Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Saginaw Brick

One of my Facebook friends was talking about Saginaw brick the other day and that reminded me that we have Saginaw bricks in the landscaping at our farmhouse. My friend Frank Johnson was telling, on Facebook, about how he hauled one brick in a suitcase all the way out to San Diego where the brick is now a precious accent in a flower bed at his home.

Our Saginaw bricks came from the time that Pigeon High School was torn down. Davey Vollmer bought up all of those bricks and we bought some from him to use in front of the steps at the farmhouse. My husband Ed thinks that Pigeon High School was built in the early 1920's and that his grandfather Ed Geiger was one of the early graduates.

I don't know how long Saginaw bricks were made, but it is apparent that they are pretty treasured and still present in the lives of those of us who share a heritage in mid-Michigan's Saginaw area.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ode to the Daffodil

I know that poets like Wordsworth have framed words about the daffodil that are beyond any I can assemble, but I must try, too, to plumb the depths of what these piercing yellow blooms come to mean on a cold rainy day in Michigsn. 

They bow, yet are not obsequious. Their very form trumpets the time of growth yet speaks without fanfare and show. 

They pop up through sod, in ditch banks, in gardens. Tenacious, surprising, and expected, yes even longed for, the daffodil is the harbinger of warmth. 

On my kitchen windowsill on a wet day, they preach a silent sermon of life and light that emerges from the winter months and slowly turns my heart toward summer, again. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tiny Daff

A tiny daffodil, one of many that entered our household several years ago, found its way to the compost pile. It's barely as long as my middle finger but the yellow sunshine that it displays caught my eye when I strolled out to the compost pile last week.

I'm always in awe of the life force that is contained in bulb plants. For months these little buggers hide out in the frozen ground. No warmth. No light. No moisture. Then, come spring with a tad bit of warmth (think 35 degrees instead of 10 degrees) and the bulb starts growing. Absolutely, awesomely amazing. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Smushed Plants

I'm sure that other people pack crazy things in their luggage when they travel. I know that I do.

Coming back from Arizona this past week, I had four pieces of cheese and two pots of herbs in my rollabout bag. The herbs looked so tempting when we shopped on our last day in Arizona. "Gee, Ed, I could get those in my bag," I commented as I planned how to pack the the pots of basil and parsley.

The plants are potted in soft peat pots, so I wrapped a wet paper towel around the pot, pulled a plastic grocery bag around each one, and stuffed them into zip top bags. Sealed at the top with air trapped in the bag, the pots of herbs arrived safe and sound.

The plants were smushed, but after a bit of water and some light, they recovered. The result is some luscious scrambled eggs and salads with fresh herbs. Mmmm.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Miniature Downtown -- Phoenix

The Nikon 1 J3 camera has a creative setting that is supposed to create an image that looks miniature. Here's downtown Phoenix, that's Chase Field with the roof rolled back on the lower right, taken from a Delta flight on Tuesday afternoon.

The miniature effect blurs the up front and way in the back parts of the image. What's in the center, in this case the tall buildings of a downtown, then look like they are a part of a diorama. Think model train setup and you will get the idea of the effect.

It does kind of look like you could pinch one of these buildings between your thumb and first finger and then move it to another spot on the checkerboard!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


It is kind of a conundrum, this realization that dwindling snow piles are actually a sign of spring. South of Harbor Beach, there are bluffs that run along the shoreline. Not really like the swales (long sandy berm type geological features) that are found on the Saginaw Bay side of Huron County, these bluffs might have been the shoreline for the "old" Lake Huron, before the last glacial cycle.

Because the bluffs face east the snow gets morning sun, during the much colder part of a spring Great Lakes day. The ground temperatures stay cold and bluff snow melts very slowly, as you can see from this photo that shows green grass, blue skies, and one very large patch of snow, still dwindling.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Always Behind

I have this errant sense, in Arizona, that I'm always behind. Arizona doesn't change from regular time to daylight time, so from March through October, Arizona is three hours behind east coast time.

Glancing at my audio player this morning (yes, I still use a Microsoft Zune and it works well for me), I automatically did the math. 7:17 AM here. 10:17 AM back home. It's like you have your feet in two worlds, this always watching the clock with math in mind.

Ed found a dual time watch for me that I wear when we travel. It has two faces and tells two times. So I know what time it is where I am and what time it is back home.

It's still a funny feeling though, when I get back to Michigan, because I will take some of Arizona with me. I'm like that with being "home" in Wisconsin, too. 

Maybe this being always behind, always identifying with another place is a part of growing up. The older I get, the more I realize that there are a lot of places where I could live, where I'm comfortable. Still, as I'm heading back to Michigan, I'm ready to be in one place with my brain and my body. 

I count it as one of the great joys of my life that that place is in a Great Lakes state -- my Michigan. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chollas in Bloom

The chollas are blooming. The plants are spiny, full of stems and prickers. They look like a shrub that forgot to grow leaves. But in the spring, their blossoms redeem them. These two images are probably staghorn cholla or pencil chollas. The blooms are red to orange to copper to burgundy in color.

The structure of the staghorn cholla, lots of stem and branches that emanate from a central trunk, appear to be a reddish brown color. Some sources label the stem color as purple. The copper blossoms accent the reddish branches, a delightful change up from all of the desert yellow and white flowers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter 2014

Happy Easter, Willow Blog readers! This little golf course bunny posed so well that I thought I would let him greet my readers on this special day.

Friday, April 18, 2014

To The Light

I've always had a hard time with the Christian observance of Holy Week. In particular, on Good Friday it seems like the band of sisters and brothers is acting out the old, old stories of strife and crucifixion, without any attention paid to the end of the story, that of a glorious morning with an empty tomb.

So, Lent and Holy Week came across as depressing, withdrawn, and even austere.

John Vessels, Louisville area actor and musician, said on Facebook this morning that "the most valuable lesson of Good Friday might just be, "It's going to be okay.""

Well said. That looking toward the light, toward the positive, toward the end of the story where things will be okay, moves the thinking forward to Easter morning. Like this dove peering from its nest tucked in a very prickly cactus, I'm mostly inclined to believe that things will be okay.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Instead of Perfect

I have walked past this lovely prickly pear, filled with spring blossoms, for several days and contemplated what would make the very best photograph. Finally, after some contemplation, I decided on one of the first images that I took.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good," says a common aphorism, sometimes attributed to Voltaire. This striving for perfection often means that a moment never comes; an opportunity is missed because it is not one hundred percent of expectation.

So, in today's blog, you see a flowering plant that is not the best of what the prickly pear has to offer. Some blooms are in bud stage; others are over the hill and drying; still others are not quite to peak.

But in the spirit of the good, we see the totality of the flowering. What will be (the bud) is coupled with what has been (the wilted flower).

In the glorious red and green of a spring cactus lies the reminder to reject the perfect -- the extreme -- and accept what is good, even in a photograph.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Birthday Bubble

My guy should be walking around in a special bubble today, since it is his birthday. I snapped his photo while we were out for a morning stroll. Then I put him in "the bubble" when I got around to doing my darkroom magic.

Ed sends out birthday cards to dozens of people every year. It is one of those pleasant things that he does for so many people.

He's not a Facebook guy, so you might leave a birthday greeting in the comments section of Willow Blog today. I know that Ed would appreciate that a lot. And, if you comment as "anonymous," give a clue as to who is wishing good things for a really good guy.

Happy birthday, dear!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eclipse Memories

Ed and I bundled up last night, took the camera equipment, and headed out to a nearby golf course just north of Tucson. Our objective was to photograph the eclipse of the full moon using a Nikon 1 J3 camera, my newest photographic purchase.

I used this Nikon in March when I photographed the full moon from the same spot, the fairway of Hole Thirteen at Highlands Golf Course on Dove Mountain. The camera was not kind to me in March. The battery charge would not hold and I had not studied up on shutter and aperture settings.

Photography is challenging enough because of the math and science involved, but add in some wind and late nights, and it becomes even tougher. My little point and shoot camera, my trusty Sony Cybershot, didn't do well at the March moon session either, so I put some effort into learning a bit more about nighttime photography. (The March session also involved a coyote who didn't like the fact that I had joined him on the golf course at night, but that is another story.)

The composite of eight moon shots is the result of a very late and long night. I added some more shots of the fully eclipsed moon to my digital "pile," but forgot as I took them that I haven't changed my new computer over to processing RAW files yet, so the .jpg files that you see in the composite lead up to the total eclipse.

We fought the golf course's sprinkler system, strong winds, and just plain tiredness to get these shots. The dominant memory of the night is of the minutes that the earth's shadow finally covered the moon. The winds suddenly died down, darkness settled across the Tuscon valley, and the stillness of the night with the rusty red orb of the moon floating high overhead descended on the early morning hours of Tuesday.

It was a lusciously dark, yet warm hearted, moment to remember -- Ed and me on a hill watching a big red moon. I'll take that any day.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Upside Down Moment

During those l-o-o-o-n-g moments at a birthday party, you know those times waiting for the birthday child to open presents, or blow out candles, or for the cutting of the cake, well, during those achingly long times comes a moment when things get silly and boys turn to laughing and then, well, then, really fun photos happen.

This was such a moment.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What More Can I Say?

I stumbled out of bed this morning and realized that the sun was burnishing White Rock Shoal and Lake Huron with the golden shades of summer warmth. Mobile phone in hand, I stepped outside and took a photo.

What more can I say?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tiny Kinglet

This tiny bird, a kinglet, showed up at the lake house today. I heard something "thunk" a window and figured that it might be a bird. The flies have been congregating on the east side of the house in the sun, and the birds love to pick at the flies and eat them.

Stunned and silent, but breathing and moving ever so slightly, the bird lay on the pavers for several minutes. It's beak was open, feet limp, eyelid partially visible. Within several minutes it righted itself and I was able to get some great photos of this tiny creature which I identified as a golden-crowned kinglet.

With its olive gray coloring and bright yellow and orange markings, this bird is a tiny marvel of color and nature.

How tiny? You can see the bird within the circle in this photo. It might have been 3-4 inches, a little bigger than an adult hummingbird.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Adolescent Vultures

While driving through windmill country today I came upon a trio of turkey vultures who must have been on spring break from vulture high school. These dudes thought that they had the right of way and were camped out in the middle of the road where they were dueling for scraps of dead animal.

I was driving my Chevy Volt in electric mode, so they didn't hear me (or didn't care) approach. I got quite close to them before they decided that maybe they were no match for a human in a vehicle.

Two of them took off first; then the third one headed out, flying right up the center line of Parisville Road. One vulture had mottled colored feathers, indicative of a young bird. I figured that all three of them were adolescents who hadn't had the fear of the Great Vulture God struck into them yet.

They were pretty sure that they owned the road and settled back to fight over the leftovers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pairing Up

A pair of purple finches has been cozying up to the sunflower seed feeder. With their strong, broad beaks, they chomp away at the seeds, dropping bits and pieces as they work at eating, all the while clinging to a perch. Then they drop to the ground and clean up the little bits of seed that have dropped.

This pair appears quite healthy with feathers and markings that are distinctive, not weather or age worn. They kept trading places at the feeder with chickadees and one female cardinal, all eager to get their fair share of sunflower seeds.

It will be interesting to see if this pair returns to the feeder later this summer. Maybe there will be little finches in the future!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Freighter Parade

Today was pretty gray, with overcast skies a lot of the time. I was deep into a sewing project that I dearly want to finish, so I wasn't paying much attention to the views out my windows.

Late in the day, I walked out to get some fresh air, and, lo and behold, there were three freighters heading north straight out from White Rock Shoal. The telephoto lens collapses the distance from shoreline to ship, so do keep in mind that these ships were quite a distance out on the lake.

Those two white patches closer to shore, but near the ships, are some of the many ice chunks that are still floating in Lake Huron. These two freighters, one of which might be a thousand footer, were in the lead, with another shorter ship not too far behind. is reporting difficult passage due to ice buildup in from the Soo down to Mackinac yet. But when we drove back from Ohio this past weekend, we stopped by the Blue Water Bridges in Port Huron, Michigan where the St. Clair River is free of ice.

It will probably be a few weeks until shipping moves freely on the upper lakes, but it does look like Lake Huron is open for business.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Winterguard Weekend

Michigan State's winterguard, State of Art, competed in Dayton, Ohio at Winterguard International Finals this weekend. The guard performed a show called "Against The Grain" which included the use of sand as a prop. The sand is spread from the flags, from the backdrops and by the performers in the show.

Our son, Peter Eichler, is the director of the guard, so this is a big, big weekend for Pete, the members of the guard, and the staff and parents. State of Art advanced from prelims on Thursday to the semifinals on Friday where they were bumped from further competition.

Ed and I hopped into my trusty Chevy Volt and drove 325 miles today, just to see their performance.

I am always amazed at the incredible stamina and creativity of kids in this sport. Tonight's performance included colors of sand that added extra excitement to the end of the show. 

Maybe the judges were looking for something else, but in my eyes, State of Art had a great run through and entertained the crowd royally. Considering that they came in 24th of 39 guards competing this weekend, they had a great season.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Morning Drama

The forecast for today was for freezing rain, so this bright orangey sky in the morning was not a surprise. Thinking about the "red in the morning, sailors take warning" caution, I pointed my camera toward a really great sunrise.

I took over 60 images. After all, pixels are free. That doesn't mean that there will be 60 good shots. It was cold outside and I stepped outside without a coat or gloves on. A lot of the shots were fuzzy, the result of cold, unsteady hands.

But this one has merit. The drama of a freighter sitting astride the horizon as the sun is about to rise -- a moment captured from the shore of Lake Huron in Michigan.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Geese and swans and other waterfowl are moving through the Thumb area as spring migration takes place. These geese were coming in for a landing when my camera caught them at touchdown.

The swans are such big birds that it seems a wonder that they can even fly. These photos of waterfowl in flooded fields were taken yesterday along Kinde Road, east of Kinde, where large flocks of swans could be seen feeding on the corn stubble.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Viva, La Worm!

Baby Caleb, two months old, did not miss a beat when his "big brother" cousin Max showed up with a worm this past weekend.

Peeking out from under his monkey blanket, Caleb had that look of "oh boy, I can hardly wait to go worm hunting with you, Max" on his face. Caleb's dad didn't miss a beat either, as as discussion ensued about how the worm got into Max's hand and then into the house and about how the worm might not survive the heat and would enjoy returning to the back yard.

As the sixty plus grandmother observing the whole worm thing (dirt so near a newborn, plus a worm), I look back on my days of raising kids. Especially around babies, we were so unnecessarily germ phobic.

Not so today. Max was invited to take the worm back outside. Caleb survived without any histrionics from the adults and the world kept on turning.

Viva, La Worm!