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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Mornings

            “It is in the early morning hour that the unseen is seen, and that the far-off beauty and glory, vanquishing all their vagueness, move down upon us till they stand clear as crystal close over against the soul.” ~Sarah Smiley

I find mornings magical, a gift to me from Mother Nature. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I find mornings magical, a gift to me from Mother Nature. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Peaceful Time

I filled my nectar feeder this morning for the first time in weeks, having stopped the ritual because of summer bee season here at my apartment complex.

Verdins feed more at my nectar feeder than hummingbirds. I love watching them. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Verdins feed more at my nectar feeder than hummingbirds. I love watching them. — Photo by Pat Bean

As I sat in my living room chair, staring out at it through the open balcony door, a black-chinned hummingbird, perhaps the same one that has been regularly checking the empty feeder, stopped by for breakfast. It was soon joined by a verdin, a tiny bird that is as common as hummingbirds at my feeder.

While hummingbirds usually chase off their own species wanting to feed at the same time, these two peacefully shared the wealth. I wondered why I had taken so long to start filling the feeder again.

And then I drank in my favorite time of day. Too often it’s the only time of day my chaotic brain ceases to race through life. The desert morning was cool and still, making me feel as if I were the only human up and moving around at this moment  in time – just seconds before the sun would bring reality to a world full of good and evil, and beauty and ugliness. The air was tinged with magic, and my soul filled with peace as I gratefully accepted Mother Nature’s gift.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: The rest of the story http://tinyurl.com/lkx3jz9  I guess Ruth never heard about Paul Harvey. By the way, I’m laughing with this blogger because I’ve been in her position. Sometimes what we think is interesting, readers find less so.

Woman of the Mountain http://tinyurl.com/kpuqh4w A  Blue Ridge Parkway hero.  

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“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was 43 years old when I experienced my first white water adventure. Within the next week, I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years running rapids was my passion. The river taught me much about myself.

I was 43 years old when I experienced my first white water adventure. Within the next week, I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years running rapids was my passion. The river taught me much about myself.

A Long Swim

Being a writer and journal keeper, the artifacts of my life are found in words, like those that popped up yesterday when I was going through a box of photographs. Among the pictures was a faded proof of a story I wrote as a personal newspaper column back in 1988.

Who knows what is going to pop up when you're going through artifacts of your life? == Photo by Pat Bean

Who knows what is going to pop up when you’re going through artifacts of your life? == Photo by Pat Bean

While the story is about an incident that will forever be hazily embedded in my brain, the words I had written, when the details were fresh and new, brought back the memory in vivid, living color. I just love being a writer.

Here’s what I wrote over a quarter of a century ago – with a bit of judicious editing because I’m a better writer, if not a better rafter, these days.

            PIECE-OF-CAKE RAPID, SALMON, RIVER, IDAHO – I knew before it happened that it was going to happen. I was going swimming. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy swimming. But I didn’t have the slightest yen to take a dip in a fast-flowing, bubbling, chilly rapid.

            The last piece of advice given me by White Otter River guide, Randy Hess, as I stepped for the very first time into a one-person, inflatable kayak, was “Just keep it straight. These babies are steady and designed so they slice nicely through the water.”

            Somehow he forgot to say: “But don’t let the kayak get turned broadside to the rapid or it will flip.”

            Actually I already knew that. I had even been down this stretch of the Salmon River before, only in a large paddle raft with six people to keep the rubber boat pointed downstream.          

An eagle on shore spotted during one of my annual floats down the Snake River below Jackson Wyoming. -- Photo by Pat Bean

An eagle on shore spotted during one of my annual floats down the Snake River below Jackson Wyoming. — Photo by Pat Bean

   Today, however, I quickly realized that I didn’t have the hang of maneuvering my wobbly (Randy lied. It wasn’t steady) craft, or the skill to easily use the two-bladed paddle, which was also a first for me.

            I might have had a chance to overcome the learning curve if the first rapid, Piece-of-Cake, named I’m sure by some maniacal jokester, hadn’t been within sight of the launch point.

            “Stay to the left,” I heard Randy, who was nearby in his hard-body kayak, yell at me.

            I was able do that, but I didn’t have enough control to swing the raft around to meet the oncoming second wave – and so I flipped.

            “Sh-ee-it!” I uttered as I flew out of the boat just a couple of minutes after getting into it. As the water drowned my exclamation, I told myself to just go with the flow, and almost immediately I bounced off the river bottom and back up to where the air was less thick to breathe – until a mean wave reburied me beneath the water again.

            But finally I managed to get my life-jacketed, and thankfully wet-suited body above the waves, and then quickly pointed my feet downstream, so they, and not my head, would hit any rock obstacle in the way. This wasn’t my first time being dumped in fast-flowing water.

            The current, however, stramded me in a patch of tricky backwash.  Sh-ee-it! I managed to get my favorite “I’m-gonna-die” word out this time before another kayaker came up beside me.

            “Grab on,” she said. I didn’t have to be asked twice. But with my weight hanging on to her hard-shelled kayak, she couldn’t escape the backwash, and although my kayak was just on the other side of her, I couldn’t get to it.

            Finally the expert, Randy, comes in to save the day, maneuvering his kayak so I can grab hold of it. I breathe a sigh of relief, figuring I’m now in capable hands.   

            The feeling was short-lived. In a rare, slow-motion moment, Randy’s kayak flips When I realize I still have hold of the boat, and am hindering Randy’s attempts to roll up, I let go. The rapid immediately takes me to the middle of the river, shoving more water down my throat until the waves subsist and I’m floating in calm water. Exhausted now, I wait to be rescued.

            I ride in the group’s raft with the lunch supplies for a while, but then get back in that dang inflatable kayak and spend the rest of the day without mishap.

            The kayakers later congratulate me for dumping Randy, a “pretty sight” they say they had never seen before. An abashed Randy then gives me “The Salmon River Swimming Championship Award,”

            “I think the river,” he said, “was a bit high today.” And then he grins.  –30

A few years later, when the water wasn’t quite so high, I got back in another dang inflatable kayak and with a granddaughter by my side in a second inflatable kayak, stayed in the boat through Piece-of-Cake Rapid and the rest of the day’s float trip. No rewards for me this day, only a deeply felt satisfaction in my soul.          

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

  Bean Pat: A new mindset http://tinyurl.com/ovy7yh9 Ditto what this blogger wrote.

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“The sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with bass notes, or dark lake with the treble.” – Wassily Kandinsky

We watched what looked like was going to be a dud of a sunset. Even when the sun slipped below the horizon, the sky barely glowed yellow. And then suddenly, as if someone finally remembered to turn on the painted gels, the sunset sky exceeded even our expectations. -- Photo by Pat Bean

We watched what looked like was going to be a dud of a sunset. Even when the sun slipped below the horizon, the sky barely glowed yellow. And then suddenly, as if someone finally remembered to turn on the painted gels, the sunset sky exceeded even our expectations. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “I’m an old-fashioned guy … I want to be an old man with a beer belly sitting on a porch, looking at a lake or something.” – Johnny Depp

Point of Interest

            I consider my trip last week – in which my friend Jean and I and our two loveable dogs, Pepper and Dusty, camped overnight beside Theodore Roosevelt Lake — as part of my current lifestyle as a non-wandering wanderer.

Roosevelt Lake Bridge is the longest two-lane, single span, steel arch bridge in North America.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Roosevelt Lake Bridge is the longest two-lane, single span, steel arch bridge in North America. — Photo by Pat Bean

I intend not to be one of those people I met during my travels who never saw the landscape marvels or points of interest in their own backyards.

And since Roosevelt Lake is only a leisurely three-hour, scenic drive from Tucson, I figured it close enough to at least be situated in the South 40 of my rented estate.

The western sky about 10 minutes before it burst into color.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

The western sky about 10 minutes before it burst into color. — Photo by Pat Bean

The lake, located north of Globe alongside Highway 188, was created when the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was erected on the Salt River in 1911.

With a length of 22 miles, a maximum width of two miles, and a maximum depth of almost 350 feet, the lake is Arizona’s largest. That is if you don’t count Lake Mead which sits partially in Nevada and Lake Powell which sits partially in Utah.

One of the best parts of spending the night at a campground is the opportunity to watch the sun go down, and then to sit around a campfire. Somehow tales are taller, and the world’s problems more solvable when you’re dodging smoke by continually moving your lawn chair a bit to the right or left.

Better yet, when the wind’s blowing the smoke away from you, as it was surprisingly doing for us this night as we sat around the fire with the dogs at our feet.

Sometimes life is just damn good.

Jean and I, and I suspect Pepper and Dusty, too, are already looking forward to our next campout. I hope it’s soon.

Bean Pat: A Mixed Bag http://tinyurl.com/padl2g3 When you find yourself in a hole.

 

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Fresh Eyes

             “The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time.” – Bill Bryson

Some days I look out from my bedroom window and see a Cooper's hawk or a great horned owl sitting on a branch in a nearby tree. Or I look down and see a black cat peering up at me from an apartment across the way. Each viewing in a first for the moment.

Some days I look out from my bedroom window and see a Cooper’s hawk or a great horned owl sitting on a branch in a nearby tree. Or I look down and see a black cat peering up at me from an apartment across the way. Each viewing in a first for the moment.

Seeing Things in a Different Light When I travel, I look at things differently. I think it’s because I expect to see something new that I’ve never seen before. The world always seems more interesting when I’m on the road.

Sunlight streams into my apartment on only a few winter days. But each day it flows in, the patterns are slightly different in the view I have from my kitchen. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Sunlight streams into my apartment on only a few winter days. But each day it flows in, the patterns are slightly different in the view I have from my kitchen. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m coming to realize, however, that travel is not a requirement for this to happen. Do the Catalina Mountains, which  currently provide the backdrop to my days, look different to a traveler seeing them for the first time? Would the crisp white blossoms of a saguaro cactus spell-mind the eyes of a traveler more impressively than they do my own eyes that have now been among them for two seasons? While travelers may only see the mountain range on a sunny day, or a misty day, or a rainy day, the joy of first sight can’t help but pump the adrenalin through the veins of any nature enthusiast. I envy those who are seeing these mountains for the first time, as I recall my first view of the Catalinas. . But now I’ve now been blessed to see this mountain range in its many moods.  I’ve watched the rocky mammoths as the morning sun crowned its peaks in a golden light, I’ve seen it as the evening sun has turned its rocky cliffs a glimmering rose hue, and I’ve seen it frosted with the sugary granules of snow. I’ve watched as globules of bright green atop a saguaro plant have opened into a disk of white petals with a pale ochre center. A traveler passing through the saguaro’s Arizona home in March might only see an awesome, statuesque cactus with arms stretching skyward, and might not know that such a beauty is likely to be 100 years old, or that it wears a headdress of white blooms in late May and early June. There are as many advantages to watching the passing landscape while rooted as there are in catching glimpses of Mother Nature’s wonders on the fly. One only has to retain that sense of awe so easily achieved at first sight. I suspect that in this late-blooming season of my life, there are still roads out there I will travel.  But in the meantime, I plan to follow Bill Bryson’s advice and try to look at the world around me be as if for the first time. I don’t think I will be disappointed.           

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Monica Devine http://tinyurl.com/ot8bqdb This blogger has an eye for seeing things in a new and exciting

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           “I am a wanderer passionately in love with life.” — Aleksandr Kuprin … Me, too.

Even gray days are colorful on a fall day traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains. -- Photo b Pat Bean

Even gray days are colorful on a fall day traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains. — Photo b Pat Bean

Rainy Fall Mornings

I woke up to a gentle rain this morning, with the hazy light of a gray sunrise streaming in through the slats of the shutters on my bedroom window. At night the narrow, rectangular blank spaces of this wooden curtain cast a pattern of light and shadow on the ceiling above my head.

Virginia creeper alongside the parkway. I do so love the color red -- Photo by Pat Bean

Virginia creeper alongside the parkway. I do so love the color red — Photo by Pat Bean

I often lie away and study this artful illumination, letting my mind drift into fantasy worlds. I don’t like sleeping in the dark, so I never close the shutters, preferring to let the  pale light that flows into my bedroom comfort me.

The first thing I do on awakening this morning is to go out on my balcony and stare at the mountains to the north of my third floor apartment. They are one of the reasons I have stayed put now for nearly two years.

These tall peaks that stretch nearly 10,000 feet up to the sky bring peace to my nest of bright new furniture and growing stacks of  books. I tried to take a photo of this morning’s misty mountain scene, but my camera battery was dead – and by the time I charged it, the mountains had been eaten by the mist, a sure sign it’s going to be a full gray day.

But that’s OK. I love gray days. They turn the mind inward and slow down the chaos of the world.

On this day two years ago, it was also raining. I was in Front Royal, Virginia, waiting at an almost deserted RV park for the rain to stop before I headed south on Skyline Trail through Shenandoah National Park and down the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Appalachian Mountains.

What a grand adventure that autumn was. But then this fall is charming, too. While my body may remain rooted to one place these days, my mind still travels the road. And autumn is a great time to travel wherever you are.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Things I love http://tinyurl.com/pcqvnhk One of my favorite bloggers captures nature at her artful best.

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            “What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse.” – Edward Abbey

I've seen rainbows almost every day for the past week. I'm glad I took time to enjoy them. This one was seen from my bedroom balcony. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve seen rainbows almost every day for the past week. I’m glad I took time to enjoy them. This one was seen from my bedroom balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

And We’ve Had Rain        

Flowers pop out everywhere in the desert after a rain, and I tried to capture the transformation in this quick watercolor. -- Art by Pat Bean

Flowers pop out everywhere in the desert after a rain, and I think this old painting of mine well captures the excitement of such a transformation. 

     I finally got caught up on my e-mail, household chores and a few other things yesterday after doing little for the past week but watching old Survivor seasons (recently added to Amazon Prime) on my computer, reading a lot, and walking dogs.

I’m retired, and so I shouldn’t feel guilty – but I do.

I wonder what my purpose in life is these days?  It’s a question I’ve long pondered without coming up with a good answer.

Meanwhile, it feels good to once again have my fingers playing on my computer keyboard. And for today that’s enough. I’ve always found it best to simply live in the moment.

Bean Pat: Write like Han Solo http://tinyurl.com/kkuw8gs I found this to be a thought-provoking blog on writing.

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“You cannot forget, if you would, those golden kisses all over the cheeks of the meadow, queerly called dandelions.” – Henry Ward Beecher

I think a dandelion blooming on a manicured lawn is perfect. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I think a dandelion blooming on a manicured lawn is perfect. — Photo by Pat Bean

For Weedy Brains

There’s something in me that loves dandelions. Perhaps it is their cheery yellow petals that glimmer in the sun. Or maybe it’s their fragile, snow-like seeds that scatter after those petals have vanished.  I’ve long tried to capture that fanciful seed-blown storm in a sketches –- but always without success.

 

And I marvel at the miracle of rebirth that occurs wen the golden orb has turned to snowy seeds.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

And I marvel at the miracle of rebirth that occurs when the golden orb has turned to snowy seeds. — Photo by Pat Bean

I enjoy seeing a meadow of dandelions lightning up the side of a hill. But even more I enjoy seeing a single dandelion poking on a manicured lawn. Such  imperfection speaks to my heart because it makes the imperfect perfect.

I think I must have weeds growing in my brain. But that’s OK. I’ll water them anyway.

A Few More Weedy Thoughts        

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” – Doug Lawson

            “Roses are red, violets are blue; But they don’t get around, like the dandelions do.” — Slim Acres

            “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” — A.A. Milne

            “What would the world be, once bereft of wet and wildness? Let them be left … Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins        

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

    Bean Pat: The Iris and the Lily http://tinyurl.com/qd9kqby Step outside and take a walk through your garden . Or check out the Ghost Bear Photography,  http://tinyurl.com/k8a88d7 if you’re more ambitious. Nearby or far away, Mother Nature awes us.

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