Is it Sunday?

I am suffering from an interesting phenomenon. I don’t know if it has a name. It’s the inability to keep track of the days of the week. This has led to a second phenomenon: posting my Sunday blog posts late.

Seeking to get myself back on a slightly more planned schedule, I spent some time contemplating why keeping track of the days seems so difficult. Let’s review . . .

Until 3 months ago, I was working long weeks for a large corporation. Monday-Friday, my alarm went off, I picked up my iPhone and checked my email and calendar. I answered any urgent emails from parts of the world that would be leaving work soon and then checked my calendar again to see 1) what time I needed to be ready for my first conference call, and 2) if I had any open time during the day to get anything done or if there were any conference calls I could skip to make time. Then I got ready to start my day.

Saturday and Sunday were days I didn’t set my alarm, didn’t have any conference calls (usually), and could catch up a bit on work I didn’t have time to do during the week as well as fit in some fun time.

That has a pretty definitive rhythm. It forces you to know what day of the week it is because you’re always working against deadlines and constantly looking at your calendar trying to find time to work and/or meet with people.

In comparison, I have not been setting my alarm most days unless I really think I’m going to oversleep. Generally, I wake up an hour earlier than I would set my alarm for anyway, so it hasn’t been an issue.

I have started trying to use my calendar because I do have appointments from time to time–or at least social engagements. But rather than actually looking at my calendar and figuring out what my day looks like, I am ignoring my calendar until a notification pops up reminding me that I have to do something. This does not require knowing what day it is.

There is little motivation to actually know what day it is. First, the only time it’s inconvenient is if you, for example, go to a store on a Sunday that isn’t open on Sundays. This hasn’t happened to me yet. Second, it’s depressing to realize x more days have gone by and you still haven’t gotten the things done you meant to get done, so why remind yourself by constantly knowing what day of the week it is? Finally, knowing what day of the week it is would mean having no excuse for the appointments I have missed when I didn’t get them added to my calendar.

Not knowing what day it is has not deterred my photography any, either. In fact, it may contribute to me shooting more because I am more apt to lose track of time altogether.

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Getting Out

With my husband out of town for the week, I was left to my own devices.  I took the opportunity to get out and shoot a bit further from home than usual.

First there was a road trip to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, tucked in the Cherokee National Forest. To get there, I had to first see to the completion of the repair of our second car, which was in the shop after not having been driven for over a year.

I quickly realized how spoiled I am–my husband normally attends to car maintenance and repair. First I had to arrange with the shop for them to pick me up when the car was “done.” Then I had to take the car to another shop to get the battery replaced, which undid all the settings, including the computer that controls the idle speed, which resulted in the car revving the engine every time I stopped. I’m surprised no one attempted to race me off the starting line at traffic lights!

Then there was the little complication that the fan wasn’t running and I was advised not to go less than 35 mph to avoid overheating. I had visions of driving on sidewalks to avoid red lights. That took a second trip to the shop when the part arrived so I could drive to the mountains without having to take the sidewalks.

By the time I got out of the shop Saturday afternoon and drove to Joyce Kilmer, which turned out to be a 3 hour drive, I had only a half an hour to battle the mosquitos and grab a few shots before Tisen and I had to get back on the road to head home.

On Monday I pulled out my bicycle and stopped at Amnicola Marsh to discover what might have been a Great Egret. Of course, I did not have my camera with me, so back I went the next morning, when, of course, the bird did not appear.

Since the car’s idle speed didn’t reset over the weekend, I returned to the mechanic on Monday. Fortunately, they were able to greatly improve things.

Next I made the drive to the Blythe Ferry Osprey nest with a couple from the photography club who allowed me to drive, in spite of Tisen crowding the lucky passenger who got to sit in back with him. But on the way home, the coolant light came on and we discovered I was losing coolant. Fortunately, we made it home without a problem, but that put an end to my driving career (at least for a few days).

I stuck to my bicycle and made one more trip to Amnicola and Curtain Pole Road Marshes. No Great Egret, but I did meet another photographer and stayed far longer than I intended shooting at Curtain Pole–it’s amazing how much more you see when there are two of you looking.

All in all, I’d say I’m pretty good at entertaining myself.

The Small Things

Thursday night, I stayed up late getting my gear together for an early morning shoot. I hoped to sleep in until 6AM. But this was a shoot different from my normal fare. And when I’m shooting something new, I dream about it all night and, inevitably, wake up around 4AM. Half excited and half anxious–much like Christmas in childhood: the impatient anticipation of something new and the simultaneous fear of disappointment.

I eventually gave up on going back to sleep and got ready to go at a leisurely pace–after all, everything I needed was packed and ready to go.

Then, it was time to leave. Time to get there early and check out the place in person before anyone else arrived. Time to see if Google Earth was enough of a preview to make choosing a location from the internet possible. And then, it happened. The thing I am unable to learn. The thing I fail at nearly every single day and then turn around and fail at it once again, often even the same day.

My car key was no where to be found.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time reading research on memory, working on improving memory, and observing people losing their memory (and I am not only referring to myself here). What I believe about memory is that:

  1. we are more likely to remember something when we are internally motivated to remember it.
  2. we remember repetitive things better than net-new things. For example, if I put my car key in a certain place every day for months and then stop remembering to put them there and put them in different places every day for a few days, I am going to remember the place I was putting them over and over again first. I will have to reconstruct history from other memories to get to where the latest place is I’ve left it.
  3. remembering to put something in a specific place when I’m done with it is more difficult than remembering where I left it. This is likely a difference in motivation. When I come home, I have no immediate need to use the car key, I just want it out of my pocket. When I am leaving home, I must find the car key or I will be searching for my bike lock key instead.

All of this leads me to question if perhaps I am agoraphobic at some deep, unconscious level. As soon as I get home, I forget that I will have the need to leave again. I misplace the means by which I can access transportation. Is the problem that I (someone who believes I love to travel, go out, socialize, be in the woods) deep down underneath my extroverted shell am terrified to step outside my home? This could put a major damper on going nomad in the future!

I did find my key and make it to the shoot, but I’m not ready to share any of those shots yet. Instead, I’ve shared a few shots of “small things” from an earlier shoot.

Meet Tom Turkey

Meet Tom.  Tom is a Bourbon Red heritage turkey who is free-ranging it on a farm in Wildwood Georgia where the grass is green, the sun is bright, and the hens are . . . well . . . at the moment, scarce.  Tom’s Tinas are off sitting on about 20 eggs they laid in a secret hiding spot where the two hens share incubation duties of a combined nest.

What’s remarkable about this story is that Tom and his Tinas participated in the act of procreation without assistance from humans.  That happens to be one of the criteria for a breed of turkey to be considered “heritage”–they have to be able to breed on their own.

But what exactly is a “heritage” turkey?  Perhaps the best way to define a heritage turkey is to say that it is a traditional turkey from back before tradition became to factory raise turkeys who can barely walk, let alone breed.

The criteria to be a heritage turkey are:  mate naturally, have a long productive lifespan, and grow slowly.  By “long” and “slowly,” I presume what is really meant is “longer than” and “slower than” the dominant breed of turkeys used by factory farms.  You can read about it from a better resource at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website, which I was paraphrasing.

Tom takes the first item on that list quite seriously.  However, after spending about 15 minutes trying to convince Tom that I am not a turkey hen and only being able to divert his attention by offering the distraction of my husband, I wonder if there might be a criteria missing?  I suppose the approach of attempting to mate with anyone and anything until one of those things turns out to be a turkey hen will work as long as the hens are close, but it seems a bit inefficient.

It also made Tom a challenging model when I was trying to get pictures.  It’s hard to hold a DSLR with a heavy lens and press the shutter button with one hand while holding back a horny turkey with the other.  When I squatted down to try to get an eye-level shot, Tom rushed me.  Thankfully, Tom is persistent but not violent.  He just keeps pushing his puffed chest up against whomever has attracted his attention over and over again in this crazy dance of you pushing him back and him pushing forward.  It’s a dance with only one step in two directions.

When we got ready to leave, we pulled an empty Styrofoam egg carton out of the car only to have Tom pull it out of our hands, drop it on the ground, and proceeded to jump on top of it as if it were a Tina.  It was the most remarkable display of species confusion I’ve ever seen.  I guess it’s a good thing that how many attempts it takes a turkey to figure out who to breed with isn’t part of the heritage criteria.

Socks and Sandals

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I’ve allocated for myself two weeks of vacation before I start working on Coop Guitars. I have decided to spend this time taking care of myself by doing only what I feel like doing.
Today, I felt like riding my bike to a yoga class a 20 minute ride away. So, I rode my bike 20 minutes across town and took that yoga class at 10:30 in the morning–a time I’ve never been free to go to yoga class before.
I breathed through the class with the presence of mind I always want in yoga class but rarely achieve.
As I rode my bike back across town, climbing a hill into a head wind on surprisingly fatigued legs, I wanted the traffic light mid-way up the hill to turn green. I was determined it was going to change. And it did! But it changed to a left turn arrow and I was going straight.
Had I trusted the strength of my will to control traffic lights less, I might have unclipped a shoe from my pedals. Instead, I crashed to the ground in one of those humiliating moments I have become all too accustomed to. On the plus side, I have gotten pretty skilled at falling. I managed to fall slowly enough to only scrape one knee slightly.
This just goes to prove you can’t always get what you want. Not even when you’re on a vacation to do only what you please.
I popped up quickly, hoping to avoid alarming any drivers who were probably wondering how on earth I managed to fall in the first place. I pedaled home surprisingly non-plussed. After all, it was a moment and it was gone.
I returned home to a quiet dog who had been home alone for 2 full hours. This is a new record. My husband returned for lunch at the same time. We sat on the floor with our ecstatic dog running in circles, flopping himself over periodically on top of us, and giving us stinky dog kisses whenever we didn’t move fast enough. We laughed at his antics and sheer joy that we had returned safely.
Then, I felt like walking the dog. I slipped my Chacos over my socks. I felt like wearing socks with my sandals. I walked around the park for the 2nd time today feeling my feet in my socks, warm and comfy. I listened to the frogs singing of spring. I looked for the Flicker calling loudly in a dead tree. I watched a turtle swimming slowly through the wetland. I saw a friend and chatted with her about the joy of walking in socks and sandals.
Then, I made myself a smoothie. Full of goodness–local honey, whey protein, frozen organic berries, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Then, I decided I felt like writing a post on a day when I don’t write posts anymore.
It’s funny what can feel like an adventure.

Saint Patrick’s Day Dogs


Last weekend was full-on St. Patrick’s Day celebration time in Chattanooga. This, of course, included a parade. And what better way to celebrate that to dress up dogs in green costumes and walk them en masse in the parade?
Since I had a photography workshop scheduled on Action, I planned for us to meet in the park where the dogs would congregate so the group could practice getting shots of moving subjects. Well, some dogs were moving, anyway. Some were pretty content to sit around gazing at all the action.

I managed to grab a few shots of my own. Unfortunately, with daylight savings time having kicked in the weekend before, the sun was already glaringly bright by the time the dogs showed up at 10AM.

There was no green beer in the park and no drunken antics, but plenty of silly dogs performing tricks of their own creation. There was a silly mutt who preferred vertical motion over horizontal–he kept jumping straight into the air at his person, as if the excitement was too much for him.

A little too close to get the whole dog, but cracks me up none-the-less

A little too close to get the whole dog, but cracks me up none-the-less

Then there were the dogs meeting and greeting. Dogs greet one another differently than humans. Some start with a nose sniff. Nose-to-nose, they look like they are exchanging eskimo kisses. However, a dog in the face is really considered a breach of etiquette. Polite dogs approach from the side and start with a much less human-tolerated greeting by sniffing the opposite end of their new acquaintance.

Sometimes I imagine humans greeting like dogs. Looking, then looking away. Looking, then pretending to look at something else. Showing each other our sides. Approaching slowly, stopping to sniff the grass from time to time. Ultimately circling one another to sniff butts. That’s the part that just goes against the grain, isn’t it? But do you ever wonder if there was a time in human history when this was considered polite behavior?

I suppose it doesn’t matter–it’s not a behavior I advocate for humans. However, as humans, we really shouldn’t expect our dogs to greet the way we do. We put them into such stressful situations. Can you imagine being walked around in a collar and on a leash and being expected to greet strangers in the park but not in a way that’s considered polite by our fellow humans? Restrained, restricted, unable to escape and forced to face potential foes in this highly vulnerable position. Add to that a silly green costume.

It amazes me that the dog parade went as smoothly as it did. The occasional dog was walked away from the crowd when it became overexcited or encountered another dog it just couldn’t tolerate. But in general, dogs are so intent on pleasing their humans, they tolerate strange circumstances. Some even appeared to enjoy being dressed for the occasion.

It’s hard to find a better example of selflessness and tolerance that in our faithful furry friends–wouldn’t it be nice if we could follow that example?

Snow Day

We had a snow storm in Chattanooga on Wednesday.  It started innocently enough–the occasional snow shower not resulting in any notable accumulation throughout the day.  The area had already closed schools the day before in preparation for the big storm.  Kids began showing up in Renaissance Park, attempting to sled on the thin dusting of snow on the grass hills by the time I walked Tisen in the afternoon.

From my office window, I watched traffic build up as cars climbed slowly up 27N over Stringer’s Ridge.  By late afternoon, the traffic thinned and the snow began to slowly accumulate.  We’ve seen plenty of snow having lived up North for many decades–it didn’t occur to us to prepare for the “storm.”

That evening, we realized we had no groceries.  This seemed like a small inconvenience since the grocery store is just a short walk away.  Alas, little did we know, the grocery store closed at 5PM and sent its employees home.  We drove to the next grocery store, several miles away.  There was less than an inch of snow on the ground and no traffic–we had no problems driving to the store.  But we were disheartened to notice that every place of business we passed sat darkly behind an empty parking lot.  When we arrived at Bi-Lo, one of the largest grocery chains in the area, it too was shutdown.

I flashed back to the late 70’s, when we had several feet of snow on the ground in Columbus, Ohio.  I believe it was after the Blizzard of ’78.  We were out of food in the house.  My mother got out one of our molded-plastic sleds to haul groceries in and we made our way through deep snow to the store a half mile away.

As a young child, it was exciting to be out “foraging” for food when it was, for the first and possibly only time in my life, entirely possible we might go hungry for more than a few hours.  I pretended we were pioneers crossing a tundra as I took slow steps, sinking into the snow up to my knees.

When we got to the store, it was open–but many of the shelves were bare.  The supply trucks hadn’t made it through in days.  I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized we might have to eat a kind of cereal we didn’t like.  Oh the horror!

Having grown up in a place where grocery stores remained open even when supply trucks weren’t arriving to restock, it didn’t occur to me that grocery stores in Chattanooga would close early because a few inches of snow had been predicted.  But, people live on hills and there is very little equipment to keep the roads clear, so I suppose it’s for the best.  Next time, we’ll be among the crowds who make a run on the store when bad weather is predicted.