An August Morning


We, Julie and I, haven’t been out on a photo shoot for about three weeks, but this week we knew right where we wanted to go, the Haehnle Sanctuary that is operated by The Michigan Audubon Society. I know right where it is, on a country road I traveled down hundreds of times as a child and adolescent because my Grandma had a cottage on a lake just beyond the sanctuary. I know how to get there – but somehow the road changed and all of a sudden we were at a land fill, on a dirt road. But I’m proud and stubborn and didn’t just retrace my tracks – no, that would be too easy. Instead we took the loooong way there.

But what a beautiful morning it was. It was very humid but I tolerated it because in exchange the sun was covered by a gauzy overcast and there was no wind. The wildflowers seemed gentle, almost ethereal. Except for the occasional fly biting my ankles that grabbed my attention, I spent an hour engrossed in the world around me.


Everything around me said it is late summer – the colors of the grass seed heads covered with dew, the haze over the marsh making the trees on the horizon a muted green, the grasshoppers, the ripening apples on the very old tree, and the flowers that are blooming.

I always look forward to the cooler days, lower humidity, changing colors, and nights cool enough to warrant flannel sheets. But right now I’m not ready for the change of seasons. All of a sudden it seems like time is moving too fast and I feel a pleading deep within me for it to slow down. I am enjoying my very being and all the fun things I’m doing. Maybe I’ll look for the replay button for today.

Very Early Spring


I was having a conversation, about us leaving for the north, with someone who lives year around in Naples, Florida and we talked about changing seasons, the coming of spring. He said he enjoys watching spring come to Naples. My brain couldn’t understand this statement because I frequently slip and say something about spending the summer in Naples because it sure looks like summer in January, February and March. And October, November and April. We finally reached a two-person consensus that seasonal changes in southern Florida are very subtle. The biggest change is the number of cars on the roads and how long you have to wait for a tableĀ at your favorite restaurant in season compared to out of season.

Change of seasons are very obvious in Michigan. I have a lifetime of experiencing the movement from winter to late winter to early spring to spring to late spring to summer to late summer to early fall… you get the picture. I have so many northern season because I have visceral knowledge of the subtle changes that lead to the real change. The most eagerly awaited for me, when I constantly scan the woods and tips of shrubs is that transition between late winter and early spring.

Friend Julie and I went on our first photo outing of the year, deciding to go to Hidden Lake Gardens to photograph the signs in nature of very early spring. The day started out more like late winter with heavy cloud cover and a very brisk cold wind. As we were driving down the woodland lane the sun came out and it began to feel more like early spring – until we stopped at an open parking lot and felt that bone-chilling wind. All a part of early spring.


The most exciting sign of early spring is the faint coloring that comes to woodland areas, that first faint pale green on the underbrush and the haze of color at the front of the tree line.


Our first visit is earlier this year than previous years, so we were excited about seeing the first wildflowers to emerge. Lower Michigan had snow two weeks ago. It was cool on this morning, somewhere in the 40’s, and the white hellebore didn’t seem to want to face the day. The pink ones seemed a bit braver.


I was surprised at the number of different wildflowers that were blooming. One of the staples of moving from early spring to spring is the blooming daffodils. They were just beginning to come out so we figure the meadows and woodlands will be carpeted in yellow and white within a week or two.


We made the decision to do our weekly photo shoot at this same place for the next three week so we can document spring unfolding in this woodland setting. Stay tuned to this space.



Down Dirt Roads: Wildflowers


We did our “down dirt roads” outing last week and found several new ones a little north of where we have wandered through Amish country. Julie was driving and she didn’t stop by any Amish farms and I didn’t say the magic word (stop), even though there were lots of interesting images waiting to be captured. Sometimes I am tempted to take photos of children, or adults when their back is turned or I am a distance away. But I don’t because I know they don’t like their photos to be take – for religious reasons. And I want to respect their right to privacy. It seems extra important to me as we, as a culture, seem to be showing an increasing lack of respect for the needs and rights of those who are different while at the same time screaming when others disrespect our rights. I keep remembering what Mr. Stott taught me in my high school civics class: My rights end where your rights begin. Probably wouldn’t get many votes as a campaign slogan.


We kept our eye on the sky, more to look for blue and some sun instead of a concern of bad weather. We picked the day because it was the only one that didn’t have a forecast of rain. Sometimes we pick wrong.

It was a good morning for wild flowers as they are just coming into bloom. Julie and I tried to name them but really didn’t know most of them. I find it hard to remember from one year to the next, just like it is hard to remember names of acquaintances. Good thing I have a wildflower book or two for reference.

I would appreciate help with those wild flowers I couldn’t identify. I especially like the one in the bottom right-hand corner.

A Vernal Morning in Michigan

Friend Julie and I did our “Down Dirt Roads” photo excursion last Monday, but went down the paved paths of the Hidden Lake Garden in southern Michigan. This large expanse of land is own and maintained by Michigan State University as part of their Land Grant College mission. They do a wonder job of maintaining the natural landscape of the woods while also having landscaped areas like the conifer gardens and the hosta and wildflower garden.

The hosta garden is the first stop on the one-way driving path and we were excited to see trillium growing in the woods. We made our way, with cautious steps, through last year’s leaves and fallen limbs. Walking on uneven terrain, up and down hills, feels more precarious every year – but the reward still seems greater than the risk. There was a large trunk of a fallen tree that we needed to get over to get the best shots of the trillium and I couldn’t resist sitting for a while. I love the calming stillness of the early spring woods – the birds singing while the sun warms me. It was cold on this morning, cold enough for gloves to be welcome.


I found I was in a gentle, delicate mood and was drawn to photographic images that reflected my mood. Or maybe my mood was in response to this early spring environment. I kept thinking about how delicate and fragile early spring can seem in the northern United States. In a very real sense it is delicate, and fragile, because a couple of nice days doesn’t predict a smooth unfolding of the season. We can get a freeze that destroys the blossoms on fruit trees. When I left the house on this middle of May morning there was still frost on the lawn where the sun hadn’t yet reached.

After quietly and intently photographing the wildflowers growing among the hosta we drove around the end of the hidden lake where the view was at lake level. It’s a hidden lake because it is surrounded by high hills.


On both of our first spring excursions, Julie and I frequently spoke about the multitude of greens and golds of the emerging leaves on the previously dormant deciduous trees. There is such a stark difference once the bare, almost sinister-looking trees start to leaf out. And of course we marveled and took lots of photos trying to capture the graceful beauty of the dogwoods and redbuds blooming along the edges of the woods.

Our next stop was on the stretch of road that goes up and around the west side of the lake. I like stopping here on the road and on this day it wasn’t a problem because there weren’t many people or vehicles. I like stopping here because there is a tall stone retaining wall that allows a different perspective of the wildflowers and trees that grow above.

I stopped using my tripod because there was a breeze gently tossing the more delicate blooms. I figured that if I took enough shots, the moving flowers, my less than steady hands, and the vibration reduction of the lens would all come together for me – and sometimes it almost did.

We continued around the trails, stopping frequently and not wanting to hurry. We have driven this trail before so we know where there may be daffodils and other flowers growing wild. It was a perfect spring day and we wanted it to last forever. We lingered at every stop. It was so beautiful that I even forgot that we had decided to visit a quilt shop in the small town down the state highway before we headed home.

Our last stop was at the arboretum but that will be another post. I hope that you are also able to find some gentleness in this season – or if you are from down under you find it in your transition from hot weather to cold. (What a strange way of saying “from the southern hemisphere.” Do you say that we in the northern hemisphere are from “up over?”)

My photo outing this week fits perfectly with Paula’s Thursday’s Special: Vernal. You need to check out her beautiful photograph and what others are linking to her post.