Last Look and Eating Badly

My favorite view from the easily accessible overlooks at Cloudland Canyon

My favorite view from the easily accessible overlooks at Cloudland Canyon

These are the last of the photos I will share from a week ago when we went to Cloudland Canyon (I promise).  The sad truth is that that was the last time we did anything physical.  Well, other than my Friday morning yoga class and walking Tisen–the last vestiges of exercise in my life at the moment.

Tisen poses pretty well for me for the 2nd time in the same day

Tisen poses pretty well for me for the 2nd time in the same day

I was thinking about an article I read a long time ago where health researchers looked at evidence from anthropology findings about the life style of hunter-gatherers.  The theory went that since humans were hunter-gatherers for the majority of our history, our bodies are most likely geared towards that type of lifestyle and, therefore, for optimal health, we should emulate the variety in diet and level of exercise from that time in our history.  The one key difference was that they speculated that while there were periods of famine for our ancestors, the findings (based on other studies) suggested that our bodies response to starvation, while allowing us to survive, is contrary to long-term health, but that’s another discussion.

The canyon walls on the other side of the creek

The canyon walls on the other side of the creek

The point I am (slowly) getting to is that research suggested that hunter-gatherers spent most of the daylight hours walking, climbing, picking, and, well, gathering.  There were occasional springs and jogs, but most of the time our ancestors were in gentle motion.  I compare this to my lifestyle of spending 10-12 hours in front of a computer at a desk five days a week.  The only thing that could possibly be further from our ancestors lifestyle would be to sleep for 20 years straight, Rip Van Winkle style.

Closer look at the end of the canyon ridge

Closer look at the end of the canyon ridge

It strikes me as rather ironic that through all our progress and technology, we have jobs that keep us from doing what makes us healthy and we struggle to find time to get the exercise we need because we’re so busy working, but if we spent our day gathering food instead of making money to buy food, we’d get all the exercise we need.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting I want to go back to a hunter-gatherer world.  I’m not that fond of famine, ice ages, disease, and all the other things that kept life expectancy down to something like 30.  I guess that’s the big flaw in assuming that our bodies are honed to that lifestyle–the hunter-gatherers didn’t life long enough to have a lot of the diseases we struggle with today.

Vertical view

Vertical view

I contemplated all of this, of course, as I was eating a large hunk of a baguette slathered in about two tablespoons of Irish butter.  I found myself wondering why I am able to still tell myself “tomorrow I’ll eat better” and shove a week’s worth of saturated fat into my belly and think it’s OK.  The thought crossed my mind that it’s like committing suicide slowly.  I did a little googling, but I couldn’t find any “I’m about to eat badly” hotline numbers.  Then I went and dished up some ice cream.


iPhone panoramic from the second overlook

iPhone panoramic from the second overlook

Friday Morning

The moon shines brightly even as sunlight begins to overtake the night sky

The moon shines brightly even as sunlight begins to overtake the night sky

It’s Friday morning and incredibly early.  Early that is for my recent routine, which has excluded morning biking and rowing ever since injuring my back.  In truth, my back has recovered and it’s time to get back on the bike and into the boat, I just haven’t managed to get out of bed early enough.

But today is Friday.  And Friday is special.  On Friday I get out of bed at 5:15AM whether I feel like it or not.  I do this for two reasons.  The first is because I have yet to regret it.  In fact, each and every Friday that I crawl out of bed at 5:15AM, by 6:30, I’m glad I did.

Friday morning yoga class starts at 6:30AM.  We are a small little family of 4, sometimes 5, that reunites each Friday morning (when we’re all in town) to spend an hour breathing, stretching, strengthening together.

The second reason I get up at 5:15AM for my Friday morning yoga class is that it’s my class.  I mean, I feel personally committed to this class.  It’s not something that exists whether I show up or not; it’s something that exists because I show up.

This is partially factual.  The instructor has told us he needs 3 regular students for it to be worth it to him to get up at whatever time he has to get up to drive down from Lookout Mountain in time to beat us all there.  And, since he travels a lot, he counts on us to show when he has a sub because it’s hard for him to find a substitute.

And so, feeling both that I know I will enjoy the class once I get there and the sense of responsibility to keep going so that the class doesn’t go away, I rush through my pre-yoga morning routine.  I double-up on walking Tisen and drinking coffee at the same time (something I find hazardous and usually avoid) to save 15 minutes.  This gives me time to climb the sledding hill with Tisen in tow and take some panoramic pictures before dawn.  The iPhone has lots of noise in low-light photos, but I can’t resist capturing the bright moon next to the early morning light.

The other side of the scene--no moon, but dark clouds instead

The other side of the scene–no moon, but dark clouds instead

When I get to class on this particular Friday morning, there are 4 additional students.  One has been coming for quite a few weeks now and is at risk of being considered a “regular.”  The other three are new additions.  It’s nice to have the extra students–it helps reduce the responsibility of being reliable enough to keep the class going.

I finish the class and find myself smiling–one of the common side effects of yoga.  I return home to find Tisen lying by the door waiting for me.  I take him for a longer walk in the now fully-risen sun.  We pause long enough at the riverfront to take one more panoramic photo.

A panoramic view of the bridges and aquarium of the Chattanooga waterfront

A panoramic view of the bridges and aquarium of the Chattanooga waterfront

Random Musings

Pat and Tisen take a turn posing for me amongst a crowd on the way to the point

Pat and Tisen take a turn posing for me amongst a crowd on the way to the point


I don’t have much more to say about Point Park, but I don’t have any other photos, so this is a disconnected blog post–the text has nothing to do with the photos.

A colleague of mine lost his father on Tuesday.  His father was relatively young and presumably healthy–he died quite unexpectedly of an aneurism.  It’s funny how such a tragedy in someone else’s family can feel like my own tragedy.  I guess I can make anything about me.

Up close, I managed to get Tisen looking my way

Up close, I managed to get Tisen looking my way

But this is how my mind works:  person dies.  Did person who died have a fulfilling life?  Were they ready to die?  Did they feel like they had done the things they wanted to do in their lifetime?  My gosh.  I’m going to die.  I am not immortal.  I have so many things I want to do before my life ends.  This person died without warning or symptoms of anything.  What if I just dropped dead tomorrow?  My bucket list would be left behind, ridiculous in its length.

These moments always serve as a reminder that I’m rapidly approaching the age at which my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  On one hand, I am confident I do not have cancer and that I will not have cancer.  On the other hand, I find myself puzzled by the notion of finding a balance point between experiencing everything life has to offer and having things like health insurance.  In the event I am wrong that I will not have cancer, it would be really helpful to have insurance.  And income.  Two very helpful things if faced with a potentially life-threatening disease.

I couldn't choose between the previous shot and this one--Tisen is looking so cute

I couldn’t choose between the previous shot and this one–Tisen is looking so cute

But if you spend all your time and energy worrying about having things like health insurance and income to cover you and your family in the event you have a life-threatening illness, isn’t it just possible that you create that illness?  I mean, the stress and worry and long work hours.  Do they not increase the probability of what you most want to avoid coming to fruition?

The back wall of the Ochs Museum at the point looks a little prison-like

The back wall of the Ochs Museum at the point looks a little prison-like

On the other hand, if you throw caution to the wind, pursue your dreams and live hand to mouth with no health insurance, what happens then?  And it’s not just me I worry about.  What if my husband gets sick or my dog?  There would be nothing worse than having to watch my dog suffer without being able to do anything for him.  Or having to put him down solely because I couldn’t afford to treat what ailed him.

These are the kinds of choices I dread.  So, instead, I go to work each morning and I enjoy the other freedoms that comes from having an income and health insurance.  But, some days I wonder if a) I am kidding myself about the level of security I really have–it could all go away in an instant, and b) if I were on my death bed, would I regret not having health insurance or not having traveled the continent more?

I was a little too busy framing the foreground rocks to get Moccasin Bend framed properly

I was a little too busy framing the foreground rocks to get Moccasin Bend framed properly

Product Testing

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I was convinced I was born to row because I made it through a Learn to Row class without falling in the water.  Let me take another moment to brag–I made it through the entire two weeks of classes without falling in.

Fortunately, one of the requirements for the class was to get back into the boat from the water.  This is fortunate in that, having not fallen in, I didn’t get to learn this on my own.

Getting back into a sculling shell from the water is no easy task.  You have to get your body up onto the boat while holding the oars into position so the boat doesn’t tip back over again.  It took me several tries and I was badly bruised by the time I made it back into the boat.

Since then, I’ve been feeling like I was never going to fall in.  I’ve been rowing twice a week and I’ve managed to catch myself every time I started to tip.  Then, the other morning when it was about 54 degrees out, I did my usual route around a section of the river that is mostly still within sight of the rowing center.

When I got to the downstream end of my rowing route, as usual, I stopped rowing to drift by part of Maclellan Island and see what birds were out.  Just then, four Great Blue Heron came swooping overhead.  I turned to see where they were headed and the next thing I knew, my head was completely underwater.  I didn’t feel the boat tip at all; I was just suddenly submerged.

Fortunately, the river was still toasty warm.  But, I had a moment of panic.  Once I got my mind around the fact that I was, in fact, in the water, I realized several things:

  1. One oar had come out of the oarlock and was floating away from me and the boat
  2. The boat was completely upside down
  3. My iPhone was strapped to the boat in a waterproof case and cute little lifejacket
  4. I had lights suction cupped to the boat since it was dark when I’d started rowing–they were now completely submerged.

Accepting that there was nothing to do but get the boat back together and myself back in it, I swam after the lose oar, pleased to find that it does, as advertised, float.  I got the boat righted and was equally pleased to discover that my lights were not only still attached, but also still it.

I got the oar back in the oarlock and managed to get myself back into the boat in one smooth try like I’d been tipping sculling boats for years.  And, the moment of pure delight came when I confirmed that my iPhone had floated and remained dry inside its case.

For once, all products performed as expected!

The only down side was riding my bike home in 54 degree weather soaking wet.

Night Lights

I haven’t shot the Chattanooga skyline at night for a long time.  And I probably shouldn’t have now, either.  The sky wasn’t doing anything particularly interesting.  What attracted me though, was the changing lights on the aquarium.

The aquarium hadn’t been lit at all for many months.  Then, suddenly, the lights turned on and they were red.  As were the lights on the Blue Cross Blue Shield building.  And the lights running along the pier, the lights on the Riverwalk on this side of the river, and even the lights running along the  Walnut Street bridge were covered in red film.

I asked someone if they knew why the lights had suddenly appeared in red.  They guessed it was for the upcoming “Wine over Water” event, but that really didn’t make sense.

I googled Chattanooga and red lights.  I got hits on all the traffic cameras at intersections in Chattanooga.

Then, on the night when I finally broke out the camera, the Blue Cross Blue Shield building was lit in pink and the aquarium lights started changing colors.  The aquarium lights rotated from pink to red to orange to yellow to pale blue to dark blue to purple to pink, and finally, back to red.

I guess I should have just made a video of it because I ended up taking way too many pictures trying to get one of each color.

Then, like a kid suffering from ADD, I was more taken by the streaking head and tail lights of the traffic going through the scene than by the lights on the aquarium.  What is it about long exposures with steaks of car lights going through them that’s so much fun?

But, back to the mystery of the colored lights.  After shooting these, several things happened that made me suspect the red and pink lights were for breast cancer awareness.  It started when I saw a “Save the Tatas” bumper sticker on a car in the grocery store parking lot.

Then, when I crossed the Walnut Street bridge, I realized there was a lighted ribbon symbol that could have been for heart disease awareness, but that’s in February.  Then,  the building lights were appearing in pink more often than in red.  And, I learned that the 30th was the Chattanooga Race for the Cure.

So, I have concluded that the colored lights are supposed to be for breast cancer awareness and that they just started a little early (October is breast cancer awareness month) in honor of the race.  That’s my theory anyway.

I still haven’t figured out why most of the lights are red instead of pink.  Perhaps my theory will be proven or disproven as the month of October progresses.

In the meantime, I’m having fun with lights of all colors.


Sunday has become unofficial hiking day.  Of late, I seem to have fallen into a new routine.  Saturday, I recover from the previous 5 days of hiking, biking, rowing, and yoga.  I do this mostly by laying on the couch with the occasional interruption of taking Tisen for walks.

But Sunday, Sunday I hike.  And this past Sunday, Pat needed to work, so it was the perfect opportunity to make my second attempt at Edward Point.  This time, Tisen and I would start at 10:30 in the morning instead of 4:30 in the evening.  We were mentally prepared for a rather challenging 6 mile hike, up and down Signal Mountain, scrambling over rocks.

This was our fourth trip to the Signal Point overlook.  It’s an easy walk down a paved trail from the parking lot.  We spent 20 minutes covering the 100 yards from the parking lot to the overlook–there were lots of places to sniff.

But the overlook is it for the suburban park setting.  After stopping for a couple of quick shots, we headed to the Cumberland Trail.  Even with its manmade steps, it’s not an easy trail.  Many people make it the first half mile to a “natural” overlook point over the gully that our trail would wind its way around.  But it involves clamoring down steep and big steps, jumping onto rocks, and stepping carefully.  Tisen did an amazing job navigating all the obstacles.

Every time we go on a hike that starts out with an accessible view, I notice the drop off in population as you get further from the parking lot.  We were still on the most traveled part of the trail, but already we were down to only 2 other people who we didn’t see until we made it to the overlook point.

Before we’d rounded the first blind turn, a Pileated Woodpecker called from so close to where we were standing that I was sure I would look up and see it clinging to a tree.  As I searched for the shape of this giant woodpecker, it called again, sounding slightly further away.  I searched frantically, watching for shadows against the dark forest floor.  When it called a third time, the Doppler effect kicked in–I could hear it moving away from us as it called.  I was bummed.  I haven’t seen a Pileated Woodpecker in quite a while–I would have loved to have gotten a shot of it.

We continued our hike possibly in greater safety now that the woodpecker was gone–I have a tendency to forget I’m walking on the edge of a cliff when I’m searching for a bird.

When we stopped at the first natural overlook, Tisen was already panting hard.  I got out his portable water bowl and tried to coax him into drinking water.  Tisen stuck his elbow in the collapsible water bowl and stared at me, pink tongue lolling from his black-and-white mouth.

Why I Don’t Cook

When I returned from my recent adventure in Vermont, I was feeling motivated to eat as healthy as possible.  I also triggered an addiction to lobster, having stopped in Boston on both the way there and the way back, indulging in lobster rolls in both directions.

As such, I got out my favorite cookbook, “The Ultra-Metabolism Cookbook” and found myself drooling over the Lobster Fra Diavalo recipe.

By luck, my noon meeting cancelled and I managed to spend lunch at the grocery store.  I bought the provisions necessary for a 3-course meal–salad, entree, and dessert.

When my day had mostly wrapped up (I did have one evening conference call with some folks in Australia, but it didn’t last long), I started cooking.

Now, this is a rather rare phenomenon.  Finding me in the kitchen usually means I’m making coffee, eating yogurt straight out of the carton, or perhaps doing something as creative as making a smoothie.  But on this night, I was undertaking making 3 courses all for the same meal.

I started thawing the lobster tails for the Lobster Fra Diavalo.  I made pomegranate salad dressing and prepped the salad.  I put on wild rice to cook without fully reading the instructions (quite the risk taker).  I served the salad around 8PM, right after my conference call was over.  Not bad if you ignore the fact I’d started prepping around 5:30PM.

I thought I’d started the rice too late, but then I realized the sauce for the lobster had to cook down, so then my rice was going to be done too early.  I turned up the heat on the diavalo sauce in the hope of reducing it faster.  While it cooked, I made up some chocolate sauce from a New Life Hiking Spa recipe available on their website.  I was going to serve banana “ice cream” and chocolate sauce for dessert.

Note the time in the photo of the lobster cooking on the stove.  At 9:17, I was still trying to reduce the sauce.  We ate our lobster at 9:30.  It was actually quite good, if I do say so myself.  But, can lobster ever really taste bad?

Next, I took frozen bananas out of the freezer only to discover they weren’t really frozen all the way.  I decided to try to make the dessert anyway.  I put them in the blender and tried to puree them into an ice cream consistency.  Between their unfrozen state and my crappy blender, they came out more of a pudding consistency.  I enjoyed it anyway.  My husband wasn’t so keen on the dessert.  The chocolate sauce was tasty, but sweetened with maple syrup (not from Vermont), it was a little too mapley for him.

All in all, I invested about 5 hours of my time between planning, shopping, cooking, eating, and cleaning up for this one healthy meal.  I texted my friend that I now understand why I have time to workout–I don’t cook.