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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Looking down at the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.-- Photo by Pat Bean

Looking down at the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.– Photo by Pat Bean

“The river is another world, which means that one’s senses and reflexes must begin to live another life.” – Wendell Barry

Texas Flooding got me Thinking

I grew up near the Trinity River in Dallas, which has been overflowing its banks the past few days. It was the first river in my life. The current flooding made me remember when I was a kid, sitting in the backseat  our car looking out the window, as we drove over a huge viaduct with just a skinny stream surrounded by huge patches of dry land beneath us.

The Virgin River in Zion National Park. I remember when this river tore out the Zion Canyon Road after a heavy rain. The time is fondly remembered as the camping trip from hell. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The Virgin River in Zion National Park. I remember when this river tore out the Zion Canyon Road after a heavy rain. The time is fondly remembered as the camping trip from hell. — Photo by Pat Bean

I wondered, back then, why the bridge was so long and high. And then the rains came, and I understood the necessity of the bridge and the vacant land, which had suddenly become part of the river.

The Trinity River was the reason John Neely Bryan decided to establish the settlement, which would become Dallas. He thought the site would be a great place for a great port, but he was wrong. The Trinity River’s ebbs and flows were too fickle to allow reliable navigation. But if you knew where to go, one could find a cool, quiet place to swim on a hot summer day back in the 1940s and early ‘50s — when I was a kid.

The next river in my life was the Brazos. I met it when I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for 15 years during the late 1950s, all of the’ 60s and the early ‘70s. I swam in it, fished in it, caught crabs in it, sat beside it and canoed it. It was also the river in which I saw my first water moccasin and first alligator.

The waters of these two Texas rivers were usually brown and muddy, which is why I was so surprised at the next two streams that became a part of my life, Utah’s Logan and Ogden rivers. Bubbling down from mountain springs fed by snow melt, these smaller rivers were cold and clear as a crystal glass. They gurgled and sang as they made their way downstream.

Nothing gave me more pleasure than finding a hiking trail that ran beside them, or the joy of tubing a stretch of these rivers through a narrow canyon

The Snake River below Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Pat Bean

The Snake River below Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Pat Bean

It wasn’t until 1983, however, when I became acquainted with the river that would turn me into a passionate white-water rafter. For the next 20 years, after that first introduction to a six-mile stretch of the Snake between Hagerman and Bliss, every summer would find me floating the Snake (an annual trip below Jackson, Wyoming), and other rivers as well.

I’ve rafted through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River twice, paddled the River of No Return (the Salmon), taken a wild ride down the South Fork of the Payette, and captained a raft down the Green River through Dinosaur National Park.

I feel as if these rivers are a part of who I am. They have made me stronger because I’ve challenged them, humbled because I’ve tasted their power and been lucky to escape alive, and thoughtful about their tenacity to keep rolling on, wearing down obstacles through eons of time in their effort to reach the sea and start the process all over again.

 

Bean Pat: The Outer Banks after a storm http://tinyurl.com/k37fyjd

 

 

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“The sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with base notes, or dark lake with the treble.” – Wassily Kandinsky

Vincent van Gogh liked the color yellow, too.

Vincent van Gogh liked the color yellow, too.

The Hue of Sunshine

I’ve watched this past month as cacti and palo verde trees have burst forth with yellow blossoms. I’ve come to think of this buttery splash on the landscape as a likely subject for a Van Gogh painting – well, if he had lived in Tucson.

Palo verdes, the state tree of Arizona, heavily dot the Catalina Foothills where I live. I love the color.

Palo verdes, the state tree of Arizona, heavily dot the Catalina Foothills where I live. I love the color.

Sometimes, as I observe the miracle of the desert coming to life, I find myself singing John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulder Makes Me Happy” – Because it does.

It’s just one more reason I start each day thankful for my life – and extra thankful that I live in a country where a woman is free to enjoy the bounties of Mother Nature anytime she wants. I wish it were true for all men and women alive in the world today. And I grieve because it isn’t, especially for the women who make up the majority of the oppressed in many countries.  Don’t you?*

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Portrait of Wildflowers http://tinyurl.com/ojb29cy I’m not the only one who enjoys the color of sunshine.

*This topic crept its way into my blog, not at all where I intended the end of my writing to go. It is, however, a topic that is much on my mind. I often feel guilty because of my simple luck of not being born in a country where an outspoken woman has to fear for her life. I seriously doubt I would have survived to become the old broad I am today if not for my birth-place luck.   

           

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The trail led beside and beneath the waterfalls. I do so love Zion. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The trail led beside and beneath the waterfalls. I do so love Zion. — Photo by Pat Bean

         “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! – Dr. Seuss

Runoff from the Emerald Pools' waterfalls created this small puddle of water, which reflected the nearby landscape. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Runoff from the Emerald Pools’ waterfalls created this small puddle of water, which reflected the nearby landscape. — Photo by Pat Bean

On a Birthday Hike   

It felt fantastic to be back in Zion National Park to celebrate my recent birthday with some of the same friends who have celebrated it with me in this awesome place for three decades.

A good-sized lizard near the start of he hike. I barely captured him with my camera before he slithered away.

A good-sized lizard near the start of he hike. I barely captured him with my camera before he slithered away.

While my body wasn’t up to the grueling 5.5-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Angel’s Landing, which I have done about 30 times in my life, it was up to a moderate three-mile hike on the Kayenta and Emerald Pools’ trails. The two trails join at the waterfalls junction.

I originally started the tradition of spending my birthday in Zion because I didn’t live near any family members, and I figured it was much better to do something I enjoyed than stay home and feel lonely.

 

My friend Kim near the start of the hike. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My friend Kim near the start of the hike. — Photo by Pat Bean

I had hiked it alone or with varying friends for several years before Kim and her son began joining me almost every year. This year she called me about three days before my birthday and told me to get my butt to Zion. The message wasn’t exactly expressed in those exact words but I got the meaning.

I drove up to Zion, a nine-hour journey, in Cayenne on Friday, hiked and partied on Saturday, and drove back on Sunday. It turned out to be one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: A Writer’s Path http://tinyurl.com/ps647fp  This blogger chose his favorite 10 opening lines of books. I agreed with a couple, but the blog made me want to go and list my favorite opening lines. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

 

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Cooper's hawk at WOW Arizona. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Cooper’s hawk at WOW Arizona. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John  Burroughs

Rufous-winged Sparrow

I discovered this little fellow while I was looking for the rufous-winged sparrow. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I discovered this little fellow while I was looking for the rufous-winged sparrow. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Cooper’s hawk sat patiently for its photograph, but I was too enthralled by the rufous-winged sparrow to even take my point and shoot camera out of my pocket. While in most people’s eyes, the hawk would be considered the more magnificent of the two, the sparrow had my vote this day.

That’s because while I have seen many Cooper’s hawks, even watched a pair raise two chicks this past year, the rufous-winged was a lifer. It’s the 706th species now on my life list of birds. A big thinks for the sighting goes to Chris and MaryEllen, who over a 20-year period of hard work, have created a special wildlife sanctuary on their property.

Peeking through the cactus at one of the many hummingbird feeders on Chris and Maryellen's property. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Peeking through the cactus at one of the many hummingbird feeders on Chris and MaryEllen’s property. — Photo by Pat Bean

Chris was especially helpful in seeking this south eastern Arizona bird out for me, after I mentioned I wanted to see one when he was giving me and six other Audubon birders a tour of the grounds. After the circuit, and a bit of sitting on his patio watching a variety of hummers, curved-bill thrashers, gila and ladder-backed woodpeckers, white-crowned sparrows and house finches, I set out for the front meadow, where he said the rufous-winged hung out.

That was where I spotted the Cooper’s, and immediately knew there would be no small birds hanging out in this area until the hawk-watcher went off duty. So after snapping the hawk’s photo, I went elsewhere to search.

Chris soon joined me, saying he had heard a rufous-winged. A couple of minutes later, we had a clear view of one singing in a tree. It was a grand sighting, and after Chris and I high-fived, he said even he had chill bumps.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: It seems only fitting that WOW Arizona’s web site get the blog pick of the day award. Check this marvelous place out at: http://wowarizona.org/  WOW, by the way, stands for Wonderful Outdoor World. Chris said people don’t need therapy or drugs to solve their problems. “They just need to get outdoors into nature.”  It works for me.

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This is just a fraction of the sandhills that were whirring through the air before landing, and joining hundreds that were already on the shore. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is just a fraction of the sandhills that were whirring through the air before landing, and joining hundreds that were already on the shore. — 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

Sandhill Cranes Galore

It was a peaceful walk through the wetlands area with a cool breeze blowing through my hair. I loved every second of my time spent at the National Recreational Area. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It was a peaceful walk through the wetlands area with a cool breeze blowing through my hair. I loved every second of my time spent at the National Recreational Area. — Photo by Pat Bean

The first sandhill cranes I ever saw were alongside the Sawtooth Scenic Highway somewhere north of Ketchum, Idaho in 1983. I was taking a drive with a forest ranger for a story I was writing for the Twin Falls Times-News. There were about a dozen of the large birds, but I wouldn’t have known what they were if the forest ranger hadn’t identified them.

The next time I saw sandhill cranes was more than 10 years later when I was doing a story on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. By this time I had become an avid birder, and I could identify birds on my own – well at least with my Roger Tory Peterson birding field guide, There were only four sandhill cranesthis time, two pairs. The sighting, however, was special because the two pairs were doing their courting dance.

The line of sandhills stretched almost out of sight. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The line of sandhills stretched almost out of sight. — Photo by Pat Bean

I saw sandhill cranes pretty regularly after that, both in Utah and Texas. The one other time that stands out was when a small flock of sandhill cranes did a flyby over by head at the Morgan (Utah) Sewage Ponds.

But it wasn’t until this past week, when this non-wandering wanderer took a road trip to Whitewater Draw southeast of Tucson, that I saw thousands of sandhill cranes at one time. Between 20,000 to 30,000 sandhill cranes make this 600-acre wetlands their winter home.

I watched this awesome cinnamon teal groom itself for a good 10 minutes. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I watched this awesome cinnamon teal groom itself for a good 10 minutes. — Photo by Pat Bean

I visited the site in the early afternoon, when the cranes stretched out for probably a quarter mile on opposite shorelines. And they were still coming in when I left about 4 p.m., after taking a loop hike through the wetlands.

In addition to sandhill cranes, I saw coots, ruddy ducks, lesser scaup, common yellowthroats, robins, northern shovelers and cinnamon teal. What a great day!

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park http://tinyurl.com/p5mupnk And here’s a good place to visit to see winter wildflowers.

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Sunrise in a Different Place

“Know where to find the sunrise and sunset times and note how the sky looks at those times — at least once.” — Marilyn vos Savant

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Sunrise at my apartment in northeast Tucson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Sunrise at my apartment in northeast Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

“What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?” E.M.Forster

Fuel for a Wanderlust Soul 

I spent the night at my daughter’s home last night. We live 13 miles apart, she on the southwest side of Tucson, and me on the northeast side of Tucson. When I took Pepper outside to do her business this morning here, the sky was still dark, but with a creeping streak of blood-orange color barely peeping through swaths of low-lying inky black clouds.

A more fiery Texas sunrise. (I didn't have my camera with me to photograph this morning's sunrise here in southwest Tucson.) -- Photo by Pat Bean

A more fiery Texas sunrise. (I didn’t have my camera with me to photograph this morning’s sunrise here in southwest Tucson.) — Photo by Pat Bean

Fifteen minutes later, when I rechecked how the sunrise was progressing, the entire eastern horizon was ablaze with streaks of fiery orange color and purple swaths of clouds set beneath a deep blue sky. It was a magnificent sight that took my breath away.

On my side of Tucson, sunrise comes a few minutes later, usually rising up above a landscape ridge in a golden glow. It offers a quieter awakening to the day. But sunsets as seen from my apartment’s balcony usually go out with a bang that rivals any fireworks display.

I find no better way to welcome the day than by watching the sunrise, nor a better to way to end it than by watching a sunset. I’ve watched many in my lifetime, and have found each one beautiful in its own way. No two are ever alike.

Watching these miracles of nature makes me feel good to be alive — and  thankful for my many blessings.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Medicine Lake http://tinyurl.com/l55ztkk Jasper National Park. Beautiful photos that rekindled my memories of when I visited this awesome landscape.

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            “… letting life just happen without control … It’s much less painful than fighting every step of the way … and so much more delightful than trying to arrange life like a table setting, which one can never do anyway. Really, it’s quite exciting to see what will happen along next …” – Dorothy Gilman

In searching for my place in life, I found myself most happy when I was in places where Mother Nature ruled, like this marsh in Maine. -- Photo by Pat Bean

In searching for my place in life, I found myself most happy when I was in places where Mother Nature ruled, like this marsh in Maine. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Wise Words of Dorothy Gilman

            I’m rereading my journal of 1980, a year I spent trying to find out who this woman was that inhabited my body.  It wasn’t a bad year. In fact, it was a really good year after a few bad ones.

However, many of my journal posts saw me whining about not knowing what I wanted – or knowing what I wanted but couldn’t have.  I was yearning at the time for both a soul mate and to discover the place where I fit into life.

... and beneath a tree in which a bird perched and sang. -- Photo by Pat Bean

… and beneath a tree in which a bird perched and sang. — Photo by Pat Bean

I980 was also the year in which I discovered Dorothy Gilman and her Mrs. Polifax mystery series. After discovering The Unexpected Mrs Polifax, published in 1966, I quickly searched out and read The Amazing Mrs.Polifax (1970), The Elusive Mrs. Polifax (1971). A Palm for Mrs. Polifax (1973), and Mrs. Polifax on Safari (1976).

The fictional Mrs. Polifax, a widow in her 60s, was, like me, discovering herself and, also like me, having adventures while doing so. I bonded with Mrs. Polifax as if she were my lifelong friend.

On June 4, 1980, I wrote: Spent the night with Mrs. Polifax, Just the thoughts I needed. Marvelous you are Dorothy Gilman.

I discovered many Polifax/Gilman quotes scattered throughout my 1980 journal. But none has stuck with me more thoroughly than the quote about our not being able to arrange life like a table setting. I could even quote it verbatim because of how many times I thought about it when things didn’t go as planned in my own life.

This wonderful author, Dorothy Gilman, died at the age of 88 in 2012, after writing another nine Mrs. Polifax books between 1983 and 2000. I read every one almost as soon as they came out.

Mrs. Polifax changed over the years, and so did I. I now know my place and “Marvelous” it is.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Rolbos http://tinyurl.com/my4swzd The Extinct Instinct of Trust, a blog that leaves you with much to think about. At least it did me.

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