Category Archives: ZEN Moments

Fall Folliage 2014

In the fall of 2013 I went on a most satisfying photography trip with my dear friend Alexis C.  We traveled from Ann Arbor to Mackinaw Island, where we then traveled across the Mackinaw Bridge to explore much of the eastern area of the U.P., then back down the north western side of lower Michigan.  It was so much fun that Alexis and I decided to jump in the car and do another trip this year.

Our trip this year was crunched into a short weekend, but as usual, it was awesome!  We left on Friday, much later than we had hoped, but we arrived at our destination, Interlochen, MI. where her parents have another home where we stayed.  Here are a few of the photos that I took while exploring during our up north weekend 2014.



Before driving back to Ann Arbor, we took the back roads to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.  I just love the drive in the park.  I remember taking this route many times with my parents when I was younger.  By the time we were leaving it was starting to rain and getting dark.  Our signal to head home.



The Rainbow Bridge

When the sun rises, we have no idea what’s in store for us that day.  It could be a typical get your son out of bed and to school (hopefully) on time kind of day, or it could be a day that’s filled with fun and adventure.  Or it could be one of those days that you just want to stay in bed.  Recently I had a couple of the latter days happen.  We unexpectedly lost one of our dear pets, then 3 weeks later, we lost another one.  Both our dog and our older cat were found to have cancer.  Our cat, Tabitha, was 15 and losing lots of weight over a couple of months.  She gave us a few weeks to realize we had to let her go, as everthing the vets tried to do to help her was not helping her. But our equally beloved dog Blu – we had no idea he was ill and within a matter of hours one night, we had to say goodbye.>
For those of us who truly love our furry family members, you will understand why I found myself pulling the covers over my head and just hoping I had had a bad dream.  Letting my hand out from under the covers and laying it beside the bed, hoping to feel that wet nose touch it one more time.  I am still devastated by this loss and now having had to say goodbye to our cat, I feel like I’m crumbling inside.  I know it will take time, but my heart misses them both so much.

A couple of weeks ago I began writing about Blu.  For pet lovers, I share this with you, as you will understand.

                                                                    ODE TO BLU  Waking up in the morning with you was like having a soft alarm go off, one that nuzzled me with a wet nose at 6:30a.m., every day break.  Still lying in bed, I would open my eyes and say, “Good morning Blu,“ as you peered sweetly into mine in hopes that I would quickly rise to begin our day together.  I would touch your velvety head and ears, as many times I would hope for a few more minutes to wake up, so you would kindly go back to your soft pillow at the end of my bed and wait patiently for my feet to slowly come out from under the blankets.

Once up, you would dash down the stairs. I would hear thud, thud, thud, your legs inevitably missing one or two of the steps as you anticipated the outside door opening and your first smell of the fresh morning air hitting your face.  Okay, you just needed to go to the potty, but I could tell you loved the ritual too. Then of course,                                                                                                  you would come bounding back inside to find your food dish with heart meds                                                                                                          waiting for you to devour.

I don’t know, maybe hoping that some of the cat food will finally today be yours, or maybe it’s just how we danced.  Your large body always lying in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, many times I would trip while trying not to step on you.  You lay there, trusting that I would not. 

When I would finally head out the door to take Zach to school, your eyes would look so wantingly to hear the words “Do you wanna come”?  I would usually wait until the afternoon to take you when it wasn’t so cold outside, but you never stopped giving me that look.  I would tell you I’ll return soon and you would give me a “woof” as I locked the door behind me. 

I’ll never forget the day you came home with us.  You jumped into our car as if to say, “Let’s go on this new adventure!”  You looked back at your old family with a sad look, then you began a new life with us.  Being adopted, I felt we are kindred spirits, but your story was much different than mine.  You were 5 years old when we brought you home, the same age as our son Zach.  You flawlessly slipped into your role as “our” dog.
You instantly became a part of our family with so much love and enthusiasm!

We were told that your name came from your once puppy blue eyes.  We loved your name because WE are Michigan Wolverine fans and we would say, “Let’s Go Blu” all of the time!  More fun came when we adopted a little gray kitten a few years later and named her Maizie (Maize and Blu).

You came with many toys; balls, bones, leashes and such, but
your favorite was the bad cuz ball.  We had never heard of this, but the devilish (blue, red, green or orange) ball (a ball with feet and little horns) was your favorite.  You wouldn’t even pick up another kind of ball – silly boy!  So whenever you would lose a ball in the woods, we knew that we had to replace it with a bad or good cuz ball.  Otherwise it was a waste of our money.  I remember one time you played fetch in the rain for 4 hours when we had workers at my dad’s house.  They would throw the ball every time they went by you and you just kept bringing it back to whomever would throw it again!  You were so tired that night, but loved every minute of that day.

It was so wonderful having you at my office that first year you came home with us and now that I’ve been working at home, I’ve treasured having you here all of the time.  I think you felt the same, letting me know you were there checking on me, but most importantly, you would alert me if anyone was outside, like the mailman.  I had to laugh when the mailman said he thought you were a mean dog by the sound of your bark…ha ha…far from it, just a great protector!

You were so smart Blu. You didn’t respond to the word “speak” when you came to us, almost like you wanted to resist it, so I taught you the word “woof” and you began to let out a little woof here and there – and if I kept asking, it will become a big WOOF!  Within this last year you started to howl, which always made me howl!  It was so funny to hear you do this, but it was almost like you were embarrassed to let it out and if I dared laugh, you look so sad, that I had to hold in my laughter even more!  Oh, I love you Bluie!

You always loved going for a walk and all it would take was grabbing the leash and you are bouncing around the house!  You were usually so good about staying with me in the yard, but there were a few unscheduled trips through the woods, down to the river and somehow you always come out the other side in the parking lot of the Denny’s restaurant!  It was so frustrating, because I would always worry that you would be picked up by someone and taken home with them.  The best thing I ever bought was your dog tag with my phone number on it.  Thanks to the many wonderful people who used that number to let me know that they found you.  I’ll never forget the time I got a call at 3a.m. when I was in Hawaii, when you decided to go on an adventure just before your doggie caretaker was to leave for her work!  Thankfully we all connected and you were found, again at Denny’s!    

The secret to keeping your attention – treats!  You LOVED your treats!  Sit, laydown, stay, woof, shake, give me a
kiss…you would do anything for a treat!

One of the smartest things you ever did was to humbly let the cats rule the house.  Even though you were 8 times larger than they were, you would let them pass by, use your big pillow (little cat on a BIG pillow, so funny to see with you laying on the
floor next to the pillow).  You seemed to have this respect for them, even when they would whack at your tail whenever you would walk by.  You were such a good boy.
Sometimes you were such a lab too.  Like getting water all over the floor in the dining room, kitchen and sometimes all the way into the living room after you took a drink!  We may have commented, but never did we complain.

“Do you wanna go for a ride?” or just picking up your leash would get you sooooo excited! The way you would hop into the back seat of the van and look out the back window at the cars. It was so sweet and I know you made a lot of people smile when they saw you.  Woof, woof! You would say to anyone passing by the car.

I loved it when you would put your chin on my foot or leg, so you could be closer, as if to say, “Can I come on the sofa with you?”  Oh those sad eyes, how you could make them work for you, just like a little girl looking up at her daddy!  Whenever we would leave the house, the sofa became yours and we would see you slowly getting down as we turned the key and opened the door upon our return.
You allowed so many little ones who had never been around a dog to feel comfortable around you and many fell in love with you.  Thank you for being so gentle with them.
When the snow fell you would run and jump and dive into the fluffy stuff, coming up with it on your nose. I loved watching you play outside. You had this fun gallup, like a colt running for the first time in the spring, then pouncing on your ball, like a kitten with a ball of yarn.  
You certainly caught Eric off guard, opening up his heart to love you like he never thought possible for a dog.  Your kisses, just for him and that last one…just for him.  He was a man who grew up with felines, but you dear Blu, YOU melted his heart.
I miss you so much Blu. You came to us through another loving family, one that was so gracious to share your life after 5 years, with us. You trusted us to take care of you, but really, you took care of us.  Your love was so unconditional and your spirit still swallows us up as we feel the tears flowing down our cheeks whenever we think of you. 
There were a few difficult times over the years, watching you fall to the ground in mid run when chasing your ball, just to find out that you had a leaky heart valve. Or having your leg wrapped up because you tore a ligament. And what was up with the bad habit of going to the bathroom in the basement if the door was left open? You were normally so good about letting us know that you needed to go out…still a mystery.  We got through all the tough times…except this one.
As I walk through the woods now, remembering the first time we were on this path, then 5 year old Zach holding you on leash, you both so full of life.  I took this photo of you two in the woods, with winter surrounding us, happiness exuding from your
bodies; new buddies with hundreds of adventures to come.  You will always be in our hearts dear Blu.  And now that you are joined by our dear beloved cat Tabitha, we picture you both playing at the rainbow bridge, with plenty of treats, cuz balls and sofas with sunshine to lay on! 
XOXOXOXOXO, Janice, Eric, Zach &; Maizie

Icy Morning

Finally, a morning that I could take a quick run to compose some photos.  After dropping my son off at school, I drove to a nearby park at Burton Dam near AA.  The normally flowing water is now captured in a frozen mass, similar to using a slow shutter speed. 

As I walked down the path from the parking lot, I crossed a bridge over the Huron River to get some frosty shots of the trees and the partially open water.  My fingers were already feeling pain from the exposure while holding my camera and I had only been outside for 4 or 5 minutes.  I would need to make this a fast shoot. The temperature was around 6 degrees.

When I reached the other end of the bridge I came upon two people and a dog running.  I snapped a couple of photos and said good morning.  The guy mentioned something as they were beginning to run across the bridge about my lenses jumping and I didn’t understand, until I felt the wave.  The wave of them running made the bridge feel like a bouncy house.  It was kind of fun, but I have to admit the thought of the bridge snapping in two from the cold ran through my mind!

Walking back across so I could go down to the dam, a few of my fingers were so cold that I thought of going back to the van to warm up, but I stuffed them into my pockets and pursued my goals another few minutes.  Once down by the water I came across these snow masses in the water.  Looking closer, I realized they were swans.  They looked so strange, like they were frozen in the water. Sadness began to fill my heart as I thought they had frozen in place, but after stepping closer, they opened their eyes and moved a little.  Ah, I could breath again.  I took a few pix, still worrying about how cold they looked.  I remember thinking when I was a kid I wish I had a big heated barn to take all of the cold animals inside in the world when it was too cold for them.  I guess we never outgrow some fantasies.

The Great Up North

This past week my dear friend Alexis and I decided it was time, time for
that drive that we had talked about for over a year.  So we each packed
2 bags, one with clothes and the other bag brimming
with camera gear, then we headed to the great up north.

The original plan was to drive slowly throughout the trip, but as usual, we
were running late that initial bon voyage day.  As we pulled away from our
beloved Ann Arbor, we could feel all stresses being left behind.  We were
on our way to the island, Mackinaw Island.  Now we just needed to make
that last ferry of the day, or we would be losing our reservation at Mission

After driving 4 hours and 23 minutes, or 285 miles, our plan to drive
directly up 75 hailed us a front row seat (if we had chosen) on the hydroplane
ride to paradise.  Okay, so it’s not the Caribbean, but it is our island,
Michiganders little slice of the slower life.

 The first day was spent soaking up the sites, but in a quieter, slower version then a day-tripper would.  The slow walk from Mission Point to the downtown area provided us with many beautiful photo ops of flowers, a sweet old lab resting in a big chair, architecture and of course horses and the quaint fudge-filled village.  It was still early on Friday, so the weekend crowds were only beginning to arrive.  We headed down a back street and discover a new coffee place and possible job opportunities for next summer (for my friend, not me!).

Once again, we realized that an appointment made earlier was upon us, so we
dashed back to the resort to enjoy some much needed spa treatments.  You
may wonder what this has to do with photography.  Well, I believe to find
ZEN in this world, I must be in a Zen place myself.  So this was our treat
before leaving the island that afternoon. 

Onward to the Mighty Mac and beyond. Next stop the other paradise, Paradise,
Michigan.  The drive up highway 2 was stunning with the setting sun
catching the yellows, oranges and red on fire!  We were surprised at the
low availability of rooms once we arrived in the sleepy town, but finally found
a place to rough it for the night.  Let’s just say we were inside…I
think.  A quick trip to find some food and the shoreline to view
the amazing starlit sky, then off to sleep.  Another 69 miles for the

The next day was filled with a lot of travel.  We completed the 15
minute drive to Whitefish Point to catch the strong winds blowing in some nice
sized waves, then back south to view the Taquanamum falls and across the bridge
to the Lower Peninsula before a big storm was predicted to hit.

I love the northwest side of Lower Michigan.  Its beauty is like an oasis.  To end the day we traveled through the tunnel of trees, catching the sunset on the beautiful tree lined winding road.  The plan was to find a place in Petoskey to relax for the night, but we found what seemed like the entire southern half of MI occupying every hotel room in the northern hemisphere!  Sigh, this was not a part of the plan, but we are flexible, and the drive down to the thumb area just gave us new destinations to photograph the next day.

Our last day was spent touring the countryside to Port Austin and lunch in the German town of Frankenmuth.  I live in such an amazingly beautiful state, from the rolling hills and farmlands to the rocky, pine tree filled Upper Peninsula, to our gorgeous shoreline that surrounds us.  We are very lucky to have the 4 seasons and over one fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. 

Nine hundred twenty two miles and hundreds of photographs later, we arrived home with the feeling of real satisfaction for what we accomplished, along with a twinge for another road trip soon!

The Splashing Of The Stones

Sweet little Oliver recently turned 2 1/2, so we met at Mill Pond Park to capture his wonderment and play. His cautious ways were a breath of fresh air, as I’m used to chasing after many kids, including my own!  He was so inquisitive, talking in such perfect sentences.  He loved the castle-like play structure with its ins and outs, and the truck and digger in the sandbox, but I think it was the splash of the stones hitting the water that brought him the most delight!  Looking forward to seeing you again in the snow Oliver!