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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

 

A thermal pool on the Morning Glory Trail in Yellowstone, which was on Budget Magazine's list of most beautiful sites.

A thermal pool on the Morning Glory Trail in Yellowstone, which was on Budget Magazine’s list of most beautiful sites. — Photo by Pat Bean

Awesome is Everywhere You Look

Budget Travel recently had an article listing the 33 most beautiful sights in the United States. I counted my blessings when I saw that I had seen 28 of the magazine’s 33 selected sites.

It seems that during the nine years I lived in and drove across this country in a small RV, I didn’t miss much. And to make up for those five sites I missed, I saw hundreds of other that easily could have made the list.

Taggart Lake in Teton National Park, which wasn't on the magazine's list.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Taggart Lake in Teton National Park, which wasn’t on the magazine’s list. — Photo by Pat Bean

            What was your most favorite place? I’m often asked this question when people learn about my travels. And I’m always stuck for an answer. How do you choose one from so many?    The truth is, I look out my third-floor balcony window and see beauty almost every day. This morning it was two brown-headed cowbirds flitting in a tree.  Every time the sun caught their black, back feathers, iridescent greens and purples shimmered in the air.

I guess I’m blessed because I saw beauty in these two unpopular birds just as I saw beauty in places like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon or Glacier national Parks.

Bean Pat: the ancient eavesdropper http://tinyurl.com/o8h4avw Degrees of shade. Another blogger who looks at the world as I do.

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Names

“You’ve got to invest in the world, you’ve got to read, you’ve got to go to art galleries, you’ve to find out the names of plants. You’ve got to start to love the world and know about the whole genius of the human race. We’re amazing people.” — Vivienne Westwood.

The name of this butterfly is  orange sulfur alfalfa, and while I know that the flower (I don't like to think of them as weeds), I have no idea which of the 150 varieties of dandelions this is. Do you? -- Photo by Pat Bean

The name of this butterfly is orange sulfur alfalfa, and while I know that the flower is a dandelion (I don’t like to think of them as weeds), I have no idea which of the 150 varieties of dandelions this is. Do you? — Photo by Pat Bean

Mine Fits
One of  the traits of a good writer is that he or she quickly learns that a tree is not a tree. It’s a cypress or a live oak, and a bird is not a bird, it’s a red-tailed hawk or a black-capped chickadee. Such proper names paint clearer images for readers to add pictures to your go with your words.
I thought about this when the recent writing prompt for my Story Circle Network online writing group was to explain the meaning of our names.  I wondered if  my name explains me.  I think it does. This is what I wrote:
And this mountain, the tallest in North America, has two names: Denali and Mount McKinley.-- Wikimedia photo

And this mountain, the tallest in North America, has two names: Denali and Mount McKinley.– Wikimedia photo

I was named Patricia Lee Joseph, the last name being a gift from my great- great-grandfather, who was a Portuguese sailor who jumped ship in Connecticut. The choice of Patricia  was because it was the name my mother had randomly punched out on a once-popular raffle board. She paid a quarter for the punch in hopes of winning a small cedar box.

My mother, who was pregnant with me at the time, said if she won she would name me Patricia. She won, and that box was part of her possessions for as long as I knew her. My middle name is my mother’s maiden name. She used to say it was quite appropriate because I had inherited  my wanderlust from her father, and my grandfather, Charles Forest Lee.

I have never been called Patricia, however. Well, except for the few times my mother was extremely angry at me and yelled: Patricia Lee Joseph!!!

Growing up, I was called the very southern Patsy Lee, which was OK until my first-grade valentine day when someone wrote Pasty instead of Patsy on my card.  One kid noticed, and for the rest of the week, I was taunted by kids calling me Pasty. Usually they called me Cootie Brain.

I realize now how well that unkindly moniker fit. I was like Hermione in Harry Potter, the girl who was a know-it-all who constantly waved her hand in the air to answer every question posed by a teacher. And my hair was always tangled with knots in it that could easily have hidden cooties.

I laugh at the image these days, but back then the nickname was the source of daily tears.

I always wanted to be called Pat in school, but a popular classmate already had claimed that name. I wasn’t called Pat until the sixth grade, when my family moved and I attended another school. From that time forward, I’ve always been Pat — and I never uttered Cootie Brain again until I was almost 40 and the hurt of my younger years had vanished.

By the time I divorced my wrong choice of a mate, when I also was almost 40,  I was already published as Pat Bean, and I chose to keep Bean instead of reverting back to my maiden name. I think Pat Bean makes a great byline, and it feels like me.

Bean Pat: Brevity http://tinyurl.com/ot64fuz One of my very favorite writing blogs

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A magical moment at W.F. Jackson Park in Alabama -- at crepuscular.

A magical moment at W.F. Jackson Park in Alabama — at crepuscular. — Photo by Pat Bean

   “Every spring I hear the thrush singing in the glowing woods. He is only passing through. His voice is deep, then he lifts it until it seems to fall from the sky. I am thrilled. I am grateful. Then, by the end of morning, he’s gone, nothing but silence out of the tree where he rested for a night. And this I find acceptable. Not enough is a poor life. But too much is, well, too much. Imagine Verdi or Mahler every day, all day. It would exhaust anyone.” – Mary Oliver

My Curiosity Never Killed a Cat  

            I’m reading Luke Dempsey’s “A Supremely Bad Idea,” which I had checked out from the local Tucson Audubon Library. It’s a book along the lines of Mark Obmascik’s “The Big Year,” which is about three’s men’s obsession to see the most bird species in 1998. Bad Idea is also about three birders chasing birds. .

A tri-colored heron, once known as a Louisiana heron, spotted on the Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A tri-colored heron, once known as a Louisiana heron, spotted on the Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston, Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean

Anyway, Dempsey mentions seeing a Louisiana heron, which sets my mind roiling. I’ve seen every species of herons this country has to offer, and I had never heard of a Louisiana heron. So off I chase to Bing it, which is the same as Googling it, only I use Bing as my internet explorer. In no time at all, my curiosity is slated. A Louisiana heron is what a tri-colored heron was once called.

The discovery left me pleased that I had learned something new. Then Dempsey used the word crepuscular, which sent back to my computer and my online dictionary. Crepuscular, I learned, means twilight, and can refer to animals that come out at twilight, and which are often wrongly referred to as nocturnal.

I don’t know about you, but I love it when writers send me to a dictionary.

Bean’s Pat: Dawn Downey’s Blog http://tinyurl.com/q3l3vvb A blog that will make you thankful for only having to walk to exercise. I also love this author’s book, “Stumbling Toward the Buddha,” which I recently read.

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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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