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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

 

The desert landscape from my daughter’s Marana home on the southwest outskirts of Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Just sometimes every damned thing goes right? – Yhprum’s Law

Yup! It’s Monsoon Season in the Sonoran Desert

The ocotillos are lush-leafed and the saguaros are pumped. That’s what happens when you get a week or so of heavy downpours.

An ocotillo in bloom at Catalina State Park north of Tucson. I took this photo while I was still traveling full-time in my RV, and before I ever dreamed I would end up living in Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

These two cacti abound in Tucson, whose human development, especially in the Catalina foothills where I live, is tucked between and above the washes and arroyos that have been allowed to remain undeveloped so as to carry the falling water away quickly. The fact that there’s a bit of wildness remaining in the city, some of which is just seconds away from my apartment complex, is one of the reasons I’ve come to love Tucson.

I also enjoy the mountain ranges that encircle the city: The Tucson Mountains to the west. the Rincon Mountains to the east, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, and the Catalina Mountains that are my backyard to the northeast. The sides of these mountains are now tinged a verdant green because of all the rain. It’s a cool view, especially after the 115 plus temperatures that plagued Southeastern Arizona for weeks.

I’ll enjoy it while I can, as soon the ocotillos will lose their green leaves to conserve the little water they’ll get in the coming months. They will become simply brown, tall thorny stems sticking up from the ground. The saguaros, meanwhile, will grow skinnier again, using the rain water they inhaled to maintain themselves through the waterless desert months.

Watching the changes that take place in the landscape around me, from day-to-day and season to season, gives me great pleasure. It connects me to Mother Earth.

Bean Pat: So Much Yarn https://theeternaltraveller.wordpress.com/2017/07/19 Take an armchair tour of England’s Yorkshire Market.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is soon to be released. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

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Thorny Neighbors

I call this saguaro Old Man. I found him while walking a wash near my daughter’s home here in Tucson. He fell over and bit the dusk not too long afterward. — Photo by Pat Bean

Saguaros come in all sizes and shapes. Is it my imagination, or do you think this one is giving the finger to the low-flying balloon. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr

Heat’s Up in Tucson

A cholla cactus in bloom. — Photo by Pat Bean

The temperature was 115 here in Tucson yesterday. Yuck! You need to be a cactus to survive in this weather, I think.

And then I remember that in 1956, I moved to the Texas Gulf Coast and didn’t have air conditioning for the next 10 years. How I survived, while changing cloth diapers (four kids in five years) continually for seven of those years, I have no idea.

I guess deep down I’m as tough as a cactus. Or once was. My outdoor adventures currently are confined to walking Maggie in the early mornings when it’s still a bit cool. She just gets taken outside long enough to do her business after that.

And a barrel cactus. — Photo by Pat Bean

Anyway, it seemed an appropriate day to post some of my cactus photos. I hope it’s cooler where you live.

Bean Pat: One of my favorite blogs is Brain Pickings. And I especially like these words of Albert Einstein, which seem especially appropriate these days. http://tinyurl.com/ydhxg629

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“People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” – Salma Hayek

Secret, also know as Cecret, Lake in Albion Basin at the top of Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

A Day to Remember

I’m organizing photos that I removed from albums and put in a box when I got rid of or condensed everything so all my belongings would fit into a small RV back in 2004. Lately, I’ve been rummaging through that box.

Kim and me looking out over Secret Lake. I’m not sure who took the photo, most likely Cory, Kim’s son.

Of the many photos, my favorites are the ones of me enjoying Mother Nature’s outdoor wonders. My long-time friend Kim is there with me in many of these memories, like the one recaptured by the photograph on the right, which was taken at Secret, or Cecret as some people call it, Lake at the top of Albion Basin up Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.

As I recall it was an early July day, which is when spring wakes up in this high country, Notice the snow still visible in the background of the photo. I recall that the meadow at the trailhead, where Kim and I started our hike, as being saturated with wildflowers, Indian paintbrush, columbine, lupine, Jacob’s ladder, beard’s tongue, and elephant’s head (my favorite), just to name a few.

I can’t remember ever seeing so many different wildflowers crowed into one place as I did this day. I do remember trying, unsuccessfully, to name them all. The profusion of wildflowers accompanied Kim and I all the way up to Secret Lake, where we sat for a while enjoying the warm sun.

I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but since I don’t recall bird watching on the hike, I’m pretty sure it was before 1999. That’s when I got addicted to birds, and from that time forward, I was always looking for them. In fact, after that year, I couldn’t not see birds.

Bean Pat: A Slice of Life http://tinyurl.com/kjyblf8 The beauty of a garden, and one magnificent radish

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“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.” – Albert Einstein

A male Baltimore oriole. — Wikimedia photo

My 477th Bird

Back in 2006, when I was still a full-time RV-er traveling across America, I found myself camped beside Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees at Bernice State Park in Oklahoma. On my second day there, I was up by 6 a.m., and after a quick cup of cream-laced coffee and a short walk with my canine traveling companion Maggie, I took off alone to explore the park’s nature trail. It was summer-hot and humid, and Maggie had seemed quite agreeable to be left behind to sit in her favorite perch in front of the air conditioner.

View of Grand Lake that I had through the window of my RV at Bernice State Park in Oklahoma. — Photo by Pat Bean

Several bird feeders set out near the trailhead were bustling with Carolina chickadees and American goldfinches, and as I watched, a nearby downy, North America’s most common and smallest woodpecker, drummed its own attention-getting beat. It was going to be a good day, I decided.

As I continued on down the path, I took plenty of time to breathe in the simple beauty around me: a yellow patch of wall flowers, the artistic composition of a small dead tree reclaimed by vines, and an occasional peek of a glistening, sun-speckled lake through thick foliage

I’ve often wondered how people who don’t take nature breaks stay sane in today’s fast-paced world? I suspect that the angry psychopaths who do evil and harm are among the deprived.

My thoughts were interrupted when a doe and her freckled fawn came into sight around a curve in the path. I froze, as did the two deer. We all stared intently. When I finally took a step forward, mom stepped into the woods. Her baby gave me one last look of interest then quickly followed. It amazes me how fast wildlife can disappear from sight.

A male Bullock’s oriole — Wikimedia photo

My thoughts were still on the deer when a flash of orange drew my attention. With eyes glued to my binoculars, I followed the color through the tree branches, and realized I was most likely looking at a Baltimore oriole. While common in the East, these orioles don’t visit the West, where I had lived when I took up birdwatching.

Out West, the Baltimore’s look-alike cousin is the Bullock oriole. I had seen hundreds of Bullocks, but this was my first Baltimore. It was what we birders call a lifer. While I rejoiced, I lamented the too brief view I had before the bird disappeared amongst the trees. I had identified the bird more because of its color and location than because of specific field marks.

Later in the day, as I was sitting at my table writing, the omission was rectified. A Baltimore oriole flew right outside my RV window, and then lingered in the area. It was a breeding male with a black head atop a bright orange body that had thin white streaks on black wings. A Bullock wears only a black cap atop its head and its black wings have prominent white patches on them.

After the oriole flew away, I got out my world bird list and added the Baltimore oriole to it. It was bird 477. I had been hesitant to put it on the list earlier because of the poor sighting. Life is good, I thought, as I added the date and place of its sighting beside the bird’s name.

As I had suspected, it turned out to be a very good day.

Bean Pat: Houston Art Car Parade http://tinyurl.com/mqug4ef For people watchers, too. As a writer, these photos are good examples of interesting characters.

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Mesa Falls, Idaho. — 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

Earth Day

            As one who has traveled this country widely for the last half of my life, including nine years living full-time in a small RV with the road as my only roots, people are always asking me what is my favorite, or the most beautiful, place I have visited.

I never have an answer. I found beauty everywhere I went, and it would take a list that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific to name my favorite places.

More than once, when surrounded by Mother Nature’s wonders, have I wondered how people exist without putting themselves, at least occasionally, in the earth goddess’ arms, and simply breathing in the splendor of lush green forests; or gazing at purple, snow-covered mountains; or standing in a meadow filled with wildflowers; or walking beside a bubbling stream; or looking out a car window at waving, golden grasses filled with yellow-headed blackbirds; or sitting on a sandy beach watching roaring ocean waves pound the shore; or … well, you get my point.

The Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve seen beauty in a crowded RV park in New Mexico, when a family of quails marched through it. I’ve seen beauty in the wild rock sculptures of Arizona’s Painted Desert. I’ve seen beauty in the hoodoos of Southern Utah. It seen beauty as I’ve strolled among California’s magnificent redwoods. I’ve seen beauty in a sunrise on the top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine, and while walking beside a laughing creek in Wyoming’s Teton National Park. I’ve even seen beauty in Virginia and North Carolina’s Dismal Swamp.

The beauty of this magnificent planet can be found anywhere. All you have to do is look around. Please take a moment on this Earth Day to do just that. Actually, do it on any day. Even better, do it every day.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Travel Theme Earth http://tinyurl.com/m9y65lv Great blog and the inspiration for today’s blog.

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House sparrow. — Wikimedia photo

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” — John Burroughs

Chirp, Chirp, Chirp

My home in Ogden, Utah, had a huge Rose of Sharon bush growing in front of my bedroom window that brought me much delight and pleasure. It grew wild and free, and I let it have its way. I loved that bush, and so did the house sparrows, which also gave me many hours of pleasure.

A female house sparrow. — Wikimedia photo

Until I began seriously watching birds, I had never really noticed these seemingly plain brown birds. At least that’s how I thought of them until I looked more closely and saw that the male, especially in breeding season, was actually quite eye-catching.

On a Jan. 31, 2001, morning, not too long after I became an addicted bird watcher, I watched one such male, and wrote: “I have a gorgeous male house sparrow perched in my Rose of Sharon bush right outside my window. It’s sitting in the sunlight so I can clearly see it in all its splendid colors, rust brown, white and black, a perfect copy of the house sparrow illustration in my bird guide, complete with the white dot next to its eye.”

My Rose of Sharon bush always bloomed profusely in spring, and the blossoms stayed around for a long time. I miss that bush — and its resident sparrows. — Wikimedia photo

On another day, I wrote: “My house sparrow is chirping outside my window. The morning light is still dull so his colors aren’t showing well. But having once seen him in the light, I can pick the colors out. He’s really chirping this morning. Maybe he’s trying to attract a female.”

And so he did. And for the next couple of years, I watched as that first pair of house sparrows to take up residence in my Rose of Sharon raised babies. And I watched one morning as another female flew in, and was then chased away by the resident female while the male just looked on from his perch. And from that time forward, my morning wake-up call was always a chirp, chirp, chirp, which is about all these sparrows ever say.

House sparrows are one of about 25 sparrow species world-wide. They thrive near human populations, and love to forage just about everywhere on the planet where humans drop crumbs, from service stations to picnic grounds. I’ve seen them in Japan and Africa looking just like they did in my Rose of Sharon bush.

I’m sure if you look around you, wherever you live, you will find one, too.

            Bean Pat: Meditate Your Way http://tinyurl.com/n62noxy For all of us who find it impossible to sit still and control our minds. Bird watching works for me.

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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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