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Jack jump up and kiss me plant. -- Wikimedia photo

Jack jump up and kiss me plant. — Wikimedia photo

                If I  had  my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to  more dances. I would  ride more merry-go-rounds. I would  pick more daisies..” – Nadine Stair

Too Numerous to List

            At one time in my life, I decided to keep a list of the wildflowers I came across on my hikes and walks, the same as I keep a list of the birds I see for the very first time. It was a decision that I quickly gave up as a hopeless task, right after I learned that a daisy comes in over 20,000 species and each, most likely, has dozens of common names.

So I just started enjoying the flowers, and identifying them by the name I liked best.

Butter and eggs. -- Wikimedia photo

Butter and eggs. — Wikimedia photo

One of my favorites is the one I call butter and eggs, a non-native plant considered a weed that is now common across much of North America. It’s also called toadflax, plus such local colloquial names as brideweed,   butter haycocks, bread and butter, bunny haycocks, bunny mouths, calf’s snout, Continental weed, dead men’s bones, devil’s flax, devil’s flower, dragon bushes, eggs and bacon, gallwort, impudent lawyer, Jacob’s ladder,  monkey flower, ramsted, rabbit flower and wild tobacco, just to name a few. .

I can’t help but wonder where the “impudent lawyer” moniker came from, just as I wonder about the name given a small purple wildflower that I’ve often come across. Among other names, it’s known as the Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me-flower. It also goes by such names as the Johnny jump up, hearts ease, three faces in a hood, tickle-my-fancy, love-in-idleness and wild pansy.

So now do you understand why I don’t keep a flower list?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

            Bean Pat: Mr. Grumpy Gets a Bath http://tinyurl.com/goay5lg For fans of Ogden Nash and birders interested in grackles and coots.

Texas Bluebonnets

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part and discuss it only with consenting adults.” – Molly Ivins

Texas bluebonnets are now in bloom. -- Photo by Deborah Bean

Texas bluebonnets are now in bloom. — Photo by Deborah Bean

And a Thoughtful Daughter

If you’re a Texan, you brag a bit. At least that’s how it is with all the Texans I know, including myself. While it’s not a trait that will gain you friends, we just can’t help ourselves.

So if you’ll forgive me, I’ll just say that when it comes to bluebonnets, Texas outdoes itself. Nowhere else on earth does this Texas native flower grow as well or as abundantly. If you’ve ever seen a meadow full of them, I’m sure you will agree.

Such a sight always makes my heart beat quicken with joy.

The problem for me, however, is that they’re currently in full bloom – and my trip to Texas to attend a writer’s conference isn’t until mid-April.

Because I know Texas’ bluebonnets have a short growing season, I mentioned to my Dallas daughter that I was afraid they would be gone before I got there.

In response she sent me the above photo. I’m twice blessed.

Bean Pat: Trees with stories to tell http://tinyurl.com/jl3ud9e  You don’t want to miss this National Geography post. The trees pictured in black and white are magnificent.

Cooks vs. Chefs

“Too many cooks spoil the broth.” – Unknown, but both my grandmother and mother used to say it when one or the other got in their way in the kitchen. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like other people in my kitchen.

Everything tastes good when you're camping beside the Snake River in Wyoming. --Photo by Kim Perin.

Everything tastes good when you’re camping beside the Snake River in Wyoming. –Photo by Kim Perrin.

Get Out of My Kitchen

            Jean, my best friend in Tucson is a chef who worked in Europe when she was young and now teaches high school students to cook. Her food, which I sometimes get to share, both looks and tastes fantastic, especially her beef stew, which is the best I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Or watching wildlife with a good friend in Africa, which Kim and I did in 2007. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Or watching wildlife with a good friend in Africa, which Kim and I did in 2007. — Photo by Pat Bean

But Jean, although she’s always giving me a hard time about my kitchen techniques – like the fact that I use my dishwasher to store plastic bags and not for washing dishes — likes my food. That makes me happy because I like nothing better than cooking for people.

I consider myself an inventive cook and rarely make the same dish exactly the same way twice. It usually depends on what’s on hand in the refrigerator and pantry, and what ingredient or leftover I need to use before it goes bad.  I rarely throw food out, which is why at least once a week I make soup from odds and ends of veggies, meats and leftovers.

I call it Refrigerator soup. Thankfully I have an instinct about what ingredients will taste good together and it’s only once or twice a year that the mixed results don’t turn out tasty, well at least to me.

I also specialize – back from the days when I worked full-time out of the home and put dinner on the table for seven people every evening at 6 o’clock – in quickie meals*.

Still one of my favorites from those days is to mix Wolf Chili (I prefer no beans) with Hormel Beef Tamales (including the juice) in a casserole dish, throw some cheese on top, and pop it in the oven until it’s hot and bubbly. Sometimes I also throw in onions.

I fixed the dish for Jean once – and she loved it. Now when she gets a craving for it, she asks me to make it again, as she only makes food from scratch.  Chefs, you see, don’t open cans. Just us cooks do that.

Bean Pat: The ospreys have returned http://tinyurl.com/jp2pwlh This one’s for bird lovers, or anyone for that matter.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

*Two other tasty, quick meals from cans.

            Noodles and Tomatoes: 1 can Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, 1 can tomatoes with chilies, and a generous splash of sour cream. A great late-night treat.

            Red Beans and Rice: Cook three slices of chopped bacon with one small onion, then add two cups cooked rice and one can Ranch Style Beans and red pepper or chili powder to taste.        

 

Daylight Saving Time

“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” – Bil Keane

This is the kind of landscape I was living in when Texas changed to Daylight Saving Time back in 1967.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is the kind of landscape I was living in when Texas changed to Daylight Saving Time back in 1967. — Photo by Pat Bean

A Memory from the Past

            When the change to Daylight Saving Time rolls around each year, my memory bank gets a jolt of fresh power that takes me back to my days as a reporter on a small Texas Gulf Coast newspaper.  Texas began its annual clock manipulation, as a way to save on energy costs, the same year that I walked into my first newspaper.

And this is the Arizona landscape where I live now, and which does not participate in Daylight Saving Time. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And this is the Arizona landscape where I live now, and which does not participate in Daylight Saving Time. — Photo by Pat Bean

While the benefits of Daylight Savings Time have been much questioned, there’s no question in my mind that this event was a first step on my road to a 37-year journalism career. You see, that 1967 newspaper story about the time change carried my first-ever byline.

I remember the managing editor lecturing me afterwards on how I could have made the article better, like not starting every sentence almost the same way.  A few years later, I reread the story and cringed. While it was grammatically correct, it lacked grace. It read like a toddler taking their first step. But then that’s exactly what I had been doing at the time.

It took many, many years after that first story before I could comfortably call myself a writer. And some days, I still question the title.

Meanwhile, I’ll never forget that first timely baby step.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: On Growing a Spine http://tinyurl.com/jrn97k4 Some people are born with one, and some, like me, have to grow them. This blog reminded me that I, too, was almost 40 before the growth began.

The Blahs

      “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” James Oppenheim

While it's been sunny outside, the past two weeks have been dark and overcast in my head. -- By Pat Bean

While it’s been sunny outside, the past two weeks have been dark and overcast in my head. — By Pat Bean

I have a Case

I have always been a high-energy kind of person, one who thrives on ending a day with a feeling of accomplishment. A good day for me has always been one in which I have completed a project or activity and learned something new.

But perhaps the sun came out today. -- By Pat Bean

But perhaps the sun came out today. — By Pat Bean

Of course I’ve had days that have been eaten up by computer games, non-stop reading or television (more the first two than the latter), but they have mostly been singular in nature with better days in between. And I don’t begrudge the reading days because I count them as learning days.

This blah episode, however, has stretched into two weeks, which accounts for the absence of recent blogs.

I’ve been sitting here this morning, curled up in a blanket in my recliner with my morning coffee and my laptop, searching for answers to the dilemma — because accomplishing nothing for days on end does not make me a happy person.

First I gave myself credit for things I did accomplish just before this case of the blahs set in. I finished my fourth rewrite of Travels with Maggie, submitted a flash fiction piece to a contest and took on a new doggie baby-sitting client. The latter means I now have three dogs to walk every day. While that uses up an extra bit of time and energy it’s not that much. And besides, the extra walking is good for me. So scratch that excuse.

Perhaps I’m dawdling because I’m anxious about taking the next step on my travel book? That actually sounds possible.

And then, there’s the unrelated fact that today is St. Patrick’s Day – the time of year when my mother died. She actually died on a Friday the 13th, with her memorial service on St. Patrick’s Day. I still miss her, but I don’t think she’s the cause of my blahs. I mean I didn’t realize it was this time of year until today.

Perhaps I just needed some time off — and perhaps writing this blog means I’m ready to get back to being myself. I certainly hope so.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: My Beautiful Things http://tinyurl.com/jvf5h8e Relax and take a walk through the woods to the beach from your armchair.

 

The Great Dismal Swamp. -- photo by Pat Bean

The Great Dismal Swamp. — photo by Pat Bean

“Everything we do every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

It was a Surprise

            I have two traveling styles. The first is a mile-by-mile research of all the sights and attractions I will be seeing from Point A to Point B. I highly recommend it as it gives meaning to the seeing. The second is simply to choose a route to get me from Point A to Point B and be surprised along the way. I highly recommend this method of road trips, too.

Sailboats on the Great Dismal Swamp behind the North Carolina Welcome Center off Highway 17.  Photo by Pat Bean

Sailboats on the Great Dismal Swamp behind the North Carolina Welcome Center off Highway 17. Photo by Pat Bean

It’s not that one method is better, simply different, as are so many of life’s choices.

The Great Dismal Swamp was one of those surprises for me. I didn’t know it even existed before I came across it a few years back,. I was traveling westward from Virginia Beach, zig-zagging on back roads until I reached Highway 17.

It was a late October morning, sunny, but cool, when I came across this great marsh with its waterlogged trees, poisonous snakes and dark waters that hid what lurked below. Of course I had to explore it a bit. Just its name, Great Dismal Swamp, captured both my curiosity and my imagination.

My stopping place was a welcome center in North Carolina just across the border from Virginia. It had a picnic area for both motorists and boaters, with a parking lot entrance for vehicles off Highway 17 and a dock at the rear of the building to accommodate water traffic on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.  Inside, I found a mountain of information on the swamp, which  until that day I hadn’t known existed.

The short hiking trail wasn't dismal at all. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The short hiking trail wasn’t dismal at all. — Photo by Pat Bean

. The creation of the canal through it was the idea of George Washington and his investor colleagues. They saw it as a means to accommodate trade between Virginia and an isolated region of North Carolina. Today, the 22-mile long canal provides boaters a shortcut between the Elizabeth River and Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and the Pasquotank River in North Carolina. In Washington’s time, it was the only easy passage through the mucky swamp.

Six large sailboats, quite nifty compared to the small 21-foot sloop I used to sail on the Great Salt Lake, were double-parked at the welcome center’s dock. After ogling the sailboats with an experienced eye, and exploring the visitor center and its manicured grounds, I found a path leading off into the forest. A sign identified it as “The Dismal Swamp Nature Trail,” with an added cautionary note to “Beware of Snakes.”

Actually it was a quite civilized trail, with markers identifying black cherry and mulberry trees, a cheerful squirrel dashing among the foliage, and a tufted titmouse whistling me along its fallen leaf carpet. The narrow path led along the canal for a while, then circled around into a more forested area before dumping me out, far too quickly, near the parking lot.

On the far side of the canal, the landscape was fiercer. There were no paths, only a mass of tangled vines and nature debris hiding and sheltering its wild occupants, like black bears and bobcats. The swamp also plays host to over 200 species of birds. Its tangled webs of vines, unsure footing and dangerous wildlife keep most people out, which is why it became a refuge for America’s former slaves.

The runaway slaves passed through it on their hopeful way to freedom, while others chose to live in the swamp as an alternative to slavery. Harriett Beecher Stow, whose book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sympathetically described the sad plight of slaves, wrote a second book, “Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp,” whose title character was an escaped, angry slave who lived in it.

Back in my RV, still pondering facts I had learned, I continued following Highway 17 south until it intersected with Highway 158, a well-maintained but little traveled road that took me through the middle of the swamp. The 38-mile drive through the quagmire took me from the swamp’s eastern edge to its western edge — and because I stopped often to take photos, two hours to cover.

I rank that day’s Road Trip Surprise a solid 11, on a 1 to 10 ranking.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Determination http://tinyurl.com/jj5zsg4 Some great quotes.

 

“ G**D**! How magnificently, intricate, interwoven and complex this all is. How can we make ourselves worthy of our limited comprehensions of such magnificence?” — George Sibley

Taking on Henry David Thoreau

The complexity of nature means when the water level is low here, wading birds are the prominent species. When it's not so shallow, ducks claim it as their habitat. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The complexity of nature means when the water level is low here, wading birds are the prominent species. When it’s not so shallow, ducks claim it as their habitat. — Photo by Pat Bean

            I’ve long been a fan of Henry David Thoreau, whose quote,- “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” has long been a personal mantra. But after reading his famed book, Walden, I was left with a nagging thought that parts of it were like Jell-O that never set.

It's not a simple thing becoming a plant from a seed. Everything has to work just right. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It’s not a simple thing becoming a plant from a seed. Everything has to work just right. — Photo by Pat Bean

Now I’m all for living a simple life. My daughters sometimes even chastise me because my kitchen gadgets are few and my can opener a manual one. And I’m truly against buying stuff – that lesson was doubly taught me when I got rid of everything to move all my possessions, plus me and my canine companion into a 21-foot motor home. I was amazed at how many things I had two of – and didn’t even know it.

But I don’t want to live in the woods without a bathtub and eat beans. I want to enjoy at least some of the benefits the human race has accomplished in its lifetime.

Even nature is not simple. It’s complex, as I learned as a reporter covering environmental issues.  You try to save one plant or species and you impact another. You practice conservation and you take away somebody’s livelihood. A tragic flood or fire also comes with benefits.

And when it comes to relationships, each one has so many different complexities that you couldn’t even began to count them.

Nope, life is not simple. So we might just as well embrace it, as Sibley pointed out in his essay, featured in the anthology, When in Doubt, Go Higher.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: On thin Ice http://tinyurl.com/gl4wgbh My kind of outdoor adventure, especially at my age.

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