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.


I have been thinking a lot about attitude lately. Merriam-Webster defines attitude as:

          1: the way you think and feel about someone or something
2: a feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior

3: a way of thinking and behaving that people regard as unfriendly, rude, etc.

I don’t think the first and second definitions should be separate. The way we think and feel about someone or something necessarily affects the way we behave.

For example, if we are having a really bad day and are at our absolute worst and then run into an acquaintance at the grocery store, if we have not established trust with that person, we are likely to behave politely and pleasantly in spite of how we feel. Conversely, when we get home, because we trust those whom we love to forgive us, we may unleash a torrent of unpleasantness on them.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. It was told by Maya Angelou as something her grandmother once said to her: “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.”

It begs the question: Why do we save our best behavior for people we don’t know?

Showing the worst of ourselves requires vulnerability. Being willing to be vulnerable comes from trust and intimacy. When we are intimate with someone, we show all of ourselves to them, for better or worse. We trust them to take us as we are. Or, to put it less positively: we believe we can get away with it.

But perhaps the damage we inflict on them and our relationship really isn’t worth the relief of not having to hold in all our anger and frustration?

When I was a child, my mother brought home a book called “TA for Tots”–a popular book in the 70’s. It talks about things like “warm fuzzies” and “cold pricklies” as a way of helping children and parents identify feelings and behaviors and make better choices. Essentially, giving us a way to choose our attitude.

As a teenager, my mother’s touchy-feely parenting became regarded as “uncool.” Later, as a woman in a male-dominated industry, I believed the worst thing anyone could say about me was that I was “emotional.” To talk about feelings became taboo.

Yet, the heart of our attitude, our behaviors, and, ultimately, all of our relationships and all that we accomplish comes down to our feelings.

If instead of snapping at my husband I could simply say, “Hi. I’m glad you’re here. I’ve had a really crappy day and need a hug,” wouldn’t that go a lot further a lot faster to restoring me to my better self? And wouldn’t it make my husband feel wonderful that he could be there to give me what I need? Once again, I should have listened to my mother.

Bridge and Heron

Not nearly as exciting as when the bridge was fully open

Not nearly as exciting as when the bridge was fully open

About a week or so ago, I was out walking both Tisen and Twiggy when I missed a once-a-year shot.  Walking Tisen and Twiggy together gets a little tricky at times.  Twiggy likes to lead.  Not just Tisen, but me, too.  She likes to decide where we’re going and when we’re going there.  When we disagree with where she wants to go, her claws extend much like a cat’s, except that she possesses some superpower that allows her to drive them into concrete.  She then leans with her body at what is often a 45 degree angle against her harness and demands that everyone goes the direction she wants to go.

Tisen is somewhat oblivious to her demands.  If he catches a scent in the opposite direction, he goes towards it without regard for me, Twiggy, or the fact that he’s got a collar pulling against his neck.  I sometimes worry that he would strangle himself before he would realize he was the one causing it.

The gap is no longer even visible

The gap is no longer even visible

When Twiggy goes one way and Tisen goes another, the human who happens to be in the middle ends up doing what could be called the “Scarecrow,” but with very straight arms.  On days when both dogs are particularly adamant about the direction they want to go, it’s more like being on a medieval rack.

I have been working with the dogs to try to prevent this problem.  I’ve gotten Tisen to return to me when I make a certain sound and Twiggy to understand that we’re going to turn when I want to turn unless there’s something particularly tempting in the direction she’s determined to go.

But on this particular morning, as we made our way through the park, I suddenly got a view of the Market Street bridge and realized it was fully open.  It’s a rare type of draw bridge that’s opened and closed by a counter-weight system.  I don’t recall what it’s called, but it’s pretty cool.  It’s opened about once a year for inspection, but this was the first time I’d ever seen it fully open.

Shooting with my iPhone doesn't allow for close-ups, but you can see the Heron just right of 12 o'clock at the top of the tree

Shooting with my iPhone doesn’t allow for close-ups, but you can see the Heron just right of 12 o’clock at the top of the tree

Unfortunately, as I wrestled my iPhone out of my pocket and juggled it and two leashes to get my password entered, Twiggy spotted another dog in a different direction.  At the same time, Tisen spotted the same dog and decided he wanted to stay bolted to the spot he was currently standing on.

I cajoled and whistled and made my “come to me” noise to no avail.  Finally, the other dog moved far enough away that Twiggy and Tisen would listen to me again.  I got them down the path to where I could get a decent shot (although not all the way to my destination) just in time to catch the last few feet of the bridge closing.

I was not a happy dog walker.  When I turned, a Great Blue Heron was perched at the very top of a nearby tree.  I’m certain he was laughing at me.

Look carefully--you can see the heron laughing at me

Look carefully–you can see the heron laughing at me

A Walk in the Park

The native lens in the iPhone does not make for a great way to capture Great Blue Heron

The native lens in the iPhone does not make for a great way to capture Great Blue Heron

Today when Tisen and I made our morning round of the park and I spotted a Great Blue Heron hanging out on the railing of the bridge, I promptly reached into my pocket and pulled out the only camera I had with me, my iPhone.

Now, I use my iPhone for work even though it’s my personal phone.  This is an example of what corporations now call “work-life integration.”  I remember when it used to be called, “work-life balance.”  I have the advantage that I need only have one phone number and one device.  The company has the advantage that they don’t have to pay for my service.  I suppose it’s win-win.

I'm sneaking up on the heron.  Can you seem him yet?

I’m sneaking up on the heron. Can you seem him yet?

I mention this because one of the really horrific disadvantages to using my personal iPhone for work is my company requires special security before they’ll allow corporate email on a mobile device.  That security prevents the camera from starting without unlocking the phone.  It also forces me to use a long password with special characters that, on average, take me 3 attempts to type in correctly.

So, back to our Blue Heron, here I am, walking in the park.  I spot a Great Blue Heron on the railing up ahead.  I tell Tisen “Wait” as I pull my phone out of my back pocket.  While holding the leash and trying to see the screen in bright sunlight and with sunglasses on, I use my thumbs to key in my password.

Can you see him now?

Can you see him now?  (Hint:  he flew to the left)

Cultural note:  the phrase “All Thumbs,” as in, “She tried to enter her password, but she was all thumbs,” should have been a really strong indicator to the inventors of smart phones that a keyboard requiring you to type using only your thumbs might not be the best answer.

I get an error message.  I look up.  Heron hasn’t moved.  I enter my password again.  I get another error.  I curse under my breath and check the bird again.  Still there.  I try a third time and just as I am about to hit the return key, Tisen moves, pulling the leash, which moves my left hand, which jerks the phone and causes me to hit an extra key as I hit the return key.  3rd strike.  My phone is now counting down until the self-destruct sequence begins.  I frantically enter my password one more time.  The planets align!  I get my phone unlocked, my camera app open, and the heron is still sitting there!

Now you can at least see a silhouette!

Now you can at least see a silhouette!

However, as you can see from the photos, perhaps there are times when it truly is better not to have a camera at all.  The Camera! app was not set in rapid fire mode.  It took far too long to shoot to capture the heron taking off from the railing.  Of course, with no optical zoom (my mini-telephoto lenses back at home), I’m not sure it’s possible to actually tell where the heron is in most of the images in any case.

Tisen giving me the "Oh mom, you're so crazy" look

Tisen giving me the “Oh mom, you’re so crazy” look

Private Moments and a Merlin

My first Green Heron of the season--usually, I see them daily at the park, but not during the birdathon

My first Green Heron of the season–usually, I see them daily at the park, but not during the birdathon

Continuing our excursion through the VW wetland, we made our way around to the far side of the wetland from our entry point.  This side was on the VW plant side.  They were doing a lot of construction between the wetland and the plant, but they had installed a protective barrier between the construction zone and the wetland to keep runoff from the construction from upsetting the balance of the ecosystem.

Because water does need to run from the construction area to the wetland, they installed a large pipe between the two that went under the barrier.  At the end of the pipe leading to the wetland, they installed what might have looked like a giant balloon waiting to be inflated and twisted into a life-sized balloon horse except that it was a dull, opaque black color.  It laid on the ground piled on itself looking lifeless and discarded.  Our guide told us it was a silt bag used to collect all the dirt and silt in the construction runoff.  When water is running through quickly, it does indeed inflate.  However, no one has yet tried to twist it into a life-sized balloon horse.

A tree full of Great Blue Heron on the far side of the wetland

A tree full of Great Blue Heron on the far side of the wetland

As we made our way around the end of the wetland, we got closer to the array of solar panels.  It was pretty darn impressive to see the field of panels growing electricity.  Our guide told us that over 20% of the power consumed by the plant comes from the solar panels outside the wetland.  This is an impressive amount of electricity when one considers how much power a manufacturing facility like that uses.  The Eastern Meadowlark definitely thought it was worth singing about–he perched on the edge of the panels and sung his heart out for us.

Spotting the Merlin at the end of a very thin-looking tree branch

Spotting the Merlin at the end of a very thin-looking tree branch

This was also about the time that everyone’s last cup of coffee kicked in.  First one person disappeared into a wooded area.  Next, another one started wandering towards the woods.  When we started following her, she stopped, turned and said, “I need a private moment.”  We all laughed at ourselves for blindly following her.  Next it was my turn.

This is one of those occasions when being able to spot poison ivy makes the difference between life and painful suffering.  I am skilled at spotting poison ivy at any stage of development–young poison ivy vines before the leaves sprout, fresh purple leaves dripping with toxic oils when they first burst forth, ancient hairy vines twisted around the trunk of a tree.  Unfortunately, I know all this because I’ve gotten it so many ways over the decade I’ve been allergic to it.

The Merlin seems to be testing the wind as he twists about, thinking about flying

The Merlin seems to be testing the wind as he twists about, thinking about flying

After I rejoined the group, I discovered they were all looking at a Merlin.  It graciously  remained in full view, perched long enough for me to get quite a few shots, although being about 100 yards closer would have yielded some really amazing images.  This was a life-list bird for me–I’ve never seen one before.  What a great day.

Off goes the Merlin

Off goes the Merlin

Riding at Sunrise

Sunrise reflected on Amnicola Marsh

Sunrise reflected on Amnicola Marsh

5:15AM didn’t seem any later this morning than it did yesterday.  Especially not after a bad night’s sleep–poor Tisen started itching again in the middle of the night.  But, I managed once again to get myself out of bed.  Then things went a bit South.

A sculpture lurking in the dim morning light

A sculpture lurking in the dim morning light

It’s like a time warp occurs in the morning.  I can look at the clock at 5:20, do a task that normally takes 5 minutes, and suddenly, it will be 5:45.  By the time I’d had a cup of coffee, gotten myself together, taken Tisen for a short walk, and gathered together all of the required accessories for an early morning bike ride, it was 6:40.  Then, still adjusting to having my bike in the parking garage and having to take all steal-able accessories off every time I ride, it took nearly 20 more minutes from the time I walked out our door to the time I’d finished re-accessorized my bike, unlocked it, and filled the tires.

The train crossing in morning light

The train crossing in morning light

At long last, I headed up the River Walk.  By the time I started riding, I felt foolish for bothering with the lights–it was light enough I no longer needed them.  As I made my way back across the Walnut Street Bridge and East along the Tennessee River, two Great Blue Herons flew straight at each other as if they were playing a game of chicken (I wonder if they call it “heron”?) until one suddenly swooped downward in a graceful dive, leveling out just above the water.

A Great Blue Heron perched on the rail of the pier below the bridge

A Great Blue Heron perched on the rail of the pier below the bridge


As I watched, my mouth dropped open just about the time I rode through a cloud of small gnat-like critters.  I guess I was hungry, but it wasn’t quite the filling snack I had in mind.  I have to say I preferred the mouth full of gnats over the eyeful of gnats I got simultaneously.  I rinsed my mouth with water, shut it tight, and wiped as many bugs out of my eyes as possible.

The final stretch of the River Walk

The final stretch of the River Walk

I rode as hard and as fast as I dared on the river walk–it’s not really a route conducive to riding fast, in fact, one section is posted 3-5 miles per hour.  I can’t imagine it’s physically possible to ride a bike 5 mph or less, but clearly the people who built the river walk weren’t cyclists.

Can you spot the Great Blue Heron on the rocky shore?

Can you spot the Great Blue Heron on the rocky shore?

When I came up on the Amnicola Marsh, I had to stop.  The sun was rising behind the marsh, reflected in the water.  3 Canada Geese were rendered into black swans, silhouettes against the brilliant light.  Near the shore, a group of Coots stretched out their gangly legs and ran back into the water as I rolled to a stop.

After taking a few photos, I remounted and made my way up to the dam.  A fisherman on the pier caught something big on his line as I was turning around to return home.  I wonder if it was an old tire or a giant fish?

My boy waiting patiently at home for breakfast

My boy waiting patiently at home for breakfast

Bird Kings

I have a lot of funny stories about birding.  Let’s start with the 2 years I spent getting out my CD-set of bird songs every time I heard a particular bird calling, trying desperately to figure out what it was, only to discover (eventually) it was a chipmunk.

Or, how about the time I managed to convince myself that a Great Blue Heron (one of the most readily identifiable birds around) was a Tri-colored Heron because its feathers were hanging at a weird angle, making a pattern of color around its neck I hadn’t seen before.

Then there’s the time I was sure I was seeing a Louisiana Waterthrush only to realize I was looking at a female Red-winged Blackbird.  While I think all birders have been fooled by a female Red-winged Blackbird, I’d bet there aren’t too many who thought they might be a Louisiana Waterthrush.

But besides my identification mishaps, I also have physical ones.  For example, at the end of this month’s Wednesday morning bird walk (which I was leading), I got excited trying to see a bird in a tree right above us and I walked right into a concrete bench and fell over it, landing on my rear.  Fortunately, my fellow birders managed to catch me enough to keep me from falling all the way over the bench and onto the ground.

There’s also the time I was so busy looking up that I walked into a branch that smacked me right in my wide-open mouth.  I guess that’s better than a friend of mine who made the mistake of looking up with an open mouth just in time to catch a not-so-tasty snack.

Oh, and then there’s the time I drove off the road trying to identify a hawk perched on post at the side of the road.  Friends, don’t let friends bird and drive.

Perhaps it’s all of these antics that often give me the feeling that the birds are as amused watching me as I am watching them.

On our Saturday morning bird walk, which I was also leading, we discovered a family of Eastern Kingbirds.  It appeared the baby had fledged and Mom and Dad were trying to encourage it to start feeding itself (sound familiar, parents?).  But the baby wasn’t ready to give up on getting spoon (or beak) fed.

Perched low in a shrub near eye-level, we had quite a treat watching these wonderful flycatchers swoop in and encourage the baby to make an effort.  Baby, on the other hand, demanded to be fed loudly, squealing at Mom and Dad with a bright pink, open mouth.  No tasty treat for Baby either.

I love Eastern Kingbirds. They’re the easiest flycatcher to identify by sight.  The white rim along the tip of their tails and their size along with their pure white breast make them striking and distinct.  That’s what makes a bird a favorite for me–easily distinguishable features.

Birding 101

Birds reveal themselves to me slowly.  I must see them many times before I understand who they are, what they look like, what interests them, what they sound like, and I can recognize them like an old friend.

When I hear a bubbling American Goldfinch flying by behind me, I smile to myself, envisioning it’s scooping flight pattern, called “zooming” in hang gliding school.  How the goldfinch must love the zip of the dive followed by the lift, stalling and diving again and again, riding its invisible roller coaster and able to stay airborne because, unlike a hang glider, it can flap.

When I see a Great Blue Heron gliding in for a landing at the wetland, I know that the theory that dinosaurs did not all become extinct but some evolved into birds is true.  If ever there was a remnant of a pterodactyl, surely it’s the great blue heron with its crooked neck gliding awkwardly on giant wings, miraculously able to perch high in a tree on it’s fragile, stilted legs.

And now, I am pursued by brilliant Indigo Buntings.  They perch and sing their songs to me, over and over, determined that I will recognize the sound of their voice.  At long last I have learned to know them by their song.  I can smile and look and see a tiny silhouette off in a distant tree top, point, and say, “There is an Indigo Bunting.”  It seems like magic to those who have not listened to the bunting’s song 3x a day for months.  It seems like magic to me, even though I have.

No matter how familiar a few birds have become to me, there is always another bird to meet.  My latest friends are fly catchers.  The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is easy to recognize.  But the Eastern Phoebe and the Eastern Wood Pewee still manage to confuse me even though I thought I knew what a Phoebe looked like for many years now.  My human friends play the same trick on me–I often recognize them only to discover I’m saying hello to a complete stranger.  At least the Phoebe tells me its name over and over again in its distinct call of “Fee – bee.”

These are things I like to share with others.  I love to see people get excited about seeing a bird for the first time that they’ve walked by without notice for decades.  I love to see someone realize that a bird they thought they knew looks completely different up close through binoculars.

For this reason, I have started leading beginning bird walks for the Audubon Society.  I am not the best birder in the world–there are many species I would be hard pressed to even guess at.  But, having struggled long and hard to learn what I do know, I know what’s helped me learn it.  Maybe that’s why people say “those who can’t do, teach”?

Regardless, I’m happy to share smiles, even if it’s over a robin.

Hunting Herons

After attending a photography workshop in the morning and volunteer training at the Audubon Society in the afternoon, I decided spending some time shooting would be a nice way to end the day.

Tisen, feeling better after his bout of upset stomach, and I packed up and headed on over to the park.  I can’t decide what I want to shoot today, so I take everything I own.  Worst case, I get some extra exercise, although the sofa is a little unwieldy  😉

When we arrive at the entrance to the park, a blue bird flies over my head.  I haven’t even taken my camera out of the bag yet!  I stop right there and get out my camera and opt for the 100-400mm lens, deciding I’ve been neglecting it since getting the 70-200mm lens.  Besides, I could use the extra length for birds.

Of course the blue bird is long gone.  I guess that’s what I get for letting fate decide what kind of shooting I’m going to do.

We head on down towards the wetland.  When we get there, a great blue heron is stalking the water.  I hand hold the camera for a change–it feels strange in my hands having worked on a tripod so much lately.

Tisen and I walk around to the shore of the wetland to see if I can get a better angle on the heron.  On the way, some people eye my lens and ask if I’m taking pictures of the wedding. Confused, I explain I was shooting a blue heron and the people laugh.  I look around and see a bride and groom disappearing down the path.  Is it funny that I am more attracted to birds than brides?

The blue heron stalks a fish, coming up onto the shore and then back down into the water.  It hangs out for awhile on the way, peeking at me from between blades of tall grass.  It amazes me how a giant, blue bird that resembles a pterodactyl can disappear amongst blades of grass.

As he wades through the water, moving in slow motion, he crouches until he suddenly strikes and nabs a fish.  I missed the strike with this one, but, lucky me, I get to try a second time when another blue heron hunts on the other side of the wetland.

One thing I learned is that a shutter speed of 1/250 is not fast enough to stop the motion of a striking heron!

Unfortunately, he turns away from me to swallow the fish and I only get a view after the fish is deep in his gullet.  Both heron give themselves a big shake after a hunt–it reminds me somehow of Tisen marking a tree after having an encounter with another dog.

Sorry for the excessive number of pictures, but I love the succession of the second heron crouching lower and lower next to his reflection in the water until he strikes.  Just for fun, a movie version:

Rescuing a Heron

I woke up at 3AM, pinned under the covers by the weight of a sleeping dog and too content with him by my side to move him.  I eventually squirmed my way out, managing to heed the call of nature without waking either my husband or my dog.  But when I returned to bed, I was left out in the cold.  I think I got another half an hour of sleep before finally getting up at 6AM.

In those 3 hours, Tisen moved only if chasing something in his dreams and Pat snored quietly, marking the time.

I get Tisen walked, fed, and into his create in time for me to get to the gym.  We are using the create when I go to the gym.  Tisen rather likes his crate with his new bed and collection of squeaky toys–we’re getting close to trying going out to dinner again.

After the gym, I buckle down to work and try to focus.  It goes like this:

  1. Start to work on presentation
  2. Think, “I need the dates in that email from yesterday”
  3. Open inbox, see 18 unread messages have arrived in the past 5 minutes.  Start reading and responding to each one, opening files until there are 40 files open and 16 applications running.
  4. Remember I was looking for an email for my presentation, I return to the inbox to find new messages and start over again–I’m in danger of an endless loop.
  5. A reminder it’s time for my first conference call pops up and interrupts my interruption.
  6. Remember I was trying to get my presentation done before my first conference call.
  7. Look at calendar for meetings I can cancel later in the day.

In the midst of this, Pat returns from Tisen’s second walk and reports he spotted a Great Blue Heron with a broken wing.  I start juggling phones with the conference call in one ear and a call to S.O.A.R. in the other.

Pat is able to meet John (from SOAR).  When my morning conference calls end and Tisen insists he needs to go out, we are able to check on the heron rescue progress.  We arrive as Pat dives into the bushes with a large butterfly net, just missing the heron.  I get out my iPhone and snap a few pics.

John catches the heron moments later.  John asks me to remove a stick from its mouth.  I reach out and gently pull the stick free, hoping it will be a little more comfortable.  This poor bird has exposed bone where its wing has snapped and bent backwards.  John will take it to a licensed bird rehabilitator, but he doesn’t seem optimistic.

Much later, John’s wife, Dale, tells me the heron had to be euthanized.  I am sad this one could not be saved.  But, I am happy there are people like John and Dale to make sure if there is a chance a bird will survive, the bird will get it.

Now, I need to finish that presentation . . .