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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

The Color Blue

A blue bench for birdwatching at Lake Walcott State Park in Southern Idaho. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A blue bench for birdwatching at Lake Walcott State Park in Southern Idaho. — Photo by Pat Bean

       “I think I have something tonight that’s not quite correct for evening wear. Blue suede shoes.” — Elvis Presley

A Many-Hued Thing

If you want a definition of the color blue, scientifically it is the color between violet and green on the optical spectrum of visible light.

Looking down on Bear Lake after exiting Logan Canyon in Utah. -- Wikimedia photo

Looking down on Bear Lake after exiting Logan Canyon in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

Blue comes in many hues. Just to name a few watercolor choices, there is Cobalt, Phthalocyanine, Antwerp, Peacock, Ultramarine, Prussian, Winsor, Cerulean, Manganese and, Turquoise.

As a writer, I’ve used such terms as robin’s egg blue, periwinkle blue and Steller jay blue, a bird whose brilliant coloring can send shivers down my spine when I see one in bright sunlight against a background of fluttering green leaves. It’s a sight that, thankfully, is a long-lived image that lingers in the soul.

Another blue that stands out in my mind is the color of Bear Lake in Utah as you crest the final summit in Logan Canyon and look down at the scene before you. No matter what the cold and deep lake’s color of the day was – and it was never quite the same each time I saw it – the intensity of the hue always made me gasp in awe.

Steller Jay --  Wikimedia photo

Steller Jay — Wikimedia photo

Graphic designer David Carson said: “Good things are associated with blue, like clear days, more than singing the blues. Just the word ‘blue’ in the singular is full of optimism and positive connotation to most people.”

Artist Wassily Kandinsky said: “The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and … the brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.”

And Ralph Waldo Emerson, less picky about colors, said: “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” His quote makes me think of green, which was the color of my mom’s eyes.

Red’s not bad either. That’s the color of my couch. So what’s your favorite color?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

            Bean Pat: Brevity http://tinyurl.com/h6m5khk Getting past the rejection slip. This is one of my favorite writing blogs.

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            “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”  Edward Abbey

Balanced Rock, one of he more recognizable features at Arches National Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Balanced Rock, one of the more recognizable features at Arches National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Edward Abbey

            I’m slowly rereading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, just a few pages a day as my morning read with coffee. I have more leisure time than the first time I read it, when I was a working mother of five whose every moment was double or triple-booked. If memory serves me well, I read it while soaking in a hot bath, about the only solitary luxury in my life back then.

Paved roads have brought crows to Arches. I'm thankful more people have the opportunity of seeing Mother Nature's red-rock creations, but miss the solitude I found there even back in the 1970s. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Paved roads have brought crowds to Arches. I’m thankful more people have the opportunity of seeing Mother Nature’s red-rock creations, but miss the solitude I found there even back in the 1970s. — Photo by Pat Bean

While I originally enjoyed the book for its content, this time around I’m also enjoying it with a writer’s eye, immersing myself in Abbey’s ability to put life into the landscapes with words that paint vivid images in my mind.

Desert Solitaire is about the author’s seasonal ranger job at Arches National Park back in the 1950s, when it was still just a monument and the few roads into it were unpaved. Arches is a place I’ve visited many times, having lived for many years only five hours away, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when I saw it for the first time. It was more civilized by then, but I can still recognize the landscape features as Abbey describes them with accuracy and poetry.

  “Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn,” he wrote, about his first morning at the park. Such imagery inspires me to get up in time to watch yet another sunrise.

The three gossips, one of my favorite landmarks at Arches. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The three gossips, one of my favorite landmarks at Arches. — Photo by Pat Bean

And then, moved back in time and place by words, I sit with Abbey on the step of his trailer as he waits for the sun to come up on a cold April morning.

  “Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the pinnacles and minarets and balanced rocks, on the canyon walls and through the windows in the sandstone fins. We greet each other, sun and I, across the black void of ninety-three million miles. The snow glitters between us, acres of diamonds almost painful to look at. Within an hour all the snow exposed to the sunlight will be gone and the rock will be damp and steaming. Within minutes, even as I watch, melting snow begins to drip from the branches of a juniper nearby…”

Abbey’s words brought a memory to life. They took me back through time and place to a moment when I looked down and saw a melting tennis shoe that I had placed too close to a campfire as I watched for a morning sun to creep down from a red-rock cliff and into the valley where it would warm my body.

Thank you Edward Abbey.

You may have left this world, but your words still bring joy to my soul. And my hope for you — wherever you are — are the words you wrote that I took to heart when I was on the road: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

Bean Pat: A photo to make you smile and some words to make you think.  http://tinyurl.com/jostvnh

 

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Some Pretty Good Suggestions

      

I suggest you stop what you;re doing whent a butterfly is nearby ... and simply enjoy watching it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I suggest you stop what you;re doing when a butterfly is nearby … and simply enjoy watching it. — Photo by Pat Bean

      “When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.” — Erma Bombeck

But I Don’t Give Advice

When my children finally reached adulthood, I tried not to give them too much advice. I had made too many mistakes in my own life to think any advice I gave would be good. Well, all except for my youngest daughter. I never had any qualms about giving her advice because I knew she would never follow it.

And alqys take thepath less traveled ... although I traveled this one fairly quickly, and loudly, when at the halfway point I came across a sign that said Beware of Bears. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And I suggest you take the path less traveled … although I traveled this one fairly quickly, and loudly, when at the halfway point I came across a sign that said: Beware of Bears. — Photo by Pat Bean

She was simply that kind of child.

Nowadays, with three teenage boys in her home, she’s always asking me for advice on how to handle things when the boys do something she would prefer they not do.

I can’t help but laugh and say, “I didn’t have the answers when you were doing that. What makes you think I’m any wiser today?”

Meanwhile I came across some suggestions to myself that I had written down in my journal back in 2004 when I was newly retired. I think they’re still pretty wise, so I’ll share them:

Read the instructions …

Shut up and do something about it …

Relish the moment …

Add more color …

Decide what you want and give it to yourself …

Ask an old person to tell you a story …

Think before you …

Perhaps you have a few suggestions of your own that you would like to add to the list.

Bean Pat: Strasbourg http://tinyurl.com/zueuxhu For the armchair traveler

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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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             “At one time in my life, I sought logic in everything – now I know better.” – Pat Bean

A section of a page from the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, whichI used to identify the Lucifer hummingbird. My bird looked exactly like the lower right photo, including the purple specks on the neck. Since I'm a writer and not a photographer, I didn't get a good photo.

A section of a page from the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which I used to identify the Lucifer hummingbird. My bird looked exactly like the lower right photo, including the purple specks on the neck. Since I’m a writer and not a photographer, I didn’t get a good photo.

A Lucifer Hummingbird

I’ve birded all over North America and a few other places as well. I’m not quick on identifying species, like many of my birding mentors, mostly I think because I didn’t become passionate about the addictive activity until I was 60. As birding goes, I’m a late bloomer.

I did get a fairly decent photo of a house finch that was on the bird feeder hung on my balcony. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I did get a fairly decent photo of a house finch that was on the bird feeder hung on my balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

Before 1999, I could identify cardinals and mockingbirds, the first because it was so red and distinctive, and the latter because it was the State Bird of Texas, and I saw it everywhere as a child. I also thought I could identify house sparrows because they are so common. But once I began studying bird field guides, I realized there were over 35 different sparrows in North America alone – and only some of the ones I had been seeing were house sparrows.

One of the reasons I enjoy birding is because I enjoy reading mysteries, and identifying the murderer before the last page. Identifying a bird by its field marks is pretty similar. Another reason I enjoy birding is because I’m an avid list keeper – and listing the birds I’ve seen is fun for me.

This morning I identified my 709th bird,

It was a Lucifer hummingbird, flitting about in a tree near my living room balcony. It was hard at first for me to believe it, but the curved-down bill couldn’t be mistaken. It would have been a cinch to identify if it had been an adult male, which has a brilliant purple throat, but this one was a young juvenile – but with all the right field marks, including cinnamon-colored sides and a few purple flecks on its throat.

As far as hummingbirds go, Tucson has six common species: Anna’s, broad-billed, broad-tailed, Costa, black-shinned and rufous. I’ve seen all six at my hummingbird feeder just within the past two weeks.

A Lucifer hummingbird in Tucson, however, is rare – but possible. It’s a Mexican species that occasionally flies across the border into Southeastern Arizona and Texas’ Big Bend Region. While it never came to my nectar feeder, I watched it off and on for over half an hour as it flitted about the tree next to my apartment. Each sighting more definitely confirmed my good luck.

I’m a happy birder. The Lucifer was a lifer for me.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: More about birds http://tinyurl.com/hgb22z9 The butcher bird, also known as the loggerhead strike. Great photos.

 

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Looking down from one of the many overlooks on the Sky Island Scenic Byway. I stopped at almost every overlook. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Looking down from one of the many overlooks on the Sky Island Scenic Byway. I stopped at almost every overlook. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Wanderings of a Nested Wanderer

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different landscapes. My wondering-wandering curiosity had me looking up the term after I drove the Sky Island Scenic Byway to the top of Mount Lemon as a day road trip to pacify my wanderlust. We left before the sun came up and my canine companion, Pepper, and I didn’t get back home from the 60-mile round trip until mid-afternoon.

Hoodoos, like this, were plentiful along the way. I love the word hoodoo -- and the most colorful ones can be found in Southern Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Hoodoos, like this, were plentiful along the way. I love the word hoodoo — and the most colorful ones can be found in Southern Utah. — Photo by Pat Bean

It was a great, soul cleansing day.

I hadn’t really heard the tern sky island until I settled in Tucson three years ago, and then it seemed to be frequently popping up. That’s because, the Catalina, Santa Rita and the Chiricahua mountain ranges that surround Tucson are all perfect examples of sky islands.

I live in the 3-000-foot shadow of the 9,159-foot tall Mount Lemmon, meaning my road trip took me from an arid desert landscape to a much cooler landscape 6,000 feet higher. It was the perfect escape on a hot day. A gazillion bicyclists thought so too. Next time, perhaps, I’ll take the drive on a weekday instead of a weekend.

Real soon, I decided.

I called this one spaceship rock. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I called this one spaceship rock. — Photo by Pat Bean

Bean Pat: Raspberry Sunset http://tinyurl.com/j68j4cf Great Yellowstone wildlife capture with a camera. I love this blog.

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