Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Tangled titmouse

My husband surprised me with a new camera a couple weeks ago. It’s actually the same as my old new camera, a Nikon Z6, but with upgrades that are supposed to make the focusing issues much better. It’s a Z6 II. Both of us have spent a bunch of time setting up menus but there’s a lot I don’t know about the inner workings of the changes.

Early this morning I went out to my favorite park intent on looking for some swans and ducks. I wanted to do something different than my usual birds in the hand images. Oh, don’t think I didn’t have a pocket full of seed, I thought I’d stop by the nature trails to visit my little birds after I found that perfect image of a duck.

As I was driving through the park I saw a bunch of swans in the early morning light, and a parking lot not so far away. I smiled.

Sitting in the car I switched to my long lens and then headed out into the freezing cold, windy day. I was half way to the edge of the lake, sneaking up behind trees so as not to alarm the swans, when I turned on my camera and got an error message. Something about not updating something or other related to the adaptor used to connect the long lens to the new camera body.

Drats.

Early morning light and some far away swans.

No long lens meant no swans and ducks and deer and…well…drats. I wasn’t smiling any more. Who knew that there would be this sort of error. I remember the days when cameras were easy, but that’s another blog post.

Back in the car I switched back to the short lens, then grabbed a shot of the swans just because, and headed over to the nature trails and my little birds. I thought I’d spend a few minutes with them, and then head home.

Mission not accomplished.

The usual crane greeters were in the parking lot, but I ignored them. They weren’t what I was looking for, I had plenty of pictures of cranes. Come to think of it, I had plenty of pictures of birds eating out of my hand too. It was cold and windy. I didn’t have gloves.

I decided I’d only stay a few minutes.

Looking to collect the entrance fee from all visitors.

You know that nightmare where you’re parked in a dark parking garage and you get out of your car and turn and there’s some guy standing right behind you? Well. That sort of happened with me and the cranes.

While I was parking and considering whether to go feed the little birds they had come up behind the car. And as I got out and turned toward the trail they were both right there, in my personal space. They were inches from me, and very intent on getting something to eat. My bag of seed was jammed in my pocket and I couldn’t get it open very fast.

They moved closer.

They were almost as tall as me and their red eyes were focused on my hand in my pocket. If I couldn’t get that seed out they were going to get it out for me!

Finally I tore the bag open, grabbed some seed and flung it as far away from me as I could. They dutifully trotted after it and I retreated in the opposite direction. I scampered down the stairs to the trail and what did I find?

Four very large, very hungry turkeys.

Hey lady! Did you bring us breakfast?

When they saw me they started running. Toward me. (They must not realize how close it is to Thanksgiving!) The image above is out of focus because I hadn’t had time to adjust the settings for fast moving birds in dim light. Plus I was grabbing for some seed to distract them before they ran into my legs.

I tossed some seed as far away from me as I could fling it and they ran after it as I retreated down the trail.

Wow. So far all I’d done is get one bad picture of swans and fended off large birds. I hadn’t even fixed my camera settings. So I stopped part of the way down the trail and began fiddling with dials.

All of the sudden there were little birds flying all around my head. The sound of their wings was confusing because they were coming from all over. I looked up and there were titmice flying at me from everywhere, with a chickadee or two and a woodpecker thrown in for good measure.

Kinda out of focus woodpecker choosing his treat.

They were swarming my head, one landed on my glasses (which, by the way, were on my face) one or more was on my head, and at least one was tangled up in my hair, and a few more were flying around me looking for somewhere to land.

Every one of them was hungry.

It was early on a cold morning and they had obviously not eaten since the day before. I managed to get my seed out and didn’t try to get pictures, just enjoyed having them so close and personal.

When things settled down everyone got something to eat.

I got a few bad pictures and a couple good ones before I headed on down the trail. I’ll post about the good ones in the next blog. It’s possible you’ve figured out by now that I stayed longer than just a few minutes.

Stay tuned.

Yep, another out of focus shot.


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The written word

A runner friend of mine has an elderly friend who lives in an assisted living facility. She used to meet him regularly, not so long ago, for breakfast and conversation.

I went to a park one morning this week to see the sunrise.

Now she can’t do that and she’s worried about him being lonely during this scary time when he can’t get out and visit. So she posted a request on Facebook that some of her friends send him a note. And of course she has received many offers.

His mailbox should be overflowing any day now.

A lot of clouds and not much color, but still stunning.

But that, and other pieces I’ve seen on the news and online, has me thinking.

Some years ago one of you, I can’t remember who — maybe Robin or Katybeth or Kathy or Beth Ann — proposed we write letters to friends every day for a number of days, maybe 30, one letter to one friend each day.

Looking west, the hills waited to glow.

It was a way to reconnect or stay connected to people in our lives who maybe had drifted away. Maybe we were the one that drifted, maybe they were. Maybe it was a mutual drift.

Back in the east the sun was creeping up.

I remember that I wrote, some long letters, some just quick notes, for several days. I don’t know that I made it for thirty days, but it was a good long time.

Interesting things hugged my feet while my eyes were fixated on the sky.

I remember that I worried I might not have 30 friends to write. I was wrong. And I remember getting a few letters in return.

It was so good to be wandering in the hills at sunrise.

Do you remember the days of letters? The excitement of going to the mailbox hoping to see a handwritten envelope hiding among the bills and junk mail?

I do.

As the sun rose the grasses turned red.

When I was in college my mom wrote to me every week, and I loved seeing her handwriting on a postcard or envelop. When I worked at a job far from home she continued the practice, right up until emails took over, and then we stayed in touch more frequently but somehow less connected. As if emails were easier and commanded less respect.

Not to say I wouldn’t love to get an email from her now you understand. But there’s something special about old fashioned snail mail, as she called the kind of connection that comes with a stamp.

A place to sit and breath.

So I’d like to propose that during these times of social distancing we stay connected and perhaps accept the challenge of dropping a note in the mail every day for a month. Imagine the surprise. The smiles.

Time to reflect on the new day.

Maybe start with a friend you might have who is isolated now, maybe elderly, maybe with a compromised immune system, maybe just overwhelmed with kids home from school.

My favorite row of trees.

And if you’re not into paper and pen and stamps….well…an email a day to someone you can’t hang out with in person right now will work just fine too.

Deep breath. We can do this.

Stay home if you can. Stay home even if it’s inconvenient. Stay home even if you’ve run out of your favorite coffee or bananas. Stay home and stay safe.

We are strong.


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We could use a smile

Things have gotten kind of crazy here in the States. No matter which side of the virus crisis argument you stand, it’s gotten crazy. I feel like I need to write something about all of this, but I also think we all need to stop and take a deep breath and maybe even smile.

This guy is a red-bellied woodpecker, showing off his red belly.

So, for now, I’m going to go for the smile.

Yesterday I took my neighbor out to my favorite park to feed the birds. She and her husband have just moved into the neighborhood and I’ve told them about the experience of having wild birds land in your hand.

The usual suspects stopped by for a snack.

This week we both had time to spend out there, and the timing was good. The sandhill cranes are back and the red-winged blackbirds arrived just a couple days ago.

This couple greeted us soon after we got out of the car.

Both are hungry.

I told her that the blackbirds wouldn’t come sit on our hands, they are always interested in the food happenings but will usually wait around until we move off and then go in for the leftovers. Just as I was saying this a huge blackbird landed on my hand.

“Thanks, Lady, this peanut is irresistible!”

I guess they were really hungry, because several of them swarmed around for a treat. I’ve never had them come in like that before, and it was pretty cool.

Of course the cranes were intent on getting lunch too. As we were feeding the little birds these two sauntered up the path behind us.

The cranes that welcomed us to their park stopped by to see if we had anything good.

We had seen them over by the parking lot, but apparently they were interested enough in us to follow us as we made our way into the woods.

We wandered through the woods, over hills and across streams. Just about everywhere we stopped little birds came flying. It was so much fun!

On our way back to the car I noticed these three coming to see us at a fast jog.

“It’s a race! Whoever gets to those ladies first gets the best treats!”

They were absolutely beautiful, look at the colors in their heads…

They almost look fake.

…and in the feathers on their back. The sun wasn’t even out and they still glowed.

Stunning!

Speaking of bird heads…I was speaking of those right? Look at these two closeups of the crane heads….one of them had more feathers making the red part look like a heart.

A heart shaped forehead.

And the other in this particular pair didn’t have similar facial feathers at all.

A more streamlined face.

I wonder if one is a female and one is a male…or is one just different?

Now, a turkey head…well…these are just weird. I think Dr. Seuss designed the turkey.

“What you looking at lady?”

Anyway, we had the best time, and we were serenaded out of the park by another pair of cranes in conjunction with our new best friends, the three turkeys!

Do you see them? They’re both screeching. The turkeys behind us were gobbling. It was pretty intense.

My neighbor shared our stories with her husband and he wanted to experience it all for himself. So this morning we headed back out. Today we had blue skies and big puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.

We were met by the parking lot greeter cranes.

Nom nom nom…

And then we ventured back into the woods. At first it took a lot to entice those little birds to come out of the trees for a treat.

“I’m not sure I’m coming down there, people!”

But eventually we found a spot with lots of the little guys and we spent a long time letting them flit around us looking for good stuff.

“Thanks, mister!”

And of course a pair of cranes came wandering up to see if we were worth investigating.

“Good stuff hiding under these leaves!”

So we had two days of smiles this week which, thankfully, eclipsed all the news on television. I guess things will probably get worse before they get better, but as long as we have retreats like this to escape into, we’ll get by just fine.

The sun always comes back.

I hope you are all finding something to smile about too. If you do, share them in your blog and link back to Trent’s smile post. He’ll post a recap on Monday of everyone’s smile.

These days sharing smiles is something of a public service.


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A photo a week photo challenge: Red

This is the time of year, at least here in the Upper Midwest, when we could use a bit of color. So I was happy to see this week’s photo challenge was “red!

As I chopped stuff for my morning oatmeal today I thought about where I could go to look for some red. Red isn’t so easy to find in early March in Michigan. Maybe I should drive to my favorite park and look for a cardinal. But I’ve taken plenty of pictures of birds before. I needed something different.

And then I looked down and began to laugh.

Yep, sometimes you don’t have to venture far from home to find what you’re looking for.

I hope you have a great day and that you find a little color in your life too!


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A roller coaster week

Katie here. You might have noticed that mama hasn’t posted in a week. That’s like 7 weeks in dog math, and almost unprecedented! I’ve been noticing a distinct lack of smiles on mama’s face too, so I decided I needed to take action.

A little snow always makes the world look better.

And this morning, when it started to snow I knew just what I had to do.

I had to get mama off the sofa and out into the snow! Cause who doesn’t like snow? I mean, what’s not to like? It’s white and clean and fluffy. Mama says it’s also cold. And wet. And a precursor to mud.

Yep, a little bit of snow makes everything look better.

Mama tends to get a bit negative toward the end of winter.

Anyway, we went out and explored the backyard. It was simply beautiful, even mama had to agree. And it wasn’t all that wet and cold either. I thought maybe, just maybe, mama would smile.

While mama was busy with her camera, I was busy breaking up sticks. It’s a never ending job.

And she did lighten up a bit when she was focused on that silly camera of hers and all the pretty things in the yard.

Pretty in white.

Including me, of course.

Just the perfect amount of snow to play in.

But you know what really got her to smile? It was these little green nubby things she found in one of her gardens.

Huh…green made mama smile!

And the three red winged blackbirds that sang to us just as we headed back inside. She said that was really worth smiling over!

Though I have to say I should get more credit. Cause really, a sheltie in the snow? That has to make you all smile!

Admit it. I just made you smile.

PS: Mama says that she was feeling very sad because a friend’s sheltie crossed the rainbow bridge Monday and he was just about exactly my age and she feels really really sad for his mom and human brother. Mama almost didn’t let me post today because she was worried it might make the mom even more sad. But I said that we could send our love to her this way, and if she ever needs a sheltie hug I’m available. I hope she’s doing OK, though I know her eyes are probably leaking right now. I wish I could make it all better for her.

Thinking about our friend on this snowy morning.


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Music decompression smile

You know how astronauts, when they come back to earth, need a period of time to adjust to their normal lives again? Though I haven’t been orbiting the earth that’s how I feel now that I’m back in Michigan after twelve lovely days in the sun.

Not to say there’s never any sun here. But it seems to be rare. And it hasn’t stopped snowing since we arrived home. Today the windchill temperatures will be in the single digits, and the driveway needs to be cleared of last night’s snow. Perhaps we can just wait until it melts sometime in April.

I’m still battling the major cold I got while I was out there enjoying the sun. I’m not blaming Arizona for my cold, I figure I got it on the plane ride home from Washington DC the week before. I almost always get some sort of sniffle after I fly, but this one is a doozy.

I’ve been taking over the counter drugs every four hours for more than a week. The cough is low in my chest and the tickle in my throat is constant. I should buy stock in Kleenex and my nose is raw.

I’m pretty miserable.

We took the red-eye flight home from Phoenix on Sunday night. Our plane left at midnight and we arrived in Detroit at 5:00 a.m. By the time we got our luggage and got out to the car we were looking at driving home in rush hour traffic. Yep, that was fun.

I got a couple of hours of sleep at home, then went to pick up the Princess from camp. I hoped that she would be exhausted from all the fun she had and we could all settle down to a long winter nap.

I was wrong.

So anyway, by the time Tuesday night’s community band rehearsal came around I was really dragging. And I still couldn’t breath well, was still taking drugs to function. And I hadn’t practiced in almost two weeks. I really wanted to stay home.

But have I told you that we have a concert in one week?

So I went, not expecting to be able to stay the entire two hours. Uncertain if I could even play. And guess what?

The music filled me up with such peace. Even the hard parts. We didn’t sound too bad, and though there are definitely places we each need to work on before next Tuesday, some of the time we sounded quite beautiful. And my head cleared and my throat stopped hurting and I only coughed once.

That’s the power of music.

So this is a long post to relay a simple idea. If you’re feeling down, emotionally or physically, if you’re stressed and tired and worn out, if you need to get through another cold, dark, snowy day, well…play some music. Whether it’s on the radio, or your mobile device or an actual instrument or your very own voice, play some music.

It’ll make you smile. And that’s the first step to feeling better.

Guaranteed.


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Where the antelope play

I left you last in the wide open spaces of Monument Valley, where you can see for miles across a desert spiked with rock formations that lend themselves to imaginative interpretations.

Kind of looks like a fort, doesn’t it?

And what’s the opposite of wide open spaces? Why slot canyons, of course!

Don’t you just want to go inside and see what’s in there?

A slot canyon is exactly what it sounds like, a narrow canyon formed by wind and water, winding it’s way through rock.

You’ve probably seen photos taken in slot canyons, the orange, reds and greys swirling rock and light together. The images look like modern art.

The sunlight coming down from the top illuminates parts of the canyon.

And if you’re a photographer or a painter you’ve wanted to see one of these for yourself.

One of the largest ‘rooms’ in the canyon.

I know I’ve always wanted to.

The colors all swirl around each other.

So I was excited when we were able to book a tour to one of the Antelope Canyons near Page, Arizona.

It looks like the set of some sci-fi movie.

I didn’t really know what to expect.

I couldn’t do this with a paintbrush, much less with wind and water.

But we were lucky, our group was small and our guide was all about photography. He stopped us at several places and told us where to look for the iconic shot.

Every corner we rounded caused new gasps of wonder.

He even suggested camera settings and took a few pictures of each of us using our cameras.

The texture was unbelievable.

I wasn’t sure what I got until that evening when I downloaded the images. There were a few that made me stop and say ‘oh’ and then grin.

I can’t tell if I was shooting straight up, or along a wall. Doesn’t matter, it was beautiful in every direction.

I hope they made you grin too.

You’re smiling…right?

And for absolutely sure, if you’re near Page you need to get yourself booked on a tour. Try to go in the off season so you get a smaller group, but go, no matter when you can go, just go.

Do you see the heart?

Camera or no camera, you’re going to be in awe as you walk through these canyons. And you won’t forget it, guaranteed.

All that rock carved into beautiful shapes and hidden away waiting to be found.

One more post about this Southwest trip is coming up. Stay tuned.

What’s over there?

Meanwhile…Katie-girl, we’re coming home soon sweetheart. I’ll make it up to you I promise.

One last look.


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We’re in the West!

Sometimes when you’re off exploring you get so overwhelmed with new sights that you just don’t know where to start. And that’s where I am right now.

On a drive up toward Roosevelt Lake north of Phoenix.

We’re in Arizona. Well, technically right this minute we’re in Colorado, but I have to get you caught up, and that means starting in Arizona. The images here are from the end of last week, starting in the Phoenix area where we visited friends.

Roosevelt Lake, on a beautiful sunny day.

We took a drive north of Phoenix, up toward Roosevelt Lake, driving through all sorts of terrain. The lake was beautiful, but the most beautiful that trip was this bridge.

Such a perfect reflection!

I liked that the ducks were swimming and messing up the glassy surface of the lake too.

A duck swims through the reflection.

After we visited for a couple days, we headed north for some exploring. We stopped at Montezuma’s castle, in Camp Verde, Arizona, where down a short walkway you could see the cliff dwelling sitting high up in the white stone. This dwelling was built and lived in by people from about 1100 to 1425.

Montezuma’s Castle, a cliff dwelling set along a beautiful river.

Then we traveled a few miles to Tuzigoot National Monument, another Indian ruin, this one sitting high on a hill.

Way up on that hill is the ruin of another Indian community.

We had perfect weather to explore the stone structure…

Lots of rooms in this multi-layered structure.

…and enjoy the views.

Long vistas, and no snow!

And finally, that day, we visited Montezuma’s well, a small lake that is fed fresh water from deep in the earth beneath the pond. Centuries ago it was a special place for gathering of the Indians from all over the region.

Fresh water coming up from the bottom, leaches out through the rock into a river below.

We were lucky enough to talk with a young man there whose people used to come there to pray and dance. He says they still do during certain times of the year.

There were cliff dwellings at the well too.

Since then we’ve seen a sunset in the desert, visited the Petrified Forest over the span of two days, wandered in the painted desert and crossed into Colorado.

Just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Oh and we spent one night in Winslow Arizona….had to get the iconic picture of that!

“Standin on a corner in Winslow Arizona…”

I haven’t even looked at the past two days worth of pictures, much less picked out some for you…but I will. We’ve seen some spectacular scenery and you’re not going to want to miss it!

Stay tuned.

Iconic Arizona