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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

The photo I took of a tortoise on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos in 2004. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The tortoise only moves forward by sticking his neck out. I think it’s the same with humans.” – Pat Bean

I Met the Two Famous Ones

            There was a story about Diego in the New York Times this week that brought back memories of my 2004 trip to the Galapagos Islands. Diego is a tortoise that was taken from Espanola Island to the San Diego Zoo sometime in the 1930s. He belongs to the species of giant tortoises scientifically known as Chelonoidis hoodensis, or more commonly the Espanola tortoises.

Diego, the 100-year-old tortoise who has helped bring his species back from the brink of extinction.

There were originally 15 tortoise species in the Galapagos, but five of them are now extinct, with the last of the five dying out with the death of Lonesome George in 2012. I got to see both George and Diego at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island during the week that I spent cruising from island to island in a 16-passenger catamaran. Both of the tortoises stories fascinated me.

Lonesome George’s because he was the last of his species, and Diego, who had been brought back to the Galapagos in 1977 to help his species avoid extinction. At that time, there were only a dozen of his species known to still be alive, and while 10 of those were females, the two males were too young, too inexperienced, or too stand-offish to mate with them.

Diego’s male macho instincts on being returned to the Galapagos solved that problem. By some estimates, Diego, who is now 100 years old, has fathered over 800 tortoise babies.

Lonesome George before his death in 2012, He was the last of his tortoise species.

The Galapagos tortoises, which can weigh up to 900 pounds or so, have shells of various sizes and shapes. The ones living on humid highland islands are larger with domed shells and short necks. On islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller with long necks. Darwin noted these differences during his second visit to the islands in 1835, and they most likely, along with his observation of finches, helped him contemplate the theory of evolution.

As stories go, Diego’s is the one I like best. While the demise of the tortoises from about 250,000 in the 16th century to only about 3,000 in the 1970s is primarily due to the fact that humans think they tasted good, it was humans who also helped bring their numbers back up. Currently, there are about 20,000 tortoises in the wild – and Diego, who is scheduled to be released back on Santa Cruz Island will be one of them.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: My Botanical Garden http://tinyurl.com/jbswvwm I love the thought behind this blog. It’s sort of like my desire to always look for that silver lining, like the fact there are more tortoises in the world today than there were 50 years ago.

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            “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” — Kahhil Gibran

Looking up through the redwoods. -- Photo by scrubhiker/flickr/cc

Looking up through the redwoods. — Photo by scrubhiker/flickr/cc

Fallen Memories

I remember driving across Route 66 in the early 1950s in a brand new Oldsmobile that my uncle pushed to go 100 mph across the little-traveled desert scenery. I was along for the ride – from Texas to California – as baby-sitter for my baby cousin. I was about 12, and it was my first road trip.

Sequoria Tunnel Tree

sequoia Tunnel Tree

The trip expanded my wanderlust from a dream to a passion that is still pricking at my footsteps. The destination for that long ago journey was Sequoia National Park, and when we reached it, one of the things we did was drive through the Sequoia Tunnel Tree. It was an awesome experience, although I later learned that someday such carnage against the tree would shorten its life span.

And it did.

That huge old Sequoia, which fascinated me over 60 years ago, was toppled Sunday during a storm. The tree was estimated to have been about 1,000 years old when the tunnel was carved through it 130 years ago, an action taken to attract tourists. And, while the tree lasted longer than expected after it was wounded, the life span of a redwood can top 3,000 years.

On reading about the Tunnel Tree’s downfall, I felt as if I, and the world, had lost a part of its soul, but my mind’s eye suddenly focused on all the redwoods I’ve encountered in my lifetime. My insatiable wanderlust has taken me among these California monuments to Mother Nature many times, each time making me more thankful for life.

And the aftermath.

And the aftermath.

The linking of the redwoods’ roots, which spread out instead of going deep, speak to me of community, of support for one another that we humans should emulate.

I’m not sure I have ever felt more peaceful than when I hiked among the redwoods.. I feel grieved about the death of the Sequoia Tunnel Tree, but at the same time thankful that the downfall brought memories of my walks among the redwoods to mind. I especially remember the day, when I couldn’t get a good photo of the trees because they were too large. Instead, I simply lay down on the forest floor and looked up through the canopy of about a dozen of Mother Nature’s giants.

I felt small, but connected to the planet. It’s a good memory.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Forest Garden http://tinyurl.com/z9egrkv Following the winter sun.

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“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. “– Maya Angelou

An autumn scene along the Peace River, not exactly the view I saw during my trip but I certainly saw river-side landscapes that were just as awesome. -- Wikimedia photo

An autumn scene along the Peace River, not exactly the view I saw during my trip but I certainly saw river-side landscapes that were just as awesome. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

          I compared my first day of driving the Alaska Highway through Canada to a day of riding steep roller coasters. The route crossed many creeks and rivers, and most of the driving was done in the rain.

A page from my 2001 Alaska Trip journal.

A page from my 2001 Alaska Trip journal.

My guide for the Alaska Highway was the 2001, 53rd edition of The Milepost, which listed all the sights of the route in milepost numbers. As much as my interests, and time, demanded, I took short detours to see them, including one off road adventure to find Peace River Park, supposedly on an island across a causeway. I noted in my journal that the causeway was dinky.

The only animals I saw this day were brilliant blue Steller jays (visit my September 24 blog for a picture of a Steller jay) at a dump, lots of ravens, one llama, two hawks I couldn’t identify, and one deer. Signs along the way frequently claimed “moose and caribou on road” – but they lied.

I ended the day in Fort Nelson at Mile 300. The small town was named in honor of British naval hero, Horatio Nelson. It was established by The Northwest Trading Company in 1805 to accommodate fur traders. Because of fires, floods, and feuds, according to one history source, Fort Nelson is currently situated in its fifth location.

While in town, I visited the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum, an interesting step back in time that included exhibits of a “Hardly Davidson” scooter, and the first curling stones on the Alaskan Highway.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: A funny comics blog http://tinyurl.com/jy9sqhn This is so me!

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Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. -- Wikimedia photo

Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. — Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. -- Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. — Wikimedia photo

   “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

            “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

It was a day of lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, glades of scarlet fireweed, birds – and beauty that stirred the soul everywhere.

Page from my jouranl. noting my bald eagle sighting. .

Page from my journal noting my bald eagle sighting. .

`           The first stop of the day was the Vermillion Lakes just outside of Banff, where the first bird of the day was a bald eagle. It doesn’t get much better for a birder – but it did. I got a lifer, a common loon. I was excited at seeing this bird for the first time, but later learned I didn’t have to go so far away from home to see them. Common loons could be seen in winter on Causey Lake in Ogden Valley, Utah, just minutes away from my home.

Also on the lakes were mallards with baby chicks, always a treat to see, as were the darting killdeer that were running around near the shorelines.

A red-breasted nuthatch showed itself at Cascade Pond; barn swallows swarmed around a bridge; lots of prairie dogs stood sentry along the route; and at Two-Jack Lake, I got another lifer, a red-breasted merganser.

I added the feather of a Clark's nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

I added the feather of a Clark’s nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

And the day was just getting started.

At Lake Louise, the next stop of the day, I did a bit of hiking, ate lunch, and marveled at a flock of Clark’s Nutcrackers, another lifer, and one that seemed to be everywhere around the lake. Although not nearly as crowded as the town of Banff, the lake resort, and its Chateau Lake Louis, are also quite popular Canadian attractions.

The turquoise/emerald color of Lake Louise, which pleasantly aroused my sense of sight, is the result of rock flour carried into it by glacier melt. The lake was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the marquess of Lorne, who was the governor-general of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my ournal

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my journal.

But as awesome as Lake Louise was to my sight-seeing day, it was the nearby smaller Lake Moraine that stole my heart. The isolation and serenity of the scene before me stirred a longing in me to visit again n the future — when I could stay awhile. Doing so is still on my bucket list.

My day ended in Jasper, where I found a place to do laundry and ate a steak dinner. It was the last day of July – and Alaska still lay ahead. .

Bean Pat: 20 Minutes a Day http://tinyurl.com/z9vcrwq Comfort food. Len is a dear friend, one who teaches writers, and whose major thesis is that all writers should write for at least 20 minutes a day. I adhere to her philosophy. She and I are in the same Story Circle Network online writing group. SCN is the best writing support I’ve had in my life. It’s helped me find the personal voice I needed to replace the journalism voice I used for 37 years. The circle is for women only. If you’re interested, check it out at: http://www.storycircle.org/frmjoinscn.php (more…)

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A Novel Idea

“There are times when a feeling of expectancy comes to me, as if something is there, beneath the surface of my understanding, waiting for me to grasp it.” – Sylvia Plath

Laughing gulls on Mustang Island on the Texas Gulf Coast, not too far from where Ridley sea turtles have nested. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Laughing gulls on Mustang Island on the Texas Gulf Coast, not too far from where Ridley sea turtles have nested. — Photo by Pat Bean

A November Challenge

This makes the seventh year I’ve signed up to do NANO, which is short for National Novel Writing Month that takes place November. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

A Ridley sea turtle laying her eyes on a Texas Gulf Coast beach. -- National Park Service photo.

A Ridley sea turtle laying her eyes on a Texas Gulf Coast beach. — National Park Service photo.

I actually completed the goal, and got my certificate, once. It was a great writing exercise but I ended up with a wobbly first draft whose protagonist I had fallen out of love with, and so that’s as far as I took the project. I’m hoping to do a little better this time around, which is why I’m now working on an outline of the mystery novel I’m planning on writing in November.

The last time I flew by the seat of my pants only. I wrote a mystery the first time around as well, and am repeating the genre because I love reading mysteries – the ones that focus on who-dun-it instead of blood and gore.

A just hatched sea turtle ready to battle its way to the ocean. -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife photo

A just hatched sea turtle ready to battle its way to the ocean. — U.S. Fish and Wildlife photo

I’m going to use the things I liked from my first NANO completion, mainly the setting along the Texas Gulf Coast and the story of the endangered Ridley sea turtles, but with new characters and a new plot.

Anyone interested in joining the challenge with me can sign up at: http://nanowrimo.org/   It’s free, and not a contest. The only person you have to please is yourself.

My goal for doing the challenge, besides completing a first draft of a novel, is to get myself back into the habit of writing more consistently on a daily basis.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Wish me luck!

Bean Pat: Glassine Visions http://tinyurl.com/h7gfdxn For Dale Chihuly fans.

P.S. Re NANO: Since 2006, hundreds of novels first drafted during NANO have been published. You can check out the list at: http://nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos

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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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