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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Guadalupe Peak in Guadlupe Mountain National Park in Texas. — Wikimedia Photo

One of the things I’ve concluded after eight decades of iving is that beauty can be found anywhere. It’s easy to believe this when you’re spending a day hiking in the magnificent Guadalupe Mountain National Park, which is what I was doing on a warm April day about 11 years ago.

Blooming cacti and ocotillo plants dotted the Chihuahuan Desert landscape, whose mountain scenery is a rare sight in mostly flat-land Texas. Overseeing this nature haven were the picturesque peaks of El Capitan (Yes, it has the same name as better know peak in Yosemite) and Guadalupe, the latter peak, at 8,752 feet, being the highest point in the Lone Star state.

It was 360 degrees of awesome, brought to life by collared lizards darting among the yellow and magenta colored prickly pear blossoms.

That sentiment about beauty, however, was challenged a few days later when in contrast, I found myself camped for the night in an El Paso RV park, my small Class C motorhome squeezed between two huge Class A vehicles with wide slide outs in a cement parking lot. In addition, the park was surrounded by a low rock fence beyond which passing traffic kept up a yowling roar.

It was the kind of place I avoided as carefully as I did the alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp when I visited. But time and distance left me no choice. It was the only place near enough I could reach before dark, and I never drove my RV at night. 

I tried to follow Garth Brooks’ advice about basing happiness on what you have and not what you don’t have, but I was still grumbling to myself about the drab view as I sat at my table and stared out the window of my motorhome.

I wanted a meandering creek whose gurgles would lull me to sleep, and a large tree to sit beneath while reflecting on my day, and perhaps a small camp fire whose flames I could get lost in. During my nine years on the road, I spent many a night in just such a setting.

 Thinking of those nights, I admonished myself to be thankful for my life, and started to get up and get a book to read. That’s when the beauty happened.

A Gambel quail, followed by nine chicks, strolled into view. The She was headed across the cement to the far side of the campground, and she was followed by 11 chicks. And trailing behind them was another adult quail, a bit gaudier than the first so I assumed he was the male parent.

The birds brought a smile to my face, and my optimistic view that beauty could be found everywhere was renewed.

Why, I asked myself, had I ever doubted that beauty could be found everywhere, even if you don’t go looking for it.

Bean Pat: Guadalupe Mountain National Park: Here, you’ll find one of the finest examples of an ancient, marine fossil reef on Earth.

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.

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One-of-a-Kind Hook Up

Elegant Trogon — Wikimedia Photo

Pages from my Journal

          “To wake alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest things in the world.” – Freya Stark (I felt like that many times during my RV-ing years.)

          I had planned a road trip from Ogden, Utah, to Texas that included a side trip to Sierra Vista, Arizona, where I had engaged a birding guide to help me find an Elegant Trogon, a bird which I had failed to see on my own on three earlier trips.

The carefully-timed, two-week holiday had been planned so I could attend school graduation ceremonies for some of my grandkids as well as hunt for birds.

Three days before the trip, after three years of serious looking, I suddenly found and bought the RV of my dreams, one I would live and travel in full time after my rapidly approaching retirement. The 21-foot, Class C, RV had a Winnebago home perched on a Volkswagen chassis with a spunky 6-cylinder engine.

The purchase necessitated rapid changes to my traveling plans that includedcanceling motel reservations and researching and making reservations at RV parks along the way.  

I didn’t take possession of the RV until the evening before my trip, Friends came over to help me christen it with a few drinks. I named her Gypsy Lee, the first name for the wanderer in my soul, and the second for my grandfather’s last name and my middle name. My mother had told me I inherited her father’s traveling itch.

What with packing and stocking the RV the next day, I got a late travel start, and made it only to Lake Powell before I needed to camp for the night.

I was going to spend it at Wahweap Marina Campground, but when I said I wasn’t going to hook up because I needed an early start (and because I was somewhat intimidated about my first hookup), the kindly campground attendant suggested I go six miles back up the road and camp on the beach at Lone Rock Beach as it would be cheaper.

The overnight fee at Lone Rock was just $6, but I paid only $3 because of my senior citizen’s pass. “Don’t get stuck in the sand,” the gate attendant said, after I paid him.

I didn’t – but I almost did, which taught me my first lesson about driving an RV: Make sure everything is secured before operating vehicle. When I had gunned Gypsy Lee to get her past a sandy stretch that had been created during the night, my cupboards flew open and a bunch of items fell out.

Once I got everything back in order, I drove on to Sierra Vista, and checked into an RV campground, where I had to make my first motorhome hookup to electricity, water and sewer. The first two took only a minute, the last left me perplexed. My sewer hose connection didn’t fit the park’s sewer connection.

I went to the office, pleading ignorance, admitting it was my first hook up, and asking for help. They had just the thing: A gadget that filled the gap between the two differing connections. If I remember right it cost about $10.

With that in hand, I made my first hook up – and was quite proud of myself. I woke early the next morning and was picked up by the birding guide for our day’s outing. It went better than planned, I not only got the elegant trogon for my life list, I added another dozen as well.  

As for that gadget, I had bought, I never had to use it again. For nine years, every one of the campgrounds I stayed at had hookups compatible with my RV.  

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It’s World Kindness day

Just aa it took many tiles to create this mural, so it will take many acts of kindness to create a better world. — Photo of St. Louis Zoo aviary mural by Pat Bean

“Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” – Ron Hall.

I noted in my journal this morning that it was Friday the 13th, but I didn’t know until I opened my email that November 13 is also World Kindness Day.

          What a great idea, was my first thought. When did this happen was my second? I’ve been aware in recent years that something is being celebrated every day of the year, but this was a new one for me.

          With a little research, I learned that the day had been designated 22 years ago by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations’ kindness NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and is now celebrated in numerous countries, including the United States.

          My third thought was that every day should be World Kindness Day.

          Bean Pat: Check out this CNN post on ways to be kind. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/13/health/world-kindness-day-acts-wellness/index.html

          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.

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Too Many to Count

If you saw a Bald Eagle when it was only two years old, you would see a ratty-looing bird with no white head. It takes these birds of prey four years to gain their magnificence. If all goes as expected, it takes many more years for humans to become their best selves, I believe. — Sketch by Pat Bean

What am I now that I was then is a line from Delmore Schwartz’s poem, “Calmly We Now Walk Through This April’s Day.”  The words sent my brain working overtime to answer the question.

I am not the same person I was over half a life ago, so much so I tell friends today they wouldn’t have liked me back then, when I was insecure, took things too personally, tried too hard to please everyone, cried too much, was searching for love while ignoring the love I had all around me, and thought of myself as two Pat Beans, one dull and following all the rules while the second one was learning to color outside the lines.

When I did the latter, I would say to myself, often aloud, Pat Bean doesn’t do that. It took a 16-day rafting trip, when I was in my 50s, on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon where nothing that was important in the outside world mattered, for the two Pat Beans to merge.

The one Pat Bean that stepped off the raft at the end of the adventure was both a stronger and a weaker person. She, at least I like to think, was a more likeable person because she was comfortable with her faults, didn’t have to prove she was perfect, and finally bold enough to accept and use her strengths.

But even that Pat Bean is not the same today, or even the day after. It seems each action, each book read, each new thought, each new experience, whether good or bad, changes me. I think that’s how life is supposed to be.

What do you think?

Bean Pat: You can read or listen to Delmore Schwartz’s poem here. https://www.poetryoutloud.org/poem/calmly-we-walk-through-this-aprils-day/

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.

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One of the best ways to jog my memory is to reread my journals,, which sometimes include sketches, like the one above about the day I watched a ruby-crowned kinglet.

          “Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories – and telling others a somewhat different version of our stories.” – Alice Munro

          While reading Mustard’s Last Stand, by Kathy McIntosh, I came across a fictional character who popped a rubber band around his wrist because he had a negative thought.

          The action took me back over 40 years, back to when I dated a guy who frequently popped a rubber band that he wore around his wrist. Why? I had asked. He had been evasive.

         His name was Jon, and he was a very nice guy, a reporter at the Fort Worth Star Telegram where I worked for a couple of years. But we dated only a couple of times, and never became more than just good friends. He went back to an old girlfriend whom he was still carrying a torch for, and I moved 1,500 miles away.

          If I hadn’t come across that rubber band passage, I might never have thought of Jon again. The passage also answered my unanswered question about why someone would purposely give themselves a jolt of pain, as I imagine a rubber band does when snapped against skin.

          I wondered if Jon had snapped the rubber band every time he thought about his old girlfriend? And then I wondered if people still wear rubber bands around their wrists to break a habit?

I wonder a lot.

          Meanwhile, at 81, when I have forgotten more than I can remember, I’m glad when my little gray cells are jogged. It’s almost always fun.

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.

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White-Eared Hummingbird. — Wikimedia photo

The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.” – Carly Simon

White-Eared Hummingbird

I loafed through the past three days, which seemed an appropriate thing to do for a holiday weekend stuck at home. I binged on old Survivor seasons, walked my dog, had a night out playing Frustration and drinking Jack and coke with an adult granddaughter who also lives in my apartment complex, read a lot — and let my apartment get a bit dusty.

I live in the desert and you need to dust almost every day just to keep up with the blowing sand, which is thick enough that occasionally the night sky has a pink haze to it because of sand particles in the air. I was quite amazed the first time I saw this phenomenon.

White=Eared Hummingbird. — Audubon Field Guide

And I was just as amazed at the unexpected sight I saw this morning when I was sitting on my balcony with my morning coffee and writing out my to-do list, a bit lengthier today because of my lazy weekend.

Sitting on the table next to me was my ever-faithful pair of Leica bird-watching binoculars. Several familiar hummingbirds were flitting about the trees and my nectar feeder, mostly Anna’s, easy to identify because of the bright magenta feathers on their necks and head.

And then one flew in that was a bit different, a Broad-Billed, I assumed from its coloring and bill, and the fact they it is one of the more common hummers  I see at my nectar feeder, But it looked a bit odd, so I picked up my binoculars for a closer look as it sat peering at me from a nearby tree branch.

It had a wide white strip of feathers that stretched from above its eye almost to its neck, and not a hummingbird I was familiar with. But a quick flip through my favorite field guide let me know I was looking at a White-Eared Hummingbird. Wowzer!

This was a lifer, a bird that I was seeing for the first time. The 712th bird for my personal bird list. It was a big thing because it was the first new bird I had seen all year.

The White-Eared is a Central American hummer that barely crosses the Mexico border into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. And I got quite a good look at it, and even heard its distinctive tink-tink-tink voice as it fed at my nectar feeder.

What a great way to start the day.

Bean Pat: To Roger Tory Peterson, who published the first modern birding field guide that made it possible for non-ornithologists like me to identify the birds they see. I love the Peterson field guides, but my favorite for birding is

Travels with Maggie tracks my earlier birding days, when my bird list was only in the 400s. Check it out on Amazon. You might be able to read it free.

National Geographic’s Birds of North America, in which I keep a record of my first bird species sightings. I currently use the sixth edition.

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.

 

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Scott’s Oriole — Wikimedia photo

A Colorful Walk

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Walking my canine companion Scamp early every morning is both a chore and a pleasure. Living in a third-floor apartment with no yard means it’s something that must be daily done – and at the first glimpse of dawn when I’m awakened by a dog sticking his cold nose in my face. If that doesn’t work, Scamp drapes his 40-pound body on top of mine and begins to whine.

You can read more about Maggie and her adventures with her mistress in Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon.

I have no choice but to get up, throw on some clothes and get his leash. Every morning I do this, I think of my former dog Maggie. She, as anyone who knew her would tell you, was a spoiled brat, but she liked to sleep in and so I got to wake up at my leisure not hers.

But by the time Scamp and I are going down the stairs, often with the moon still visible in the morning sky, the pleasure of being out and about so early, with rarely another soul in sight, takes hold of me.

After Scamp waters a tree, he begins a slow exploratory stop-and-go trot to the dog park where he likes to do his more serious business. We live at the top of the apartment complex and it’s at the bottom, leaving me with plenty of time to observe the sights around me.

The first thing that caught my attention this morning were eight white-winged doves sitting on a utility line. Mostly all I could see were dark profiles, emphasizing their individual shapes. Six looked exactly alike while one appeared skinnier and one fatter, the latter with a tail a bit longer than the others. Seven of the doves were facing away from me, but the one at the farthest edge faced toward me. I wondered what they were all thinking.

As we turned a corner, my eye was then caught by three large round bushes that were covered in bright purple flowers. The bushes had been trimmed a few days earlier by the apartment’s gardeners, and it seemed to me as if they had simply bloomed overnight. Or had I simply not seen them the day before?

The color purple always stops me for a better look when I see it in nature. Pictured here is a Rose of Sharon blossom.

Finally, Scamp — whom I let lead during his morning walks because once the day warms his walks are quick and short because this old broad doesn’t do well in the heat – headed back to our apartment for his breakfast. My own mind at this point was focused on the cup of cream-laced coffee that awaited me.

But as we began walking up the stairs, I got distracted by some movement in a nearby tree. I stopped to look more closely and was rewarded with a flash of yellow and black before a bird flew directly in front of me. It was a Scott’s oriole. While common in Southeast Arizona, one doesn’t see this oriole species often. As an avid birder I was thrilled at the sight – and immediately forgave Scamp for waking me so early.

Bean Pat: As one who wants to identify all the plants I see on my walks, I love this blog. Perhaps you will, too. https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/

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.

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I watched this Limpkin during my month-long winter exploration of the Everglades. But I used my computer to educate myself about its ranges and habits.

“Our computers have become windows through which we can gaze upon a world that is virtually without horizons or boundaries.”

Learning New Tricks

I was working for the Fort Worth Star-telegram back in the 1970s when technology first invaded my life. It came in the form of a newfangled thing called a computer that suddenly we reporters had to type our stories on. I was certain I couldn’t do it.

It took me two weeks — during which I would use the typewriter to write, then copy what I had written onto the computer — before I realized I actually could write on the dang technological wonder. That was early enough in the computer age that the computers assigned to us reporters would only allow editing of eight lines of copy before it couldn’t be changed any more,

Not such a wonder at all compared to my next run in with using a computer at the Standard-Examiner in

This was a view visible from my bedroom balcony a few weeks ago. But to learn more about the fire that was ravaging Arizona’s Catalina Mountain Range, I went online to read the news about the blaze. 

Ogden, Utah, where I had accepted a job as lifestyle editor in late 1979. This newspaper used a Morgenthaler computer system that taught me how to cuss.

While there was no limit on lines that could be edited, the machines had a tendency to suddenly shut down and everything that had not been saved was lost. Because I would often forget to push the save button frequently. I sometimes lost whole stories I had spent hours writing.

Then there were the computers at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I was regional editor for a couple of years. The Times’ computers suffered from a storage problem. They sometimes began eating copy that had been edited at the start of the day. My cussing improved at the Times.

When I returned to the Standard-Examiner as assistant city editor in 1985, things were better, but my attitude toward computers had changed. While I had been determined in those early years to learn everything I could about operating a computer, all I wanted to know now was which button to push so the danged thing would do what I wanted it to do instead of what it wanted to do.

I relied on the paper’s tech guys immensely, and they always came through the numerous times I called on them. Having zero patience, I had the habit of too quickly pushing every button on the keyboard when something didn’t happen quickly enough. The teckies nicknamed me Trouble.

My personal first computer, purchased around 1987 if I remember correctly and which I frequently crashed, didn’t even have a hard drive but came with a DOS operating system.  Out of curiosity, I just looked up DOS on Wikipedia and learned that it stands for Disk Operating System and that it had a 16-bit operating system that didn’t support multitasking. My grandkids were more comfortable operating it than I was.

I’m not sure how many personal computers I’ve gone through since then, but I do know that early on I replaced them every two or three years because they so quickly became outdated.

When I retired in 2004 and began nine years of living and traveling on the road in a small RV, I bought my first laptop, and used my phone as a modem to submit freelance stories. In 2006, I got a Verizon hot spot that worked sometimes, but mostly in larger towns. By the time I got off the road in 2013, it mostly worked everywhere.

Thankfully, while my patience hasn’t improved, my latest laptop computer is usually reliable and fast enough to keep me from randomly pushing buttons. I still, however, miss my teckies when my computer does misbehave. But then I am extremely proud of myself when I finally solve the problem on my own — usually after hours and hours of trying everything before finally reading the instructions.

I’ve gone from growing up without a home television until I was 14 to not being able to live without a computer. I use it for writing, submitting freelance articles, emailing and face-timing with friends and family, reading the news, playing games, taking educational classes, learning new skills, birdwatching (live cams and YouTube), storing my writing and photographs, armchair traveling, shopping, and watching television programs and movies since I don’t own a TV. I also use my computer daily to quench my curiosity when I want to know something – like what DOS stands for.

I guess an old broad, this one born almost 25 years before the first commercial computer went on the market, can learn new tricks.

Bean Pat: Cornell University for its Bird Lab live birding cams that let me birdwatch from my bedroom chair during the coronavirus. Thank you. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/

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.

 

 

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An American Bittern — Art by Pat Bean

          I woke up this morning,

          Smiled at the rising sun,

          Three little birds,

          Sat on my doorstep,

          Singing sweet songs. – Bob Marley

          One early autumn morning in Maine some years back, I set out for a short walk in Scarborough Marsh, a boggy landscape created thousands of years ago when icebergs advanced and retreated across the land, leaving behind a depression into which the ocean crept.

The marsh was filled with egrets, gulls, doves, chickadees, sparrows, robins, kingfishers, and jays that kept luring me on until my short walk turned into a four-hour hike, making me late getting on the road for the day’s actual destination.

Scarborough Marsh, Mine. — Photo by Pat Bean

A wooden boardwalk took me through the middle of a saltwater marsh, past islands of grass surrounded by patches of water, and a few birch trees, whose gold and red leaves shimmered in the sunlight. In the distance, a belted kingfisher sat on a lone stump in a golden field of waving grasses.

But my best bird sighting of the morning was an American bittern. The tall bird’s streaky brown feathers and reach-to-the sky stance camouflaged it quite neatly among the reeds. It was only when I caught its movement to snatch a tidbit from the waterlogged ground that I saw it.

Bitterns belong to the heron family, and North America has two, the American Bittern and the Least Bittern. Because they are a secretive species with excellent camouflage features, I’m always delighted to find one. Over my lifetime I’ve probably only seen maybe a dozen American and just one Least.

Yellow Bittern — Wikimedia photo

I did, however, see a Yellow Bittern when I visited Guam. That sighting was a special treat because it was New Year’s Day and I wanted my first bird of the year to be something other than a house sparrow, my first bird of the year back then for five years running.

Because birds were scarce on Guam, having been decimated by the arrival of non-native brown tree snakes, it was nearly noon before I saw my first bird that year, a small Yellow Bittern that flew directly in front of me.

Thinking about birds this morning is a distraction from thinking about all the chaos currently going on the world – or of yesterday’s dentist appointment to be followed an upcoming one to extract a tooth and get a partial fitted.

Such is life. Good memories are the silver lining of aging. I’m glad my cup runneth-over with them.

You can read more about my visit to Scarborough Marsh in Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon.

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.

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While it’s exciting to hike new trails, it’s just as satisfying to see the blossoms of a saguaro grow and blossom with the passing days. — Photo by Pat Bean

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

These days, my pre-dawn walks with my canine companion Scamp, who wakes me and won’t consider letting me go back to sleep, are mostly limited to short treks around my Catalina Foothills apartment complex here in Tucson.

Even so, I enjoy the walks and usually find something new and interesting to see on them, like the toad Scamp

Resident juvenile great horned owls from a couple years past sitting on the top of one of the apartment buildings. — Photo by Pat Bean

scared out of the bushes last week. “You don’t want to mess with that,” I told him as I pulled him away.

For the past couple of months, I’ve also been frequently sighting two juvenile great horned owls, that are the offspring of our resident great horns. As they’ve matured, the sightings have become less frequent. They’re learning that we homo sapiens aren’t always safe to be around.

But I suspect there will be more unafraid young owls to watch next year. Of the eight years, I’ve lived in the complex, I’ve seen baby owls six of them.

This year’s young owls, meanwhile, have taken an interest in my downstairs neighbor’s chihuahua Ginger, who weighs just about nothing. “I stand over her while she does her business,” my neighbor says, “and keep an eye out for those dang owls.”

I don’t have to worry about Scamp as he weighs about 40 pounds and is quite rambunctious besides. So, when I do see the owls, I simply go into bird-watching mode, a hobby I took up 20 years ago. While the owls didn’t show up during this morning’s walk, I did get to watch a gila woodpecker, sitting atop a saguaro, the one whose blossoms I have been daily tracking for the past two weeks.

And it’s a rare day when I don’t see doves, both mourning and white-winged species. The smaller mourning doves

A white-winged dove keeping an eye on Scamp and me as we walk past. — Photo by Pat Bean

sleep on the ground and Scamp is always trying to sneak up on them. He enjoys chasing after the doves, well until the leash pulls him up short.

While my morning walks aren’t as exciting as they were when I was traveling around the country in a small RV, and every few days would have new territory to explore, I’m fortunate to live next door to a bit of undeveloped desert full of wildlife, including javelinas, roadrunners, coyotes, quail, and even a bobcat or two.

Such encounters, at a safe distance from some of them of course, almost make me glad that Scamp insists on getting me out of bed at o’dark-hundred.

Bean Pat: To Caroline Randall Williams for her eye-opening essay in the New York Times on why the southern monuments are a slap in the face to Blacks. It offered this southern white girl, who has never considered herself racist, a better understanding of the inequities of the past and the present. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/opinion/confederate-monuments-racism.html

Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon.

 

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.

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