Archive for the ‘African Safari’ Category

An emu dad is a candidate for father of the year. He takes care of chicks, even if they are not his own, for up to 18 months.

  In 1999, at a time in my life when I was slowing down, I took up birdwatching. It’s still been about the only thing I’ve ever done that absolutely requires patience, something I always thought couch-potatoes used as an excuse to Be lazy.

 In the beginning, I spent hours and hours on the Antelope Island Causeway in Great Salt Lake learning to identify ducks. The island was also the first place I saw a bird through a telescope. It was a western meadowlark, and the golden color of the bird’s throat took my breath away.

 As I learned more and more about these winged creatures, I became partial to the ones that seemed to be feminists, outshining or out-sexing the normally more colorful males.

First there was the belted kingfisher. I was delighted to learn that the female was the more colorful of the two genders. It sports a reddish belly band on its blue and white feathers which the male lacks.

 Then came the Galapagos hawk, which I saw in the Galapagos. The female, after she lays her eggs, leaves all the nest sitting and chick-tending to her male partner, while she goes off and finds another male to mate with.

 This somewhat made up for most birds, like sage grouse males whose only contribution to their female partners is to impregnate them, which takes no more time than two blinks of an eye.

The males gather in what is called a lek, and drum by expanding their chests to attract the females, who to my feminist delight were very picky and often walked away. I got to watch this action, after hiking before dawn to a blind on Desert Ranch in Utah.

Another avian feminist is the African jacana, a bird I saw during a 2007 safari to Kenya and Tanzania.  It’s a wading bird species in which the female also leaves all the chick rearing to the male while she finds another partner.

 Then there’s the giant emu. After producing an egg, the brooding, and then the care and feeding of the hatchlings is all the male’s responsibility, even if all the eggs aren’t his own. He has even learned how to carry a chick beneath his wings.

 You go girls?

 Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

A two-week safari in Africa was certainly a mile-marker in my life. Here I’m standing at an overlook of the Ngorongoro Crater in front of a sign with mile markers to various cities around the world. — Photo by Kim Perrin

My Story Circle’s writing prompt this month was to write about life’s mile markers. I chose to create a 10 point list of people who helped get me through some of those times.  Here’s my list – which easily could have been much longer.

1: My grandmother. During my early years, the only person I was for sure loved me was my grandmother. Our dysfunctional family lived with her. She was not a sweet granny, although she cooked like one, but a woman with strong opinions and standards that she expected to be met – and she favored a supple switch to the back of the legs if they weren’t.  But I could outrun her and she had a quick-to-forgive nature. Sadly, she died when I was 11.

2: My mother, although I wouldn’t realize or accept it until I was in my mid-30s. She, too, was a strong woman, one who took what life allowed her before equal rights was even considered. She loved her four children but was not vocal about it, or a hugger. She was the rock that made sure the family had food on the table and a bed under a roof to sleep in at night. She was not a complainer but a doer.

3: A cadre of “village” women – Dorothy, Louise, Jeri – who took a too-young woman with five children under their wings and supported her until she could get her own feet on the ground.

Kim and I shared Africa together, and here is a photo of us after a very long, but wonderful, day of bouncing in the back of a Land Rover over the Serengeti.

4: Roberta, the city editor who pushed a wanna-be writer and would-be reporter over and over again to the crying point, teaching her how to become a professional and ethical journalist who would go on to have a successful 37-year award-winning career in the newspaper industry.

5: David, a gay man and my reporter colleague at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who supported me during the hardest two years of my personal life, which included divorce and family failures.

6: Cliff Cheney, a managing editor who believed in my journalism potential. He hired me for a very difficult job, and when I whined after undertaking it, and asked him why he had done this to me, he sat back, put his feet on his desk, and said: “Because I knew you could handle it Pat.” He died in a car accident that very night, but his words empowered me for rest of my career.

7: My friend Kim, who has been in my life for 40 years now. We fill each other’s holes because we are two very different people. We have worked together, played together, celebrated birthdays together, hiked together, argued together, traveled together, gotten lost together, and these days Zoom together because we now live in two different states. My life is richer because Kim is part of it.

A recent Facebook picture of my friend Jean, who is a teacher and having her own mile-marker moments of learning to teach online. She makes me smile and laugh.

8: All the wonderful, talented women in Story Circle Network who helped me find my personal, non-journalistic voice after I retired.  Without the support of this group, my book Travels with Maggie would never have been published.  This group also keeps me daily in touch with like-minded, caring intelligent women who encourage this old broad to keep writing.

9: My friend Jean, who like Kim is as different from me as night and day. It is the best kind of friend to have because it ensures that life is never boring. Jean is part of my daily life here in Tucson, the kind of friend this old broad needs to stay on her toes. Jean challenges me to continue thinking outside my comfortable box, brings the world into my apartment where I’ve tended to get too comfortable, and makes me laugh. She’s my Happy Hour a couple of times a week, and the person my kids call when I go missing for more than a few hours.

10: Last, but certainly not least, is my family. I have five children and their families, 15 grandchildren and their families, and seven great-grandchildren. I have a different relationship with each, am closer to some than others, but all have a place in my heart. I regularly learn from them. They fuel my life and make it feel meaningful.





Read Full Post »

          “We ought to think we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree.” Pablo Casals

The elephant and the baobab tree. — Photo by Kim Perrin

Morning Chat

Dredging up good memories of our shared 2007 trip to Kenya and Tanzania during my friend Kim’s visit over New Year’s had me looking back at the photos of our adventure this morning — while I was also pondering what to blog about today.

One of the photos I pulled up was the one above that Kim took of an elephant and a baobab tree. It takes a lot to make an elephant look small, I thought as I studied the snapshot, then found the notes I had jotted down about baobab trees.

A tree of a different kind, denoting how far to elsewhere. I think I took this photo of Kim at our stay in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Kim took the most photos on our trip, but I wrote the most notes. Together we made a good team. Anyway, my notes on the baobabs included one of the legends about why the tree looks as if grows upside down. Like an Aesop fable, it describes what happens if you are never satisfied with what you already have:

According to my notes, the baobab was among the first trees to appear on the land. Next came the slender, graceful palm tree. When the baobab saw the palm tree, it cried out that it wanted to be taller. Then the beautiful flame tree appeared with its red flower and the baobab was envious for flower blossoms. When the baobab saw the magnificent fig tree, it prayed for fruit as well. The gods became angry with the tree and pulled it up by its roots, then replanted it upside down to keep it quiet.

This story then reminded me of my favorite Garth Brooks’ quote: “Happiness isn’t getting what you want. It’s wanting what you got.”

My fingers on my computer keyboard took it from there. I had a blog, and my New Year’s resolution to blog every other day is still unbroken.

Bean Pat: To all tree huggers, of which I am one. And to the author of Miss Pelican’s Perch blog https://misspelicansperch.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/a-small-corner-in-my-realm/#like-5810 who sounds like a woman after my own heart.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

“Every journey is personal. Every journey is spiritual. You can’t compare them, can’t replace, can’t repeat. You can bring back the memories but they only bring tears to your eyes.” — Diana Ambarsari

While I’ll never accomplish such a feat as walking the entire distance of the Nile River, I have had adventures, like going on Safari to Kenya and Tanzania. Above, me at the Amboseli Airport in Kenya. — Photo by Kim Perrin.

Found at the Library

I talk often about my wanderlust being fueled by such travel writers as Tim Cahill, William Least Heat Moon, Osa Johnson, Charles Kuralt, John Steinbeck, Freya Stark and Paul

Theroux. I felt as if I were following in their footsteps when my book, Travels with Maggie, was finally published.

Now, a book I checked out at the library has given me a new idol, Levison Wood, a British Army officer and explorer who is best known for his walking expeditions in Africa, Asia and Central America. But I had never heard of him until I picked up his book, Walking the Nile, from the travel section of my small branch library.

I was only a few pages into the book before I added Wood to my travel writer hero list. The start of his adventure, in December of 2013, at the tiny spring which is acknowledged as one of the sources of the Nile so long sought by 19th century explorers, hooked me.

Wrote Levison, about why he walked the 4,250-mile length of the Nile, “…I wanted to follow in a great tradition, to achieve something unusual and inspire in others the thirst to do the same. Much of my motivation was selfish, of course – to go on the greatest adventure of my life, to see what people can only dream about, and test myself to the limits. But ultimately, it came down to one thing. The Nile was there, and I wanted to walk it.”

Levison inspired me. While my body is no longer up to long expeditions or strenuous adventures, surely there are still small ones in my future, like walking the 10-mile path beside the Rillito River (It’s really only a river when it rains hard) here in Tucson. As an old broad, I’ve come to the conclusion that what counts is not the distance, or the speed, but that you just keep moving.

Meanwhile, I’m thankful for books, such as Wood’s Walking the Nile, which with just a little bit of imagination, can take me and my wanderlust anywhere in the world we want to go.

Bean Pat: Oh, the places we’ll see … http://tinyurl.com/y8aels9d Maine’s orange sunsets. I liked this because it took me back to my visit to Maine.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com


Read Full Post »

Alone or Lonely

      “We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.” Tennessee Williams

That's my canine companion Pepper on the right playing tug of war with her best forever girlfriend Dusty. -- Photo by Pat Bean

That’s my canine companion Pepper on the right playing tug of war with her best forever girlfriend Dusty. — Photo by Pat Bean

Shared Touch and Thoughts

I’m a single woman who lives alone, and sleeps with her canine companion. I’m not the least bit lonely, but the shared warmth of another creature curled up against my back gives me great comfort, I thought about this as I awoke this morning, and felt Pepper’s small body snug against mine.

And here they are sharing a spot of sun. I think I would be lonely without my Pepper, and perhaps she would be lonely too if she didn't see Dusty almost every day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And here they are sharing a spot of sun. I think I would be lonely without my Pepper, and perhaps she would be lonely too,  if she didn’t see Dusty almost every day. — Photo by Pat Bean

As usual, the second I stirred, my canine companion Pepper became animated, insisting that we go for a walk right this minute! I obliged, taking only as long as it took me to slip on some clothes and smooth down my nest of night hair. Back in my apartment, I put the coffee on, gave Pepper her morning treat, and straightened the kitchen as I waited for the caffeine to brew.

Once settled with a cup of cream-laced java, I wrote in my journal for a bit then picked up a book to read for a bit before getting to one of the things on my always-too-long daily to-do list. The book was Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen, whose essays remind me a lot of Ellen Goodman, who is 11 years younger than Anna and of my generation.

I recently came across a column about turning 40 written by Ellen that I had saved in my journal. Anna’s essay, which I was reading this morning, was also about aging, but written from the prospective of a woman in her 50s; so I guess it’s really true. Fifty is the new 40.

As one who was a journalist for 37 years, I’m drawn to the writing of these two women, who are both Pulitzer-Prize winning columnists. Reading their thoughts, which in many instances mirror my own, gives me as much companionship as does my Pepper.

I’m thankful I have family and friends who are there for me, both for companionship and for when I need them, but I’m also thankful for all the time I have to be alone. I’ve considered myself an extrovert for most of my life, and that is indeed a part of who I am, but as I look back on my busy, chaotic life, I realized I was always looking for a spare minute just to be with myself.

These days I have that time — but I don’t think it would be nearly as enjoyable as it is without a canine companion, good books, and friends and family out there when you need them. But then perhaps that’s not being alone at all.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: In the Paw Prints of Lions http://tinyurl.com/z7zhjrh Watching lions in Africa was one of the highlights of my African safari to Kenya and Tanzania – and I liked this blog because of the good memories it leaked into my head. But our guide always made us stay in the Land Rover.

Read Full Post »

Oh and yet another reason I like watching Survivor is its settings, like Africa. And the scenes often show birds, like this hammerkop at the foot of the zebras. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Oh and yet another reason I like watching Survivor is its settings, like Africa. And the scenes often show birds, like this hammerkop at the foot of the zebras. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” — Paul Tillich

Gen Xers vs. Millennials

I’m not sure I’ve shared one of my secret vices. I’m an avid Survivor fan who hasn’t missed a single one of its 33 seasons. This year it’s Generation Xers (those born between the mid-1960’s and the early 1980’s ) versus the Millennials, those young whippersnappers now between the ages of 18 and 33

And Survivor provides this wandering-wonderer with some nice armchair travels. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

And Survivor provides this wandering-wonderer with some nice armchair travels. — Photo by Kim Perrin

Being very competitive myself, the competitions are my favorite parts of the show. After that, it’s seeing how people react and relate to one another in stressful situations. Although I didn’t quite understand it during the first few seasons, because I was still of the mentality that the strongest should win, I now appreciate that it takes a combination of skills – strength, intelligence, sociability, staying power and will power to get to the end.

In this year’s competition, Survivor host Jeff Probst asked a question that showed the difference between the two competing age groups , and I found the answers intriguing.

How do you spell the word you when you text? Jeff asked.

“Y.O.U” answered the Gen Xers. “Just U” said the Millennials, and said the other way was “behind the times and old-style.” “But there’s a grace to the language,” said the Xers.

As someone who led the Baby Boomers in to this world, I cheered that rebuttal. I always spell out the word you – and all other words besides. I find it difficult when tweeting to even use the & sign when forced because of the limited number of letters.

Not that there is anything wrong with “U,” but simply because I enjoy the proper use of language that I was taught as a youngster. Change doesn’t come easy.

So how do you spell the word you when texting?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Wandering Cows http://tinyurl.com/hewo3na Take an armchair trip on a Jacobite Steam Train in Scotland.




Read Full Post »

             “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Jawaharial Nehru

Great gray owl in flight. -- Wikimedia photo, Arne List.

Great gray owl in flight. — Wikimedia photo, Arne List.

Feeding my Wanderlust

            I’ve had wanderlust in my soul since reading “I Married Adventure” by Osa Johnson when I was 10 years old. Going on an African Safari in 2007, and finally seeing the wildlife she so vividly describes in her book, was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, as was traveling the United States from border-to-border and coast-to-coast for nine years in a small RV.

Great gray owl, Ontario, Canada. -- Wikimedia photo

North America’s largest owl, the great gray owl in Ontario, Canada. — Wikimedia photo

While my traveling days are not over, they are currently put on hold because of age and lack of deep pockets. I compensate by reading travel blogs and books. I also read a lot about birds, as birding is a late-blooming passion that addicted me at exactly the right time in my life.

Both birding and my wanderlust came together when I picked up Neil Hayward’s book Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year. The passage I was reading this morning was Neil’s account of chasing a Connecticut warbler in Sax Zim Bog. The name stopped me cold, tickling and delighting my wanderlust the same as hearing the names of places like Timbuctoo, Shangri-La and Zanzibar.

So of course I had to find my atlas, and then explore the Internet to learn more about the bog. The exotic sounding place is about 300 square miles of not just bog, but also aspen uplands, rivers, lakes, meadows, farms and a couple of towns in Northern Minnesota. Neil, doused liberally with mosquito repellant, visited a quite boggy patch of Sax Zim to successfully find his target bird, allowing me to follow him along in my armchair without getting bitten.

My bonus for taking the journey with Neil, followed by my online research, was to discover a You Tube video of a great gray owl sighting in Sax Zim Bog. It was so beautiful I almost cried. Sadly this bird is not on my life list of over 700 birds. But who knows what the future may hold?

Bean Pat: Great gray owl sighting at Sax Zim Bog http://tinyurl.com/gopkqt7 I hope this video thrills you as much as it did me.

Read Full Post »

“This idea that being youthful is the only thing that’s beautiful or attractive simply isn’t true. I don’t want to be an ‘ageless beauty.’ I want to be a woman who is the best I can be at my age. ” –Sharon Stone

Photo by Pat Bean

The fossilized rock tree, araucarioxylon arizonicum, known as Old Faithful, can be found in  Petrified Forest National Park — Photo by Pat Bean

An Old Tree 

Araucarioxylon arizonicum: I can’t pronounce it, but I did learn that it was one of the most common trees found in a 225 million year old forest that once thrived in what is now Arizona.

A more lively sight near the fossilized tree. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A more lively sight near the fossilized tree. — Photo by Pat Bean

The petrified remains of these trees, which are now extinct, can be seen along old Route 66 as it winds through Petrified  Forest National Park between Interstate 40 and Highway 18 in Arizona. It’s one of those great travel adventures that are so readily available when you exit the freeways.

These great conifers were buried by mud, silt and volcanic ash in ancient days, then at some point were exposed to silica-laden water that transformed organic tissues into quartz.

That, at least, is the abbreviated version of the science behind the stone trees. If you want more details, you’ll have to do your own research. It could be fun.

I tried to picture the forest as it once was, with dinosaurs roaming through it, as I stood in front of 225-million-year-old “Old Faithful,” the oldest petrified araucarioxylon arizonicum tree trunk in the park. It is located along a short hike behind the Rainbow Forest Museum near the south entrance to the park.

Araucarioxylon arizonicum, by the way, is Arizona’s state fossil.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can learn to speak the name of the tree as easily as I learned to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: About Elephants http://tinyurl.com/htk8jt9 This blog is really about the baobab tree, which was one of my favorite trees to see during my African safari. I loved learning more about them.

Read Full Post »

        “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.

Read Full Post »

            “In a nervous frenzy, I fling words as if flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something – anything – as a first draft.” – John McPhee.

It could be a mistake wandering around beneath this flamboyant sunset in Kenya's Serengeti National Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It could be a mistake wandering around beneath this flamboyant sunset in Kenya’s Serengeti National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Thankfully, I’m a Writer

            Working on a deadline, sometimes of just minutes, occasionally meant that typos and even factual mistakes made it into the newspaper when I was a reporter. It was at those times that I used to comment that if I had made a mistake as a carpenter, my product could have been used as firewood instead of being exposed to thousands of readers.

If a lion focused on you, such a mistake could e deadly. Thankfully, typos are only embarrassing. -- Photo by Pat Bean

If a lion focused on you, such a mistake could e deadly. Thankfully, typos are only embarrassing. — Photo by Pat Bean

Recently, however, I came across a comment that made me look at mistakes from a different perspective. A blogger noted that she was thankful she was a writer instead of a brain surgeon because her mistakes weren’t deadly.  I guess the same could be said of an airline pilot, an explosives’ expert, or a snake charmer.

Even so, I still recall with embarrassment the first time I had to write a front-page correction. I was still a green-between-the-ears reporter, and had arrived late to a city council meeting. I’m normally a person who is always early, but back then I was a working mother with five children so I’m assuming I had a legitimate excuse.

Anyway, the next half hour after I arrived, the council members debated whether or not to give residents a 5 percent reduction for the cost of a particular city service. They finally agreed in the affirmative, and that was the big headline on my story the next day. Unbeknownst to me, however, was the fact that before I had arrived, the council members had already agreed on a 10 percent reduction, in addition to the additional 5 percent.

I think that was the biggest correction, thankfully, I ever had to write, as I became an avid adherent to the philosophy of double-checking facts, and then checking again.

But then I’ve made plenty of other mistakes that have been doozies, some even that could have been deadly. Don’t we all?

Bean Pat:  A thought to start your day http://tinyurl.com/of9dsgt I couldn’t agree more.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »