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A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. — Photo by Pat Bean

        “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” — Henry David Thoreau

Some of my Favorite Places

There are 59 national parks, and in my lifetime I’ve been to 44 of them, mostly missing the ones in Alaska. They are some of my favorite places in the world.

This pond captured images of the Wasatch Mountains and the clouds above them. I love it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This pond captured images of the Wasatch Mountains and the clouds above them. I love it. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the other hand, there are over 550 national wildlife refuges. And they are also some of my favorite places – even though I haven’t kept track of the ones I’ve visited. During my nine years of traveling this awesome country, I stopped at any refuge in my vicinity, mostly to bird watch. .

Among the more memorable ones that would be on my list of the refuges I’ve explored, if I had such a list, would be Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, located 15 minutes from my son Lewis’ Texas Gulf Coast home, and where I turned him into a birding addict like me. This refuge has added 16 birds to my life list of 710 species.

But that pales with the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge that has given me 31 of my life birds. This refuge is very special to me because the first time I visited it was in the 1970s, when it was lush and green – and long before bird watching became one of my passions.

In the 1980s, I watched as the now 80,000-acre refuge was inundated by Great Salt Lake flood waters, whose salty content pretty much destroyed everything, including an almost new visitor’s center. I then regularly watched as the refuge, less than an hour’s drive from my Ogden, Utah, home for 25 years, made its comeback.

Pickleweed. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the tiny beginning of this plant in a place desolate of greenery.

Pickleweed. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the tiny beginning of this plant in a place desolate of greenery.

It started with pickleweed, one of the first plants to come back and one that helped eliminate the salt in the landscape. This was all explained to me during a tour of the damaged refuge for a newspaper story I was writing. Have I ever told you how much I loved my journalism career?

I was already retired, and traveling, but I made it to the grand opening of the refuge’s new visitor’s center in 2006. This time the center was located a good ways away from the flood zone, and next to Interstate 15 near Brigham City. The site offers visitors a convenient and quick view of a bit of what the refuge has to offer without the 10-mile drive on a rutted, unpaved road to the main refuge area.

I used to hate that rough ride – but I loved it, too. It kept the crowds away. Sometimes it seemed as if I had the whole refuge to myself, and if not, the other visitors were most likely to be nature lovers who, like me, thought the birds, animals and scenery were worth the bumpy drive.

If you’re one of us, along with visiting a national park during this year celebrating the system’s 100th birthday, you might want to also check out a national wildlife refuge. Most likely there is one not too far from where you live. https://www.fws.gov/refuges/

And if you’re interested in a good book, check out Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. It’s much about the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Living Life Almost Gracefully http://tinyurl.com/h97kl2v Chasing the Sun

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Parry's Agave. It's not a great photo, especial given the background, but I only had this view from below it's high perch. I'm so glad I could finally identify it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Parry’s Agave. It’s not a great photo, especial given the background, but I only had this view from below its high perch. I’m so glad I could finally identify it. — Photo by Pat Bean

   “There are more truths in a good book than its author meant to put in it.”-Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Reading Let Me Name a Plant

During my recent road trip to the top of Mount Lemmon, I snapped a photo of a tall plant high on a cliff. I couldn’t see its base, just a slender stalk whose top was bedecked in candelabra fashion with clusters of green nodules. I wondered if it was a plant or a tree.

And this is what the plant looks like before it shoots up a stalk. -- Wikimedia photo

And this is what the plant looks like before it shoots up a stalk. — Wikimedia photo

This morning, as I was reading Richard Shelton’s Going Back to Bisbee – a fascinating book that is educating me about the landscape of my new home in the Sonoran Desert of Southeastern Arizona – I came across a perfect description of the plant, and learned that it was a Parry’s agave, an amazing cactus.

The one I saw was probably between 10 and 25 years old, and was in its final year of life, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it. The plant, for most of its life, is short and bowl-like. When it finally blooms, it sends all of its life forces into a stalk that quickly sprouts up to 20 feet tall, and sends out blossoms at the top. The one I saw hadn’t bloomed yet, but Shelton described the blossoms as “shallow bowls about half a foot across and filled with frothy pink ice cream.”

A few pages on in the book, Shelton wrote about the magic of names and naming, a skill which all good writers should possess. A tree is never just a tree it’s a live oak or a baobab, a dog is a Rottweiler or a poodle, and a bird is a robin or a golden eagle. Such naming provides better images in a reader’s mind. And being able to put a name to something, be it a tree, a mountain, or a plant, gives me joy. So thank you Richard Shelton for helping me learn the name of the plant that I photographed – and for writing such a fantastic book, which I’m slowly savoring.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The Methuselah Grove   http://tinyurl.com/hskgrcj Great Basin National Park, one of my favorite places.

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             “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Jawaharial Nehru

Great gray owl in flight. -- Wikimedia photo, Arne List.

Great gray owl in flight. — Wikimedia photo, Arne List.

Feeding my Wanderlust

            I’ve had wanderlust in my soul since reading “I Married Adventure” by Osa Johnson when I was 10 years old. Going on an African Safari in 2007, and finally seeing the wildlife she so vividly describes in her book, was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, as was traveling the United States from border-to-border and coast-to-coast for nine years in a small RV.

Great gray owl, Ontario, Canada. -- Wikimedia photo

North America’s largest owl, the great gray owl in Ontario, Canada. — Wikimedia photo

While my traveling days are not over, they are currently put on hold because of age and lack of deep pockets. I compensate by reading travel blogs and books. I also read a lot about birds, as birding is a late-blooming passion that addicted me at exactly the right time in my life.

Both birding and my wanderlust came together when I picked up Neil Hayward’s book Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year. The passage I was reading this morning was Neil’s account of chasing a Connecticut warbler in Sax Zim Bog. The name stopped me cold, tickling and delighting my wanderlust the same as hearing the names of places like Timbuctoo, Shangri-La and Zanzibar.

So of course I had to find my atlas, and then explore the Internet to learn more about the bog. The exotic sounding place is about 300 square miles of not just bog, but also aspen uplands, rivers, lakes, meadows, farms and a couple of towns in Northern Minnesota. Neil, doused liberally with mosquito repellant, visited a quite boggy patch of Sax Zim to successfully find his target bird, allowing me to follow him along in my armchair without getting bitten.

My bonus for taking the journey with Neil, followed by my online research, was to discover a You Tube video of a great gray owl sighting in Sax Zim Bog. It was so beautiful I almost cried. Sadly this bird is not on my life list of over 700 birds. But who knows what the future may hold?

Bean Pat: Great gray owl sighting at Sax Zim Bog http://tinyurl.com/gopkqt7 I hope this video thrills you as much as it did me.

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Agatha Christie on her world tour in 1922.

Agatha Christie on her world tour in 1922.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” — Sophia Loren

 

The Wonderful World of Books

I’m currently reading Diana Athill’s “Somewhere towards the End,” which was written when she was in her late 80s. She’s now 98 and still going. While I’m only in my 70s, I find that Diana’s reflections on life expressed in her book often mirror my own.

Agatha Christie with her surf board in Hawaii.

Agatha Christie with her surf board in Hawaii.

For example, both of us are big readers, and both started our reading adventures focused heavily on fiction. But we both find ourselves reading more and more non-fiction books with each passing year.

Writes Diana: “I am puzzled by something which I believe I share with a good many other oldies. I have gone off novels.” She then goes on to ponder, with no definitive answer, why this is?

Of course I had to ponder the same question. I think it’s because I no longer need to escape from life but am more fully willing to embrace it. But then it’s also because I love surprises, and real life seems to contain just as many, if not more, of them than the make-believe worlds.

For example, I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie’s, whose mysteries often hold many surprises. But the book about her that I’m now reading – The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery – has also held a few surprises.

The book, which mostly consists of letters to her mother, written while she was on a world tour with her husband in 1922, has also been full of surprises, completely changing my preconceived idea of who Christie was. I think I saw her as an extension of Jane Marple.

But Jane Marple never went surfing, and Agatha Christie loved to surf. I’m not sure why I thought this was so absurd, but the book contained illustrations to prove it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but learning to read is one of the greatest gifts life has bestowed on me. So what’s everyone else reading these days?

Bean Pat: The Iris and the Lily http://tinyurl.com/jy6sqkf This blogger is just beginning her retirement years and she’s off to a great start.

 

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            “Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” — Charles Eames

            “People find meaning and redemption in the most unusual human connections.” Khaled Hosseini

This photo was taken over 30 years ago, when I played Mrs. Zubrisky, as did actress and author Mary Louise Wilson. That's a very young looking me sitting on the left. What a wonderful memory

This photo was taken over 30 years ago, when I played Mrs. Zubritsky, as did actress and author Mary Louise Wilson. That’s a very young looking me sitting on the left. What a wonderful memory

Books Bring Me Joy

            I just started reading Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard when a small sentence let me know how much I was going to enjoy this book. “But then some people bird watch,” said the book’s protagonist, which let me know, in a whispered writer’s voice, that the author knew all about crazy bird watchers – like me.

            A bit later on she said of her husband: “It takes more than 10 years in bed with an American to cure a European of his natural reserve.” I connected with this sentence because I understand how different people are, and that you never truly get to know them – even if you sleep with them for years.

            It’s these kinds of personal connections that give me so much pleasure in reading these days. And since I have a lot of living behind me, I’m able to make more and more connections with each passing year.

            I thought about this as I was reading My first Hundred Years in Show Business by Mary Louise Wilson this

Mary Louise Wilson

Mary Louise Wilson

morning. I’m not sure anyone but someone involved in theater would truly understand and appreciate the book. But, since I was very involved with amateur Little Theater during the 22 years I lived in Ogden, I’m loving it.

            Even so, I didn’t have any real connection with the author until she began writing about her role in Neil Simon’s little known play “Fools.” It’s a fantastic play about this village that has been cursed with stupidness, and Mary Louise and I both played the role of the intellectually-challenged wife, Mrs. Zubritsky.

            When she described how in the play, when she was supposed to open a door but couldn’t, that she decided to pull on the handle instead of push, I connected. It was exactly how I had dealt with the same door scene. And we also reacted the same way in the play when the husband asks his wife to lower her voice. To comply, we both decided to bend our knees.

            Reading My First Hundred Years in Show Business is bringing back wonderful memories – what fun!

            There is no question but that books are wonderful. But when you can make a connection with them, they become magical.

            Bean Pat: Wanderlust http://tinyurl.com/j4rbmb5 I easily connected with this blog and blogger because we share a passion for travel.

P.S. If you’re interested you can type in Fools, Neil Simon and find videos of scenes from Fools.

 

 

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OK. Just call me a brazen hussy. I'm the star of this blog.

OK. Just call me a brazen hussy. I’m the star of this blog.

“When I write, I lose time. I’m happy in a way that I have a hard time finding in real life. The intimacy between my brain and my fingers and my computer… Yet knowing that that intimacy will find an audience… It’s very satisfying. It’s like having the safety of being alone with the ego reward of being known.” — Jill Soloway

Because of a Story and a Book Review

            What Jill Soloway said in the a above quote fits me like my own skin – at least the skin I had when I was younger and it had no wrinkles. I like having people read what I write, and for 37 years, when I wrote for a newspaper, that was almost a daily occurrence. But since I retired, it’s been a rare happening.

So I was quite pleased when my 600-word flash fiction story, The Heart of a Dog, took first place at the Story Circle Network conference in Austin, Texas, that I attended in April. Then I came home to find that my review of Walking the Llano was selected as Review of the Month for SCN’s book review page. The book is by Shelley Armitage, and if you’re interested, you can read the review at http://tinyurl.com/mgry65 And if you want to ready my story, just send me an e-mail at patbean@msn.com and I’ll send you a copy.

I feel like a brazen hussy for promoting myself like this, but it feels good, too.

I write because to not do so is like not breathing, But when what I write is read – and liked by others – it’s like watching a sky full of exploding firecrackers in my head.

Bean Pat: Feral Poetess http://tinyurl.com/hzl6ucr I love this combination of photo and words. This is a blog I recently started following.

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The Wyndham Hotel in Austin kindly turned the men's room into a women's room this past weekend when over 100 female writers took over the premises.

The Wyndham Hotel in Austin kindly turned the men’s room into a women’s room this past weekend when over 100 female writers took over the premises.

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West (I know I’ve shared this quote before, but it is my favorite writing quote because it explains why I’m so glad I can call myself writer, a title which took way too many years of writing before I gave myself permission to use it.)

Doing It With Sisters

I’m just hours away from spending four days surrounded by my writing sisters, where we gathered in Austin this past weekend for the Stories from the Heart Contest.  It was a fantastic experience, and for way many more reasons than – can I hear a drum roll – that  I won the flash fiction prize for my story “The Heart of a Dog.”*

And someone was kind enough to turn the urinals into unique vases.

And someone was kind enough to turn the urinals into unique vases.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because one of the presenters, awesome Debra Winegarten, encouraged us  to put ourselves out there to the world without apology, and that was just one of the many pieces of wisdom I came away with.

Now laugh if you will, but the biggest note of things to do that I wrote to myself was to put a note pad by the toilet. Doing just that I realized would better help me to clasp that net over the butterfly of words.

Bean Pat: Live to Write – Write to Live http://tinyurl.com/gpkwxyv This is one of my favorite writing blogs, and today its author, Lisa Jackson, encourages writers to enter contests.

*If you, men included, want to read my 600-word story, “The Heart of a Dog,” send me your email (mine is patbean@msn.com) and I will send you a copy.

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