Gilbert’s Sour Grape

In spite of our non-compatible species issues, Gilbert always makes me smile

In spite of our non-compatible species issues, Gilbert always makes me smile

Gilbert is a special boy.  He’s an American Kestrel who was “rescued” by some well-meaning people when he didn’t need to be rescued.  He became a “human imprint.” Perhaps you’ve heard stories about ducks following around a person after seeing them immediately after hatching, but imprinting behavior applies to all birds and isn’t limited to the first thing a newly hatched bird sees–a young bird can imprint on whoever its caretaker is after it hatches.

Besides not being able to survive in the wild, there are some other problems associated with human imprints.  Gilbert is experiencing one of those right now–he has biological urges.  But, as a bird who thinks he’s a person, this is rather complicated.

Poor Gilbert wants a girl, but he’s more interested in humans than he is in other Kestrels.  This seems to be true in spite of the fact that it’s not clear Gilbert can distinguish between a female human and a male human.  He talks continuously as soon as he hears a voice, clamoring for affection.

If Gilbert were a dog, we would say he was barking up the wrong tree.  Gilbert isn’t so different from humans in this respect.  While he may be suffering from species confusion, many of us humans suffer from equally self-destructive confusion when it comes to selecting a mate.  From what I remember, Gilbert could relate to human dating confusion such as:

Showing off Gilbert's wings and tail

Showing off Gilbert’s wings and tail

  1. Confusing being liked by someone with liking someone.  These are not the same thing.
  2. Trying to chase a potential love interest without appearing to chase.  This usually results in the kind of humiliating goofiness responsible for the creation of the movie genre called “romantic comedy.”  It’s much easier to maintain our dignity by just being direct about our interest.  Even if we get shot down, we don’t have to waste a lot of time delaying what was inevitably going to happen anyway.
  3. Becoming someone else.  If Gilbert could morph himself into someone much taller with longer legs, lose the beak, feathers, tail, wings, and, perhaps most importantly, trade his talons in for feet, he would have a better chance at landing himself a hot woman.  While we might laugh at the prospect of a tiny Kestrel transforming himself into a handsome, human prince, it’s amazing how often humans try to make similarly impossible transformations to win their love interest.  Really, the secret to happiness is to love someone who can love you back just as you are.
Small children were fascinated by Gilbert

Small children were fascinated by Gilbert

I wish I could explain to Gilbert why he needs to either figure out how to be attracted to female Kestrels or join the priesthood, but I don’t speak Kestrese.  In the meantime, Gilbert sings to me, telling me how handsome he is, how energetic he is.  He tries to convince me we will make a beautiful couple.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that he and I can never be together.

Instead, I make cooing noises and hope he finds it comforting.

Gilbert may have trouble getting a girl, but he sure is a crowd pleaser

Gilbert may have trouble getting a girl, but he sure is a crowd pleaser

 

*Note:  All photographs in today’s post taken by my husband; edited by me.

Family Planning

Tisen's collection of squeaky toys seems to have grown quite a bit since October

Tisen’s collection of squeaky toys seems to have grown quite a bit since October

This was the majority of the collection in October--the family is getting out of control

This was the majority of the collection in October–the family is getting out of control

 

There’s a reason people recommend planning your family carefully.  I believe it’s because after so many family members, it becomes difficult to fit everyone into a camera frame.

While we successfully kept the human side of the family to plan, the canine side didn’t go quite how we expected.  Our plan was not to have any more dogs until we had settled down somewhere.  Our goal was all about mobility.

Tisen inspects the family portrait pose

Tisen inspects the family portrait pose

But as things changed and we exercised our mobility less and less, I found myself home alone way too much.  Working from home is not the same as actually being around other people, even on days when I’m on conference calls for 10 straight hours.

Black and white Hipstamatic version using the D-Type film

Black and white Hipstamatic version using the D-Type film

Not wanting a long-term commitment, I decided to foster dogs for a local shelter.  Tisen was my 3rd foster dog in Chattanooga.  I am what is called a “foster failure.”  That’s what it’s called when foster mom and dad adopt the dog they’re fostering.  I can live with that kind of failure.

My boy kept stealing family members--Baby Beaver had to be omitted from the group shot to get Tisen to settle down

My boy kept stealing family members–Baby Beaver had to be omitted from the group shot to get Tisen to settle down

But, having failed to plan the permanent addition of Tisen to our family, it follows that I would be equally less deliberate about planning the additions Tisen would bring home.  It started with the discovery of his love for squeaky toys.  For the first year we had Tisen, he had no interest in treats.  Only squeaky toys.

Tisen licks his nose after being reunited with Snake makes him sneeze

Tisen licks his nose after being reunited with Snake makes him sneeze

As a result, we kept getting him more squeaky toys.  Soon, it became a tradition every time we went to PetsMart, Tisen gets to pick out a new toy.  He carries it so proudly through the store with the tags still hanging off it.  Usually, he tries to prance straight out the front door with it.  He hasn’t quite gotten the “we have to pay for it” concept down yet.  So far the store manager has been very understanding and hasn’t prosecuted Tisen for attempted shop lifting.

A more traditional image of the family yielded a pile of jumbled colors

A more traditional image of the family yielded a pile of jumbled colors

Today, I decided, was the day to find out just how large the family had grown.  I haven’t attempted a family portrait since October, when Cow Ball joined the family.  I was a bit shocked when I gathered up all the family members and piled them on the sofa.  This actually took two trips!

Tisen isn't quite sure what he's supposed to do with the huge pile of toys on the sofa

Tisen isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to do with the huge pile of toys on the sofa

I got out the last inventory list I’d made and checked off the toys as I found them.  Each and every one of them was accounted for, plus about 10 news ones added since October.  There was even one extra–White Ball.  White ball doesn’t belong to Tisen.  He “borrowed” it from Twiggy, his girlfriend.  It’s probably some ploy he’s using to try to get her to come over–she likes to play it cool.

Close up of Big Dog, Red Dog, Artie (the Armadillo/'Possum), and Puppy Luv cuddling

Close up of Big Dog, Red Dog, Artie (the Armadillo/’Possum), and Puppy Luv cuddling

I had a little trouble fitting the entire family into the frame.  I’m a little worried they’ve started multiplying on their own–how did we end up with 3 bears?  Last time I checked, we only had Minnie and Eddie Bear.  Now we have Flat Bear, too.  This is why family planning is so important.

Had great fun with an overexposed shot--after much adjusting, it ended up reminding me of a crayon drawing

Had great fun with an overexposed shot–after much adjusting, it ended up reminding me of a crayon drawing

Tisen’s Toys

Tisen cuddling Mr. Beaver quite a few months back (B&W HDR processed)

Tisen cuddling Mr. Beaver quite a few months back (B&W HDR processed)

This evening, I realize I need to shoot an updated family portrait.  It’s been quite a while since I last captured Tisen’s collection of “babies” (as they say in the South) together.  I would stop writing to go shoot them now (even though it is already 20 ‘til 11PM and I have a 6:30AM yoga class in the morning), but I’m not sure where all of them are.

I know Tisen has left a large collection in the mini-van.  Every time I open the door I do a double take.  Big dog is occupying the back seat.  Lamb, Red Dog, Purple Monkey, and a large collection of others are strewn across the seats.\

Tisen taking Eddie Bear for a walk

Tisen taking Eddie Bear for a walk

But then I wonder what has happened to Lamb, who has frequently disappeared, Duck, Hog, and Mini Bear?  They were once favorites, but I’ve rarely seen Tisen with them in the past few months.  Tiger and Lion have also been replaced with new favorites.  Skunk, Cow, and the Green Reindeer seem to be vying for the latest round of the “favorite toy” awards.

I’m curious to see how big a pile Tisen’s toys would make these days.  I know they no longer fit into the hamper we use to store them when they’re all found and tossed together.  Perhaps that’s because they get feisty when they’re all in the same bin and start kicking each other out.

My personal favorite--I can't remember the last time I saw Puppy Luv

My personal favorite–I can’t remember the last time I saw Puppy Luv

Curiously, Mr. Beaver has recently reappeared from the bottom of the toy pile.  I thought Tisen had given up on dragging Mr. Beaver along on walks.  Mr. Beaver is too long with his tail. He drags on the ground tripping one or both of us.  I have been on a secret mission to convince Tisen that Mr. Beaver is not the toy he wants to take on a walk for at least 6 months now.

Just when I was sure I had convince Tisen that Mr. Beaver should be left at home in favor of shorter toys that don’t hang out of his mouth and create a tripping hazard, Tisen suddenly dug Mr. Beaver out of the hamper.

Lamb, so often lost, looks so cozy in Tisen's arms

Lamb, so often lost, looks so cozy in Tisen’s arms

I have taken the substitution approach.  This is the same secret technique used successfully by women when retraining men for centuries.  Instead of convincing said man that he doesn’t want something he thinks he wants, said woman simply chooses something she prefers and then presents it to said man in such a way that said man does exactly what said woman wants while believe he is doing what he wants.

This is much more easily accomplished with Tisen than with Pat, for the record.  With Tisen, Mr. Beaver does not have a particularly good squeak.  Tisen is a sucker for a good squeak.  So, all I have to do is pick up Skunk or virtually any other toy in Tisen’s collection, and squeak it.  Tisen immediately drops Mr. Beaver in favor of any toy that squeaks for him.  Then, off we go with Skunk instead.  Works every time.

Tisen awakened from a nap with Minnie Bear

Tisen awakened from a nap with Minnie Bear

Asking Why

Sometimes all that's required for adventure is to look up

Sometimes all that’s required for adventure is to look up

Tonight, I sit at the computer feeling a bit lost for a topic.  It’s 9:37PM.  The clock is counting down to bedtime while I flounder.  I have no new photos to share.  I find myself wondering what compels me to write 500 words every night and take and process enough photos each week to accompany those words.

My topic tonight has revealed itself to me:  why do I blog?

Creating adventure out of cardboard and gravity

Creating adventure out of cardboard and gravity

This is a question I have been asked by more than one person.  Some of my closest relatives have wondered what the appeal is.  It’s a question I ask myself from time to time.  The original intent was to use the blog as a way to keep family and friends up-to-date on our new adventures as we moved away from the place I’d spent the vast majority of my life and into parts unknown.

But then, several things happened.  First, I made the decision to post every day.  My main goal was to develop a habit of writing.  After all, to be a writer, there’s only one thing you have to do:  write.

Hiking where there are great views is always a satisfying adventure

Hiking where there are great views is always a satisfying adventure

But, let’s face it, not too many of us have exciting things to write about every day.  For the first six months we were in Chattanooga, we were treating our stay here like we were on a vacation every weekend–seeing and doing whatever there was to see and do within a couple hours drive.  That gave me material to string out throughout the week.

Next, my husband started a business in Chattanooga.  Not just a business, but a business requiring lots of heavy equipment that occupies a good-sized workshop.  Not exactly mobile.

This guy is always on an adventure--but it's always the same one

This guy is always on an adventure–but it’s always the same one

It’s funny how the knowledge that we had years to get to see the area vs months changed the weekend vacation attitude to one of “we’re at home.”  Suddenly, it’s not the top priority to go hike a new trail every weekend or hang glide off a mountain or learn to kayak in white water.  Now, we are accumulating the “some day” list of things we want to see and do similar to what we had before we moved here.

The idea of having an adventure to write about every day has gone out the window, yet the habit of writing seems to have stuck.

Taken a year ago, I realize how even spring is an adventure--no blooms on this hillside yet this year

Taken a year ago, I realize how even spring is an adventure–no blooms on this hillside yet this year

In parallel to these changes to our life plan, I got more and more excited about practicing photography.  I spent increasingly more time learning about the technical aspects of photography and more and more time shooting.  Having a “deadline” and a place to publish those photos helps me prioritize my time so that I make time to practice.

I feel more accountable somehow because I have a small, much appreciated, group of followers who click the “like” button.  This accountability helps me make time to do something I enjoy.  It seems counter-intuitive, but it works for me.

Maybe the answer is as simple as I like it.

The moon always makes me feel adventurous

The moon always makes me feel adventurous

Dog Walk

The "Happy Puppy" face comes through even in the Hipstamatic blur effect

The “Happy Puppy” face comes through even in the Hipstamatic blur effect

I discovered something about my dog last weekend.  At least I think I did.  I’ve always suspected he thinks he’s walking me when we go for our spins around the park.  He has good reason to believe this.  I take the approach that as a dog with no yard, his walks should simulate the experience of wandering around the yard amusing himself.

An urban dog's lot in life is to enjoy the outdoors while attached to his people

An urban dog’s lot in life is to enjoy the outdoors while attached to his people

Instead of expecting him to heel, I let him pick where he wants to wander within reason.  If he meanders off the sidewalk and into the grass because he’s suddenly caught a really good scent, I follow.

Is it time to go?  Are we going?  Now?  Now?

Is it time to go? Are we going? Now? Now?

If I get impatient, I whistle to him and say, “Let’s go this way,” in my high, happy puppy voice and move my body in a way that suggests play.  I hope no one has ever caught this on video.  Usually, he will come with me.

But when an urban dog is at home, life can be pretty luxurious

But when an urban dog is at home, life can be pretty luxurious

Interestingly, he rarely pulls on the lead.  When we’re in motion, we walk together like he’s been expertly trained.  The lead hangs so loose, I have to loop it to keep it from dragging and tripping one of us.  He walks at my side content until the next great scent piques his interest.

So, while on the one hand, he could have the impression that he is walking me, on the other hand, he stays with me nicely much of the time.  It’s a win-win and I’ve never really worried much about it–he and I seem equally content in our style of walking together.

Cuddling in a blanket next to Mommy seems to be the highlight of the day

Cuddling in a blanket next to Mommy seems to be the highlight of the day

When we went for our little hikes in the Prentice Cooper State Forest this past weekend, we let Tisen off his leash when we were on trails where we were unlikely to run into anyone and far from ATVs.  Because Tisen is the kind of dog that wants to have his people in sight all the time, we don’t have to worry about him running off (unlike an Akita we once fostered who seemed to think he needed to run 10 miles a day and that being let of the leash was an invitation to go do so).

Hey!  Where'd everyone go?

Hey! Where’d everyone go?

Tisen sometimes gets lost in a scent.  He forgets where he is, who he’s with, and goes blind as all of his brain becomes occupied with deciphering what message was left for him.  When we hike, we just keep going, figuring he’ll catch up after a bit.  If he doesn’t show up before we get very far, we call him.  Then, he usually panics and comes galloping back to us like he’s just had the daylights scared out of him.

The blanket is supposed to protect the sofa from Tisen--a point he seems to have missed

The blanket is supposed to protect the sofa from Tisen–a point he seems to have missed

This isn’t new behavior.  But, for the first time it dawned on me that he’s shocked to realize we can get away.  He forgets we’re not on a leash.  He expects to look up and find us standing next to him, waiting for him to finish.  I feel certain his panic is proof that he really does think he’s walking us.

This photo may be blurry, but it still cracks me up--Tisen is so determined to hide his face, he sticks his head in the crook of Daddy's arm

This photo may be blurry, but it still cracks me up–Tisen is so determined to hide his face, he sticks his head in the crook of Daddy’s arm

Not Snoopers Rock

Looking back up the trail, parallel to the cliff wall that makes up the bulk of Indian Rock House

Looking back up the trail, parallel to the cliff wall that makes up the bulk of Indian Rock House

On our weekend adventure, after going the wrong way and ending up at Signal Point, cowboying our way down a road made for ATVs rather than mini-vans and nearly removing our bumper trying to turn around, we headed towards our initial destination:  Snoopers Rock.

We made our way slowly back up the ATV-friendly road back to the long gravel road that traverses the Prentice Cooper State Forest.  At some point, I got a signal on my iPhone and looked up a map of the park.  True to the rest of the day, I realized we had passed the trailhead for Snoopers Rock and we turned around.  But, curious about what appeared to be a fire tower along the way, I asked Pat to stop, back up, and pull into the park headquarters to check it out.

Not the fire tower stairs, but still a little dangerous

Not the fire tower stairs, but still a little dangerous

When Pat put our trusty mini-van in reverse, something drug on the gravel road.  Pat got out and discovered the radiator shroud was hanging far lower than it should be.  I don’t know what a radiator shroud is, but was relieved that Pat thought we’d be OK for a few days as long as we stopped running over things with it.

The fire tower was open to the public with an ominous sign at the base of the terrifying stairs stating that if you enter, you have to assume responsibility if you get hurt.  I made it up the first two flights of steep, narrow steps (less than halfway to the top) before a strong wind shaking the tower reminded me just how afraid of heights I am.  I took what were, I’m sure, my best shots of the day of the tower.  However, they mysteriously disappeared, making me slightly less enamored with shooting with Hipstamatic on my iPhone instead of my DSLR.

Side wall of Indian Rock House shot with the color verison of tintype in Hipstamatic

Side wall of Indian Rock House shot with the color verison of tintype in Hipstamatic

We headed back to the trailhead, parked, crossed the road and headed down the trail, expecting to arrive at Snoopers Rock in less than half a mile.  Eventually, we saw a sign that said Indian Rock House was .9 mile away and Snoopers Rock was a couple of miles beyond.  I was quite perplexed.  We decided to head on down to Indian Rock House–we were nearly there.  Our day was destined to be a day of detours.

A more realistic image of the entrance to the stone door shot with the Camera! app

A more realistic image of the entrance to the stone door shot with the Camera! app

Indian Rock House has a stone door much like the one at Savage Gulf, but on a smaller scale.  The gap in the rocks leads down narrow, steep steps that rivaled the fire tower for hazardousness, but felt far more secure with the ground much closer.

The Rock House is a large indentation in the cliffside that provides a roof if you stay close to the rock wall.  I wouldn’t call it a cave, but it did provide shelter to indigenous people at some point in history.  It was pretty cool in any case.

Pat pointed out a "whale" in the end wall of the rock house--can you see it?

Pat pointed out a “whale” in the end wall of the rock house–can you see it?

By the time we hiked back up to the trailhead, we decided we’d better call it a day.  Some day, we’ll make it to Snoopers Rock.

I'm not sure why, but I find this image interesting with Pat blurred in the background and the foreground rock in focus

I’m not sure why, but I find this image interesting with Pat blurred in the background and the foreground rock in focus

 

Nearly the same shot as above, only with Pat in focus  instead

Nearly the same shot as above, only with Pat less blurred

Crater Lake, the Second

Crater Lake really is almost this blue.  Shot with the Color version of tintype "film" in Hipstamatic.

Crater Lake really is almost this blue. Shot with the Color version of tintype “film” in Hipstamatic.

From Signal Point, we loaded back into our trusty min-van, found directions to Snoopers Rock on Google maps, and headed back down Signal Mountain to drive around the base along the Tennessee River.  The drive was mostly beautifu–there were views of the river and the gorge much of the way.

Snoopers Rock is in the Prentice Cooper State Forest.  It is not only not near Signal Point, it is not even on Signal Mountain (see yesterday’s post).  But, it was a lovely day for a bit of exploring in any case.

The longest part of the drive was the gravel road from the entry to the park to the trailhead.  We happened to arrive on a day when ATVs were over-running the place.  We originally thought there must have been some kind of event there, but in retrospect, I suspect it’s just that popular to go driving around in an ATV here.

I'm not sure if I was shooting the plants in the water or plants above, but I kind of like the patch of sharpness in the midst of blur.  Need to figure out which Hipstamatic lens does this

I’m not sure if I was shooting the plants in the water or plants above, but I kind of like the patch of sharpness in the midst of blur. Need to figure out which Hipstamatic lens does this

Along the way, we saw a sign for “Crater Lake.”  Thinking of Crater Lake in Oregon, our curiosity was piqued and we decided to take yet another detour.  We turned down a road that was clearly not designed for mini-vans.  We drove slowly, going up and down bumps and through muddy puddles that spoke of the popularity of ATVs here.

We made it to a grassy parking area and I suggested we were at the lake, but Pat thought we needed to go further.

The road got bumpier, rootier, and muddier the further we went.  Of course, we had no cell reception to try to figure out where we were, either.  I had a vague feeling we were going in a loop, however, and suggested we turn around.

This one was shot with the Camera! App and was only slightly adjusted--this is what the lake actually looked like.

This one was shot with the Camera! App and was only slightly adjusted–this is what the lake actually looked like.

By this time, we all three needed to use the facilities.  Having quite a bit of experience with natural facilities, I worked my way through a few brambles to a bit of cover from view of the roadway.  I was glad I did when, just as I was finishing up, I heard an ATV approaching.

Pat was in the middle of turning the van around when I got back to the road.  He was also dragging the bumper over the roots at the base of a tree.  Fortunately, our van suffered more harm than the tree did.  But, tree-hugger that I am, I yelled “Stop!” as soon as I saw the bumper drag on the roots.  This was a good thing–I’m not sure our bumper would still be attached otherwise.

Pat posed for me in front of the lake.

Pat posed for me in front of the lake.

We eventually made it back down the road in the direction we’d come.  Although the couple on the ATV seemed to think we might be close to Crater Lake by going the opposite direction, neither Pat nor I thought trying to turn around again was a good idea.  As we arrived back at the grassy parking area, from this direction, the lake was visible through some underbrush.  We looked at each other and laughed.  I managed not to say, “I told you so.”

Tisen wasn't sure if he was hot enough to go wading in the strange looking water

Tisen wasn’t sure if he was hot enough to go wading in the strange looking water