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Travel Theme: Earth

Mesa Falls, Idaho. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Sense the blessings of the earth in the perfect arc of a ripe tangerine, the taste of warm, fresh bread, the circling flight of birds, the lavender color of the sky shining in a late afternoon rain puddle, the million times we pass other beings in our cars and shops and out among the trees without crashing, conflict, or harm.” — Jack Kornfield

Earth Day

            As one who has traveled this country widely for the last half of my life, including nine years living full-time in a small RV with the road as my only roots, people are always asking me what is my favorite, or the most beautiful, place I have visited.

I never have an answer. I found beauty everywhere I went, and it would take a list that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific to name my favorite places.

More than once, when surrounded by Mother Nature’s wonders, have I wondered how people exist without putting themselves, at least occasionally, in the earth goddess’ arms, and simply breathing in the splendor of lush green forests; or gazing at purple, snow-covered mountains; or standing in a meadow filled with wildflowers; or walking beside a bubbling stream; or looking out a car window at waving, golden grasses filled with yellow-headed blackbirds; or sitting on a sandy beach watching roaring ocean waves pound the shore; or … well, you get my point.

The Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve seen beauty in a crowded RV park in New Mexico, when a family of quails marched through it. I’ve seen beauty in the wild rock sculptures of Arizona’s Painted Desert. I’ve seen beauty in the hoodoos of Southern Utah. It seen beauty as I’ve strolled among California’s magnificent redwoods. I’ve seen beauty in a sunrise on the top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine, and while walking beside a laughing creek in Wyoming’s Teton National Park. I’ve even seen beauty in Virginia and North Carolina’s Dismal Swamp.

The beauty of this magnificent planet can be found anywhere. All you have to do is look around. Please take a moment on this Earth Day to do just that. Actually, do it on any day. Even better, do it every day.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Travel Theme Earth http://tinyurl.com/m9y65lv Great blog and the inspiration for today’s blog.

House sparrow. — Wikimedia photo

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” — John Burroughs

Chirp, Chirp, Chirp

My home in Ogden, Utah, had a huge Rose of Sharon bush growing in front of my bedroom window that brought me much delight and pleasure. It grew wild and free, and I let it have its way. I loved that bush, and so did the house sparrows, which also gave me many hours of pleasure.

A female house sparrow. — Wikimedia photo

Until I began seriously watching birds, I had never really noticed these seemingly plain brown birds. At least that’s how I thought of them until I looked more closely and saw that the male, especially in breeding season, was actually quite eye-catching.

On a Jan. 31, 2001, morning, not too long after I became an addicted bird watcher, I watched one such male, and wrote: “I have a gorgeous male house sparrow perched in my Rose of Sharon bush right outside my window. It’s sitting in the sunlight so I can clearly see it in all its splendid colors, rust brown, white and black, a perfect copy of the house sparrow illustration in my bird guide, complete with the white dot next to its eye.”

My Rose of Sharon bush always bloomed profusely in spring, and the blossoms stayed around for a long time. I miss that bush — and its resident sparrows. — Wikimedia photo

On another day, I wrote: “My house sparrow is chirping outside my window. The morning light is still dull so his colors aren’t showing well. But having once seen him in the light, I can pick the colors out. He’s really chirping this morning. Maybe he’s trying to attract a female.”

And so he did. And for the next couple of years, I watched as that first pair of house sparrows to take up residence in my Rose of Sharon raised babies. And I watched one morning as another female flew in, and was then chased away by the resident female while the male just looked on from his perch. And from that time forward, my morning wake-up call was always a chirp, chirp, chirp, which is about all these sparrows ever say.

House sparrows are one of about 25 sparrow species world-wide. They thrive near human populations, and love to forage just about everywhere on the planet where humans drop crumbs, from service stations to picnic grounds. I’ve seen them in Japan and Africa looking just like they did in my Rose of Sharon bush.

I’m sure if you look around you, wherever you live, you will find one, too.

            Bean Pat: Meditate Your Way http://tinyurl.com/n62noxy For all of us who find it impossible to sit still and control our minds. Bird watching works for me.

Two Dogs

 

Dusty and me relaxing at Jean’s place. — Photo by Jean Gowen

If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.” Andy Rooney A Blonde and A Brunette

            Pepper and Dusty are the best of friends.

Pepper is my canine companion, a black Scottie mix who adopted me at an animal shelter in Plano, Texas in April of 2012. I had just recently lost my canine traveling companion, Maggie, who is featured in my soon to be released book, Travels with Maggie, and I still was quite sad.

 

Dusty did it. Well, OK, we did it together. — Photo by Pat Bean

When I visited the animal sanctuary, my fourth of the day, I sat down to watch the dogs playing in the yard. Pepper saw me, ran over and jumped up in my lap, looked into my eyes and communicated that she was going home with me. It took all of 15 seconds for us to bond, never mind that I was looking for a bit older cocker spaniel and not a rowdy four-month old terrier.

My sadness, however, lessened, although I still think of, and miss, Maggie, and her predecessor, Peaches, too.

Dusty, the blonde and an undetermined mixed-breed, belongs to my good friend, Jean. She was also rescued from an animal shelter – and is the first dog Jean has ever owned. It was a match made in heaven between them, as far as love goes, but there were immediate problems. Jean is a high school culinary teacher, and Dusty turned out to be a dog who couldn’t stand being alone while her mistress was at work.

Before Dusty could completely tear up her owner’s apartment, or get her owner evicted, Jean and I met, and I began baby-sitting Dusty at my apartment. Pepper eagerly waits for her arrival each morning, around 7 a.m. When Jean leaves, the two dogs begin their day of shenanigans. They gang up on me when they want treats, have frequent friendly tussles and games of tug of war, and stare meaningfully into my eyes when they want a walk or their water or food bowl is empty.

When I have to run errands, I cue them to “Guard the Castle,” at which time they both retreat to a different corner and give me woeful looks. They behave while I’m gone, but on my return I am savaged with their kisses and attention.

About 4 p.m., they both settle in by the front door, waiting for Jean’s return. By this time Dusty is ready to once again become an only child, as is my Pepper. When Jean arrives, they both greet her with the same savage attention and kisses I get when I return from being gone, even if it’s only five minutes to take out the garbage.

The two dogs make sure we two humans never feel unloved.

I think we’re doubly-blessed. Don’t you?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Sanctuary for the Wild Soul http://tinyurl.com/lnqy3u7 These photos speak a thousand words that all say serenity.

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The gull on the left is a ring-billed, and the gull on the right is a California Gull, both of which are frequent visitors to Utah’s Great Salt Lake. For years I thought they were simply seagulls. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

In order to arrive at knowledge of the motions of birds in the air, it is first necessary to acquire knowledge of the winds, which we will prove by the motions of water in itself, and this knowledge will be a step enabling us to arrive at the knowledge of beings that fly between the air and the wind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Just Ask Any Avid Birder

            In 1999, I became addicted to watching, identifying and listing birds. While I had always loved being outdoors in nature, these flying creatures, until this point in my life, had mostly gone unnoticed.

Then suddenly I was seeing them everywhere. I couldn’t not see them. Every profile on a utility pole, every rustle in a tree on a calm day, every small shadow flickering across my path had me looking to see a bird, and to identify it.

How had I lived for half a century and been so blind to their amazing numbers and varied activities?

My addiction didn’t happen overnight, however. I should have paid more attention to the warning signs, which included my suddenly finding opportunities to write about birds as part of my then assignment as an environmental reporter. Along with taking every opportunity to get out of the office for the day to research stories about things like forest management, wildlife habitat and water issues, I began writing stories that involved birds.

The Seagull Monument in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. — Wikimedia photo

I wrote about backyard birding, hawk watching atop the Goshute Mountains, and the local Audubon field trips. But it was the story about Egg Island, a tiny bit of land in Great Salt Lake, that should have warned me about how crazy birders can be.

In writing the story, I called the gulls that nested on the island seagulls. As soon as the paper hit the streets, I had birders calling to tell me that there was no such thing as a seagull, that the birds nesting on the island were mostly California gulls. From the callers, I also learned that there were over 25 different species of gulls in North America – and none of them were seagulls.

I guess the artist who created the Seagull Statue that sits in Temple Square in Salt Lake City (to honor the “seagulls” that saved the crops of Mormon pioneers from a grasshopper infestation) wasn’t a birder.

Since writing that story about the birds that nest on Egg Island, I have personally seen and identified 15 species of North American gulls. In addition to the California gull, they include Sabine, Little, Bonaparte’s, Franklin, Laughing, Heerman’s, Mew, Ring-billed, Herring, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Western, Lesser Black-backed, and Great Black-backed.

I’m still looking for all the gulls I haven’t seen. But then I’m a crazy birder who now knows there is no such thing as a seagull.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Travels and Trifles http://tinyurl.com/kcblvks Don’t Fence Me In.

Travels with Maggie

The cover for Travels with Maggie, which I had designed back in 2014.

“It is always better when you give a damn.” – John D. MacDonald

Coming to the End of a Long Road

In May of 2006, I left my youngest daughter’s home in Camden, Arkansas. Six months later, in time for Thanksgiving dinner, I arrived at my oldest daughter’s home on the outskirts of Dallas.

In-between, my canine companion, Maggie, and I traveled 7,000 miles in a small RV, through 23 states and Canada, to Maine, where we stood on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park one morning to get this country’s first ray of sunlight.

The Mark Twain Lighthouse in Hannibal, Missouri, which I climbed up to explore during my Travels with Maggie. — Photo by Pat Bean

The in-between miles are the topics of my book, Travels with Maggie, which soon will be available at Amazon. It’s part travelogue, part memoir, part bird book, part nature book, and part about one woman’s conversations with her dog. I think it would fit nicely on a book shelf between John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Charles Kuralt’s On the Road, with Peter Cashwell’s The Verb to Bird nearby.

But this book is written with a feminine voice, that of an old-broad, wandering-wonderer.

This week I put the mechanics of putting Travels with Maggie up on Amazon into the hands of an angel who, unlike me, knows what she is doing. I spent three frustrated weeks trying before I finally gave up.

A view from Acadia National Park in Maine, which was the destination of my journey. — Photo by Pat Bean

Late yesterday evening, when I was having a Jack and Coke on my back balcony with my friend, Jean, who needed it after her high school teaching day, to celebrate the new stage of my book, I suddenly found myself crying.

I’m not exactly sure why.

My book, whose first draft was named one of the top 10 when it was entered in a Mayborn Non-Fiction Writing Workshop contest, has now been through five rewrites, edits and proofings.

The second rewrite was a major one to add voice, which I had omitted because I was trying to hide the fact I was an old-broad. The Mayborn critiques, all of them, said this was the book’s one major fault – and I knew immediately they were right.

The third rewrite was mostly a polishing of my writing, as was the fourth. The fifth was

Mostly a typo-catching read-through. And there will be a sixth proofing yet to come. This is a 75,000-word manuscript so each of these steps took some time.

My dream of writing just such a book is over a half-century old, during which time the whole world of publishing changed. I was reluctant to let go of the traditional world, but finally decided I didn’t have the time to wait around any longer. In the traditional world, the publisher would have done the marketing for the book. In today’s world, most writers are now having to accomplish this step themselves.

It’s what I am going to have to do – and telling my blog readers about my book is a first step toward that goal. Whew! I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders for writing this. I’ll now let you follow each step of getting Travels with Maggie out there with me. Maybe you’ll even buy my book when it’s finally out to the public.

Bean Pat: Citizen Sketcher http://tinyurl.com/k9xrpq4 I love the watercolors on this blog, and the artist’s celebration of them. Reminds me of my current celebration.

Thinking About War

Wouldn’t it be nice if our futures followed a path that led to world peace? — Photo taken at Point Pelee National Park in Canada by Pat Bean

“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” – George Washington.

My Wondering Mind Goes Amuck

When I was a young kid in the 1940s and ‘50s, the most popular game for the neighborhood kids was war, with cowboys being the heroes and Indians the villains. I always played Roy Rogers. He was my hero, and if I couldn’t be him, I wouldn’t play.

Instead of asking for a doll for Christmas, I wanted a pair of guns, which I got. They were made from cheap plastic, and painted silver, which quickly wore off. I remember practicing my fast-draw for hours.

Perhaps we should get our children and grandchildren out into nature more, so they can enjoy the peaceful settings of Mother Nature. — Photo taken on Florida’s Merritt Island by Pat Bean

Eventually I grew up, and realized war was real, and butt ugly. I refused to buy toy guns for my children, although others did, and I didn’t take them away from them. They, too, played war.

These days I understand American children, at least those whose lives aren’t trapped by computer war games, still play war with siblings and neighborhood kids. But their heroes are more likely to be Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, or perhaps G.I. Joe. Sadly, in many war-torn countries, children play war emulating real role models, and real events.

Is war a part of our psyche, I ask myself? How did it become a children’s game?

Why are computer war games among the most popular? How do we influence kids to want to place peaceful games? Can we?

As usual this wondering mind of mine is running amuck with questions to which I have no answers. All I can do is try to continue believing that someday war will be a word that has outlived its usefulness.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Telling Herstories https://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/ A blog for female writers sponsored by Story Circle Network, to which I belong.

Book Moments

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion in Athens. Wikimedia photo

A New Word for my Vocabulary

I love analogies, especially ones that are as fresh as the smell of baby powder, as bright as the shine on a new car in a showroom, and as unused as a heavy wool court on a summer day in the desert.

Austrian Parliament Building. … Encyclopedia Britannica.

A writer can say a lot with a few words and a good analogy. But I recently came across one that left me puzzled because it contained a word that wasn’t yet in my vocabulary. The phrase that threw me was: “as straight-backed as a caryatid,” which was part of a sentence in Rosemary Mahoney’s Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff.

What in the heck is a caryatid, I wondered, then copied the word down in the notebook that is always beside me when I read.

Usually I can guess what a word means because of how it is used by the

Intricate hairstyle of Caryatid, displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens. — Wikimedia photo

writer, and I usually discover I’ve pretty much hit the mark when I finally look the word up in a dictionary, but caryatid had me fully stumped. I used to actually have a dictionary by my reading chair, but these days, having kept up with the computer age, I use an online version.

When I finally got on my computer, I learned, according to Wikipedia, that a caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support that takes the place of a column or a pillar, and that the karyatides is a Greek term that means “maidens of Karyai.”

Who are the maidens of Karvai, and who are what is Karvai? This wondering mind of mine never seems to stop.

Karvai was an ancient Peloponnese village with a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, where maidens held dances in which they carried baskets of live reeds on their heads, as if they were dancing plants.

But, as a good journalist always does, I went to a second source. And the answers here were a bit different. According to the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica:

A Caryatid, in classical architecture, is a draped female figure used instead of a column. They first as appeared in pairs in three small buildings at Delphi  (550–530 bc), and their origin can be traced back to mirror handles of nude figures carved from ivory in Phoenicia, and draped figures cast from bronze in archaic  Greece. According to a story related by the 1st-century-bc Roman architectural writer Vitruvius, caryatids represented the women of Caryae, who were doomed to hard labor because the town sided with the Persians in 480 bc during their second invasion of Greece.

And so went my morning of research instead of writing. But I did add a new word to my vocabulary.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Something to Think About http://tinyurl.com/lmab4qh And do — in a world gone mightily mad.