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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Sketching and watching birds, like this Gila Woodpecker, is one way I get my mind off the chaos of daily news headlines.

Agreement is Rare

Political speaking, when it comes to certain things, especially politics, my family pretty much has America covered – and for peace’s sake we usually keep our views to ourselves.

 With a great margin for error, this is how I see things among my five children.

I have one child to the left of me, one child to the right of me, one child that knows without a doubt that their side, whatever it is, is always the right side, one child who gets quite passionate about their particular side, and one child who appears not to follow the political arena at all.

That last may be the lucky one. I tried not reading a newspaper for the first four months after I retired from being a newspaper journalist. It was a relaxing, but not a satisfying time, in my life. I came to the conclusion that sticking my head in the sand and ignoring what’s going on in the world is not for me.

These days, reading the NY Times, and then the varied and even conflicting news on my computer’s home page while I drink cream-laced coffee in the morning, gives me plenty to think about — and fume about — for the rest of the day.

 My children grew up in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s’, and we often talked about world events. We seldom agreed back then on anything either.

I actually take pride in that. It means I raised independent children who mostly took an interest in the world they lived in and learned to think for themselves.

 With my own family as a role model, I know it’s possible to get along without chaos, ugliness or war — even if there’s no way in hell, we’re ever likely to agree with one another.

I suspect it works because we all care about and love each other – and have the sense, at least most of the time, to keep our political opinions to ourselves. 

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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Tic-Yock-Tick-Tock

About eight years ago, my then 13-year-old grandson Tony, gave me a kooky clock, one with a brightly-colored bird representing each hour. On the hour, the clock chimed with a representation of that bird’s voice.

In order from 1 o’clock, the birds were Mallard (quack-quack), Mourning Dove (coo-coo), Ring-Necked Pheasant (kok-cack), American Woodcock (chirp-chirp), Northern Bobwhite (bob-white, bob-white), Canada Goose (honk-a-lonk), California Quail (chi-ca-go), Ruffed Grouse (cluck-cluck), Wood Duck (oo-eek, oo-eek), Wilson’s Snipe (wheet-wheet), Green-Winged Teal (krick-krack), and Wild Turkey (gobble, gobble).

At first, all was well. Each bird sounded out on its hour – or so I thought, Then I realized that while a bird sounded on each hour, it was never the right bird according to the pictures on the clock.

After a while of this, the bird sounds began to resemble no bird sounds I had ever heard. It was a cacophony of rumble, grumbles and even low roars – well except for the voice of the Bob White, which while not on the right hour always comes out a clear bob-white, bob-white.

When I have visitors and the clock grackles and roars, the guest always jump and ask “What was that?”

My granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn, who are frequent visitors and always trying to look out for me, finally said they were going to buy me a new clock.

“No!” I firmly told them. “I have a one-of-a-kind-of-a-clock that fits my eclectic apartment and lifestyle. It fits me – and it keeps perfect time. It’s not broken, it’s just odd – and odd is OK!”

I love my clock.

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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Blue-footed boobies like to show off their brightly colored feet. And they do so in a Hokey-Pokey kind of way. I got to dance with one. — Wikimedia photo

If I listed all the things I still want to do in life, I would have to reach the ripe old age of 699 – at least. Besides, I’m not sure I would want to do that. My wrinkles already have wrinkles, and knowing that I only have limited time left on this planet energizes me.

I’m thankful that I’ve crossed off quite a few priority items on my bucket list, like taking an African Safari, rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, sky diving, getting a tattoo, exploring this country in an RV with only a canine companion and meeting Maya Angelou.

Well, actually meeting Maya was never on my Bucket List. It just happened because I was at the right place at the right time – a reporter in a city Maya visited.

The truth is many of the best things in my life have not been on any bucket list. I treasure the time I danced with a blue-footed booby in the Galapagos. I was hiking with an Audubon group and was alone in the lead when I came across the dancing booby. I knew I was invited to join him by the look in his eyes.

Now how do you put something like that on a bucket list?

Realistically, I know I’m not going to see or do most of the remaining things on my bucket list – like revisiting the calm serenity of Lake Moraine in Canada.

Instead of whining about it, or perhaps after whining about it I should say, I’ve started a non-bucket list of simple joys, like sitting with a friend on my third-floor balcony and watching Tucson’s spectacular sunset.

If I look hard enough, I can find something that would never make a bucket list quite often.

I’ve always wanted a canine companion, but how could I know that I would get the one dog I needed to bring balance to my life.

The whimsies of nature are also surprising and delightful. One of my best moments was watching an osprey catch a fish only to have it snatched by a bald eagle. Now who would have thought to put that on a bucket list?

Yup. I think I’m retiring the bucket list for the non-bucket list, which is more doable for old broads like me.

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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Watercolor by Pat Bean

There’s a special, sometimes peculiar, name for birds when they flock together. For example, widgeons become a knot, pheasants a bouquet, raptors a cauldron, finches a charm, geese a gaggle and storks a mustering.

My favorite, for a personal reason, is murder of crows.

A half dozen women, some journalists and mothers like myself, and all of us not what you would call young chicks, became good friends shortly after I moved to Ogden in 1979. We started getting together once a week for lunch, where we were loud with our laughter and bountiful with our irreverence.  

One of the women’s children, a 17-year-old boy, in jest, called us just a bunch of old crows. We liked it, and so named ourselves The Murder of Crows.

As an addendum to the story was that the boy’s mother and I were both tennis players, and probably stymied that we didn’t take offense at being called crows, the boy challenged his mother and me to a tennis game with him and one of his classmates.

We accepted – and Margaret and I beat the 17-year-old boys soundly. It wasn’t that we were that good, but that she and I had the benefit of wisdom that comes with age. We would dink the ball just over the net, a move the boys hadn’t expected and one they couldn’t seem to overcome. Also, the boys’ powerful serves often went out of bounds while our serves almost always were in bounds. All we had to do then was return the serve just barely over the net.

I still smile thinking about that game.

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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Ducklings Dressed for the Winter

Winter Fun

It’s cold this morning in Tucson, and colder elsewhere say the weather men. But Boston’s ducklings have been dressed for it, as you can see in the above photo, which I came across while reading my email.

I spent a couple of days at the ducklings’ home on the Boston Commons back in 2006 during my RVing days. I parked my RV in a small town an hour’s drive from the city, and took the commuter train into town for a week of sight-seeing of historical sites like The Old North Church and Paul Revere’s home. I wrote about all this in Travels with Maggie. 

I found everything quite educational and interesting, but nothing charmed me as much as the bronze Mallard Family statues, created in honor of the 1941 classic children’s book, Make Way for Ducklings.

Designed by Nancy Schön in honor of the book’s author, Robert McCloskey, the ducklings were installed in the gardens in 1987. The book tells the story of how Mr. and Mrs. Mallard came to Boston looking for a home, and eventually settled in the gardens.

 Daddy Mallard, however, is missing, for the statues only consist of Mother Mallard and her eight babies: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack.

The family is often dressed for holidays and the weather, but they were only in their birthday suits when I visited Boston. Because I was so charmed, I guess I’m still a child at heart – and thankful for it.

The ducklings were being enjoyed by kids like me when I visited them. — Photo by Pat Bean,

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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The Joy of Wonder

Who wouldn’t be full of wonder at seeing a Cooper’s Hawk sitting calmly in a tree? – Photo by Pat Bean  

Little Things Mean a Lot

“It doesn’t have to be the Grand Canyon, it could be a city street, it could be the face of another human being – Everything is full of wonder,” wrote A. C. Grayling, a former British university professor and author of over 25 books on philosophy.

I agree. And I also believe my continuing ability to retain a sense of wonder and enjoyment, whether it be about the passing landscape during a country drive or working a jigsaw puzzle with a granddaughter, is one of the greatest blessings I enjoy during this eighth decade of life. I still wake up looking forward to a day in which I might learn something new.

It was easy for me to keep this sense of wonder when I was a newspaper journalist because everyday was different, and I was usually involved in newsworthy stories, from interviewing people like Maya Angelou – my favorite interview of a 37-year career – to learning about cold fusion, a topic that kept me up researching most of the night before the next day’s interview.

Thankfully, however, I have managed to maintain my wonder — even as my days have become less active and more confined.

Yesterday, I was awed by a story in the New York Times about an eight-year-old Idaho boy who wrote and illustrated an 81-page book, the Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis, and then stuck it into his local library’s fiction section.

When the librarians learned about it, they were charmed and entered it into the catalog system in the graphic novel category because of its many illustrations. By the end of January, 56 people wanted to check it out.

The book had lots of spelling errors, for example, in “Chaptr 1,” Dillon writes, “ONe Day in wintr it wus Crismis!”  But the tale is a good one, the librarians said, and goes on to transport Dillon, both the protagonist and the author, on a time-traveling adventure after the star on the tree explodes.

Spelling, I long ago came to realize, is not as important as being able to tell a good story. A good editor or, these days spell check, can correct the mistakes.

Wondering, meanwhile, is how I have come to look at life. For example, wondering if our resident great horned owl recently increased its nightly hooting because it’s looking for a new mate. In recent years, I’ve always heard one hooting owl getting a hoot back from a second owl. Currently I’m hearing only one bird’s voice.

Wondering, at least for me, is often as satisfying as finding an answer.

But not always. I wonder how come there seems to be so much hate in the world these days, and no answer to this question would make me feel better or satisfied.  

Thankfully stories like Dillon Helbig’s Crismis lets me forget about that for a while. And to remember there are still good news stories out there to read and wonder about.

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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Lemon Cake and Hot Wings

This is a copy of a painting I did many years ago. It hangs in the home of my daughter-in-law Cindi, who has long been my loving guardian angel. I am indeed blessed.

A Recipe of Love  

I was hungry the other night, and while my pantry was pretty-well stocked, there was nothing on hand that didn’t need to be cooked. That’s kind of something I do purposely as this, more than anything else, keeps me just reasonably overweight.

Now I love cooking, and do so for myself almost every day, but this wasn’t a day I wanted to spend time in the kitchen. It was cold outside, and I was warm and snuggly in a chair with an Inspector Gamache mystery. Well, I guess I could have had a peanut butter sandwich, but that didn’t appeal to me. I wanted something tastier, with good seasonings and texture.

As if by magic, my granddaughter Shanna popped in my front door. After being enthusiastically welcomed by my canine companion Scamp, she informed me that she had hot wings from Firetruck, a local pub.

  “I just thought you might like a treat,” she said.

I think I literally drooled, then I ate one wing heavily drenched in the pub’s homemade ranch dressing while Shanna gave Scamp a walk – another treat for me. Afterwards, we worked together for a little bit on the 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in progress on my dining room table before she left.

I had two more wings, and then settled back down in my chair to read some more. And then, even before I could think that something sweet might be a perfect ending to the wings, my friend Jean appeared with a huge piece of lemon cake that had been baked in the high school culinary class she teaches.

“It’s the best lemon cake recipe I’ve ever come across,” she said, as I cut off a small piece and ate it. My taste buds immediately agreed with her. And she had brought a big enough piece that I knew I would enjoy it again with my morning coffee.

Later that night, I thought about how much love was shown to me this evening. I mean, nothing spells love better than hot wings and lemon cake. Wouldn’t you agree?

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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Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. — Photo by Pat Bean

Connections

I just learned that when the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum renovated its hummingbird aviary in 1992, the new hummingbird nests kept falling apart. Museum workers scratched their heads for a while, but finally realized why this was happening.

 During the renovation, all the old vegetation inside the aviary was   removed, and replaced by new plants. The removal took away any spiders that inhabited the vegetation and the hummingbirds needed the web spiders produced to hold their nest materials together. The problem was solved by workers gathering branches that held such webs, and placing them inside the aviary until the spiders could reestablish their presence.

While digesting this bit of information, I came across a mindfulness tip about how to stay calm during these chaos-filled days when the news is all about Covid, political shenanigans and tornado deaths. It came from TV writer Cord Jefferson, who said traditional meditation didn’t work for him. What did, he said, was to just get lost in the gentle pulses of jellyfish for a short mindfulness break during his workday,” Cord then noted that Monterey Bay Aquarium has a jellyfish cam that can be bookmarked on a phone or laptop browser.

I’ve watched hummingbirds at the desert museum and the jellyfish at the aquarium in person, and found both these things calming. I think it’s just letting ourselves get out of our heads a bit that does the trick.

But reading these two stories back-to-back, made me realize how interconnected we beings on this world are. And by beings, I don’t just mean we two-legged sapiens. It’s certainly something to think about. Meanwhile, if you’re in Tucson or Monterey, you might want to check out the desert museum and the aquarium. Both are great places to visit.

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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Chickadee and berries. — Art by Pat Bean

Fingers Take Over Brain

Amy Hale Aucker, in her book Ordinary Skin, writes about her choice to camp in a primitive area near a natural hot-spring pool despite warnings against doing just such a thing. While her mother only told her to be careful and not talk to strangers, others asked where she was going to plug in the hair dryer.

Even the campground host Jim, an older gentleman, asked if she was sure she wanted to do this.

She did, and she talked to strangers, even a rough-looking vagrant who joined her in the hot pool one night. Jim just happened to wander by, a few times, just checking out the campground. But Amy knew that he was making sure she was OK.

“He was taking care of me,” Amy wrote, noting that other men had also taken care of her during her life.

My first thought on reading this was the campground host, also an older gentleman, who daily checked up on me at a lonely Michigan campground during my solo RVing days.

It felt nice. Taking care of women was how most men were raised in my generation. And some of then took it very seriously. But then along came the female rebellion, when women decided things like opening doors for them wasn’t a good thing at all because it let the man feel superior.

Ha! Men have felt superior from almost the moment they were born, often simply because of the way they were treated by their loving parents, who gave them more freedom than their sisters, and made sure if there was only enough money for one child to be educated it would be them.

I was even told by a male high school teacher that females had no reason to go to college. They would be taken care of by a man. I remembered that clearly the day I realized nobody in my life would be taking care of me, but me. I had no problem with men opening doors for me. All I cared about was getting equal pay for equal work.

That, at least, was/is my generation, and I’m an American woman. In some eras and countries, female babies weren’t even allowed to live. Even today, in some countries, women can’t walk outside their homes without a male escort.

Hmmm. This essay took an unexpected turn, which often happens to me when I have my fingers on a keyboard and they take charge of the brain. My original thoughts were to compare Amy’s experience of Jim looking out for her, with the times men looked out for me.

And, like Amy, I, too, wouldn’t let the fear of being harmed by men stop me from doing the things I loved to do, like my solo RVing across America, or hiking a mountain trail alone because that was my favorite way to be in nature.

And also to note that if I saw a man with his hands full, I would quickly open the door for him. It’s the little courtesies between us all that make life more pleasant. And we don’t have enough of them in the world today.

Sorry for the detour from my first nice thought. But it’s hard escaping the real world.

Kindness, meanwhile, knows no gender.

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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These tiny purple flowers grow all around my apartment complex. I try to always take the time to stop and enjoy them. — Photo by Pat Bean

          I just started reading Ordinary Skin: Essays from Willow Springs by Amy Hale Auker, and it touched my soul before I had even finished the first page. Amy talks about imagining her wings and fins and claws and then catching the light of the day and snuggling back into her ordinary skin.

I read books for many reasons: To learn new things, to escape to new worlds, to discover that others can feel as much of an outcast as I have most of my life, to share experiences, and to be inspired to live better and write better.    

          Amy’s book is a series of essays inspired by her life on Spider Ranch, which covers a sprawling 72 square miles of Central Arizona landscape whose elevation ranges from 3,400 feet to 6,100 feet. It is full of canyons, bears, cactus and cactus wrens.

          It’s about a woman finding its beauty and her place in this landscape, just as it was in her first book of essays, Rightful Place. That book’s setting was the Texas Panhandle’s Llano Estacada.

          Books like these, and the many others I’ve read that involve wild, rural and isolated lands as inspiration, inspire me to write my own essays about finding my own place in the landscape, like I sort of did in my book Travels with Maggie.

          But instead of living on a sprawling ranch today, I live in a large apartment complex. Thankfully, its located in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, is surrounded on one side by a tiny bit of undeveloped desert, and has three landscaped courtyards where flowers grow, and giant Ponderosas, Russian Olive, tall Palms and other trees provide shade for the Sonoran Deserts’ blazing hot summers.

          Living alone provides me with all the solitude I need, and daily walking my canine companion, who wants to say Hello! Please scratch my ears! to everyone he meets, fills my need for human interaction.

          Hummingbirds daily dance around my two third-floor balconies, a pair of Great Horned Owls serenade my evenings with their hoos, while coyotes sometimes howl in harmony. As an old broad who has had her fill of yard work and owning homes that had to be maintained, apartment living suits me.

          Life is good. Especially since I have books to let me imagine different landscapes and lifestyles.

          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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