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This photograph represents a magical moment in time that I relived when I came across this picture earlier today. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” – J.B. Priestly

Reliving a Magical Moment

Bridge to an island in the lake at Frank Jackson State Park in Alabama. — Photo by Pat Bean

There are magical moments in your life that you hold dear, and always want to remember. For me, those memories include the feeling I had when I held each of my five children for the first time, moments of watching them grow up and achieve, my own sense of achievements during my 37 years as a journalist, and the feeling I get at the end of any day in which I feel I accomplished something good.

Beyond this stuff of everyday life, however, there are the moments of joy and wonder that I’ve experienced in nature, experiences that I have had, and still do have, that keep me sane in a chaotic world that does not always make sense.

There are hundreds of such moments, but the one I will tell you about today took place at Frank Jackson State Park in Alabama.

My camping site at the park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Wow,” I wrote in my journal when I came across this place. While southern state parks usually impressed me when I came across them while traveling this country in a small RV with my canine companion, Maggie, this one outdid itself. I had a tree-shaded site with full hookups that backed up to the 1,000-acre W. F. Jackson Lake – and a cable TV outlet, a first for me at a public park.

The one night I had planned to stay turned into three, during which I took daily hikes across a wooden walkway to an island in the middle of the lake. One day I hiked it twice, first to catch the reflecting pink and soft orange glow over the lake as a sunrise welcomed the day, and a second to see bolder orange and red rays of the sunset that ended it.

A photograph I snapped at the perfect moment, after the sun had set and the glow had faded, captured a couple of fisherman silhouetted in a small boat floating on a lavender lake beneath a darkening sky.

This was the magical moment I relived this morning when I was looking through

my photos. Looking at the peaceful scene left me feeling as if I had captured a whole life time of living and reduced it to a single memory.

Bean Pat: The Path of the Spirit http://tinyurl.com/htrh8e5 Unweeded Edges

Frank Jackson State Park: 100 Jerry Adams Drive, Opp, Alabama (334) 493-6988. A 2,050-acre park with a 1,000-acre lake and three plus miles of trails. Entrance fee: $2-$4, Camping fee: $19 to $36 nightly, cabins $85 and up. Activities include boating ($4 launch fee), hiking, birdwatching, fishing. For more information go to: http://alapark.com/frank-jackson-state-park

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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George Archibald took this photo of me at the end of our tour to see whooping cranes on the Texas Gulf Coast. I’m smiling because I saw these awesome endangered cranes. — Photo by George Archibald

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

The Man Who Danced with One

A page from my journal with a cutout of George Archibald in his whooping crane outfit.

I just finished reading To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel. In it he mentioned George Archibald, a conservationist and co-creator of the International Crane Foundation. A day later, I read another mention about George, this time from one of my own journals. I had met George during a birding festival in Port Aransas in 2009, at which time he talked about the endangered whooping cranes that winter on the Texas Gulf Coast near Port Aransas.

In the 1940s, there were fewer than 25 whooping cranes left in the wild, and only a couple of these giant birds in captivity. Today, because of the efforts of Archibald and others like him, over 300 whoopers are now flying free, migrating between Canada and the lower U.S each year.

Whooping crame on Matagorda Island. — Photo by Pat Bean

During a workshop talk, George put on his crane costume and demonstrated how he danced with an orphan whooping crane chick as a way to teach it to dance the way whooping cranes do to attract and bond with a mate. Whooping cranes have to be taught this, as well as their migration paths, by their parents. Mom and Dad make their first winter migration flight with them.

I took pictures of George in his crane suit, and put some of them in my journal. Then the next day, I took the whooping crane tour aboard the Wharf Cat out to Matagorda Island to see the real whooping cranes. George was aboard and we had a nice long chat about the whoopers, and the work he and others are doing to save the cranes. It was a fascinating couple of days, and I’m glad both the book I was reading and my journals let me relive it.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Interesting Literature http://tinyurl.com/y8casam5 Edward Allan Poe’s The Raven. I first read this when I was nine or 10 years old. Although it was another 15 years before I knew I wanted to be a writer, this poem certainly helped me fall in love with the sound of words, even though I didn’t know what they all meant at the time.

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The ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas on Mustang Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. — Wikimedia photo

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” — Jimmy Dean

And a Journey to Mustang Island

As one who loves road trips, and one who believes the journey is even more important than the destination, I was in high spirits as I drove Gypsy Lee, my 21-foot home on wheels, down Texas’ Highway 35 on a late February day. It was 2009, and my first sojourn after spending the nastier days of winter hanging out in my children’s driveways.

A great egret sat by a small pond near the entrance to Mustang Island State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

The sun was shining brightly but the day was quite windy. Through my windshield, I could see turkey vultures wobbling in flight and kestrels swaying on roadside wires. Have you ever noticed that these high-wire-loving falcons always seem to face the road and not away from it?

The gray feathers of a mockingbird, the only other bird that seemed to be defying the wind this day, were blown up like a skirt, exposing white feathers as if they were a petticoat. As this Texas state bird winged its way inch by inch into the howling wind. I felt like I was watching a slow-motion vignette.

I sympathized, as I had to keep my hands tightly placed on Gypsy Lee’s steering wheel to keep sudden gusts of winds from blowing her sideways. I gave myself a break from driving by stopping for a bit at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where I got a distant look at a couple of whooping cranes. I would see these endangered birds up much closer later in the week when, I took a tour boat out of Port Aransas.

A brown pelican and a laughing gull near Port Aransas. Photo by Pat Bean

Back on the road, the wind was still singing loudly, but soon, although many mind musings later, I found myself in Aransas Pass, where I would catch a ferry to take me across to Mustang Island. The ferry docked in Port Aransas, which sits on the northern end of this narrow stretch of water-enclosed land. My destination for the day was Mustang Island State Park on the southern end of the island.

Once hooked up, I enjoyed the remains of the windy Texas day, ending it with a sunset stroll on the beach beneath cackling laughing gulls, and beside white-capped waves rolling up beneath my sandaled feet.

Bean Pat: A slice of life http://tinyurl.com/y9rq4uxv This blog makes me feel gratitude for still being able to enjoy the little things in life.

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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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“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One Colorful Bird. No, Make That Two Birds

Elegant trogon. — Wikimedia photo

at Two

I hunted for the elegant trogon twice in Madera Canyon here in Southeastern Arizona – and did not find it. For my third try, a detour on one of my annual trips from Utah to Texas, I hired a bird guide out of Sierra Vista, and made a reservation at a Sierra Vista hotel to spend a couple of nights.

Three days before my trip was to begin, I bought Gypsy Lee, the small RV in which I would soon live in and travel in for nine years. I then switched my hotel reservation to an RV park reservation, which is how Sierra Vista became the first place I hooked up my RV. I still remember the trepidation I felt about that virgin event. I had to purchase a special sewer connection sold by the park. It was a connection that I never had to use again, and once I had the hang of it, I could hook up the water, electricity and sewer to my RV in just a couple of minutes.

I found my elegant trogon up Garden Canyon in Huachuca Mountains, just an hour and a half away from Tucson. . — Wikimedia photo

But back to that elegant trogon, which at the time was just as important to me as getting familiar with my new home on wheels.

The guide took me and two other birders onto Fort Huachuca in his VW Camper, and then on a hike up Garden Canyon. We hadn’t gone far when he pointed out an elegant trogon quietly sitting on a branch above a small stream. I could hardly breathe. This is one colorful bird.

I was the one, meanwhile, who saw the second trogon, and pointed it out. As our quartet of gazes shifted between the two birds, the first flew over to the second, and mated with her. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

I thought about this sighting, which took place on May 9, 2004, because I’m been thinking of a return trip to Garden Canyon, which I have never visited again. Nor have I seen another trogon.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Mammoth Cave http://tinyurl.com/kap7kxd For the armchair traveler – and my bucket list.

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Quotes from my Journal

A good road trip includes plenty of time to stop and smell the flowers along the way. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

“The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams, is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write in a journal. Take long walks in the woods.” Robin S. Sharma

One That Gave Me a New Dream

I love quotes, which is why each chapter in my soon to be published, Travels with Maggie, starts off with one about travel. Quotes also generously weave their way through my journals. Occasionally I’ll come across one that leaves me wondering what I was thinking when I wrote it, because it has little meaning for me this second time around. Others that I come across, are as significant to my life today as they were the first time around.

Here are a few that I think worth repeating:

“Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.” – Thomas Edison

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

“There are so many ways to lose your life besides dying.” – Mark Jenkins

“Oh, godddamit, we forgot the silent prayer!” – Dwight Eisenhower (This one simply because it made me laugh.)

“Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you have.” – Garth Brooks

“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me … leading wherever I choose.” – Walt Whitman

And plenty of time to bird watch as well. — Anhinga watercolor by Pat Bean

That last was my life for nine years, and maybe it will be once again. A road trip is

brewing in my little gray cells. A good long one to celebrate my 80th birthday in two years.

I need to step foot in my 50th state. The only one I haven’t visited. And it’s not Alaska or Hawaii. It’s little old Rhode Island, which I missed because I stayed too late up north the year I was just 20 miles from its border. I had to scamper south to escape a storm and cold weather. The more northern RV parks had already closed for the winter.

My initial thoughts for my proposed road trip to Rhode Island are that I travel no more than 300 miles a day, then sit out a day. I can write a book about it and call it Travels with Pepper, a sequel to my soon-to-be-published Travels with Maggie.

It’s a round trip of just over 5,000 miles from Tucson – I just looked the mileage up. But I take back roads and side-trips, so add at least another 1,000 miles. I figure it will take at least two months to do a leisurely loop to there and back, a southern route going and a northern route returning.

Now I have two years to figure out how to finance it, and where to stay along the way. I spent five years planning my nine-year, gallivanting RV days to make my dreams come true. Planning this road trip should be a piece of cake – and darn fun as well.

People need dreams. I’m glad I have a new one.

Bean Pat: Twenty Minutes a Day http://tinyurl.com/l26vy2x One of my favorite bloggers, and I love this Fort Worth museum. I think the portraits featured in the blog are great fodder for writers. Each face tells a story.

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