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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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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            “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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