of wrong roads once I got close, all of them dead ends, but eventually I found the parking lot. And this:

Well darn it all.

So I wound my way home using backroads, getting turned around on detours for construction but not minding too much because that just put me on more back roads with more barns.

Turns out this was a barn photo shoot, more of a Drivetober than a Walktober.

But I have not given up! I am going to find somewhere new to visit, just closer to home as I only have partial days available between now and the deadline.

And I know if I really get backed up against the wall Robin will give me a few more days…just like she’ll give them to you if you haven’t scheduled your Walktober yet. But I hope you have, grab your camera and share something of what fall looks like where you live, then link to Robin’s blog!

I can’t wait to see where you all walk!


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Walktober – Katie’s way

Katie here! Mama said that Miss Robin over at breezes at dawn is hosting Walktober again this year!

Mama said there were great clouds. Whatever mama.

She said I could participate if I wanted to, and I said…. “Well of course I want to participate mama! Have you ever known me to ignore a chance for a walk?”

Then I had to think about where I wanted to go. Mama said since it’s a Walktober I should go somewhere that showcases the beautiful colors we have around here in the fall.

This is a big mowed space next to the lake just perfect for a Walktober!

In the end I had to let mama choose because I was too excited to think straight. Plus I don’t have a drivers license.

We ended up going to one of my parks, the Holly Recreation Area, which is only about 15 minutes away from my house. Mama parked at the boat launch where there’s a big long earthen dam that is perfect for running. There wasn’t anyone out there so I got to explore and sniff as much as I wanted while mama took pictures of stuff not me.

Incoming sheltie! You better have a treat for me mama!

It was such a pretty day with a good breeze that made my fur fly. I love it when I look good. Which frankly is most of the time. I am, after all, a princess, and a princess is never seen in public if she’s not at her best.

Then mama said I needed to get to work to find pretty color. That was, after all, why we were out there. I figured she was in charge of pictures so it was her responsibility to find pretty stuff, but I ended up having to do it for her. So typical.

Here’s some color mama!

She thought the purple flowers I found were very pretty.

Pretty buds up close.

But she said they weren’t really the colors representative of fall in Michigan. She said I should look around and find something more appropriate. Mama is so demanding. So while she was busy taking pictures of not me I wandered over here.

Colorful enough for you mama?

I figured this would do the trick, and I was right. She got all excited and stuff, which sort of backfired on me cause she made me sit there for a long time while she tried different angles and settings. Then she wanted to do closeups too! Geeze mama!

These aren’t edible so I wasn’t interested.

She said I did good and she was headed back toward the car. Wait just a minute there mama! This was my Walktober and I wasn’t done walking! I marched right past the car and headed down a path the follows the edge of the lake.

Do you see me way down there?

Mama just shrugged her shoulders and followed along. She really didn’t have a choice cause I was not getting in that car! Then she got all interested in taking pictures of the lake.

They’re just lily pads mama!

She called this her Monet image. I have no idea what she’s talking about, but it kept her busy so I had more time to sniff.

The path took us over to the beach. Nobody was over there on a chilly October afternoon and mama said I needed to remember my responsibility to find you all some color. So I tried.

I’m pretty sure white is a color!

I figure flowers are nice, and asters bloom in the fall here in Michigan, so they count for a Walktober, right?

Then we took a path that winds through the woods, heading back to the boat ramp. And guess what? There was more color!

Hey mama look!

Mama likes being in the woods, so we spent a long time in there. I didn’t pressure her to hurry, and she didn’t ask me to move along either. That’s why we like taking walks together, we both understand the purpose of a walk.

Mama found this color all by herself. I was busy sniffing on the other side of the path.

I like being in the woods too, so I didn’t mind when she took a couple more pictures of me. Plus she had treats.

I’m feeling a bit small here, mama!

Mama said that I did a great job finding color to show you all. Plus I got to go on a walk, sniff the fresh air, let the wind show my fur off, and spend time with my mama. Win/win!

A splash of color hidden away in the woods.

I’ve been at camp so much this summer that mama and I haven’t had time to do many walks together. So I’m really grateful to Miss Robin for getting mama to take me out exploring. We didn’t have much in the way of traditional fall colors, not yet anyway, but we had a great time.

Not a lot of color, but very dramatic.

I hope you enjoyed my park as much as I did, but I don’t see how you could without being there. Maybe some day we can all get together and go on a walk. Meanwhile, Walktobers are a pretty cool way to stay connected!

Does this wooly bear mean a long or short winter?

Where will you take us on your Walktober? We can’t wait to see. Take a walk, write about it and link it to Robin’s Walktober post (or any of her posts) by Oct 19th. Robin will do a summery post on or about October 21st. She’ll even wait a few days if you need a bit more time.

Mama, as usual, is behind and hasn’t figured out where she’s going. I told her she’s not allowed to hijack my walk, she has to do one of her own.

Reflections after a great Walktober!

A princess can be generous, but she never gives away her Walktober.

Can we go check for color over there mama?


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Finally!

Katie here. You might have noticed a distinct lack of Katie-related posts on mama’s blog this summer.

Here I am at my park!

OK sure, she went to Norway, and then Washington DC and then she went camping, all without me.

Pretty in blue.

I guess she had a really busy summer and she didn’t have too much time to spend taking me to my parks. Oh, she says that the reason we haven’t gone to the park in forever is because it’s been really hot.

Mama said the light was magical.

Sure mama.

Though, to be honest, and I’m nothing if not honest, it has been pretty hot here. I haven’t wanted to go out and sit on my deck, or sit in my outside pen either. So she might have a point.

Invasive beauty.

Anyway…tonight mama told daddy that since it was cooler she was thinking about taking me to my park after supper. I didn’t get excited because I’m pretty deaf now and I didn’t hear her.

I had such a good time!

But daddy remembered, and later on in the evening he woke mama up from her nap in her big comfortable chair and asked why she wasn’t taking me to my park!

Goldenrod starting to bloom.

And mama said, let’s go Katie! I didn’t hear that either, but I saw her pack up my park bag and I got pretty excited. And boy! When we got to my park I was spinning circles!

Light shines through the grasses.

Mama said the evening light was pretty magical and she spent a lot of time taking pictures of stuff that was not me. I didn’t really mind, though I did have to take myself on my walk a good part of the time.

Giving mama the stinkeye because she’s lagging behind.

And I also remembered my contract with mama; one photo, one treat. So even when she wasn’t focused on me, when she lifted her head from the camera and looked at me I trotted right over to get my treat.

At first she laughed and said, “No silly, if you’re not the model you don’t get a treat.”

These are mama’s favorite trees.

Really mama? I’m not moving until you pay up. And eventually she understood. One picture, no matter what it was, one treat to me.

Can’t beat this kind of light!

The walk went a lot better after we understood each other.

Little sunflowers hiding in the dusky evening.

It was a wonderful walk through wonderful golden light. I even did a short little run for mama while she figured out how her new camera did multiple shots.

Coming in for treats mama!

I got five pieces of kibble for that one.

I trotted around my park like I owned it. Mama says I acted like I was a teenager again…and that made her very happy.

Pretty gold.

Between you and me I can’t wait for snow, but I don’t think mama is on board with that one, at least not yet.

A wide view.

Meanwhile I hope it stays cooler so mama and I can get out for more adventures. Though I might have to pay dad some sort of salary to keep waking her up. Cause she’s getting kinda old you know, and she needs her sleep.

Another good day at the park with my mama.

I think, though, if she gets out more she’ll act more like a teenager too.

And that would be a good thing for both of us.

That was fun mama!


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Smiles can come from the smallest things

Trent coordinates a weekly smile post over at his blog, inviting us all to find at least one thing each week that made us smile, and then share it with all of you.

Nice concept, don’t you think?

I’ve been out walking a lot and this little bit of nature made me smile a whole lot…

A bit of green in early April always makes me smile.

…because it felt like spring.

What made you smile this week? Share with us! Cause it’s going to snow here soon and I’m pretty sure we could all use a smile.


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Don’t take your hands for granted

Monday this week I went for a long walk. I’ve been trying to do that more often, and even though it was cold and very windy I decided I was going to stick with the plan.

Out at the park there was about a mile and a quarter out in the open before the bike path turned into the protection of the forest. I held my hood over my face, bent my head and tried to walk that part as fast as possible.

Once in the woods things were decidedly better and I began to enjoy myself, glad I had stuck with the plan. Still winter hasn’t let go of us here in Michigan and there were dark, seemingly just wet, spots on the path that I skirted because I knew, with temps below freezing, that they’d be slippery ice.

The plan was to walk 6 miles, and just before the 3 mile turn around there was a very large and very wide dark patch. With steep declines on either side of the bike path there was no good choice for going around. Reminding myself that I needed to be careful, not wanting to fall way out there in the woods all by myself, I inched my way across what seemed to be just wet pavement.

And suddenly I noticed that both my feet were up in the air in front of me. And just as suddenly I was flat on the path.

After a quick check that nothing seemed broken I rolled to my knees and crawled to dry pavement. The only thing that hurt were my hands, and those weren’t that bad.

I felt lucky.

Back at the car I posted pictures of the walk, checked my emails and prepared to drive home. But steering hurt my hands, and they were getting worse. I drove home slowly, using my forearms and elbows. My husband wrapped both hands in Ace bandages and I took a bunch of pain relievers to get some sleep, hoping the next day things would feel better.

But things weren’t better in the morning so we went to the doctor who took xrays, proclaimed no broken bones, and prescribed splints and heavy duty pain relief. And now I’m in day three of wearing splints.

I miss my hands.

I had a good friend in college, and for almost 30 years after, who had rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands were in a permanent curve, and she used both of them for simple things like holding a mug, or opening doors. These past three days I am the same, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot.

Michelle was eternally happy, she was a bit older than the rest of us and we used her as a mom substitute. She was the best listener and I wonder, now, if she realized how silly our young problems were. She kept on enjoying her life, though she was in constant pain, until lung cancer, probably caused by the meds she had to take, claimed her 15 years ago.

This week, though the splints make life more difficult, I appreciate the lesson my injured hands have taught: Don’t take hands for granted, they are under appreciated and needed for almost everything.

I’m hoping to be out of splints and back to normal by the end of the week. I’ve got a concert to play on Tuesday.

And I’m pretty sure I can’t do that without my hands.