From the attic bedroom window in my Rochester home, deep deep in the night, you could hear the sound of a train. The (unwelcome but necessary) woosh of the two nearby highways. Then, every once in a while, an eerie sound could be heard: Whoo Whoo Hooooooo…. It was the Barred Owl who lived in a grove of woods up at the Cobbs Hill Reservoir.
Since moving to our development in suburban Detroit, things are a lot more quiet. I miss the sound of the trains. I don’t miss the woosh of the highway. But, and this is strange, because we live in a more wooded suburban area, I no longer hear any owls. And I miss that late-night hoot of that Barred owl very, very much.
I’m not much of a birder. I leave that hobby up to my husband. He even has a life list. I like to hike. And if I hear a bird, I think, fantastic, what a beautiful song that bird has, now let’s move on. I don’t like standing in one place for too long for the sake of identifying or calling to a bird.
But, then again, those owls have a soft spot with me. So, the other morning, as I drowsily heard the report that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would be hosting “Owl Prowl” evenings all over the state,I did some further investigation and found the one happening closest to our house.
Turns out it took place last Sunday night at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area in Auburn Hills. The free event attracted about 125 people of all ages for a talk, some s’mores by a campfire, and the hope of sighting some owls.
Around the campfire, our guides, members of the Audobon Society, explained the order of calling the owls. It turns out that the larger owls tend to eat the smaller screech owls. So, the screech owls would be called first, then the larger owls in a different part of the forest. If the larger owls were called first, the smaller ones would make themselves scarce.
Another thing that scares away owls, and other wildlife, are humans. The guides advised us to be as quiet as possible. We were a big group. As I explained earlier, about 150 owl enthusiasts had come out that freezing night, with temperatures in the teens, to sight some owls. Those were 100 plus pairs of boots stomping in the snow. Children’s snow pants swish swished as they walked. Yet, when we were deep enough in the woods and the bird guides released their calls, it was quiet enough to hear the snow falling on our parkas.
In the end, a screech-owl and a Barred Owl called back to us. We didn’t see any owls, but just hearing them call back to our calls in the night was enough. And, it was time spent in the cold refreshing winter air.
If you live in Michigan and want to find an Owl Prowl near you, check out this site, and tell me what you saw and heard.
Guess what, everyone? I’ve made it to the other side. And I’ve unpacked enough boxes to rationalize that I’ve earned some time to write you my very first blog post as a Michigander!
The long months of goodbyes are over.
And the hellos to new neighbors and friends are beginning.
Most of the uncertainty is also gone. I’m sitting in my new house. The kids are registered for school. And after my first week of being a freshly minted Michigander, it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s great.
Off the bat, Michiganders are living-out-loud, go out-of-your way NICE. And they are proud to be from Michigan.
Take our first morning in town. With no pots and pans, and not even a table to eat upon, we had to dine out for every meal, including breakfast (oh well.).
It was a Sunday and I wanted to buy a copy of the Detroit Free Press from the vending machine outside this local diner. A woman seated in a booth next to us saw me fishing for some change. Without me asking, she offered me some quarters in exchange for some single bills. How nice was that?
The second (and third) instances I caught on to the kindness of the people of Michigan was at the grocery store.
Now, as I have written in some of my “Good Bye to Rochester” posts, and I knew this would come, but leaving Rochester has put me in a bit of a mourning period for Superior Mother of all grocery stores.
So, on one of my first trips to a supermarket here (and that’s all it is, just a supermarket), I must have been mumbling to myself on how much I missed Wegmans or how I couldn’t find anything in this dingy Michigan grocery store when another customer, a woman my age approached me, looked me in the eye, and actually inferred: “Are you alright?”
This brought me to some clear distinctions between Michiganders and New Yorkers: Most New Yorkers try to avoid looking one another in the eye at all costs. Ever look someone in the eye in a crowded subway car? Unless you want to start a fight, I bet you wouldn’t.
And, if you are in New York, and you happen upon someone mumbling to themselves, you walk the other way.
But here this woman was, actually caring about my well-being because of my grocery store aisle mumbling. I simply explained I was new in town, well, in STATE, and I was having a hard time finding my way around. Even in a grocery store.
When I found the stuff I was looking for, I got on a check-out line behind a tall African-American man. After putting all his items on the belt, he realized he had forgotten a few items he wished to purchase. He turned to me and said:
“Ma’am, why don’t you go ahead of me. I might be a while.”
Again, I was astounded by the kindness.
Another unexpected find at the supermarket: fireworks.
Two years ago, Michigan recently passed a bill allowing for the public and legal sale of fireworks. So, along with picking up your milk and eggs at the supermarket, in the days leading up to July 4, you could also stock up on Bone Breakers, Power Surges and Detonators
This new development is receiving mixed reviews from Michigander retailers and consumers. But, if increased availability of fireworks is making you edgy, you can also pick up a nice bottle of Chardonnay or Merlot. Sale of wine and liquor is also legal in Michigan supermarkets. You can even purchase some Mondavi “Private Label” at Target.
With the arrival of the moving van and the hard work of our movers (a shout out to professional movers everywhere: thank you for your back and arm breaking work. Our head mover in Michigan was working with four torn ligaments in his rotator cuff. Didn’t stop him from hauling in box after box and participating in bringing up some heavy dressers up to the bedrooms. I believe he is scheduled for surgery this week and I hope the moving company is picking up his medical bills.), it is starting to feel like home.
We couldn’t find our placemats right away. Instead, we are dining on the plethora of paper used to wrap all our possessions. Add some crayons, and it’s like we are eating out at Macaroni Grill!
Next time, I’ll write about walking and bike riding in the Motor City.