Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Mother Nature Does it Best

Looking down at a small pond filled with reeds and stuff at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Looking down at a small pond filled with reeds and stuff at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. — Photo by Pat Bean

 “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature’s sources never fail.” — John Muir, Our National Parks

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea  http://www.pbs.org/  Don’t miss this Ken Burns film that begins tonight on PBS

Read Full Post »

Jack jump up and kiss me plant. -- Wikimedia photo

Jack jump up and kiss me plant. — Wikimedia photo

                If I  had  my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to  more dances. I would  ride more merry-go-rounds. I would  pick more daisies..” – Nadine Stair

Too Numerous to List

            At one time in my life, I decided to keep a list of the wildflowers I came across on my hikes and walks, the same as I keep a list of the birds I see for the very first time. It was a decision that I quickly gave up as a hopeless task, right after I learned that a daisy comes in over 20,000 species and each, most likely, has dozens of common names.

So I just started enjoying the flowers, and identifying them by the name I liked best.

Butter and eggs. -- Wikimedia photo

Butter and eggs. — Wikimedia photo

One of my favorites is the one I call butter and eggs, a non-native plant considered a weed that is now common across much of North America. It’s also called toadflax, plus such local colloquial names as brideweed,   butter haycocks, bread and butter, bunny haycocks, bunny mouths, calf’s snout, Continental weed, dead men’s bones, devil’s flax, devil’s flower, dragon bushes, eggs and bacon, gallwort, impudent lawyer, Jacob’s ladder,  monkey flower, ramsted, rabbit flower and wild tobacco, just to name a few. .

I can’t help but wonder where the “impudent lawyer” moniker came from, just as I wonder about the name given a small purple wildflower that I’ve often come across. Among other names, it’s known as the Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me-flower. It also goes by such names as the Johnny jump up, hearts ease, three faces in a hood, tickle-my-fancy, love-in-idleness and wild pansy.

So now do you understand why I don’t keep a flower list?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

            Bean Pat: Mr. Grumpy Gets a Bath http://tinyurl.com/goay5lg For fans of Ogden Nash and birders interested in grackles and coots.

Read Full Post »

Texas Bluebonnets

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part and discuss it only with consenting adults.” – Molly Ivins

Texas bluebonnets are now in bloom. -- Photo by Deborah Bean

Texas bluebonnets are now in bloom. — Photo by Deborah Bean

And a Thoughtful Daughter

If you’re a Texan, you brag a bit. At least that’s how it is with all the Texans I know, including myself. While it’s not a trait that will gain you friends, we just can’t help ourselves.

So if you’ll forgive me, I’ll just say that when it comes to bluebonnets, Texas outdoes itself. Nowhere else on earth does this Texas native flower grow as well or as abundantly. If you’ve ever seen a meadow full of them, I’m sure you will agree.

Such a sight always makes my heart beat quicken with joy.

The problem for me, however, is that they’re currently in full bloom – and my trip to Texas to attend a writer’s conference isn’t until mid-April.

Because I know Texas’ bluebonnets have a short growing season, I mentioned to my Dallas daughter that I was afraid they would be gone before I got there.

In response she sent me the above photo. I’m twice blessed.

Bean Pat: Trees with stories to tell http://tinyurl.com/jl3ud9e  You don’t want to miss this National Geography post. The trees pictured in black and white are magnificent.

Read Full Post »

The Great Dismal Swamp. -- photo by Pat Bean

The Great Dismal Swamp. — photo by Pat Bean

“Everything we do every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

It was a Surprise

            I have two traveling styles. The first is a mile-by-mile research of all the sights and attractions I will be seeing from Point A to Point B. I highly recommend it as it gives meaning to the seeing. The second is simply to choose a route to get me from Point A to Point B and be surprised along the way. I highly recommend this method of road trips, too.

Sailboats on the Great Dismal Swamp behind the North Carolina Welcome Center off Highway 17.  Photo by Pat Bean

Sailboats on the Great Dismal Swamp behind the North Carolina Welcome Center off Highway 17. Photo by Pat Bean

It’s not that one method is better, simply different, as are so many of life’s choices.

The Great Dismal Swamp was one of those surprises for me. I didn’t know it even existed before I came across it a few years back,. I was traveling westward from Virginia Beach, zig-zagging on back roads until I reached Highway 17.

It was a late October morning, sunny, but cool, when I came across this great marsh with its waterlogged trees, poisonous snakes and dark waters that hid what lurked below. Of course I had to explore it a bit. Just its name, Great Dismal Swamp, captured both my curiosity and my imagination.

My stopping place was a welcome center in North Carolina just across the border from Virginia. It had a picnic area for both motorists and boaters, with a parking lot entrance for vehicles off Highway 17 and a dock at the rear of the building to accommodate water traffic on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.  Inside, I found a mountain of information on the swamp, which  until that day I hadn’t known existed.

The short hiking trail wasn't dismal at all. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The short hiking trail wasn’t dismal at all. — Photo by Pat Bean

. The creation of the canal through it was the idea of George Washington and his investor colleagues. They saw it as a means to accommodate trade between Virginia and an isolated region of North Carolina. Today, the 22-mile long canal provides boaters a shortcut between the Elizabeth River and Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and the Pasquotank River in North Carolina. In Washington’s time, it was the only easy passage through the mucky swamp.

Six large sailboats, quite nifty compared to the small 21-foot sloop I used to sail on the Great Salt Lake, were double-parked at the welcome center’s dock. After ogling the sailboats with an experienced eye, and exploring the visitor center and its manicured grounds, I found a path leading off into the forest. A sign identified it as “The Dismal Swamp Nature Trail,” with an added cautionary note to “Beware of Snakes.”

Actually it was a quite civilized trail, with markers identifying black cherry and mulberry trees, a cheerful squirrel dashing among the foliage, and a tufted titmouse whistling me along its fallen leaf carpet. The narrow path led along the canal for a while, then circled around into a more forested area before dumping me out, far too quickly, near the parking lot.

On the far side of the canal, the landscape was fiercer. There were no paths, only a mass of tangled vines and nature debris hiding and sheltering its wild occupants, like black bears and bobcats. The swamp also plays host to over 200 species of birds. Its tangled webs of vines, unsure footing and dangerous wildlife keep most people out, which is why it became a refuge for America’s former slaves.

The runaway slaves passed through it on their hopeful way to freedom, while others chose to live in the swamp as an alternative to slavery. Harriett Beecher Stow, whose book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sympathetically described the sad plight of slaves, wrote a second book, “Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp,” whose title character was an escaped, angry slave who lived in it.

Back in my RV, still pondering facts I had learned, I continued following Highway 17 south until it intersected with Highway 158, a well-maintained but little traveled road that took me through the middle of the swamp. The 38-mile drive through the quagmire took me from the swamp’s eastern edge to its western edge — and because I stopped often to take photos, two hours to cover.

I rank that day’s Road Trip Surprise a solid 11, on a 1 to 10 ranking.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Determination http://tinyurl.com/jj5zsg4 Some great quotes.

 

Read Full Post »

“ G**D**! How magnificently, intricate, interwoven and complex this all is. How can we make ourselves worthy of our limited comprehensions of such magnificence?” — George Sibley

Taking on Henry David Thoreau

The complexity of nature means when the water level is low here, wading birds are the prominent species. When it's not so shallow, ducks claim it as their habitat. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The complexity of nature means when the water level is low here, wading birds are the prominent species. When it’s not so shallow, ducks claim it as their habitat. — Photo by Pat Bean

            I’ve long been a fan of Henry David Thoreau, whose quote,- “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” has long been a personal mantra. But after reading his famed book, Walden, I was left with a nagging thought that parts of it were like Jell-O that never set.

It's not a simple thing becoming a plant from a seed. Everything has to work just right. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It’s not a simple thing becoming a plant from a seed. Everything has to work just right. — Photo by Pat Bean

Now I’m all for living a simple life. My daughters sometimes even chastise me because my kitchen gadgets are few and my can opener a manual one. And I’m truly against buying stuff – that lesson was doubly taught me when I got rid of everything to move all my possessions, plus me and my canine companion into a 21-foot motor home. I was amazed at how many things I had two of – and didn’t even know it.

But I don’t want to live in the woods without a bathtub and eat beans. I want to enjoy at least some of the benefits the human race has accomplished in its lifetime.

Even nature is not simple. It’s complex, as I learned as a reporter covering environmental issues.  You try to save one plant or species and you impact another. You practice conservation and you take away somebody’s livelihood. A tragic flood or fire also comes with benefits.

And when it comes to relationships, each one has so many different complexities that you couldn’t even began to count them.

Nope, life is not simple. So we might just as well embrace it, as Sibley pointed out in his essay, featured in the anthology, When in Doubt, Go Higher.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: On thin Ice http://tinyurl.com/gl4wgbh My kind of outdoor adventure, especially at my age.

Read Full Post »

Art: American Bittern

Painting by Pat Bean

Painting by Pat Bean

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” –Picasso

            “A picture is a poem without words.” – Horace

Hiding in Plain Sight

An American bittern in its natural habitat. -- Wikimedia photo

An American bittern in its natural habitat. — Wikimedia photo

I haven’t seen many American bitterns, but the ones I have seen have all been surprises. By that, I mean that I usually had stared at a weedy patch of grass in shallow water for some time before seeing this wading bird.

And then I only saw it because it moved.

The American bittern is one of my favorite birds, perhaps because it’s striped feathers are in themselves art.

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. – Francis Bacon      

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Daily Echo http://tinyurl.com/jt9r6rx Meeting on the Moor. My kind of walk.

Read Full Post »

Winter gives this tree a stark beauty that spoke to me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Winter gives this tree a stark beauty that spoke to me. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully. – Matthew Fox

I didn't realize until I got home and compared my photos with ones I had taken earlier at Arivaca Cienega that the same tree had spoken to me when it was decked out in spring finery. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I didn’t realize until I got home and compared my photos with ones I had taken earlier at Arivaca Cienega that the same tree had spoken to me when it was decked out in spring finery.  — Photo by Pat Bean

There’s Beauty in Starkness

            I took a friend and her dog with me and my canine companion Pepper this past weekend to hike the Arivaca-Cienega trail 70 miles southeast of Tucson. It’s an important birding area, and a place where I’ve hiked before, only in the months when everything was lush and verdant..

I realized, looking at the naked branches of trees on the narrow, winding and rough backroad that we traveled to get there, that today was going to be different. It was winter and the color green was almost nowhere to be found.

But as before, beauty was around every corner. It was just different, a starkness that let you see deeper into the heart and soul and bones of Mother Nature.

It was an awesome day, even though we got there late and the birds were taking a nap somewhere out of sight. The exception was a pair of greater roadrunners that scurried across the road ahead of us as we headed back to Tucson.

I will return… Perhaps I can catch the tree in autumn.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Open Suitcase http://tinyurl.com/zohd9u6 Take an armchair train ride through Africa.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 974 other followers