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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Saw-Whet Owl — The silver lining of aging is that I have more time to observe birds and paint them. — Art by Pat Bean

As An Old Broad Sees It

I married young, had five children, then joined the work force a month before I turned 28. I was lucky. I fell into a job that I loved so much that I overlooked how hard I struggled to make it all come together as a working mom. I actually believed I could have it all. That makes me laugh now. Today’s women are wiser.

I joined the work force in 1967, long before the much-needed Me-Too Revolution took place. It was also a time in history when women, in large numbers, were finally speaking up for equal opportunities and equal rights and pay as men.

We women have come a long way since then. Just one example is that in the 1960s, women accounted for only 3 percent of the nation’s lawyers. Today that number is over 40 percent. Ruth Baden Ginsburg pointed out the growing numbers of female lawyers in her book My Own Words.

But on a more personal level, I see my granddaughters struggle with finding jobs that they enjoy, but also jobs that let them have a life outside of work. And they are not alone. Just this morning I came across two articles, one in the N.Y. Times, and one that just popped up because I was reading the Times piece. (Sometimes I think the computer gods know more about what I should want than I do.)

Wrote Roxane Gay in the Times article: “… People want something different, something more. They want more satisfaction or more money or more respect. They want to feel as if they’re making a difference. They want to feel valued or seen or heard. They want the man in the next cubicle to chew less loudly so they are afforded more peace … They want to have more time for themselves and interests beyond how they spend their professional lives. They want and want and want and worry that they will never receive the satisfaction they seek.

I’ve heard the same thoughts from my granddaughters.

These are thoughts this old broad, raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression, is only now beginning to hear. During my parents’ era, the main concern was simply for the man of the family to have a job, hopefully one that the family could survive on, never mind if he liked the job or not.

I remember hearing my father say, when my mother finally went to work after the children were all gone, “her salary only pays for what the IRS now charges me in taxes.” This wasn’t true but it salvaged his pride that his wife was working. She, actually, was a better provider than he had ever been.

Now retired, I have time to reflect on all the advances we women, and men, have made over the years. l think having a life outside of work is a worthy idea, especially, since as a journalist of my era, I met hundreds of people who hated their jobs but didn’t have the advantage of quitting, or so they thought.

If I hadn’t fallen into a job I loved, and which gave me all the satisfaction I needed, I could have been one of them.

Now, I’m just an old broad enjoying her retirement, and having time to look at the world a bit differently. I find this quandary of life and its many changes fascinating – but glad I’m not in the middle of the quandary. Being an old broad does have its silver linings.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, enthusiastic birder, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

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The Season of Old Age

Cattle Egret — I wonder if birds worry about aging? — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

There’s all sorts of advice out there in the media world these days about not letting yourself grow old. This morning I came across a piece that indicated no one should feel old until they’re well into their 80s, and that even then it was iffy.

Hmm… Well, I’m into my 80s.

Some days I feel old, and some days I feel younger than I was in my 20s and 30s, when I was bogged down with child care, a career and catastrophes around every corner.

I love not being responsible for anyone but myself, and not having to get up to the sound of an alarm clock – although sleeping in for me means I’m often up even before the sun. I’m a morning person.

The change in my life at my age is that if I feel like going to bed at 7 p.m., or even 6 p.m., I do so. And when I stay up until midnight, or later, it’s because I want to, not because I have responsibilities to fulfil before I can finally crawl beneath the covers.

I feel young when I can get out into nature and bird watch – and forget that I’ll never again make it up to the top of the mountain to see peregrine falcons flying beneath me.

I feel young when I’m behind the wheel of a car taking off for a road trip. The feeling lasts until my body screams: Stop and rest! And that happens well before dark. But then I never liked driving in the dark anyway. I want to see all the wonders I’m passing.

I feel young when I’m socializing with old friends and laughing together with them about the good old days. Of course, they weren’t all good, and these days aren’t all bad. At my age, you realize that nothing is ever perfect, but that what goes around comes around.

Age, meanwhile, has brought me peace, and a love for myself that youth kept just beyond my reach. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  I’m in the season I was meant to be in. So, pains and wrinkles be damned, I’m going to take each day as it comes – and be thankful for it.

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 aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

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It’s Nice to be Got

We are all strong — and in our own way, each of us is perfectly enough, I imagine this wise old bird saying.

Aging My Way

          I am a strong woman — most of the time. Let me see someone hurt an animal or a child and I am standing tall and vocal and ready to do battle. And I was 110 percent into fighting the tough battle for equal pay for equal work when I was a working journalist.

          However, that strength didn’t extend into all areas of my life, including many instances of ignoring career and personal injustices. And I haven’t gotten much better with age. One example is that I would rather take a loss than return an unwise purchase.  

Most recently, I have let the promised trim of the two Oleander trees in the patio area of my new apartment go undone ever since I moved into the new place on August 20. Yeah, I made two half-hearted requests of the apartment manager, and even cornered one of the landscape guys – without success.

Then I started trying to trim the trees myself because I didn’t want to ask anymore. I’m not sure what this reluctance is all about, but I do know I have one granddaughter, Heidi, who takes after me. We tell her to get her sister, Lindsey, to act as her voice when something is serious. Lindsey takes no prisoners.

 And neither does my granddaughter Shanna, who also lives in my apartment complex. She recently took off from work for a few hours to corner the landscapers and demand they trim her grandmother’s trees.

The result was that I soon watched the workers through my sliding glass doors go about doing the job. They not only trimmed the trees but gave my patio area a good raking to take care of all the fallen leaves. And when they finished, they gave me a thumbs up.

I’m not exactly sure what Shanna said to them, but it certainly worked. When I thanked her, all she said was: “I got you Nana.” It’s nice to “be got.” 

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 aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

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A dull version of the Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, a bird that sneaks across Mexico’s border into Arizonia.

Aging My Way:

          I keep a list of all the bird species I see flying free in the wild. So far, I’ve seen 712. It’s been that way for a while, but I thought I had finally found two new ones this weekend.

As I set and partied outside to celebrate a friend’s birthday in the town of Sahuarita, a brown hummingbird suddenly caught my attention. This was after another bird flew into my sight and landed in a scenic dead tree.

I suspected this latter bird was a kite, but I wasn’t sure what species. My host Doris said someone had told her it was a Mexican bird, which made sense since we were partying in Southeast Arizonia near the border with Mexico.

I had no idea the specific species of either bird until I got home and looked in my birding field guides. I have two. My favorite is National Geographic’s Birds of North America. But I also use Sibley’s Guide to Birds, when I’m stumped or want a second opinion.

While I couldn’t say with surety what the Kite species was, because I didn’t get that close a look, I basically ruled out anything but a White-Tailed Kite, a bird I had previously seen on the Texas Gulf Coast at the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. This meant that even if my identification was spot on, it still wouldn’t count as a new bird.

I was more confident about identifying the little brown hummer. Despite its plainness, I was about 90 percent certain it was a Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, as it’s the only brown hummer that can be seen in North America, and then normally only in Southeastern Arizonia. This one was most likely a juvenile whose crown hadn’t come into its color yet, or one whose color wasn’t visible to me because I wasn’t looking through my binoculars at it. Some violet crowns, or so my field guide alluded to,  have color crowns that are duller or darker.

Anyway, I would really like to go back and have a second look at the hummer through my binoculars. I’m still kind of hesitant about adding it to my list – so, despite my high hopes my list continues to stand at 712.  

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 aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

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My Canine Companion Scamp keeps me smiling all day long.

Aging My Way

I was recently thinking about things that make my current life better. While earlier lists might have included climbing a mountain, winning a journalism award, or rafting a wild river, this one’s for the 83-year-old I am today.

Being able to walk my canine companion, Scamp — even if I have to use a rollator to do it.

Not taking anything other people do or say personally.

Writing and journaling.

Watching birds, anywhere, anytime.

Reading and listening to audible books.

Believing in myself.

Accepting that I’m not perfect.  

Learning something new every day.

Watching Survivor, Amazing Race and the Challenge on TV, and then discussing the programs with my son, D.C,

Getting enough sleep, but also occasionally having a fun night out to keep going until I drop.

Smiling.

Living independently in my own cozy apartment.

Hugging someone.

Playing computer games.

Watching my great-grandchildren grow up on Facebook.

Third Wednesdays – because that’s the day I get my Social Security check,

Laughing often and loud, especially at myself

Eating chocolate – especially with a Jack and Coke before bed.

Piddling around with my watercolors.

A surprise box from my Guardian Angel daughter-in-law.

Completing a project.

Saying no when I don’t want to do something.

Not breaking promises to myself.

Doing something I’ve never done before.

Watching sunrises and sunsets.

Completing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Entertaining and cooking for friends.

Playing Frustration with my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn.

Visits, phone calls, email and snail mail from loved ones and old friends.

Simply sitting and connecting life’s dots in my head.

Getting paid for something I’ve written.

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 aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

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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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