Pondering while wandering …

Over the years my mom was full of wit and wisdom and I’ve often written about her “momisms” as I called them. She began these little preachings and teachings when I was just a young girl. Many of her wise words did sink in and I follow them all these years later. “Always wear clean underwear when you leave the house” is a wise choice, though some “momisms” are now outdated, like “always carry two dimes to make a phone call in case you are nervous and drop the first one.” I think pay phones are long gone like the $0.10 price to make a phone call. Besides, most people own a cell phone now. Here is a post I wrote last year for Mother’s Day about Mom’s words of advice.

I ponder on these “momisms” from time to time, more so during this pandemic which has turned our lives upside down and inside out. For me, working from home since 2011 and doing a daily and usually solitary walk since the same year, life is not all that different … that is, until I turn on the radio or hop onto social media. There are the horrible stats, or a barrage of photos of gloved and masked medical staff, or tearful videos by those workers pleading for more PPEs. There is no escape from COVID-19 and now we are about to enter the peak period this week and the next.

I try to switch to music, or just silence, yet I want to know what is going on. I limited my news viewing and listening this past weekend by switching to music – the noise got on my nerves after a while. I even cleaned the house – well kinda sorta anyway and that domestic effort was because it was too rainy to walk Saturday and too windy on Sunday. I am not especially proud of my housework efforts and the house would not pass the white glove test.

Daily walks have always been a balm for my soul, a calming restorative time to permit my mind to have a clean slate and take in what is going on around me.

Yet, these days as I’m walking, I am uneasy. It is not the same – at Council Point Park the Cooper’s Hawk is slowly circling overhead, dimming any possibilities that my furry or feathered pals will come for a visit to the pathway. Many times I am going home, having passed out very few peanuts. And when I do pass them out, I’m rationing for now, so I don’t run out and have to make a trip to the grocery store, a hubbub of pandemonium and potential virus germs. Since the ‘hood squirrels and birds still show up and chow down daily, I likely will order more peanuts in the shell from my former HVAC tech who opened up a Wild Birds Unlimited store and now delivers in the Downriver area to keep everyone stress-free while they watch their backyard birds and squirrels.

Only a handful of the regular walkers have returned after the Winter, likely since most are long retired, older and worry for their health, so they remain hunkered down in the house. On the pathway, I pass strangers I’ve never seen before, perhaps trying out walking since their jobs have gone kaput. Sometimes they wear a mask or a scarf over their mouth and nose. Their heads are bent; they don’t even make eye contact as they study their phones or their shoe tips. I don’t know – yes, it is the same venue, yet still a feeling of disquiet prevails.

I pondered while ambling along that perimeter path about one of Mom’s favorite sayings to her young daughter, who often impatiently counted the days until delivery of a dolly from Santa, or perhaps a coveted birthday present. The anticipation was often as great as the event itself – you remember that I’ll bet. While waiting for the big holiday or birthday, Mom would caution me not to wish my life away “because life speeds by way too fast, so be content for the present time only.” Those words flashed back to me many times the past few weeks. Like you, I wish we could put this pandemic on fast forward, to a worry-free time to do the many things we just took for granted before. So this time, those words imparted to me for years will go unheeded – I want positivity just as much as everyone else – may we find it soon.

Unlike these seagulls, we can’t just “up and fly away” but we can follow their safe practices seen below. I’ve collected a few funny seagull shots for this post. Yes, seagull antics and poses can be funny too – the squirrels do not own a monopoly on funny photos, though it may seem that way from reading my posts. 🙂

The header image shows a flock of seagulls milling about a tugboat on the Detroit River at Dingell Park. Of course we know hanging out with our friends or co-workers is a no-no now. We’ve introduced “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” as new buzzwords in our vocabulary and lives.

Hey “social distancing” is the norm these days, but this may be downright rude!

Here in Michigan, we are still allowed to go to parks and our Metroparks have some free days during the week for families to hike or explore the trails. They even post video hikes on their social media sites. Solitary exercise is fine too, like yoga for instance …

… or squats, …

… walking works for me as you know.

The Department of Natural Resources says we can fish anywhere we want, but if you’re with a buddy, you must stand or sit one fishing pole away to practice safe “social distancing” – that’ll be tough on crowded piers along the Detroit River once the walleye run begins next month. In some parks, like here at Bishop Park, the early bird catches the worm (and the fish) so best get there early.

Looks like these fishermen came in under the wire. Whew!

You can use the solitary time to walk and meditate – be mindful of your surroundings.

Hopefully your ‘do is looking good, as there are no trips to the barber or hair stylist for awhile. So grab a little hair gel and hope for the best. As they used to say back in the day “a little dab’ll do ya.”

Hmm, on second thought maybe you need the whole jar to tame this wild-looking ‘do.

Stay safe everyone – you’ve got this!!

Posted in COVID-19, Memories, nature, walk | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Life’s off-kilter … but Spring has sprung! #Wordless Wednesday #Keep the faith

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

Click me

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Gallivantin’ on Grosse Ile.

On Sunday March 15th we had a spectacular sunrise, and, while I waited for the sky to lighten up and the morning to unfold, I pondered on that day’s destination.

I’ve wanted to try Crosswinds Marsh and Nature Preserve in New Boston for a couple of years now. But, it seems there was always something holding me back – no, not the worry of getting lost, (even though I finally bought a paper map after getting lost in the boonies of Belleville enroute to the Sunflower Festival).

Since following Crosswinds on social media and reading comments on their site, as well as from other walkers, I have learned this 1,050-acre venue consisting of marshes, meadows and forest wetlands, has had its share of issues from torrential flooding to ticks and it is considered a hubbub of mosquitoes once our hot and humid days arrive. Last year Michiganders worried about mosquito-borne issues like West Nile virus and EEE virus … so did I really want to go there and risk a bite? (Who knew that 2020 would find us worrying about a bigger virus than ever before?)

I figured I’d give it a go since we’d not had rain, and mosquitoes and ticks may still be sleeping, but, after mapping out my directions, at the last minute, I changed my mind and decided to go gallavantin’ on Grosse Ile instead.

First, I stopped for a few hours at Elizabeth Park, hoping to get some more birds-hanging-out-at-the-feeder photos, so that trek will be fodder for a future post.

It was an afternoon of alpacas and “winged things”.

I made several trips to Grosse Ile last year. There was a 5K Memorial Run/Walk, a lighthouse tour and a few unsuccessful trips to the sticks to look for deer (only to see two bucks walking down the middle of the street while I was driving, and could not stop and capture their images).

But those trips paled in comparison to my visit to the Gibralter Bay Alpaca Farm in the Fall of 2018. I spent a few hours around the perimeter of the farm taking pictures of those fuzzy critters, then speaking with Gail, who co-owns the farm with her husband Richard. This is the post if you’d care to read it.

I sent that blog post to Gail and Richard via Facebook, then we had a back-and-forth about when the alpacas would be sheared as I wanted to see them at their fuzziest. Richard said late April, and since he is a beekeeper, he also invited me to stop and watch him taking the honey off the hives. Well both ideas piqued my interest, but with so many torrential rainy weekends in April 2019, I never made it back there.

I figured if I wanted to see fuzzy alpacas, I’d better hurry. Unfortunately, the Grosse Ile free bridge (pictured up top) is closing for repairs April 30th through October. The toll bridge charges $5.00 for a round trip to the Island and I haven’t a clue where that bridge is. And if this April was anything like the Spring of 2018 and 2019 … best get while the gettin’s good.

So, off I went to see the cutie pies and explore a little more of Grosse Ile.

I parked out front of Gibralter Bay Alpaca Farm and stepped out of the car. In my peripheral vision I saw a flurry of dark brown feathery bodies run by. I squinted from the sun and took a closer look to see turkeys running around the side of the barn. “Well, cool” I thought as I’d never seen turkeys before, wild or otherwise. I grabbed the camera and just then a woman appeared out of nowhere and asked if I had come to visit the farm. “Yes” I told her, “but just the perimeter area to look at the alpacas, like I did last time.” She told me the farm was closed due to the Coronavirus and worries about accidental contamination of the virus onto the alpacas’ long fibers and making them sick. I told her I was healthy, but I understood and didn’t intend to get too close to the alpacas as I didn’t want to get spit on. She smiled and said “okay then” and I added “I want to see those turkeys too!” She told me they were wild turkeys and to be careful. (Yikes!)

The turkeys evidently disappeared by the time I grabbed the camera and was ready to take pictures, so likely, if I hadn’t lingered as long at Elizabeth Park, I might have gotten a few shots of them.

Where the boys are.

“Where the boys are” is not just an old movie about some college girls’ quest to find boys during Spring break in Florida circa 1960, nor is it about the Connie Francis song by the same title. Step back 60 years and look at Spring Break then ….

Oh, I believe I digressed a bit. Where the boys are is in an enclosure to the left of the barn – this is where the male alpacas roam during the day. And, as I strode over to the fence, their curiosity got the better of them. In fact, one alpaca even interrupted his roll in the hay on this sunshiny day to inspect me. Well, did I pass muster? Just in case of a spit-attack, (and keeping with my promise to stand a few paces back), we had a bit of a stare-down, then he plopped onto the ground with his buddy to enjoy the sunny afternoon.

I got eye-balled by a few more of the alpacas as they sized me up, all with curious looks as if to say “hey, that wool cap with the pompom you’re wearing … did it come from me?”

The fact is, when the alpacas are sheared in the Spring, each one’s curly locks are bagged with their name, then all bags are sent to a processing plant and skeins of wool are returned, each bearing that alpaca’s name. The wool is pure, devoid of color or dyes and is sold in the farm’s gift shop. Knitters assemble for the gift shop’s knitting club and churn out items that are also for sale at that same store.

Here are some more of the boys’ pictures:

While admiring and taking photos of these inquisitive creatures, Richard, one of the owners, came over and introduced himself.

We chitchatted a little and I mentioned I was the one who had written the blog post and he remembered me. So, I got a little tour of the alpaca farm and we stepped over to the other side of the barn to visit the female alpacas, a/k/a “the girls” … Richard gave a whistle and a pack of alpacas immediately came running over to the fence.

This is “Charm” the leader of the female alpacas and she is front and center here.

The alpacas quickly snugged up to the fence, clustering around Richard as I stood a little bit back; others queued up perhaps for a pat or a treat of baby carrots. I learned that this was why this time, and my last visit, the alpacas came to the fence, thinking that I had a treat (not because of my smiling and friendly face).

Here are some of the pictures of female alpacas in and around their pen.

Richard offered me a quick tour around the property. I lamented a little over missing the wild turkeys and he said they show up every day as he feeds them grain, so they gather around him, sometimes hopping onto his truck around the usual feeding time. He looked near some brush where they sometimes hang out, but no turkeys (hmm, kind of rude to just eat and run guys!)

While touring the outskirts of the property, we were very close to the Grosse Ile Airport. There is a helicopter flight school and we watched one coming in for a landing, as well as a few planes.

I told Richard I always wanted to go to the Grosse Ile Airport when the Goodyear Blimp was in town for the Grand Prix. I saw the blimp up close and personal as we Downtown Detroit office workers leaned out office building windows to wave “hello” during the inaugural Grand Prix event when it was held right in downtown proper in 1982. The Goodyear Blimp would stay at this airport and travel to/from the Grand Prix each of the three days for Free Prix Day, time trials and race day. I’d see the blimp hovering high above the neighborhood as it made its way to Detroit on the weekend afternoons, then returning at night lit up like a Christmas tree. There are only smaller blimps that come to this hangar now unfortunately.

After scouring the skies for helicopters and small planes, and taking a handful of photos, we headed back to the farm. After we parted, I decided to walk the half-mile to the airport and explore some more.

There was really not much to see there to be honest; more was happening in the air, but I saw this plane and got up close to it.

My parting shot was this sign which grabbed my attention.

But wait – there were more “winged things” I saw that day.

I’d already seen turkeys and whirlybirds, but a few more birds awaited me, like this one:

I could hardly wait to get home to see what mystery bird of prey my camera had hopefully captured, thinking I might be crossing hawk off my photo bucket list. I took about ten pictures – this was the best shot. I have omitted the blurry shot of the bright-red head of a turkey vulture.

I also saw a few Song Sparrows along the way before I finally called it a day.

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Primping for Spring’s arrival.

Today is the first day of Spring!

The arrival of Spring with its balmy temps plus teensy shoots and delicate blooms making their annual debut, is always a delight in a four-season state. Midwesterners wistfully long for Spring deep in the heart of Winter. We had such a mild Winter season that many times it felt like late March – in fact, the temps were up and down, as much as a 30-degree difference in 24 hours’ time. Yikes – it was almost as bad as the stock market these days.

Though COVID-19 has obliterated most of our normal day-to-day activities, nature and Spring’s arrival are still here for us to enjoy.

Splish-splash I was taking a bath.

It’s time for us humans to shed our multiple layers of bulky clothing and start primping a bit in anticipation of warmer weather. But in the meantime, take a look at these waterfowl doing their daily ablution. For them, this polar plunge, then preening their feathers to distribute the oil, was a guarantee to keep their feathers waterproofed and bodies insulated during the cold Winter days. Waterfowl preen all day long, all year long, but it’s especially important in Winter.

On the morning I took these pictures, it was the second of three trips to Dingell Park on the Detroit River in my quest for Bald Eagle shots that I’ve been writing about. On February 21st, I stole down to the riverfront and shivered in the 14F (-10C), with a real-feel of 8F (13C) temps, with wind gusts to 14 mph (22 kph). Brrr! I got there at 8:00 a.m. as I wanted time to get photos, as well as stop at Council Point Park which is just about five minutes away. It was a work day, so I had to hustle.

Patience is a virtue.

I layered up and wore two pair of gloves, then parked myself at a primo spot in the pavilion area … primo because I was the only person (stupidly) standing there shivering at the River’s edge. I was wearing a puffy down coat (hoping the geese and ducks didn’t see any of those white downy feathers which always seem to escape through the material – I wouldn’t want them to think less of me that I was enjoying a little warmth at their ancestors’ expense). 🙂

However, as cold and frosty as that Friday morning was, the various waterfowl just rolled with it. As mentioned above, as long as the shorebirds are able to take a polar plunge and then preen to distribute the oil throughout the feathers, that oil acts as a water repellent and helps them plunge into those chilly waters without freezing their feathery butts off.

Just chillin’.

The sun was shining brightly, illuminating the pavilion area. I watched the seagulls; some were still roosting, standing on one leg, others kept one sleepy eye closed and watched me with the other. They were huddled together on the ice – my heart went out to them. I decided to use the seagulls’ photos yesterday for Wordless Wednesday and I am sure you could share their pain. There was ice where the seagulls congregated, but in the cove area, the current is strong and there was no ice, just frigid water.

Polar plunge.

The Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks were busy – they were not chowing down on any fish, nor reeds, but it was bath time. I always enjoy watching any bird taking a bath, whether it is the little squirts in a birdbath, a robin enjoying a morning spritz in a homeowner’s sprinkler or even a puddle in the street, to the waterfowl splashing in the chilly waters of a local creek or river setting. When I had my canaries, I bought them several types of bathtubs, all which they turned their noses (er, … beaks) up at, instead favoring their water cup to bathe in. They dived, dipped and then shook their feathers, in a cleaning-and-preening ritual like many generations of birds before them. We always had birds as pets and the budgies/parakeets loved their daily bath time. One parakeet would hop into his bathtub, then look at himself in his mirror afterward and clear as a bell Skippy would declare “he’s a pretty bird!” (My mom taught him to say that – he was not THAT infatuated with his appearance.)

First up … Ms. Mallard (no rubber ducky needed here).

Next, the Canada Geese … BTW, not a honk or a hiss while they primped.

I guess that gander liked what he saw in the water – look how nicely he posed for me.

Hope I gave you a little smile for today. Stay safe everyone.

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Shiver on the River #Wordless Wednesday #Hey Mum: My bum and toes are cold!

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

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I discovered a new waterfront park. *

… *well, new for me – it has been in existence for 25 years!

The experience of discovering a new nearby park reminded me of my first trip to my favorite nature nook, Council Point Park. In May 2013, my radio station had been touting the week-long festivities commemorating the 250th anniversary of Chief Pontiac’s council, a big event in this neck of the woods way back on April 27, 1763. I was curious, but first, I had to Google exactly where this place was. Our City has 19 parks, some bigger than others. Imagine my surprise that it was just a mile away, with a residential district on one side, and the Ecorse Creek, with its treasure trove of waterfowl, turtles, frogs and fish on the other side. It had been in existence since 1994! I always said it was serendipity which led me to this little gem.

Now, as to my latest discovery, I’d say that I need stronger eyeglasses, but truthfully, I’ve passed by the AREA many times and just thought it was a golf course. I didn’t realize the golf course, known as Wyandotte Shores, was actually part of 85 acres of land that was donated by BASF Corporation, (a local chemical company), and this entire recreational area was built on recovered land that was once chemically toxic. Before I visited BASF Waterfront Park, I learned that in its heyday, this site was once used for shipbuilding, steelmaking and other heavy industrial uses. The process of decontaminating the highly toxic soil was coordinated by the City of Wyandotte, BASF and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

This discovery of BASF Waterfront Park, was quite by accident. Last week I was Googling around to see how long the boardwalk was at Bishop Park for an upcoming post, and, while I could not find that information, there was mention made of BASF Waterfront Park. (Hmm – where was that park I wondered?)

Just a few mouse clicks later and I had my information. This park is just 0.8 of a mile away from Bishop Park where I go all the time. “No way!” was my first, rather defiant, response. “I’ve passed that way lots of times and never saw a park!” So I mapped it out, to travel by foot, finding it really was a stone’s throw away from Bishop Park.

Must. See. This. Place.

So, my Saturday morning agenda was complete and I hoped I would gain five miles toward my steps tally before returning home.

I bopped over to Council Point Park to feed the critters and walked a mile there, then down to Dingell Park to look for eagles. I was a woman on the move!

Next, I drove 2½ miles to Bishop Park. It was still chilly, but an absolutely gorgeous and sunny morning. The sun beamed down on the water making it sparkle and people were strolling on the boardwalk, drinking coffee and gazing at the boaters who were whizzing by. Seagulls, caught up in the increased human activity along the boardwalk, alternately screeched and swooped precariously close to strollers’ heads and perched on the railings, hoping to garner a bite of breakfast, as if to say “how ‘bout a hunk of donut for this hungry shore bird?” Nobody obliged them unfortunately, so the incessant screeching and swooping continued.

I took some pictures, then wended my way along the business district on Biddle Avenue.

Unbelievably, I was there in about 10 minutes

I didn’t know how to gain access to the riverfront right away, and was in no hurry anyway, so I just meandered down the first concrete pathway I saw. This pathway took me into a memorial garden. Unlike most parks where people honor their loved ones by purchasing a tree and accompanying memorial plaque, these memorials were identical black vertical poles with a small black square with the deceased’s name and birth/death dates or a heartfelt message.

Some markers were near trees which had been festooned with items such as rustic-looking metal angels, wooden hearts, recent holiday décor and some had left a rosary or memento, even their loved one’s picture.

It was a memorable walk through this little garden area.

There are sculptures in the park – this bronze artwork is one of them and is entitled “Looking Forward” by artist John Pappas and was donated as a sesquicentennial gift to the City in 2000. I decided to take a photo of just a portion of the statue in the foreground in order to highlight the golden, as-yet-unfurled leaves of the willow tree in the background.

Next, I continued walking toward the riverfront. There are walkways that run parallel to the Detroit River, but it is not a river walk per se. There is a rocky shoreline and there are multiple overlooks which jut out over the Detroit River. You can stand there and view the entire shoreline all the way to downtown Detroit – that was easy to do since it was such a clear day.

Despite the sun, some snow remained …

… but a little snow along the shoreline did not deter the fisherman out for their catch of the day.

Geese and seagulls filled the skies … along with a contrail.

I meandered a little longer and saw the golf course …

… as well as checking out the Wyandotte Boat Club, closed down for the season, but where I have since learned that the regattas for the local rowing clubs take place in late April and May.

The riverfront looked a little more exciting than the parks which are drab and not that scenic these days. With the exception of the beautiful old willows in Elizabeth Park, and here at BASF Waterfront Park, the ochre-colored grass and lack of colorful wildflowers or berries make for a blah background. I’ll return to all the large parks in another month or so when everything has awakened.

I started making my way back to the car, but the brilliant sun and blue sky just made it difficult to think of returning home. So, I figured I’d wander around downtown Wyandotte and enjoy the bustling business district a bit.

With the camera in tow, I felt a little touristy

Downtown Wyandotte has always been a hopping place. Some restaurants, clothing stores and art galleries have been mainstays for years, while many bistros, coffee shops, eateries and boutique businesses have come and gone. One of my favorite events is the annual Street Art Fair and Sidewalk Sale every July, though it has been over a decade since I’ve attended it.

There is a fun and artsy-fartsy flair to Wyandotte, like the 36-foot cedar, hand-carved totem pole donated to the City by Wyandotte Savings Bank when that bank celebrated its 100th anniversary; in the second photo you can see the original bank.

Then there’s the huge Merrill Lynch trademark logo bull. This 650-pound statue was created by artist, Keith Coleman in 2005. It sits on the corner of Biddle Avenue and Oak Streets. Its weathered rust finish has been created by salvaged water heater cores.

I took a few more street shots (all the while feeling like fellow blogger Yvette who fills her posts with street photography).

What stopped me in my tracks was looking across bustling Biddle Avenue and seeing what looked like igloos (or miniaturized Expo ‘67 spheres). I took a long-distance shot …

… then, because I was curious, (just like the proverbial cat), I crossed the street to Bobcat Bonnie’s restaurant to investigate. Well, this was my first time to see what I learned was “igloo dining” which is an experience where up to 10 guests can dine in a heated, decorated dome. There were comfy wool blankets and knitted afghans on the seats and with the sun beaming down, I am guessing the experience would be almost like a hothouse in Wintertime – how fun!

Wyandotte is kinda kitschy too.

A few shop windows along the way made me stop for some shots …

Even McDonald’s has some sculpture …

And what about this door handle, or the Flowering Kale still thriving in the planter’s box?

Just before I turned off Biddle Avenue, I passed a bar known as Whiskeys on the River – this old-time car has been parked alongside the bar for years (not sure if it’s been since 1929 though).

Many hours had passed while I was walking and enjoying four parks and the heart of Wyandotte. By the time I got home, I’d put almost six miles on my feet and collected about 300 photo images in the camera.

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Grumpy Goose #Wordless Wednesday #Gander got his dander up

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

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