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“If you can dream it, you can do it. Remember this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”  — Walt Disney

Just playing around with color. -- By Pat Bean

Just playing around with color. — By Pat Bean

A Mind-Boggling Journey

I’ve been house-sitting my daughter’s home and five pets (two dogs, two cats and a horse) this past week. It’s a large house with TVs in almost every room, including a large flat screen in a family room that my entire apartment would almost fit into.

My daughter's West Tucson backyard is full of cactus, but this sketch of saguaros was made from a view of the Catalina Mountains closer to  my East Tucson nest.

My daughter’s West Tucson backyard is full of cactus, but this sketch of saguaros was made from a view of the Catalina Mountains closer to my East Tucson nest.

It was a whole different environment from my own little nest, which has no TV. I decided to just go with the flow, especially after I discovered an NCIS marathon on the boob tube. After all, I was only going to be here for three days.

But then my daughter’s family decided to expand their spring break for a day because everyone was having so much fun. Then it got expanded for them for another day because Dad got vertigo and couldn’t travel for 24 hours.

When I got that news, I decided perhaps I should get my butt out of the comfortable recliner that sat in front of the TV and catch up on e-mail, my writing, do a little art, and post a blog. That’s when I discovered the dead mouse.

But it wasn’t an eek moment. It was a time for a visit to the computer store. Suddenly I felt the whole world had changed while I had my back turned doing something else. I had gone from a childhood, in which my geometry teacher told me man would never get to the moon – and relying on my cat to catch the mouse that had invaded my bedroom – to being annoyed that my access to the whole Web World was hindered because of a dead mouse.

I was awed just thinking about it.

Bean Pat: Birding in Cape Town http://tinyurl.com/nny3ucq A delightful armchair journey.

Blue, Yellow, Red

Another thing that travel writer Catherine Watson share is that we've both visited the Galapagos and were fascinated by the wildlife, like this tortoise I watched on Santa Cruz Island. == Photo by Pat Bean

Another thing that travel writer Catherine Watson and I share is that we’ve both visited the Galapagos and were fascinated by the wildlife, like this tortoise I watched on Santa Cruz Island. == Photo by Pat Bean

            “What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.”—Maya Angelou

The Colors of Fear

            I just read the last chapter in Catherine Watson’s travel book, “Home on the Road.”  I understood the title perfectly as the road is where I, too, feel most at home. Catherine and I are both addicted wanderers. The travel bug bit her when she read the Tarzan books. It hit me when I read Osa Johnson’s “I Married Adventure.” Both of us at the time were still a few years away from being teenagers.  Both of us went on to become journalists – and. being of a similar age, both of us were taught as children how to hide beneath our school desks, cover our heads and close our eyes in case of a nuclear bomb attack by our arch-enemy, Russia.

And visited Ecuador, where I (I don't know where she stayed) stayed at this hotel in Guayaquil. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And we have both visited Ecuador, where I (I don’t know where Catherine  stayed) stayed at this hotel in Guayaquil. — Photo by Pat Bean

The last chapter in “Home on the Road” talks about those Cold War days, and how Catherine’s fears of being nuked negatively impacted her life. Looking back on my own life, I now wonder if that’s when I first begin sticking my head in the sand to block out bad stuff happening around me so I could pretend all was right with my world.

I suspect, having overcome our fears, is why Catherine and I can both fearlessly travel alone to unknown places, and why we’re not obsessively fearful of terrorist alerts, that after 9-11 varied in degree by designated  color – with blue being the lowest danger alert and red being the highest danger.

I can no longer stick my head in the sand and say the danger isn’t real, and even more dangerous than our Cold War fears. But I choose not to live my life in fear.

Catherine’s last story in her travel book related the fears she had as a child to what she was seeing when she took a 1979 Trans-Siberian Railroad trip across the then Soviet Union to get a “first-hand look at the country I’d spent my childhood being afraid of, The truth hit me hardest in Irkutsk…. Half the population was living in log cabins without indoor plumbing…. I watched old people wearing heavy clothes against the cold, carrying buckets and trudging slowly along dirt streets to get to the neighborhood water pipe, and suddenly I was flooded with anger.

“For this? ‘I thought,’ For this I gave up my childhood?”

She went on to say that this time around she refused to be afraid. I guess one time was enough for me, too. But I wonder what negative impacts young children today are suffering because our primary colors have become symbols of danger?

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat:  Bella Remy’s photos  http://tinyurl.com/n4rpcp2  Great photos of a pair of hoodies, also known as hooded mergansers. Looking at them makes up for the fact I was too slow to photograph the gila woodpecker that stood on my balcony rail this morning. Life is good.

Seven Wonders

  “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” – Saint Augustine

Yesterday's art. Painting, without fear of being perfect, is one of the things that gives me life its zest.

Yesterday’s art. Painting, without fear of being perfect, is one of the things that gives life its zest.

Of the World and of My Life

The original seven wonders of the world were: The Colossus of Rhodes, The Great Pyramid of Giza, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, The Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

This was the view below my bedroom balcony this morning. I love the way the plant's red leaves look like flowers and the shadows cast on the wall and am so glad that I still have zest for such beauty that  can only be seen if one looks.

This was the view below my bedroom balcony this morning. I love the way the plant’s red leaves look like flowers and the shadows cast on the wall and am so glad that I still have zest for such beauty that can only be seen if one looks.

None of these, however, made the modern Seven Wonders list, which was compiled in 2007 by over a million voters.  Chosen from 200 sites, the winners were The Taj Mahal in India, Perta in Jordan, The Colosseum in Italy, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Machu Picchu in Peru, The Great Wall of China, and Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil.

After learning about the latest list, my brain took a detour. What, I wondered, were the seven wonders of my life? This is the list I came up with.

  1.  My childhood: While, as most children do, I thought mine was horrible, I now think it was wonderful. I had freedom that kids today don’t have, and having no television or video games, I was forced to use my imagination, which today I treasure. As for the rough spots, they gave me strength to survive in the unfair world we live in.
  2.  My children: I used to have to touch my babies to make sure they were still breathing when they slept too quietly. They were wonders then, and they and their children and their children are wonders today. I feel blessed to have five children, 15 grandchildren and three (soon-to-be four) great-grandchildren in my life.
  3. Being a writer: I was 25 when I knew I wanted to write as much as I wanted to breathe. Two years later, I entered a newsroom and discovered where I belonged for the next 37 years. Even after retiring, I find I still need to write the same as I need to breathe. And it’s wonderful.
  4. Finally having the time and the freedom to discover myself, and the discovery that even after being disappointed in love, I still had lots of love in my life and the ability to love. The latter was the surprise gift I received when love for a man failed me. Knowing I could still love made the pain worthwhile.
  5. The Snake River and the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon: The rapids in these two rivers gave me over 20 years of adrenalin rushes after I had turned 40. Taking up white-water rafting was the perfect hobby for me after my children had all flown the coop. I never suffered a day of empty-nest syndrome.

    Of course you don't always have to look hard to find beauty. This butterfly shouts its magnificence. -- Photo by Pat Bean

    Of course you don’t always have to look hard to find beauty. This butterfly shouts its magnificence. — Photo by Pat Bean

  6. Making My Wanderlust Dreams Come True: As a child, I daydreamed about traveling this country from coast to coast and border to border. And I did just that in a small RV for nine years after retiring. I also made my dream of going on an African Safari come true. I feel truly blessed I had the opportunities, but I also accept that I made it happen. Now I just need to make that Australia trip I’ve been dreaming about come true as well.
  7. My Zest for Life: I still wake up eager for what the day will bring. I love nature in all her many forms, I love writing, I love birds, I love art, I love people and I still love riding roller coasters and jumping out of airplanes.

These are the wonders of my life. What are yours?

Bean Pat: Digital Native http://tinyurl.com/kdwa5t9 You’re only as old as you let yourself be – at least in spirit.

Excuses

   “The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse.” – Jules Renard

Pages from my past ... which have nothing to do with this blog But that's not an excuse.

Pages from my past … which have nothing to do with this blog But that’s not an excuse.

I’ve Given Them Up I recently read that John Steinbeck’s dog ate the first draft of his novel “Of Mice and Men.” It sounded sort of like the excuse I gave to an English teacher one time when I hadn’t done my homework assignment.

I'm rereading all my journals these days -- most for the first time. What fun.

I’m rereading all my journals these days — most for the first time. What fun.

That was a lifetime ago, when making excuses came as easily to my tongue as a Hershey’s Kiss to my mouth. Those chocolate drops still slide easily into the mouth, but I’ve mostly given up on the excuses, both for things I choose not to do, or for things I did that I wish I hadn’t done. Either way, it was my choice, and I can live with the consequences. I guess that makes me a free woman.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Road Trip http://tinyurl.com/k7hkt9g I love dark and stormy clouds but fluffy ones are OK too. And I love this photo, too.

This is just a fraction of the sandhills that were whirring through the air before landing, and joining hundreds that were already on the shore. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is just a fraction of the sandhills that were whirring through the air before landing, and joining hundreds that were already on the shore. — 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

Sandhill Cranes Galore

It was a peaceful walk through the wetlands area with a cool breeze blowing through my hair. I loved every second of my time spent at the National Recreational Area. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It was a peaceful walk through the wetlands area with a cool breeze blowing through my hair. I loved every second of my time spent at the National Recreational Area. — Photo by Pat Bean

The first sandhill cranes I ever saw were alongside the Sawtooth Scenic Highway somewhere north of Ketchum, Idaho in 1983. I was taking a drive with a forest ranger for a story I was writing for the Twin Falls Times-News. There were about a dozen of the large birds, but I wouldn’t have known what they were if the forest ranger hadn’t identified them.

The next time I saw sandhill cranes was more than 10 years later when I was doing a story on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. By this time I had become an avid birder, and I could identify birds on my own – well at least with my Roger Tory Peterson birding field guide, There were only four sandhill cranesthis time, two pairs. The sighting, however, was special because the two pairs were doing their courting dance.

The line of sandhills stretched almost out of sight. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The line of sandhills stretched almost out of sight. — Photo by Pat Bean

I saw sandhill cranes pretty regularly after that, both in Utah and Texas. The one other time that stands out was when a small flock of sandhill cranes did a flyby over by head at the Morgan (Utah) Sewage Ponds.

But it wasn’t until this past week, when this non-wandering wanderer took a road trip to Whitewater Draw southeast of Tucson, that I saw thousands of sandhill cranes at one time. Between 20,000 to 30,000 sandhill cranes make this 600-acre wetlands their winter home.

I watched this awesome cinnamon teal groom itself for a good 10 minutes. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I watched this awesome cinnamon teal groom itself for a good 10 minutes. — Photo by Pat Bean

I visited the site in the early afternoon, when the cranes stretched out for probably a quarter mile on opposite shorelines. And they were still coming in when I left about 4 p.m., after taking a loop hike through the wetlands.

In addition to sandhill cranes, I saw coots, ruddy ducks, lesser scaup, common yellowthroats, robins, northern shovelers and cinnamon teal. What a great day!

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park http://tinyurl.com/p5mupnk And here’s a good place to visit to see winter wildflowers.

Tusker Beer

        “It’s always better when you give a damn!” – John D. MacDonald

Kim and I with our Tusker's beer after a long, dusty day.

Kim and I with our Tusker’s beer after a long, dusty day.

Theroux Recaptures an African Night

I’m slowly reading Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux. I emphasize slowly because Theroux’s writing cannot be fully appreciated any other way. In the book, he has just crossed into Kenya from Ethiopia, having been shot at by bandits during his journey as a $3 paying passenger aboard a cattle truck whose normal speed is 10 mph because of the pot-holed, boulder-dotted, deep-rutted road.

Our tent in Pornini Camp in Kenya. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our tent in Pornini Camp in Kenya. — Photo by Pat Bean

When the truck stops for the night in the town of Marsabit, he writes: “I walked around and found a place to stay, the Jey Jey … another three-dollar room. I had a shower in the communal washhouse, then walked to the market, drank a Tusker beer, and talked to some locals, boasting, ‘I got shot at.’ No one was surprised or impressed…”

Reading this flooded my little gray cells with memories. While I wasn’t shot at during my two weeks in Africa, I had experienced Africa’s rough roads (in a Land Rover with English-speaking native guides) and had stayed overnight in Africa (in isolated, but usually luxurious accommodations). But it wasn’t these things that ensnared my brain’s neurons, it was the mention of Tusker Beer.

The sundowner sunset. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The sundowner sunset. — Photo by Pat Bean

After a full day of travel that included crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya, on roads as rough as Theroux described, I and my traveling companion Kim finally arrived at our tent camp near Amboseli National Park. We were just in time for a Sundowner, a late safari to a scenic spot to watch the sun go down. Still dusty from our day’s drive, we found a spot to park our weary bodies, and were handed a Tusker beer.

It was the perfect ending to an already perfect, if tiring, day. Thanks for the memories Paul. They made thus current non-wandering wanderer smile.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: A Birdy Lunch http://tinyurl.com/n8wmaup This blog makes me want to pack up and head to Costa Rico.

Sunrise in a Different Place

“Know where to find the sunrise and sunset times and note how the sky looks at those times — at least once.” — Marilyn vos Savant

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Sunrise at my apartment in northeast Tucson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Sunrise at my apartment in northeast Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

“What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?” E.M.Forster

Fuel for a Wanderlust Soul 

I spent the night at my daughter’s home last night. We live 13 miles apart, she on the southwest side of Tucson, and me on the northeast side of Tucson. When I took Pepper outside to do her business this morning here, the sky was still dark, but with a creeping streak of blood-orange color barely peeping through swaths of low-lying inky black clouds.

A more fiery Texas sunrise. (I didn't have my camera with me to photograph this morning's sunrise here in southwest Tucson.) -- Photo by Pat Bean

A more fiery Texas sunrise. (I didn’t have my camera with me to photograph this morning’s sunrise here in southwest Tucson.) — Photo by Pat Bean

Fifteen minutes later, when I rechecked how the sunrise was progressing, the entire eastern horizon was ablaze with streaks of fiery orange color and purple swaths of clouds set beneath a deep blue sky. It was a magnificent sight that took my breath away.

On my side of Tucson, sunrise comes a few minutes later, usually rising up above a landscape ridge in a golden glow. It offers a quieter awakening to the day. But sunsets as seen from my apartment’s balcony usually go out with a bang that rivals any fireworks display.

I find no better way to welcome the day than by watching the sunrise, nor a better to way to end it than by watching a sunset. I’ve watched many in my lifetime, and have found each one beautiful in its own way. No two are ever alike.

Watching these miracles of nature makes me feel good to be alive — and  thankful for my many blessings.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Medicine Lake http://tinyurl.com/l55ztkk Jasper National Park. Beautiful photos that rekindled my memories of when I visited this awesome landscape.

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