Tuesday Musings.

I decided to dust off my “Tuesday Musings” feature as it’s been awhile and, after all, it is “Squirrel Appreciation Day” (no, I don’t make this stuff up ).

There really is such a day to appreciate and honor our furry friends – of course, some could say that the squirrels could likewise honor their benefactors, but, for now we’ll just call it even … hey, what are a few peanuts shared between friends? Those squirrels provide not just a smile or two for me, but plenty of fodder for this blog as you know.

Yep, they play me like a fiddle … I’m not complaining though.

I recently spotlighted Parker, the Fox squirrel I’ve been interacting with for several years at Council Point Park. I’ve taken the liberty of naming a few more squirrels at my favorite nature nook, but only because they are readily identifiable, like “Stubby” since half his tail is missing and “Midnight” who, for the longest time was the one and only black squirrel at this venue. There are now lots of little black squirrels running around the pathway, so I might have to retire that moniker.

The gray squirrels are petite, cute and fluffy – I’d like to scoop them up and cuddle them like you would a kitten or puppy.

I like when they stand up like these squirrels are doing, but they also amuse me with their funny antics as well, like this guy who looks too pooped to participate, even for peanuts.

A little pile of peanuts guarantees they’ll hold still for a shot … most of the time. The peanuts must pass the sniff test first however.

Then all systems are go!

All squirrels are cute and attentive and I’m sure their mamas taught them just what moves to make for optimum treats and attention. The Park squirrels are also known to beg at the first turn of the walking loop, only to run across the grassy donut area, to catch you as you complete that same loop, like they didn’t see you 15-20 minutes before. Yes, they think us peanut feeders are clueless.

I sometimes wonder if they love me for my peanuts or the endearments I offer up when I bend down to feed them … why not come runnin’ to someone who coos sweet nothin’s and calls you “Sweetie” or “Dumplin’” or “Honey” – yes, it’s all good if you’re a squirrel once the Peanut Lady arrives.

I’m not new to the rodeo with the neighborhood squirrels either.

Many years ago, the neighborhood squirrel we named “Sammy” came a’ callin’ every morning. He went to all the houses that supplied the treats, then when he was done on his rounds, he made a second appearance. Now there’s a squirrel who knew how to work a crowd.

Then there are the delightful squirrels who hang out in the many trees in the ‘hood near my house. I’ve named a few of them, as you know from my posts about “Grady the Gray Squirrel” and “Pitch” and “Tar” the two black squirrels who hang out at my house. Last year, several blog posts were devoted to the escapades of those three squirrels, a pair of cardinals and a blue jay or two, all who gathered on the front porch for peanuts every morning. It was all great fun, and made for some cute photos (once they all understood that when I was behind the storm door, there was a glass between us and I was not going to reach out and grab them and pull them inside). But, you’ll recall, that someone always has to be a party pooper and in this case, it was a big Fox squirrel (like Parker) who decided all the peanuts should go to him. He sat on those peanuts, only moving his big furry butt, to retrieve another peanut. If anyone came near, he chased them away. I worried the smaller squirrels would get run over in the street, so I ended the peanut feasting and had no intentions of resuming it in the Fall of 2019.

But, the chilly air in Fall, combined with Grady, who greeted me when I returned from my walk every day, made me change my mind. (I’m such a pushover when it comes to critters.) I started feeding Grady only in the backyard and said “shhhh – don’t tell the other squirrels!” But soon the peanuts were discovered, by not only squirrels and birds, but a raccoon. I don’t live in the woods but my neighbor reported seeing a fat raccoon in both of our yards. We had to invoke Plan “B” in short order. Grady and another gray squirrel, new to the ‘hood (and the house) seem to have an insatiable appetite for peanuts. I toss out about ten before I go on my walk and when I return, there they are again, mirror images of one another, sitting on haunches and swishing their fuzzy tails.

Friday when I returned from my walk, I had the camera in one hand and a few peanuts ready in the other hand, as I wanted Grady’s photo for this post. Right on cue, there he was, sittin’ pretty and waiting for his treat.

I dare you to walk past this plaintive look and shameless begging without tossing out a nut or two … yes, what’s a squirrel feeder to do, but oblige them?

In return for peanuts, I got a few photos of the little nipper.

I’m not the only one who falls prey to their cute antics.

Here’s a funny tale. In mid-December I stopped at the grocery store to load up on peanuts. I always try to have at least eight to ten bags on hand in the Winter, since I don’t like having to go out to the grocery store in the snow and I was starting to run low. Meijer usually carries three types and they are piled high in a big bin in the produce department. They don’t sell peanuts in bulk, just Hampton Farms cellophane bags of the raw, jumbo unsalted and the salted varieties. I always opt for the jumbo unsalted … the squirrels don’t need the extra sodium and I don’t want salt on my fingers while using the camera.

So on that day, all they had in stock were three bags of salted peanuts. I scooped those up and looked around for a stock person to check in the back for more. Trying to find a stock person during the Christmas season is not easy; the breathless stock boy confirmed there were no more peanuts in the backroom. Not good!

I mixed the salted peanuts with some I had on hand and shook off as much salt as I could, apologizing to my furry friends for each whoosh of salt that flew up as I tossed peanuts onto the path or sidewalk.

Flash forward to January 6th – I made it back to Meijer with just a handful of items on MY grocery list, but intending to stock up on peanuts for THEM. This time they only had raw peanuts – that is fine, they are for human consumption, so no worries about feeding them something funky. I piled 14 bags into my shopping cart. I figured that would last a long time as I still had some at home.

While strolling down the next aisle, a woman shopper came over to me and tapped me on the arm and said “I have to ask you – do you feed the squirrels too?” Yes, another kindred soul who has her favorite backyard “pets” just like I do. She pointed to her cart where a similar sized pile of cellophane bags took up a good portion of her cart. We shared a smile and a giggle, members of a secret club who dip into their “allowance” to feed their furry friends. She said “I stocked up today because last time they only had salted peanuts and I was not going to feed them that!” I said “wow – now I feel like a bad squirrel parent” and told her how I dusted off the salt and mixed them with the other peanuts on hand. She said she bought crackers and peanut butter and her squirrels liked that … so ask me if I went over and added Triscuits and peanut butter to my cart.

Nah, you don’t have to ask – you know I did! P.S. – it’s not a hardship adding those items as I eat that for a snack all the time.

[Squirrel Appreciation Day image provided by Pinterest]

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Winter Wallop!

It is Day #2 of the snow and ice event that walloped one-third of the nation over the weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, just like most of the U.S., (and world for that matter), our weather has been wacky and erratic for several years. There is no rhyme or reason to the seasons. I sure was not complaining about our lack of snow here in the Mitten State, with just one significant snowfall to date, which happened on Veterans Day. Yet, my uneasiness persisted, since yes, it is Winter in SE Michigan, thus I found myself glancing backward as if Ol’ Man Winter might tap me on the shoulder and say “get ready, I’m back from my holiday!”

These ugly weekend weather events are poorly timed, as my walking regimen takes a major hit – weekends are when I go on my longer treks to the bigger parks. Last Saturday, it was torrential rain, 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) over 24 hours, followed by freezing rain. The ice melted by Monday afternoon, so Tuesday I was back at the Park, happily tripping along the perimeter path and feeding my peanut pals who rushed over to greet me like long lost friends.

This weekend, however, mere steps, and not miles, will count, since my trek entailed going down the driveway and along the sidewalks, with my snow shovel in tow and not straying away from the house. This picture was taken under the patio roof where I sought shelter, hoping to get some snow shots, but needing to protect the camera from the snow, which was falling in earnest. Though the snow piled up in some places, along the perimeter of the house, some melting had already begun since it was 35 degrees F (1C).

Actually, I was looking for critter or bird tracks, but the snow had been falling about an inch per hour, so any overnight tracks were long gone. After taking just a couple of shots, I took the camera back into the house and when I opened the screen door to go out to shovel, evidently a squirrel had seen me, as there were fresh tracks right outside the door.

I smiled as I figured it was Grady and stepped back into the house to grab the camera and some peanuts, then back outside to look for him for some pictures; all the while my gloved hand was protecting the camera while holding onto a handful of peanuts.

But, I soon discovered it was not Grady, but another gray squirrel, the poor fellow who suffers from mange on his entire body. He has no fur except for his skinny tail. I feel badly whenever I see him and always slip him some extra peanuts. He is quite skittish and a bit of a loner.

I saw a trail of prints leading to the front yard …

… so I traipsed through the snow and found this squirrel perched on a snow-covered cement ledge. The ledge is about six feet high. He was clearly agitated and chattering at me (no doubt his teeth were chattering too). He watched me intently, but there was fear in his eyes. I just melted seeing him distressed like that and spoke softly to him, then slowly I reached over and placed four peanuts on the cement ledge, positioning them deep in the snow to stay put. But, there would be no pictures and no further interaction, since he deemed I invaded his personal space, so, with a screechy sound, he made a humongous flying leap from the high ledge, across the front of the garage door, to the front porch. I held my breath that he would not fall onto the concrete and be killed since he made such a hasty departure. Whew! He made it and scampered off. Afterward, I measured with my booted feet and that was about a twelve-foot jump! I left the peanuts in place and hurried and shoveled a clear spot and put more down – he did not return to the house until three hours later, when I was finally ready to go inside and no other squirrels dared to venture out yesterday.

Five inches of snow had fallen when I went outside yesterday at 9:00 a.m. or so and it was the heavy stuff. There was some significant blowing and drifting that occurred at the beginning of the snowstorm. Freezing rain started halfway through the shoveling job and last night temps dipped down in the teens and the wind chill made it feel like 1 degree F (-17 C). Just for good measure, overnight an inch of snow fell on top of the glare ice that formed, plus gusty winds. I will go outside later and sweep as we have snow flurries now. The expression of “misery loves company” sure applies to this snowstorm, since 100 million Americans are dealing with snow/ice in some form or another as a result of this event. How many days until Spring?

Because I am a realist and knew the “real Winter” would arrive sooner or later, I got as many long treks under my belt as possible while the weather was clear and dry. The cold is never a problem for me – I just add some additional layers and grin and bear it.

Since this weekend’s weather was “no walk in the park” as that expression goes, instead I’ll focus on a trek I took back on December 7th at Lake Erie Metropark.

I’m going to do that trek as a separate post as this one has become a wee bit too long and the Gutenberg Editor has been temperamental today.

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A Winter's day …

… in a deep and dark December. This post memorializes a trek taken at Lake Erie Metropark on December 7th. I had it tacked onto my Winter whining post I just published, but decided it merited it own post … so here goes.

I began my day with a quick trip to Council Point Park to feed my furry and feathered friends as rain was predicted for the next day. The sky, though gray and gloomy, yielded no flurries, so no worries. I donned a lot of layers, since the other venues on my agenda were right along the water.

I was out and about six hours that day, between walking, taking pictures, and driving from park to park.

I visited Elizabeth Park in the afternoon to feed peanuts to hungry squirrels and birds like nuthatches, woodpeckers and blue jays. I already wrote about that delightful trek here in case you missed it, just click here.

But sandwiched between those two parks was this stop at Lake Erie Metropark, which is located at the mouth of the Huron River on Lake Erie. I stopped at Cove Point and walked along the shoreline, then drove to the other side of the park to visit Luc, the resident bald eagle. I chitchatted with him while trying not to glance down at the frozen white rat with the pink tail that was placed on the tree stump in his cage for his Saturday meal. The air was so frigid that Luc’s water bowl, just like his meal, was frozen.

I stepped away from Luc to mosey over to the boathouse and wooden overlook area (as seen from across the lagoon).

The marshes and lagoon areas that encompass much of this large park were mostly frozen. Occasionally you could see a few mallards diving for breakfast.

The drab landscape didn’t look too promising for photos to accompany my post.

But, while looking around for something to pique my interest, a flash of something dark appeared in my peripheral vision. I turned my head just in time to see a brown furry head pop out of a watery hole in the ice. Next, this critter eased his whole body out of the water.

Once onto the frozen surface, he trotted across the ice on short, stubby legs. I was ecstatic and my reaction was “wow, my first otter!” I hurried to get a couple of shots of him as he made his way across the frozen lagoon.

It was a good thing I was quick on the draw whipping out the camera, as he was gone a moment later, merely stopping to grab a bite to eat. So, what did my new friend munch on? A small fish? Nope, he stopped to nibble on a pond lily and decided to take the rest of that huge leaf to go. Lake Erie Metropark is known for its lotus beds which are the largest and most accessible beds in Michigan. These tropical-looking flowers rise high above the mammoth leaves that float in two huge lotus beds at this locale. The lotuses are all in bloom by late August, but fast forward to late Fall, and all that is left are brown seed pods and withered leaves that flutter lazily in the breeze.

That night, I peeked at my photos taken that day and chose my best “otter” picture to send to a friend, while happily crowing “my first otter – look!” I was told it was a muskat. Oops! I have seen plenty of muskrats in my daily jaunts at Council Point Park, but all I see is the back of their heads and that huge tail streaming along behind them as they cross the Ecorse Creek. Oh well – it was a furry sign of life on a very cold morning.

Next, I wended my way down to the marina. I took the wooden overlook path, noting how blah the marsh landscape had become since my last trip in October, when the leaves were just beginning to turn color.

At the boat launch area I discovered a huge buoy overwintering on the shore …

… and two boat ramps had also been pulled out of the water.

A few boaters were out, wrapped up like mummies, as they sped along in their motor boats. Surprisingly, the seagulls were absent, but a few geese came to attention as they watched me enter their domain, but quickly lost interest and paddled away.

The rest of the trek was spent wandering around observing the desolateness of this usually vibrant venue, like Phragmites bending a bit in the breeze, the frozen marshland and the bare branches of a tall tree exposing a squirrel’s nest.

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I think the fun in the sun may be done!

Last week I mentioned that the “real Winter” was wary of putting in an appearance and perhaps I jinxed things?

Winter has returned with a vengeance, though you would not have known that Saturday. We had Spring-like temperatures and rain that began at just before midnight on Friday and continued nonstop through Saturday. We got about 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) of rain altogether. I understand that if that precip had been snow, we’d have ended up with 25 inches (63 cms) of the white stuff. Yikes!

We lucked out, though the sidewalks and driveway looked like a washboard Sunday morning and the same scenario happened this morning. A light dusting of snow made shoveling or sweeping seem like a waste of time. I think the snow would provide a better walking surface until everything melts away when temperatures climb again on Tuesday. In reading the Facebook forum for local happenings, it seems a lot of homeowners in our City had extensive flooding. The northern counties did not fare so well when rain morphed into a freezing drizzle and ice coated the streets. The weather folks issued warnings in advance for not only torrential rain, but icy conditions and then snow … a smorgasbord of not only crummy, but also dangerous, weather. DTE, our energy provider, was so sure we would encounter massive downed lines and power outages as a result of the ice storm, that they requested 200 linemen from three neighboring states. By a stroke of luck, the temperature was just a smidge over the freezing mark and the widespread ice damage which was anticipated, did not occur, so the extra linemen returned to their respective states.

I’ll be putting my jaunts to the Park on hold until all the ice is gone – now we have predictions for a snow/ice storm on Friday into Saturday. My walking regimen took a major hit over the last week. In fact, I have not done very well since the beginning of the year, racking up barely ten miles to date. I took last Monday to run errands, as I knew the weather report looked dicey for the next week to ten days.

Because my motto is “seize the day” when it comes to walking, as you know, Fall-like temperatures and my wish to reach my year-end goal, meant I enjoyed a lot of walking time in December. Christmas Day was an exception when we had freezing fog which lasted until early afternoon. I got out later in the day, but my furry and feathered pals were tucked into their respective nests already. I sure hope my peanut-eating pals are doing okay at the Park. I continue to cater to a few squirrels and birds who come calling at the door for peanuts.

Shadow play

I have some new followers since the last time I did a post exclusively about Parker, my favorite peanut pal at Council Point Park. This little Fox squirrel has my heart and I am not shy about telling you that I cater to him more than the others, with secret stashes of treats and niceties just for him. Yes, those little indulgences like extra Nutter Butters, peanut M&Ms or the biggest and shiniest apple are because I cannot resist those big brown eyes and that tail that swishes when he sees me. 🙂 I admit I am a sucker for his wily ways and in turn this little guy sometimes may be found trailing around behind me like a faithful dog.

Here is Parker happily noshing on a nut in a tree.

So … one sunny day in December, the sun was low in the sky allowing for some fun shadows. Seeing my elongated legs and Parker’s fuzzy tail as he sat contently by my side just gave me a smile. I spent about a half-hour getting the shots just right, repeatedly telling my furry friend to “hold that pose sweetie!”

What is not to love about a sunny day, especially when you can make a few fun shadows?

Apparently Parker was basking in the sun, (as well as all my extra attention), because at the end of my trek on the perimeter path, I walked back to my car and there he was, waiting ever so sweetly by the rear tire of my car. He knows two things: 1) I will give him more peanuts because I like him; and 2) I will give him even extra peanuts which I put far enough away from the car, so he is occupied and I can beat a hasty retreat and drive away without running over him. Parker the Squirrel is no slouch when it comes to treats!

For those who do not know, this little Fox squirrel was given the moniker of “Parker” several years ago by me. I don’t always drive to the Park, but when I do, this sly little squirrel recognized my car and parked himself next to it, while hoping to scam a few more peanuts before I headed home. Of course, I had already given him peanuts when I walked the first loop, and sometimes each subsequent loop after that. So this became a ritual – I am sure he climbs to the highest tree to scope out when I’m ready to leave the Park.

Parker is fond of putting his paw on my shoe top to get my attention, and, has, on a few occasions, if I don’t succumb to the “treat stare” and tender peanuts quickly enough, attempted to scale my pant leg to reach the peanuts I have hanging in a mesh bag clipped to my fanny pack, or he will start trying to reach my coat pocket where a bag of peanuts peeking out entices him to do acrobatics.

He often begins dancing around my feet …

… then resting a front paw on my shoe and often gazing up at me with that “peanuts pretty please” treat stare!

So, without a shadow of a doubt, Parker is my favorite Park squirrel and he knows it and now you know why too!

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Oh nuts!!! There is a new …

… peanut eater in town!!

On Saturday, December 28th I headed to two parks to wind down the last of my long weekend treks for 2019. As I was walking through the parking lot to start on the perimeter path, a fellow walker, who always feeds the squirrels, commented that something new and unusual happened during his walk. “Linda, the geese came and ate the peanuts I gave to the squirrels – I’ve never seen that before, have you?” I admitted that was the first I had heard of that happening, but a few weeks before, I was bending over to the squirrels’ level, talking to them and putting peanuts down on the pathway, then, when I turned away to start walking, I noticed about ten Canada geese were close enough to “goose” me – yikes! (Good thing I turned around when I did.)

I only intended to walk one loop, feed my feathered and furry pals, then head to Elizabeth Park to do basically the same thing, only a bigger venue. Since rain was predicted the next day, I decided I’d stop here and treat the “regulars” first. I meandered along, tossing peanuts, taking a few pictures, and, I have to admit, I was looking over my shoulder as a gaggle of geese was grazing in the donut area of the walking loop where I was strolling.

Everything was peaceful and hunky dory; all that soon would change.

When I first appeared on the perimeter path, everyone, i.e. the usual peanuts gang, was on high alert that peanuts would soon be hitting the asphalt path.

The squirrels positioned themselves to greet me, having scurried down their respective trees from their nests high above.

There must be some secret lingo that announces my arrival – everyone is at attention.
Or, perhaps the smell of a newly opened bag of peanuts is wafting through the morning air?
“Please Linda – I’ll pose for you again, just leave lots of peanuts!” is what Midnight said.

The blue jay hovered nearby on a bare branch, deciding when and where to make his swoop down to grab a peanut … or two … or three. The cardinal carefully calculated the best spot to retrieve his peanut, as he is more timid and not as pushy as his blue counterpart, the conniving jay.

“I’m waitin’ on the Peanut Lady for my breakfast.”
*Yippee! Linda’s here – I’m starving!”
“Oh darn, that pesky jay is going to scam all the biggest, bestest peanuts!”

Sometimes, in the stillness of my morning walk, not only do I hear the peanut shells falling quietly onto the path as nuts are enjoyed, but I swear I can hear the gears clicking in the brains of my furry and feathered friends, as they anticipate their next move.

The Peanuts Gang – nope, not what you’d think.

In this particular tree-lined area, where many of the squirrels gather, they came scurrying over and I dropped a lot of peanuts, as I knew I would be leaving soon. Whether the geese were savvy enough to equate the plastic bag of peanuts as food for them, or, they were especially hungry and decided peanuts were on their breakfast menu, I don’t know, but this is how the scene unfolded.

The lead goose saw me doling out peanuts and told the others “get your butts over there now! The Peanut Lady just laid down peanuts for the squirts.”
And so the stampede began; more geese were in the background.
“Yesssssss! This is something we can really sink our teeth, er … beaks into!”
The geese took delight in gobbling up those peanuts, and, unlike the squirrels and birds who politely nosh or steal ONE peanut at a time, these piggy geese couldn’t eat them fast enough. Note the peanuts falling on his webbed foot, unless he was holding them there for a snack later. (Unfortunately, I cut off the top of the head of one goose, but the image of the other piggy goose was too good to pass up.)
They continued noshing away on nuts …
... as if they had never eaten before, while the rest of the Park critters looked on helplessly.

Linda – do something NOW!”

The squirrels, jay and cardinal were stunned by this revelation that the geese should be nervy enough to be feasting on THEIR peanuts. They looked at me, which I suppose was akin to “Linda – do something NOW!” So what’s a walker/peanut feeder to do? I waited until the geese gobbled up the last peanut (and I believe they ate shells and all – ugh) and waddled away, then I put down more peanuts for my pals. The “regulars” were quite aghast with the geese as you see below.

“OMG – all our peanuts are going, going gone!”
“How dare those geese gobble our treats!”
“Wait! Am I really seeing geese eating OUR peanuts?!”
“You all must cease and desist this nonsense immediately!”
“Maybe if I give ’em the side eye, they’ll leave?!”
“When are they going to take off? And more importantly … will Linda leave us more nuts?”
The bright-red bird shook his head in disdain. Meanwhile, the jay took a hike – he was no fool and was not going to mess with birds bigger than he was.

The sad saga ended once the peanuts were gone, and, as mentioned above, I fed the squirrels and birds once the last goose waddled back to graze on the grass and everyone lived happily ever after.

[Header image of the pile of peanuts from Pinterest]

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For now … Winter waits timidly in the wings.

After dealing with a dusting of snow on the pumpkin on November 7th, then the big snowfall (8.8 inches/22 cm) on November 11th, most people here in the Mitten State settled in for that extra-long and very-wicked Winter that was predicted way back in October. But, it turned out that the snow was whisked away within a week and we returned to a Fall-like feel for most of the time since then.

We have had snow showers or flurries in the forecast several times the past few days, but they never seemed to materialize – that’s okay with me. Ol’ Man Winter likely has a few blizzards and Polar Vortex events up his sleeve, so for now, it is good to just seize the day and get out and walk as much as I can.

We’ve had very few appearances of the sun and each day seems grayer than the last. It seems hard to believe, but our weather folks wowed us with the fact that the entire month of November passed by without a single ray of sunshine in SE Michigan!

So, when the clouds parted and the sun dared to show its face, it was cause for celebration. I know I was all giddy, snapping photos of the long shadows of me alongside my furry friend Parker. I’m going to feature Parker in an upcoming post where we engaged in some fun shadow play just for kicks.

My camera was busy clicking away throughout December and I spent a good part of New Year’s Day wading through all my December photos and separating them into various bite-sized posts, to be published throughout January. Unbelievably, I have also amassed a lot of photos from a few very long treks in the Summer and I have yet to even poke through them. I thought it would refreshing to have a few posts chock full of flowers, bees and butterflies in the dead of Winter. I am sure you’ll agree. In fact, 2019 was the first year that I did not always write a post with accompanying photos the same day I went on a long weekend walk; the exception was the four 5Ks I participated in during May and June.

As to this post, it memorializes a walk I took shortly after our Arctic Blast in mid-December. The Creek was still frozen over and it was quite nippy when I arrived. Harry had done his laborious and treacherous trek across the Creek the day before. With just the faintest glimmer of sun present, even though the bare branches on trees and bushes against a monochromatic sky made for a drab walk, I was still able to find a little beauty at my favorite nature nook.

It was a tranquil scene with the images of the trees reflecting on the ice and snow.

Ice covered the Creek and we had a very light dusting of snow that resembled icing sugar as it sprinkled across parts of the ice.

It sure looked desolate with no ducks frolicking in the water, nor geese gliding down the center of the Creek. All was very still.

It looked very desolate indeed.

Ice outlined the Creek banks, likely where the water lapped up and froze in place.

My blah trek was devoid of any bright colors, just a few teasels standing at attention like soldiers …

…and the milkweed pods that had gone to seed and looked like cotton batting that formerly filled up their now-frozen shells.

I walked along, my head swiveling from side to side as I looked for my furry and feathered pals, but they were reluctant to leave the comfort of their cozy nests until I was on my third lap around and the squirrels finally ventured out and came scurrying over to greet me, as if I’d just arrived. (Kids!!!)

From afar, and across this portion of the Creek, which surface was as smooth as glass, I saw Harry had perched in his favorite tree with those pale, gray-blue feathers standing out against the weathered and dead wood.

He stood like a bump on a log, glanced at me, then quickly turned his back, obviously not eager for a photo op since I had no fish or frogs to entice him to pose for me. I guess he was happy to be overseeing his kingdom and not fishing for the time being.

On my last lap around the perimeter path, Harry was hunkered down, his head barely discernible in those feathers and I guess he was sleeping. I strained to see if he slept with his head turned backwards and buried in his feathers, like most other waterfowl, but I couldn’t tell.

One thing’s for certain – he likely awoke from his nap with “bed head” like this painted rock I found that morning at the base of a memorial tree.

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Slip-Slidin’ Away.

Just like the Paul Simon song, the year is likewise slip-slidin’ away.

Let it go – I’m in no hurry to keep it around, nor the decade either. I’m eager to start a new decade tomorrow.

As I write this post, through a prayer, crossed fingers and toes, I managed to reboot my furnace and warm air is circulating throughout the house. That wasn’t the case most of Monday when the furnace had a big fail. The HVAC folks will come out to rejuvenate it for New Year’s Eve early this morning. I asked Mr. Furnace why it couldn’t have its hiccup while the temps were above average, instead of the first day when temps were below average and the winds were 45 mph/72 kmh and snow would soon be a’flyin’. I got no answer. I concede that things could be worse … all in all I feel very blessed, despite my occasional grumbling and whining (about the weather mostly).

So, about two weeks ago we had an Arctic blast which lasted a couple of days. The thermometer dipped down very low and the Ecorse Creek at Council Point Park soon froze over. That weekend, though the temps were warmer, the Creek was still frozen solid. I saw Harry the Heron trying to cross the Creek to the other side. He wobbled a little as he strode across on his icy trek. My guess is that he could not take off and fly once he started on his journey. I held my breath a few times, sharing that Great Blue Heron’s pain. Many mornings when I still worked on site in downtown Detroit and took the bus, I’d have to walk on glare ice. I took baby steps down our street to get to the bus stop. I assure you my heart was in my mouth the entire time.

Harry gained confidence at some point in his trek, throwing his head back, saying “I’ve got this” … perhaps this was when the ice was bumpy, enabling him to get a grip.

But at one point, he slid and was off balance and righted himself again by crossing his legs in a very amusing pose – pretty fancy footwork there Harry!

He made it across and I wanted to shout “yay!” I was lucky enough to be able to document his arrival from this side of the Creek banks.

You can see here how the ice was beginning to melt a little, so my guess is the fishing would be better at this spot. After all, who can spear their beak through a frozen Creek to catch a minnow?

I chose these photos, not just for the “slip-slidin’ away” theme, but also I thought the heron’s adventure mirrored my year of walking … there were times, especially after that whopper snowfall on Veteran’s Day, that I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew and I would not achieve that lofty goal I set for myself. After all, my original intent was always just to go one more mile than the previous year. But I rose to the challenge of walking 2,000 kilometers/1,242 miles suggested by a fellow blogger, even though it meant tacking on an additional 80 more miles/128 more kilometers than I would have originally intended to walk.

As I mentioned on December 12th when I made my goal, it was a year of wacky weather. Winter overstayed its welcome (although Winter is never welcome in my opinion) and Spring was rainy – not just a gentle rain, but torrential rain that went many days in a row. Summer arrived and most of my favorite haunts for weekend treks were swampy or muddy. Then it was hot and humid and Fall was just a blip – we really had no Fall and then it snowed twice in one week in early November and that left me shaking my head – it was then I questioned if I could meet my goal.

Luckily the weather rallied back in December – then we had above-average temps … until yesterday.

Last Saturday I took a six-mile walk, back to Elizabeth Park, where the squirrels and birds gathered around me, like I was Snow White. I truly don’t know who was having a better time – them or me? I guess me; plus I finished off the year 2019 with 1,300 miles under my belt and took a slew of pictures as well. I took the rest of the year (three days) off to rest on my laurels (and because the weather was crummy).

And because I like rounding off numbers, I will finish off the year with this 1,400th post.

And, by the way, a few days ago, I reached 7,000 miles on my 2010 car. I took a picture of that monumental occasion, but I’m going to keep this post simple and nature only, so I’ll omit it.

So, I’ve pondered what to do about next year’s miles. I don’t want to merely assume I can get to 1,300 miles again. The weather folks say we are in for a snowy Winter with a brutal January or February in store. I don’t want to fret about making miles – walking is supposed to be fun.

So for 2020, this brand-spanking-new year and decade, I will walk 2,020 kilometers/1,255 miles. If I go over that, I’ll be happy, but I won’t try to top it. When I am retired and can walk any time of day, I can shoot for the moon, but with so many snowy, icy or rainy mornings messing up my walk before I begin my workday, I’ll do this type of goal in the interim. Next year I’ll aim for 2,021 miles and so on.

I believe walking is the best present I’ve given myself because, had it not been for walking, I never would have started blogging nor had a renewed interest in photography. And, of course, I’d never have met all of you here in Blogland.

Happy New Year one and all!

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