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.

Attitude

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.

It Bears Repeating

The Tennessee Aquarium not only offers a diverse collection of aquatic life, but they also have these fantastic river cruises.  Pat and I took the 3-hour tour (but the weather didn’t get rough) last September.  It was such a great experience, we decided to do the 2-hour version with Pat’s family during their recent visit.

In my mind, there would be a cool breeze blowing across the river that would somehow wipe the 106 degree heat away and leave us feeling cool and refreshed.  Or, worst case, we’d be in a cool air conditioned cabin.

Allow me to mention that when we took the sunset tour in September, it was about 30 degrees cooler and it was, well, sunset.  Between the extra 30 degrees and the very direct sunlight during the brightest part of the day shining through a mostly glass-enclosed cabin, the A/C had a little trouble keeping up.  Oh, wait, I forgot to mention that in September, there were 13 of us on the cruise.  This time around, there were about 70 people sitting together sweating.

The circumstances kept us from regretting that it was only a 2 hour cruise, at least.

On the plus side, we had a knowledgable and hysterical guide.  He kept us all laughing in spite of the heat–he may have missed his calling as a stand-up comic.  We also learned quite a bit–I think I’ve now been on enough of these tours and to enough historic sites that the history of Chattanooga is finally starting to sink in.

We also saw a lot of Osprey–something we didn’t see in September.  I was so excited by the Osprey that I stood up on the deck the entire time we were allowed up there regardless of feeling like a slowly frying egg.  There was enough of a breeze at first to prevent the sweat from pooling and dripping.  But then we turned around and the breeze died.  Everyone went below except for me a couple of die hards.  I felt bad for the woman sitting next to me when I finally returned to the cabin–I’m pretty sure my deodorant failed.

My photos also failed.  Between the extraordinarily bright sun (one of my friends recently asked if we were still the 3rd rock from the sun–I think she’s onto something) and the moving boat, I can’t say I got any really great shots.  I really wish I had one of the two Osprey chicks both fully visible, but I was shooting between people’s heads to get the shots I did get.  I’m thinking about starting an etiquette blog for photographers where I can offer my advice on tough questions such as “when is it OK to knock over a dozen tourists because they keep passing in front of your lens while a nest of Osprey is in full view?”

I suppose I will have to go on a private cruise if I want really good shots.

Jumping the Moat

Continued from Lost and Found.

Christmas morning we woke up early and laid there in the dark, realizing we could no longer hear the Gulf slapping the banks of our tiny island.  Even when we held our breath, we couldn’t hear the waves.

When at last dawn lightened the sky, we decided to get up and get an early start in our canoe.  We had about 8 miles of paddling in store for us and we were already sore from paddling yesterday.

When we stepped out of the tent, we discovered our tiny island had become a giant island at low tide.  Actually, it was still a tiny island, but now it was surrounded by a giant moat.  The Gulf was suddenly so far away, it was almost unbelievable last night we were worried our canoe would get washed away by high tide.

We ate breakfast slowly.  We walked around the island and watched the sunrise.  We packed up our campsite.  We loaded up the canoe.  All the while, the water was slowly rising, coming closer, but it still looked hopelessly far away.

Having nothing left to do, we sat and waited.  But then, the wind died and we were sitting ducks for biting insects.  We were suddenly motivated to find a way across the moat, dragon or not.

We slid our canoe along the murky shore while we walked as far as we could on dry land.  We found that the opposite end of the island was closer to deep water than our end, so we edged our way through thick mangroves until we finally stepped into the muck and pushed our canoe and gear through the shallows until there was enough water that we could get in and paddle away.  We were itchy with drying muck as we paddled off into the sun.

We hadn’t been out too long when we saw a strange line of evenly spaced white dots stretched across the horizon.  As the dots got larger, we realized it was a large group of American White Pelicans flying in precise formation, sweeping the surface in search of prey.  They flew to a shoal where a huge conglomeration of pelicans gathered.  That might have been the best Christmas present ever.

When we stopped for lunch somewhere between Rabbit Key and Tiger Key, we discovered a family of Osprey.  The young were nearly the size of their parents and angrily demanded to be fed while their parents seemed to argue that it was time for them to leave their nest.

We arrived at Tiger Key without any navigational hiccups.  But the wind soon died and we discovered “no-see-ums.”  I tried a trick someone told us–smearing baby oil on my exposed skin.  I ended up looking like human fly paper and they still bit me–my skin looked like a basketball.

Thankfully, we managed to keep the bugs out of the tent and fell asleep with smiles on our faces, dreaming of Osprey and Pelicans.