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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

On Being Still

These days I go to bed with the chickens but wake with them at o-dark-hundred as well. I used to make fun of my mother for doing the same thing. Thinking back, I realize she could never sit still either. I’m proud I share her DNA. — Art by Pat Bean

Trying to Age Gracefully

As those who read my blog regularly know, I’m a big fan of Louise Penny’s Inspector Garmache. Well, I’m currently reading the 11th book in the series, The Nature of the Beast. In it, Gamache has retired to the peaceful village of Three Pines, where he is sitting on a bench mulling over a murder case in which he has been consulted, and an opportunity offered him to return to work.

As I read, I came across this sentence, which so totally describes my present situation that I wrote it down in my journal. “Garmache knew that sitting still was far more difficult, and frightening, then running around.”

After a lifetime of running around – raising five kids, working for a newspaper and chasing stories on deadline, and leading an active outdoor life of hiking, rafting, tennis, skiing and exploring the wonders of nature, here I am mostly stuck at home. I’m just now able to slowly walk my dog using a rollator – and very thankful I can do so, because for a while I couldn’t even do that.

Being still is harder on me, emotionally, than all the running around I used to do. But I’m doing my best to adjust. It’s part of my plan to age gracefully and to be thankful for all the things I can still do – and things I love to do but never had enough time to do when I was younger and in better shape than I am at 83,

I read, write, journal, draw and paint, do jigsaw and crossword puzzles, write snail-mail letters to friends, moderate a writing chat group, spend a little time on Facebook to keep up with friends and family, peruse and weep over the news, cook and do my own housework a small bit at a time, usually between chapters in books, watch birds at my feeders and in my yard, play Candy Crush, Scrabble or Spider Solitaire games, snuggle with my canine companion Scamp, visit with friends who drop by, watch sunsets with a cocktail, and occasionally stream  a TV program.

Writing all this down makes me think I’ve found my own way to continue running around. And thankful I am for finding it. Being still, I think, is not yet a part of my DNA.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

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A Red-Winged Blackbird: On of the first birds I painted after taking up birdwatching. — Art by Pat Bean

As you age, it’s ridiculous how fast bird-watching creeps up on you. You spend your whole life being 100 percent indifferent to birds, and then one day you’re like “damn is that a yellow-rumped warble?”

My good friend Kim from Utah, who is visiting me this week in Tucson, told me this as a joke, and I laughed until I almost peed myself. The comment describes me perfectly. I didn’t take up bird-watching until I was 60. Before then, even though I’ve always been a nature lover, I never noticed all the birds around me as part of my daily life. Now I can’t not see them.

And while bird populations have seriously declined world-wide since I was born, I’m seeing more at 83 than ever before.

Actually, I hope my neighbors don’t think I’m a peeping tom because I can often be seen wearing binoculars around my neck when I walk my dog – which by the way I’m finally back up to doing, although I use a rollator walker these days because my balance is a bit precarious.

A few years ago, I would have rebelled at being seen using such a thing. But I’ve now gotten into the mindset that anything that lets me keep moving is a good thing regardless of what people think.

I’ve even learned to maneuver the 16-pound contraption in and out of my car myself. And one of the best things about it – because I can walk more comfortably than just standing still – it has a convenient seat. I’ve used it several times now while waiting in a check-out line.

I’m also planning on using my new purple rollator, a gift from a caring daughter, to do more bird-watching, so I can see more birds than just the ones that catch my attention when I’m not bird-watching.

I really did think my friend’s comment was funny, but maybe you would have to have become a birder late in life, like me, to truly agree. If you are, I hope you feel as blessed as I am that you caught the addiction at a time when life is taking slower turns.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

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Taking Flight

I recently went to a dark place in my life for the first time. It came about because of pain and the drugs I was taking to rid myself of it. The drugs really didn’t help, and for the first time in my life I lost my belief that a silver lining was just around the corner.

The darkness in my life only lasted two weeks before a loving granddaughter and her wife helped pick me up and put me on a new path. While not everything is perfect now, I’m back to believing in silver linings and managing to both conquer and live with some pain.

And I awoke this morning with a heart full of thankfulness for the 83 years of life that I lived pain free — and that I didn’t waste those days.

I’m also thankful this morning for my morning coffee, the overcast day outside my window, a visiting friend, the soft bed I slept in last night, children who have helped and encouraged me, my faithful canine companion Scamp, the hummingbird at my bird feeder outside my window, and so very much more.

It feels good to start the day with thankfulness – and my cream laced coffee.  It now tops my daily to-do list.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

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A Sandhill Crane family at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

I just started reading The Birds of Heaven by Peter Matthiessen. The birds he refers to are cranes, of which there are 15 species, 11 of which are considered threatened or endangered. While the book was published in 2001, nothing seems to have changed much since then.

I have seen three of the crane species: Whooping and Sandhill cranes found in North America and the Grey-Crowned Crane, which I saw in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.

Where I live here in Tucson, Sandhill Cranes can easily be seen. They gather at a place just two hours away from me at a place called Whitewater Draw, where they spend the winters. I’m also seen Sandhill Cranes in Texas and in Utah, where I was privileged to see them conduct their mating dance. And I once had several fly overhead just a few feet above me. It was magical.

The Grey-Crowned Crane sighting in Africa was a one-time thing but I’ve been privileged to see Whooping Cranes twice on the Texas Gulf Coast, where they winter. The first sighting was at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the second was from a boat out of Port Aransas.

It was in Port Aransas that I met George Archibald, who wrote the forward in Matthiessen’s book. George is the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and is considered the Quixote of craniacs. I attended a workshop of his in which he entered wearing a crane outfit, which we learned he used in raising crane chicks so they would not become used to humans before being released in the wild.

I can’t help but think I’m going to enjoy reading The Birds of Heaven. Cranes are magnificent birds.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

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The Journey

Anhinga — Art by Pat Bean

I recently came across the phrase, “…that good book you read for the journey and not the ending,” which sent my mind scurrying in two directions

The first thought related to my memories of the many books I have read in which I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out how everything turned out, and that includes most of the mystery books I have read over my lifetime. And then there were the books that I never wanted to end. Usually those were ones that made me think and opened new doors in my brain.

The second place my mind scurried to was about bird watching, which I didn’t become addicted to until I was 60. Before one fateful 1999 April day, I was seldom aware of the bird life around me, even though all my life I’ve been an avid nature lover. After that day I couldn’t not see birds everywhere and wondered how I had missed them.

And since that April day, I have also faithfully kept a bird list of all the birds I have seen. It’s a common habit among bird watchers.

The thoughts that crystalized while I was reading Neil Hayward’s book, Lost Among the Birders, included the two kinds of birders I’ve come across while bird watching. The vast majority were birders who enjoyed the journey, but I’ve also met a few birders who were more interested in adding a new bird to their list then again watching common birds like house sparrows and their antics.

While I sort of pity the latter, I realize it’s a personal choice and just as valuable to them, as my choice is to me. Perhaps they pity me,

Because time has become so precious to me in my 8th decade on planet earth, I’m carefully weighing my choices these days. The years have shown me that almost all choices – except those that do harm to someone – are right ones. We just have to find what works best for ourselves, and hopefully come to respect the different choices others make.

I’ve also learned that if you make a bad choice, you can always reverse your direction. That little bit of wisdom comes from all the wrong choices I have made in life.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

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Great horned owlets hanging in during a storm. — Photo by Pat Bean

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending an extra amount of time hanging out on my living room third-floor balcony, where I always see hummingbirds and often great horned owls during the day and a spectacular sunset almost every evening.

The views have become especially precious since I know I will be leaving them behind when I move to a new place mid-August. We humans are quite funny in that we tend to value more what we don’t have than what we do have. And that certainly includes more than just a pleasant view.

My new place offers me things I need, like a fenced patio for my dog, and it does have trees and birds and brilliant red and orange desert bird of paradise plants which make me happy. So, I will be receiving new gifts for my eyes, for which I’m thankful.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying my tree-house view with more appreciation, knowing that I’m going to be leaving it behind. The attention I’ve given it let me take the owl photo above of this year’s great-horned owl siblings. During the 10 years I’ve spent in my apartment here, I’ve watched newly fledged owls learn their way around for seven.

I’ve also listened to their parents courting hoots early on in the year, but these more mature birds are more aloof and don’t hang around in full view as often as their young – who haven’t yet learned that man is the most dangerous beast on earth.

The favorite roosting spot of this year’s owlets is a tall Ponderosa Pine that stands in perfect view of my balcony They are a brother and sister, easily told apart because the female is quite a bit bigger than the male, a trait of just about all predator birds.

Recently I watched the pair during a rain and wind storm, one strong enough that it crashed down another large Ponderosa Pine here.  As I watched the owlets, the female actually seemed to hover over her brother as they stood high on a large branch right next to the tree trunk as smaller limbs and tree needles tossed to and fro around them. This was when I took the photo.

Last year, there were three owlets adjusting to the world here in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills. Their favorite hangout was usually the rooftops, and I usually only saw them when walking my canine companion, Scamp.

But for days and days, one of them spent many hours in what sounded like literal crying. It was quite an unpleasant screech. I suspect that it began after their parents stopped feeding them because it was time for them to be off on their own.

Shortly after this happens, the new crop of owls disappear, and the courting songs begin again soon after.

 I feel quite blessed to have had the past years with these owls. But it’s time for me to move on and start making new memories to cherish.  I can do that, too.

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.

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A tree and birds. I like that. — Art by Pat Bean

Nothing like a day spent at a hospital emergency room after being woke up at 3 a.m. with crippling leg pain to set you on a path of new beginnings. I swear it was worse than childbirth, and I have five children.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a blood clot, or something else life-threatening. After tests, it turned out to be related to the back pain I’ve been fighting for a few years – just on an atomic bomb level.

It clearly called, however, for a major change in my life, one family members have been pestering me to take for a few years now, a move to a ground-floor apartment. I know I’ve been a stubborn bitch for not heeding their advice, but I loved my apartment, and I wasn’t interested in a change, even if it meant continuing to walk my dog up and down three flights of stairs four or five times a day, not to mention laundry and errand trips.

I’ve been calling it my fool-proof exercise plan. But dang-it, the plan was no longer working.

So, while recovering this week at home, with family and friends taking on my dog-walking duties, I came across a quote by Stephanie Raffelock, which I found in her book, “A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

We should all take a little more time to cry and wail, allowing tears to baptize us into fresh starts,” she wrote.

Well, I certainly did that Friday. I wailed and sniveled practically all day about my horrid, bad, no-good dilemma. Then on the weekend, I begin online searches for a new apartment. It wasn’t looking good, until my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn, remembered a small nearby apartment complex that they had looked at for themselves a few months ago.

Its office was closed until Monday, but with them carefully ushering me down the stairs, we drove by to take a look at the apartment that was for listed to rent on their web site. It was just about 10 minutes away, a location near the top of my priority list because I wanted to stay in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills, which I’ve come to love since moving to Arizona in 2013.

While I still haven’t looked at the inside, I immediately fell in love with the soon-to-be-vacated outside’s large, fenced-in patio that had doors leading to it from both the bedroom and living areas. It would be perfect for simply letting my canine companion Scamp in and out, an amenity that topped my list of must haves, given that I’m 83 and my back pain is likely to recur.

The clincher for me was the huge tree growing in the middle of the patio. You should know that I once bought a house almost solely because I fell in love with its huge backyard tree.

The new neighborhood is older but nice, and the small apartment complex grounds abounded with flowers and greenery. And within minutes I was looking at birds, including nesting doves above the office door. I can already envision a small fountain and bird feeders beneath that patio tree.

All of the above gave me the confidence that I can meld the inside to fit my needs. Age has let me know that no one can ever simply have everything they want, but it looks like I will have all I need for a happy life.

I cinched the deal Monday and will be moving in around the middle of August. I’m so excited about this new beginning that I’m not even thinking about all the tasks involved in a move. Not yet anyway.

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.

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Goose and Chicks — Drawing by Pat Bean

Sometimes it seems the whole world is going to hell in a handcart, but the pansies keep on blooming – year in year out.” — Jack Scott.

Thankfully, that’s true, I thought, as I pondered the words of the former Canadian rock and roll singer. I came across Scott’s words as I was rereading one of my journals, this one filled between the summer of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

Every few pages seemed to contain a quote that had impressed me or gave me pause for thought. As a writer, I greatly appreciate when another writer expresses a thought in just the perfect words.

I’m usually just as impressed when rereading them, although occasionally I do come across a quote that leaves me pondering what I had been thinking back then, because the words seem to have no meaning to me on this day.

The mind is a strange thing.

Anyway, while skimming through my filled journal, along with Scott’s words, I came across the following ones that meant as much to me today as when I first wrote them down. They sounded like words of wisdom and they shouted at me to share them.

“Rest and you rust.” –Helen Hayes

“If you really do not want to do it, just say No!’ –Annette Aben

If all things are in a state of constant change, then human behavior can change too – and for the better.” –Aldo Leopold.

“Never ask whether you can do something. Say instead that you are going to do it, then fasten your seat belt.” – Julia Cameron

“The clearest way into the universe is though a forest wilderness.” – John Muir.

And finally, “Honor your life by laughing more.” – Pat Bean. It is, after all, my journal.

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.

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Saw -Whet owl — Art piddling by Pat Bean

Poet Mary Oliver writes that we should make the best of our “one and precious life.” I agree. The quandary is how to do that when you’re 83, and not by a long shot as agile as you once were, and you’re retired from what you once thought of as a meaningful job.

I’ve created myself a happy life, filled mostly with reading, writing, piddling with art, watching birds, spending time with friends, and having the time to connect the life I’ve lived with what’s going on in the world today.

Mostly, it’s satisfying. But there’s still something missing. I want to somehow have an influence on making the world a better place.

When I was a working newspaper reporter, I felt useful in that I kept readers informed of their community and felt blessed that I got to write about people who were doing positive things in the world — even if I also had to write about people who were doing the opposite, too.

I also felt extremely lucky that I loved my job, and that it gave me a sense that I counted for something in this world.

That feeling is gone. I’ve become a spuddler, one who satisfies herself with trivial things.

I recently expressed these things to a friend, who told me to stop thinking so much and simply enjoy the life I had earned. I love my friends.

And then I came across these words by author and poet Donna Ashworth; Ageing isn’t about lost youth, it’s about finding the difference between shiny and worthy … and the time to dedicate to the things that bring you joy. It’s the wisdom to say no to the things that don’t… The courage to be happy in your own skin. It’s about finding out who you were meant to be, all along.

I love being an old broad – most of the time.

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.

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Great Horned Owl

“Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese and freight trains,” said Aldo Leopold.

I could easily be added to that list. For most of my working career, I reported to the office no later than 6:30 a.m. – and I wasn’t beloved for doing so. 

There would usually be one or two other reporters who had come in early to meet their early-morning deadline for a story they had covered the night before. They would be sitting in the dark in front of their computers.

As a light-loving, morning person, I would turn on the lights and utter a cheery “Good morning!” All I usually got back was a snarl or a groan.

Scamp, my current canine companion, insists on a walk at the first sign of dawn, often when stars are still visible. He usually wakes up even before I do, but this morning the tables were turned. I had taken him for a later-than-usual last walk yesterday, and he was still snoring away when I awoke at 5:55 a.m.

I let him sleep until 6:10, when I couldn’t stand it anymore and roused him for our morning walk. We came back and he promptly went back to sleep while I enjoyed drinking my cream-laced coffee and watching the birds from my third-floor balcony. There were sparrows, mourning doves, hummingbirds and house finches, but no geese.

As for trains, when I was traveling across the country in my RV, I often heard a train somewhere nearby blow its whistle right around 6 a.m. I wondered if it was just coincidence or if all train engineers had a pact to took their horns at daybreak.

Then there are the great horned owls. We have resident ones who yearly raise chicks here in the apartment complex. I often hear them hooting in the early mornings, and sometimes I even see them zooming overhead between tall Ponderosa pines and the red-tile rooftops. Their silent, broad-winged flight always leave me awed.

Yesterday, a great horned owl was sitting on a large tree stump near my path. I’m pretty sure it was a juvenile because of how close it let me come. After spotting it, I took Scamp back to the apartment and grabbed my camera.

With each snap, I got closer to the owl until I was only about 10 feet away. The bird didn’t move, just stared straight at me with golden yellow eyes. I snapped a few more shots before retreating so as not to disturb the owl more.

I was excited about the photos I had taken, but later I discovered the memory card in my camera had been missing. It was still in my computer from the last time I had downloaded my photos.

I guess my brain, if not my body, decided it wanted to sleep in.

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.

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