Friday Frivolity.

It is no secret that one of the great joys I reap from my walks at Council Point Park is interacting with my furry friends. Sure I enjoy going to the larger parks on the weekends, but they are often impersonal at times. There is no familiarity at those venues, like I find at my favorite nature nook where I know what trees will blossom first in the Spring, or which ones will turn awesome Autumn hues of golden-orangey-red. I know just where I might sneak up on a groundhog snacking on mulberries, or the angle where I might observe Harry the Heron before he freaks out, squawks and leaves in a huff. I know the exact location to peer between the trees to glimpse a long line of turtles sunbathing, or where the bunnies gather to indulge in sweet clover.

And … you can call me crazy, but when the squirrels come racing over to greet me I get a silly smile on my face. I am not the only one who feeds the squirrels. Arnie, a long-time walker at this venue, and I were chattin’ it up in the Park in the parking lot the other day. We both set out on the path together. This fact was not lost on the squirrels who, thanks to the cooler weather, are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed speed demons as they are now gathering peanuts in earnest. I remarked to Arnie that I could hear the squirrels’ brain gears clicking away with a thought bubble overhead that said: “Aah, two walkers bringing us peanuts – who should we go to first – we don’t want to offend either of them – never mind, we’ll converge on Arnie and Linda at the same time!” And so it was; we stopped in our tracks, simultaneously opened our Ziploc bags and watched a passel of squirrels come running to us, dancing around our ankles, clearly unsure where their loyalties should lie, yet not wanting to disappoint either of us by not rushing over.

If squirrels were trolls and peanuts were tolls

That morning’s undying devotion by the squirrels to their benefactors was not lost on a young bicyclist who has appeared on the perimeter path almost daily since the Park re-opened after the COVID-19 lockdown in May. This young man rides many round trips on the pathway and sometimes, as he zips past Arnie or me doling out peanuts to our eager furry friends, he will wag a finger at the squirrels and tell them to save some room for later when he comes back to feed them, just before he departs the Park. He always has a bag full of peanuts hanging from his bike.

Arnie usually only walks the one loop, so on my second go-around after Arnie left, I was bending down talking to a few skittish black squirrels, who eyed the peanuts in my bag, yet I still had to coax them over to me from where they cowered under a bush. They’d take two steps forward – one step back and I said “for goodness sake – do I look like some ogre who is going to hurt you?”

Unbeknownst to me, the bicyclist was within earshot … he startled me when he said “the way I see it, the squirrels are like the trolls under the bridge, and their toll for you to enter the Park is peanuts.” I laughed and quipped “one day they’re going to gang up on me! Look at them all around, just waiting to pounce if I am not quick enough handing out treats!”

He hopped off his bike, tossed down a pile of nuts and said “well, I’m paid up now, so I’m on my way.” I laughed and said “I’ve probably got a free pass the rest of my days at this Park!” Soon he was on his way, a smile on his face.

There is not a lot of things to smile about these days and, for a brief moment, the ugly images of 2020, a nation gone awry with its wildfires, hurricanes, Coronavirus, political and racial divisiveness, I reckoned that life sometimes was simple and good. Nature is always a calming balm in my opinion.

On this last weekend of Summer, I’ll leave you with this wise quote: “You don’t have to be in school to learn things. With nature, it’s always going to be there. It’s always going to be kind of like our support system. We just need to actually reach out and accept that we’re all connected and have a role to play. We’re all on this Earth together.” ~Nicole Jackson, Environmental Educator

Posted in Friday Frivolity, nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Roly-Poly Pal. #Wordless Wednesday #Prizewinner in Quarantine 15 category! #Wildlife Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, nature | Tagged , , , , | 41 Comments

A bit of a debacle.

I have written at length in my blog about my goals for miles walked each year. So far I have always reached my year-end goal and thus been able to rest on my laurels every December 31st.

As I’ve paired photography more and more with my treks, (as opposed to just the occasional interesting header image in my blog’s early days), along the way I even began creating goals for coveted photos of certain critters and even non-critter items.

I shared my “2020 Birdie Bucket List” with you and checked off quite a few images since that March 5th post, so we’re gettin’ there. And, after lamenting I missed the Spring Peepers back in the Springtime, I’m happy to report that recently I returned home with an image of a frog on the camera’s photo card. I had to laugh out loud when I saw that little green guy on the computer screen, as I sure don’t remember seeing him when I took that photo. I was aiming for a close-up of the invasive marsh aquatic plant known as Frogbit … well he and I were both in the right place at the right time it seems. But more about Mr. Frog later – I am hopelessly behind with cranking out blog posts as I took so many pictures this Summer. That’s a good thing. 🙂

Also on my “2020 General Photo Bucket List” was to take photos of sunflowers. They are at their peak in late August here in Southeast Michigan. Fellow bloggers Andy and Diane wrote about and took photos of expansive fields of sunflowers; fellow blogger Ruth, a Michigander like me, showed us the beautiful Teddy Bear sunflowers in her garden.

Last year, you may recall, I registered in advance to attend an annual sunflower festival in Belleville, Michigan. I’ve never been too swift as to maps and I must have great directions to take me to out-of-the-way places, or for sure I will get lost. Because weekend Fall weather can be iffy and traipsing around in a muddy farm field in the rain to view sunflowers was not my cup of tea, I upgraded to a pass for all four days of the September DeBuck’s Sunflower Festival AND the October DeBuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch Fest as well. Surely every weekend day would not be soggy, but I had it covered.

I prefer surface streets to expressway driving, especially if I’ve never been to the area, so I meticulously wrote out the Google Maps directions to get to Belleville, about a 50-mile round trip drive and way out in the boonies.

I hadn’t counted on a fork in the road and an irate guy in a pickup truck behind me, who repeatedly slammed on his horn as I paused a wee bit too long to consider whether to take the left or right fork in the road.

Naturally, I chose the wrong fork in the road.

Yep, there were two options on that bright and sunny day – left or right and I guessed wrong. It is a very rural area and soon, while tooling along the road, I discovered if anyone was outside to ask directions, they likely were toiling in the back fields. Hmm – surely someone was out tending to their late Summer fruit and veggie stands – nope, produce was attractively displayed in baskets or loose in bins. Mason jars of jams or jellies were lined up in rows on wooden shelves, the metal lids glinting in the sunshine, but their purchase was all on the honor system – you simply filled the brown paper bags provided and left your money. You could even make change if need be. Well, farmers are busy and likely don’t have time to deal with this small business venture. So, I decided to “wing it” and just relax and see where the road would take me. I had a full tank of gas, so no fears of running out of gas and ending up in a real pickle. I relaxed and rather enjoyed the ride in the country and ended up at Lower Huron Metropark (which was on my Parks To Visit Bucket List”). Yes, so many lists – so little time.

Driving home that day, I came upon a farmer’s field close to the road. The many gardens were filled with tomatoes, beans and cukes and a smaller plot consisting of corn and tall sunflowers. I pulled over to the side of the road and decided these sunflowers would soothe my wounded feelings of map misreading, plus complement my tale about my misfortune. Granted, up close, they were a tad dilapidated from the rain, but I took photos anyway.

So, I never made it to either DeBuck’s festivals in 2019, even though I had paid in advance. It’s not like me to be frivolous like that, but I assumed I’d try again this year. I bought a paper map and planned to memorize that route. Then COVID-19 arrived. I decided I was not going to mix and mingle with any crowds during the pandemic, so I realized I needed to find something closer to home.

I put my thinking cap on.

I was still looking for a sunflower opportunity and recalled many years before, while attending Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan, as I drove along the Michigan Avenue service drive, there was a vast field filled with sunflowers. I always had my pocket camera with me in those days and though I never took a shot of that lovely scene, I kept the image in my head instead. As far as the eye could see were sunflowers, lined up like soldiers, all facing the same way, toward the sun, evoking a smile on my face, every time I saw them. The land was owned by Ford Motor Company – their world headquarters is in Dearborn and they planted the sunflower seeds every Spring and created a little greenspace along a well-traveled service drive. There was no charge to see this colorful feast for the eyes and those black oil sunflower seeds were also a feast for the birds once they had ripened.

That was many years ago and since then, the plot of land was plowed over and a building was in its place. Recently, I Googled around and discovered a news story that confirmed Ford Motor Company still planted those seeds and this massive, 20-acre sunflower field could be found in a different location. So, I was ready – surely I could not get lost going to a City I’d been to hundreds of times throughout the years.

Construction … here, there and everywhere.

There are currently 200 ongoing construction projects in Michigan. I know that fact as 155 of them were temporarily suspended for the Labor Day holiday. Although Dearborn is a big city, unfortunately there were three big construction projects, all which I would encounter, should I choose to visit Ford’s sunflower fields.

So, should I stay or should I go?

I decided to put on my big girl panties and just grin and bear it; I mean, how bad could it be on a very early, hot and humid Sunday morning? I figured the sunflowers should reach my shoulders and would be growing so close together that I’d best wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in case of any creepy crawlies or bees as I walked through. Not the best day for that clothes combo due to the heat, but nevertheless that is what I donned. Thankfully, I wore a sleeveless tee-shirt under the shirt, so I could remove it after I left the sunflower field.

I headed to Michigan Avenue and Mercury Drive – Michigan Avenue is a busy thoroughfare, more so with only one lane open and a portion of the Southfield Expressway was closed and dumping traffic onto this already-busy street. To make matters worse, free COVID screening from your car was at the Henry Ford Centennial Library right across the street. Grrr. I regretted my decision as cars zoomed past me as I drove along, watching traffic, orange construction cones and barrels, the signage and all the while expecting to see yellow sunflower heads bobbing in the distance.

Well, you’ve got to be kidding me!

Finally, patience wearing thin, I arrived at the destination. I parked at Henry Ford Elementary School and looked across the street – this is what I saw.

“I drove through all that construction for this?” Those were the first words out of my mouth (along with a few words that I won’t mention in this post). I’m assuming the sunflowers won’t be ripe until October and no, I’m not returning.

I took the few pictures above and noted, as you probably did, the “Private Property – No Trespassing” sign as well. I scurried back to the car, grumbling all the way, but, I was not to be deterred – a quick trip to a plot of land that is filled with sunflowers gave me a smile as big as these beauties. So where did I go to get these photos? A Speedy gas station on the corner of Dix-Toledo Road and Northline Road – every year the owner plants sunflowers, corn and pumpkins and when I go to Heritage Park I see this colorful display during the growing season. Look at the miles and aggravation I could have spared myself!!

I’ve made an executive decision – next year, I’m growing my own sunflowers!

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It’s Grandparents Day!

Well, this post has not even a whit about walking, or nature, but once a year I do honor this Hallmark-type holiday known as “National Grandparents Day” in spirit only, since my last grandparent passed away in 1986. That would be my grandmother, Wilhemina Godard. No one ever called her “Wilhemina” – she was “Minnie” to all who knew her and “Nanny” to me. I’ve written many fond memories about my grandmother and told about the traits we shared: we both were fond of squirrels, gardening and neither of us could cook or bake. Oh – minor correction … my grandmother made a mean pot roast every Sunday and that’s likely beyond my expertise, (unless I try to experiment cooking one in my new crockpot).

You’ll never see warm-and-fuzzy memories about my grandfather in this forum, as he was an old coot and I hated him. Though I’d never had a temper tantrum or “sassed back” to my parents, he was the only person who truly set me off so much that I bit him. Yes, that’s right, the ever-polite Linda Susan Schaub bit her grandfather on the ankle after he criticized the pronunciation of words learned in French class in Grade One. You see, he was born in St. Jerome, Quebec, and, though he had moved to Toronto many years before, never spoke to my grandmother in his native tongue, (nor anyone else for that matter), he considered himself an expert in speaking French. Admittedly, Quebec French and the French we studied in class was different in the way the vowels are pronounced … but, for goodness sake, I was in the first grade, so cut me a little slack!

On that particular day, he was sitting at the kitchen table smoking his pipe and waiting on dinner and asked me “so what subjects are you learning in school these days?” I rattled off some of my classes, among them French, which was a mandatory class in Canada. So he challenged me to say something to him in French and when I responded, he said the teacher was stupid and I was too, as THAT was not French. I was never permitted pouting, outbursts or temper tantrums as a child, so I just took his words, digested them and without batting an eye, as he continued his verbal assaults, I simply slid out of my chair, onto the floor and bit him on the ankle (yes, like I was the family dog who was denied a few tasty table scraps). Then I climbed back onto my chair just as he let out a yelp and cried out “you little bugger – you bit me!” (Really? As if I didn’t know and no, I didn’t draw blood.)

Nanny was tending to the pot roast and quickly wheeled around to see his red face and irate demeanor and me calmly sitting there. In between poking at the carrots and potatoes she asked “Linda, did you bite Omer?” “Yes Nanny – he laughed at me and said I didn’t know how to speak French and I was stupid – so I bit him.” Her response was “okay then, run and tell Mommy and Daddy dinner’s ready.” This story was relayed to me many times through the years.

Omer was a bully and a brute. From the moment I could form words and sentences I was told to call him “Omer” – yes, this irascible man never earned the moniker of “Grandpa” or “Gramps” or “Granddad” … but no big deal, as I adored Nanny and she more than made up for his boorish behavior.

Pictures speak louder than words.

In going through my online photo albums to find some pictures for this post, I came across these two images taken the first year of my life. It is common knowledge that animals have a sixth sense about people and deciding whether they like them or not. Evidently I had that same sixth sense about Omer.

I laughed when I compared these two pictures. The first, likely one of the earliest pictures of Nanny and me; I was all smiles, with my meager amount of hair swirled into a jaunty curlecue. The second picture is a rather sullen me on Omer’s knee, sporting a curlecue just as flat as the expression on my face.

This photo was taken at a cabin where we stayed one night when my father drove my grandparents to Cleveland. Nanny had expressed a desire to see a shrine in Cleveland and my grandparents didn’t have a car, nor did they drive, so we took a weekend trip. Taking a closer look at my face reveals a wrinkled-up nose, most likely from the big, fat cigar resting between Omer’s fingers. Once again, there was no happy-go-lucky grandfather here and my grandmother, on the other side of the shot, looked like she just tolerated being there. Mom wore a blasé look with a wan smile and there I was, clutching my favorite doll “Tilda Jane” and hating the cloud of cigar smoke that wafted into my face. My father, took the photo and, as usual, managed to take a picture of the cabin wall and sliced off part of Mom’s head and Nanny’s arm.

The header image, which I would be wont to entitle “Grumps, not Gramps” was the last picture of my grandparents, taken in the late 60s, shortly before he died in April 1969 – I hated him even more, as he died just days before my birthday where I was turning into a teenager and he messed up my big day – at 13 years old, birthdays were big stuff … now not so much.

Good things come in small packages.

It is hard to remember a time when I was shorter than my grandmother. I was a tall child, and grew to 5 feet 9 inches (175.26 cm) tall once I reached my teens. I towered over Mom and Dad, who were 6 and 7 inches shorter than me respectively. I grew like a weed and my grandmother seemed to shrink each time I saw her.

This photo was taken in 1983 of the two of us in Nanny’s backyard.

As I flipped through the old photos, they evoked many good memories. It turns out I finally found one picture where I was not the one towering over Nanny, though even when I knelt, I came close to her chest as you see below. She was posing in front of her prized Hollyhocks.

Happy Grandparents Day to those to whom it applies. I know it is especially tough this year as visits and well wishes may only be done by phone or Zoom or FaceTime. Hang in there – hopefully brighter days are ahead.

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This is what tranquility looks like.

For those of us old enough to have lived through, and been mindful of, the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I am sure as that day unfolded, each of us believed there could never be another event that would similarly impact our collective lives. I know that most folks will never forget that fateful day, and the anniversary date stirs up many images that we wish we could unsee.

But then 2020 came along … a new year, a new decade, full of hope and promise, until the words “Coronavirus” and “COVID-19” became our new nemesis. And here we are, immersed in this pandemic for six months and still unsure of what lies ahead.

In a way, it’s just as scary as that sunny, late Summer morn 19 years ago today.

If I may offer a few moments of zen

Today’s post is about beauty and peace, but not at a large park along a waterway, or on a woodsy trail. This time I stepped into a prayer garden. It was a muggy morning with overcast skies that threatened rain, thus I didn’t want to stray too far from home.

Just a few days before, I was walking back from the Park and stopped to chat with Joe, a follower of my blog and neighbor from the next block over. Joe was doing some yardwork. After we discussed current events and the sad demise of the big Willow tree at Buckingham Park, which venue we both frequented as kids, our conversation turned to photography.

I first met Joe in Autumn 2018 at Council Point Park where we were both focusing (literally) on the same tree which was ablaze in shades of red and gold. Parker was also part of the photo-taking experience that morning as he danced around our feet. After a brief introduction and comments on this beautiful tree, I mentioned my blog and Joe told me about his photo site, so we exchanged e-mail addresses to take a peek at each other’s labor of love. Later that day some beautiful photos of that tree, Harry the Heron and a very handsome Parker appeared in my e-mail inbox.

In our most-recent conversation, Joe asked if I ever visited Christ the Good Shepherd Church’s prayer garden. I told him I’d not visited in a few years, likely since I last went to give blood donations. He encouraged me to go saying “stop by sometime; it is really beautiful.”

So, at Joe’s suggestion, I found myself in this prayer garden, a solitary figure basking in the beauty of the perennials and reading some of the bricks placed along the garden in memory of loved ones.

Come along as we meander through this garden, enjoy the beauty and the peace; then a parting thought.

The pandemic, just like 9/11, has left us weary and wary of everything. I will leave you with this quote:

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” —Dalai Lama

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Back to School – NOT! #Wordless Wednesday #No in-seat learning here! #Street photography

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #Wordless Wednesday, Street Photography, walk, walking | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

So, what’s YOUR guilty food pleasure?

It’s Labor Day … and our collective mindset is that it is the end of Summer, even if hot and sticky days persist long into October.

A week of September has already passed – sigh. Leaves have begun subtly turning color and fluttering to the ground. The grocery store shelves are brimming with pumpkin-flavored everything, harvest décor and lots of jewel-tone mums. It feels like Summer is on the wane and Fall is just around the corner.

Back in the day, Labor Day used to mean Summer’s carefree times of flip flops and firefly collections were over and it was back to the grind for students the following day. It also meant breaking out that year’s snazzy school supplies and finally getting to wear your brand-new duds (even if you’d likely end up with blisters from your Mary Janes). Well, school is looking a whole lot different this year with suggestions that students refrain from donning their PJs for online learning!

I hope you’ll indulge yourself, maybe kick back a bit on this Labor Day and enjoy some of Summer’s fun fare like corn on the cob, or those tasty home-grown tomatoes, or something sumptous on the grill. Don’t forget the S’Mores, because who doesn’t enjoy a sweet treat sometimes?

Peanut Bliss.

The squirrels have a sweet tooth just like most of us do. While I don’t indulge them often with sweet treats, they do love Nutter Butters. I buy the “mini” version of these sandwich cookies which are tasty, peanut-flavored wafers with a generous smear of peanut butter in between. I love ‘em too.

So, last Sunday, the sun was shining and it was FINALLY cooler with no humidity, so I filled a large Ziploc bag with peanuts, toted along a cup of Nutter Butter Bites …

… and spent the next three hours walking along the perimeter path, doling out treats and taking pictures of the cookie kids at my favorite stomping grounds, Council Point Park.

I believe I see quite a few smiles of peanut pal appreciation in the photos below. I am sure you will agree.

Happy Labor Day!

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Walk the walk!

Labor Day weekend has a special significance for me … at least since 2011. On the Friday before the long holiday, September 2, 2011, I began my walking regimen.

I dusted off a pair of walking shoes that had reposed in the basement since my last (and failed) attempt at walking on a daily basis for exercise. Yep, I bought those shoes, wore them a couple of times, had good intentions, but never followed through.

But since I had begun working from home in 2011 and sitting in one spot all day long, I knew I had to get out and stretch my legs – it was time to begin walking in earnest.

“Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk!” – Proverb

It was a sickening hot day to begin walking … you know, the kind of morning where you step outside and it feels like you’re in a locale that Jimmy Buffett might sing about. I almost turned back, but then I remembered that gardening season was beginning to wane and I sure wasn’t getting much exercise walking around the house and down the hall.

So … a fitness routine was launched and that first walk on September 2, 2011 would be the impetus to begin a blog about walking two years later, as well as a renewed interest in photography two years after I began Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy.

I’d say that staying on course that first day of my walk was one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself. So yes … I followed through on that proverb.

That initial trek was just one long block, in part due to the muggy morning, but also I didn’t want to overdo it and risk shin splints. Gradually I increased my walking steps each day, adding more streets and City blocks along the way. The Winter of 2011-2012 was mild, much like last year’s wonderful Winter, so I was able to walk most days of the season. I was proud of my daily 2 ½ mile jaunt to the footbridge on Emmons Boulevard and back.

I’m now up to five miles most days in the late Spring and Summer … that is, if I don’t dilly-dally in the morning and get out the door in a timely fashion. I try for six or seven miles each day of the weekend when I do longer treks. I can’t fathom how many miles I’ve walked at Council Point Park, which I discovered in 2013, but suffice it to say more miles have been walked there than anywhere else.

I have walked 870 miles/1,400 kilometers so far in 2020 and need to reach 1,255 miles/2,020 kilometers by year end. Whew! I must put my nose to the grindstone and keep my feet on the perimeter path, like my furry friend Parker who is featured in these two photos.

Wherever your treks take you this long holiday weekend, whether they are motoring miles, nautical miles, or if they will be footsteps on a nature path like I will choose to do, please stay safe.

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Cone zones!! #Wordless Wednesday #Coneflowers and Construction cones/barrels

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

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Happy Feet!

My blog has been full of a lot of geese and ducks the past few weeks. That means there’s a whole lotta waddlin’ and goose-steppin’ going on … now that the Canada Geese are back at Council Point Park, there’s a whole lotta sidesteppin’ on the perimeter path … goose droppings, the bane of every walker’s existence, happens when geese, not walkers, rule the pathway.

I’m not waddling nor goose-stepping; no, I’m merely racking up the miles with my feet. And, my feet are happy as a slew of good weather days this month allowed me to add lots of miles to my tally … now there’s merely four more months to reach my goal of 1,255 miles/2,020 kilometers this year. Fingers crossed there is good weather on the horizon.

Recently, I bopped by Elizabeth Park on the way home from Lake Erie Metropark.

The squirrels were plentiful and begging as usual – at this venue, unlike the Metroparks, it is permissible to feed them. They are emboldened by the many treats that people toss to them from their car, or walkers who pack peanuts and feed them along the circular path that goes around this island park. Here’s a squirrel on alert and scoping me out to see what I have for him/her.

This is the only park that I frequent where I can see the colorful Mallard Hybrids and White Pekins (one is pictured above). This post includes a small collection of those ducks, who, like the squirrels, are friendly and apt to wander over to greet you and look for tasty treats you might be offering.

You may recall the last time I was here at Elizabeth Park, a White Pekin duck was gobbling up goodies from someone’s hand … like you and me, who can resist M&M cookies? Talk about a lucky duck!

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