Babies and Bath Water

Many years ago, when more and more corporations were putting PCs on people’s desks, opening up access to email, the internet, and (egads!) even instant messaging, multi-tasking became a hot topic in large corporations.

A group of managers in my then-organization were sent to a training class. The class proved to them that no one is more efficient multi-tasking than performing tasks in a single-threaded fashion. This has been demonstrated over and over again in many studies since.

Yet multitasking is only increasing. We wonder aloud how we got to a place where multitasking on a smartphone has now become part of our basic social interactions. Remember when it was considered the epitome of rudeness to have a cell phone in a restaurant?

For me, multi-tasking socialization started in the work place where I often carried on multiple instant message conversations, worked on an email response, and “listened” to a conference call all at the same time.

But the behavior has carried over to my personal life in rather frightening ways. A laptop, iPhone, or iPad is always handy and my face is often pointed at one of them–my attention hopping from messages, emails, posts and often forgetting completely why I picked up a “device” in the first place.

One of the things I have said I love about photography is that it is a form of meditation. I set aside my distracting devices and focus my attention as well as my lens. When I look through the viewfinder, even more distractions are removed, limiting the view of the world to just the portion I include in my frame. The mind quiets, the chatter stops, texts go unanswered. For those moments, there is only me observing something fascinating and working to capture it.

But how to carry this focused attention over to personal relationships?

I tried an accidental experiment this weekend. I put my phone on the sleep setting, meaning it would not notify me with events from the virtual world. Then, I spent some time with my spouse. Friday night, we even went to dinner without our phones. It was a scary moment, but we managed to entertain ourselves by talking to each other.

What was interesting was how awkward it felt to know we were going to have a conversation with no access to Google. No photos to look at. No funny posts on Facebook to share. Just us talking off the tops of our heads like the internet didn’t exist. But at the end of the evening, we felt like we’d actually spent time together vs spent time in the same room.

That said, I am not about to get rid of the technology in my life. But it begs the question: if technology has contributed to new detrimental behaviors negatively impacting my relationships, productivity, and enjoyment of life, how does one extract the baby from the bathwater? It is possible to use the power of technology only for good?

Time Out

This is my last day of a one-week vacation.  Instead of going somewhere, a friend came down for a week of hiking in the area.  I managed to disconnect from my day job completely.

The reality is that work is going on without me.  I may have a few messes to fix when I get back, but those messes probably would have happened whether I was there or not.  And if I weren’t there, someone else would figure out how to clean them up.

I choose to take from this the lesson that if there is time for me to take a week away, there is time for me to take a breath during the day.  There is time for me to stop at a reasonable hour and pick up again the next day.  There is time for me to take care of myself regardless of what messes come up.

I re-learned the truth of how important unplugged time is to me.  Going out into the wilderness where there were no sounds besides the wind blowing through the trees, water tumbling over rocks, and occasional conversation with my friend brought with it a sense of connectedness with the world around me that hours in front of a computer cannot achieve.

The computer, whether for work or just for fun, takes me away from the here and now.  Choosing footholds along a rocky trail puts me intensely in the present moment in a way that’s hard to achieve typing on a keyboard or reading an email.

I also re-learned the power of physical exertion.  The sense of aliveness and appreciation for every bone, muscle, blood cell in my body intensifies as the trail becomes more challenging.  The ability to move myself rhythmically up a steep rocky climb turns into a sense of power and wonder.  The body is a marvelous thing to inhabit when it’s working well.

And, I re-learned the joy of pushing limits just a little.  Hiking with a friend who hasn’t hiked much helped keep me from over-doing.  It kept the soreness to a minimum and allowed me to enjoy what I was capable of without suffering what might otherwise have been the pain of over-exertion.  Happy medium is called “happy” for a really good reason.

Taking time away also gave me the time and energy to consider alternative possibilities.  The freed energy led to imagination and my imagination went wild.  At the end of a week of time “off”, I find myself full of hope.  Hope that I can make time for what is most important to me.  Hope that anything truly is possible.  Hope that life can be joyful on a daily basis.  Hope that I can return to my “normal” life and make it a little less normal and a little more peaceful.  Hope that if I can do that, the world as a whole can be more peaceful, too.

It was a good vacation.

Final Point

Moccasin Bend one last time

Moccasin Bend one last time

I have a few photos from Point Park to wrap up on.  I shot one last look from the overlook with my DSLR vs a panoramic on the iPhone (which I have rapidly become addicted to).  With my 24-70mm lens on the camera, this was as wide as I could go.  If I would have stepped back a few feet, I might have been able to get all of the Tennessee River into the frame as it winds its way around Moccasin Bend.  But then I would have had more crap in the foreground.  Perhaps I will through my 17-35mm lens on the next time we go up to Point Park.

After enjoying the view from Ochs Museum overlook, we headed back up the slightly more rugged trail than the asphalt trail that circles the main portion of the park.  Tisen didn’t seem to want to leave the cool shade next to Ochs museum as we made our way back.  It wasn’t that hot out, but perhaps it feels warmer to someone wearing fur?

Tisen trying to go the wrong way

Tisen trying to go the wrong way

The trail heads uphill on the way back.  When you walk down it, you don’t realize you’re going downhill.  Yet, when you walk back up it, you definitely do notice the uphill.  Fortunately, the entire path is well-shaded so even our hot dog didn’t overcook.

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As we got closer to the asphalt paved and landscaped part of the park, I noticed a crooked tree highlighted in a beam of bright sunlight.  It was perched on the sharp edge of a fallen rock and growing with a 90 degree bend in the middle of its trunk.  I had a sudden vision of the rock having once been part of the mountain and this tree deciding it would conquer this rock some day as it spread its roots into every crack and crevice.  I imagined this bent and tiny tree feeling victorious for having brought down the rock after so many years of patient growing.  I wonder if a tree or water dripping is faster when it comes to carving off chunks of stone cliffs?

The victorious tree

The victorious tree

We made it safely back to the asphalt path that circles the landscaped part of the park.  We walked slowly around the park, allowing Tisen to sniff and explore as far as his leash would reach.  He paused to heed the call of nature more times than seemed physically possible, but you know how male dogs are about marking new territory.

As we waited, a female dog came over with her humans to say hello.  After a little doggy socialization, we headed back toward the park entrance.  Along the way, I spotted Sunset Rock off in the distance through the trees, looking much further away than I remembered.  I smiled sheepishly since I had wanted to walk all the way to Sunset Rock, believing it to be less than a mile from Point Park.  Pat gave me a side-ways glance that said, “Less than a mile, huh?”

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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

Power Point

Pausing just long enough for a quick pose is enough to make Tisen yawn

Pausing just long enough for a quick pose is enough to make Tisen yawn

Here’s a tip about Point Park on Lookout Mountain:  there’s a parking lot with free parking behind the shrubs across the street from the park entrance.  It took us two trips up there before we figured out that really was free parking.  Even on Memorial Day weekend, there was still an empty space.  Most people are so busy figuring out where they can park at the meters on the same side of the street as the park that they fail to notice the entrance to the free parking on the left (us included).  We’ve been up there at times when the pay parking spaces were completely full while there was only one car in the free parking lot.

A second tip is that if you are local and go there often, a park pass is only $20 and it allows you take up to 5 guests with you each time you go.  I trip with 6 adults is $18, so it doesn’t take long to pay for itself.

Perhaps the view is best enjoyed without a yawning holstein?

Perhaps the view is best enjoyed without a yawning holstein?

A third tip is that if you’d rather not pay to get into Point Park, you could hike there from Cravens House and come in the back way.  You might have to go back the same way, but the round trip can be as short as 2 miles depending on which trail you take.

I needed a tripod to get this straight, but I managed to get a shot with the sun behind me at least

I needed a tripod to get this straight, but I managed to get a shot with the sun behind me at least

The final tip is that if you like to take photos, go early.  This is a tip I have yet to take.  We scheduled a trip up to Point Park to get there shortly before sunset our first time out to the point.  When we arrived, more and more park rangers kept arriving and running past us.  Then, an ambulance arrived and they took a stretcher down the main path out to the point.  They returned with a man on the gurney who had apparently been climbing on some rocks along the trail until he slipped, fell, and broke at least 1 rib, they thought.

In honor of Memorial Day, we stopped to read the stories of the battles on the memorial

In honor of Memorial Day, we stopped to read the stories of the battles on the memorial

I don’t know if it was because the rangers were on high alert that evening or if they’re always so insistent on emptying the park right at sunset, but they came down to the overlook we were at where I was shooting away as the sun sunk towards the horizon and told us to go home before the sunset was below the horizon.  Since some of the best sunset shots come after the sun has set, this was a bit disappointing.  I was counting on being able to shoot until dusk.  But the park closes “at sunset,” which I guess can be left to a ranger’s discretion.

Tisen is rather irreverent when it comes to appreciating battlefields

Tisen is rather irreverent when it comes to appreciating battlefields

However, the park opens at 6AM.  So, there’s plenty of time to get there and get setup for sunrise shots, although I guess the sun will be rising before 6:30AM soon.

While I work on mustering the courage to get up that early, I try to ignore the harsh shadows in my mid-day shots, wishing I had better timing.

Tisen and Pat seem to be having a sidebar--I think they were plotting against me

Tisen and Pat seem to be having a sidebar–I think they were plotting against me

The Easy Way to Point Park

View from canon in Point Park

View from canon in Point Park

My plan was to walk from Cravens House to Sunset Rock to Point Park and then back to Craven’s house.  This would be more like a loop vs just an out and back.  Since both Sunset Rock and Point Park are 1 1/2 miles from Cravens House, the math in my head indicated we’d be walking 3 miles regardless of whether we did the loop or the out and back.

I forgot about the part between Sunset Rock and Point Park.  Turns out that’s something like an extra mile.  While I wouldn’t have minded the extra mile, the rest of the crowd turned against me.  Pat completely over-ruled any consideration of walking to Point Park.

Making our way back down the trail

Making our way back down the trail

When we got to the point in the trail where we had to pick between walking back towards Cravens House or up to Point Park, Pat asked if we were going to Point Park.  We were all surprised.  Then, he clarified that he was asking if we wanted to drive up to Point Park after we got back to Craven’s House, not if we wanted to walk to Point Park.

Oh well.

On the way back to Craven’s House, the trail did a switch-back near the top of the cliff and then passed below Sunset Rock.  When we were at the top, we passed a group of young adults who had hung camping hammocks between some trees that hung over the edge of the cliff.

Two hammocks visible from the trail below the cliff

Two hammocks visible from the trail below the cliff

We took some photos for them with their iPhones as we went by.  I attempted to get a shot for me as well, but I had one of my typical moments where I believed I had my camera set on aperture priority and didn’t worry about checking the exposure.  Several minutes later, when we were well down the trail, I took a peak and discovered my shot was a giant black rectangle.

When we passed underneath, I managed to get a shot of the two visible hammocks from below.  It looked a lot scarier when we were looking down from the top.  All I could think to myself was, “I don’t care how strong those hammocks are, how can they know the trees will hold?”  After all, the trees were right on the side of the cliff with very little place to grip with their roots.  I had visions of them toppling over and dragging the hammocks with the young campers with them.

Tisen making sure I'm coming along

Tisen making sure I’m coming along

For the record, we have seen nothing on the news about any hikers who fell from Sunset Rock, so I think they were OK.

We made it back down the trail, past the square tree branch, off the cliff, and back to Cravens House.

While we did make it up to Point Park (via automobile), we made only a quick jaunt around the asphalt path and skipped the off-road trail out to the point.  I felt like we short-changed my brother and sister-in-law, but they plan to come back.

My brother and sister-in-law posing being the wheel of a canon at Point Park

My brother and sister-in-law posing being the wheel of a canon at Point Park

Hipsta Park

I like the rocks Hipstamata-sized.  The first time we saw these rocks, a guy had just fallen off of them and broken his ribs.

I like the rocks Hipstamata-sized. The first time we saw these rocks, a guy had just fallen off of them and broken his ribs.

Sunday afternoon, looking for something fun to do, we decided on an easy, short walk that Tisen could accompany us on.  Pat suggested Signal Point, but I felt the distance we could walk and the view we could see without any physical strain was too limited.  The easily accessible overlook is less than 50 yards from the parking lot.

Coming back up the steps from Ochs Overlook toward the New York Peace Monument

Coming back up the steps from Ochs Overlook toward the main loop

I suggested we head up to Point Park instead.  Point Park has what is probably a half-mile loop that’s flat and affords views from many directions.  Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama are all visible from Point Park.  The view of Moccasin Bend is hard to beat.  And, there are monuments, canons, and interesting rock formations that would all allow me to continue my Hipstamatic spree.

Pat agreed and we headed up to the mountain.  The one disadvantage of Point Park is that they do charge an entry fee.  I don’t mind paying the entry fee–I want to support the park–but it does add up throughout the year given the number of times we take visitors up there.  When we got there, I stopped in the Visitor’s Center to ask if they have an annual pass.  The volunteer on duty didn’t know of anything specific to the park, but told me about the $80 annual pass to all federally managed lands.  He told me it included access to Yellowstone and gave me a pamphlet.

Looking down the trail at the museum at Ochs Overlook

Looking down the trail at the museum at Ochs Overlook

While it was tempting to get an annual pass for all federal land, when we started trying to come up with a list of places we would use it in the next year, we couldn’t really think of $80 worth of places we would get to in the next 12 months.  We decided to wait and went to the park entrance to pay.  When we got there, there was actually a ranger staffing the ticket booth.  Usually you pay a machine.

I mentioned to him we’d thought about buying the park pass, but had decided to wait and he informed me that there is a $20 annual pass for just Point Park.  He called the Visitor’s Center volunteer for us and sent us back to pick one up.  When I got back to the Visitor’s Center, the volunteer was still on the phone with the ranger who was giving him instructions on where to find the pass.  We made it through the process, got our shiny new pass and headed back to the entrance.

View of Moccasin Bend from Ochs Overlook

View of Moccasin Bend from Ochs Overlook

The same ranger was still on duty.  When I handed him the new pass he had facilitated, he looked at it, looked back at me, and said, “We don’t take those here.”  Gotta love a ranger with a sense of humor!

We took a nice spin around Point Park, walking out to Ochs Overlook at the point and enjoying the spring weather.  The bright sunshine created an interesting haze in Hipstamatic.

Mocassin Bend doesn't actually fit in the iPhone frame from Ochs Overlook.  This is the "bend."

Mocassin Bend doesn’t actually fit in the iPhone frame from Ochs Overlook. This is the “bend.”

Afterwards, we headed home.  After a shower, Pat did a little more work on the computer with assistance from Tisen.

Tisen helping Daddy on the computer

Tisen helping Daddy on the computer