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Archive for the ‘Journeys’ Category

Bluebirds

Western Bluebird — Wikimedia photo

 If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the popular World War II song, There’ll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover.

       If you’re an ornithologist, that phrase might make you chaff. England has no bluebirds. But if you’re just an enthusiastic birder, like me, it might bring a smile to your face.

That’s what it did when I read this piece of trivia. It’s amazing the things you learn if you’re an eclectic reader. As a birder, I do know that America does have bluebirds, three species. The Mountain Bluebird, which is bright blue and resembles images of the Blue Bird of Happiness, and Western and Eastern Bluebirds, which also have a bit of white and rusty-red hues in their feathers.

          But in defense of idea about Bluebirds flying over England’s White Cliff’s of Dover, some say the bluebird in the song refers to English war planes flying over the cliffs, others that it refers to swallows and martins, which do fly over the cliffs, and which have a blue sheen.

          Anyway, in case you remember the song, which was written in 1941 by Walter Kemp with lyrics by Nat Burton, and made popular by Vera Lynn’s 1942 recording, the lyrics go like this:

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
I’ll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry sky’s
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I’m far away I still can hear them say
Sun’s up
For when the dawn comes up
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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My Mom

My mother on a camping trip to Zion National Park. She spent most of her time at a nearby motel but was always ready to sit around a campfire with her beer in the evenings. Afterward someone would drive her back to her warm room. This trip, by the way, became known as the camping trip from hell because we got rained on, snowed on,, our tents blew down, and half the park was closed because of a land slide. We all remember it fondly. — Photo by Pat Bean

 I was at the bedside of both my mother and father when they died. My father simply turned over and went to sleep, as if he couldn’t be bothered with dying any more than he was bothered with providing for his family during life.

He was a gentle man without any meanness, but his drinking and own affairs were always more important to him than being home for dinner or seeing that his growing children were adequately clothed. As a child, however, I adored my father and hated my mother. He never hit me and he spoke softly. I forgave him, even forgot the many times he failed to show up for me when promised, or the times I went to school with cardboard in my shoe to cover up a hole.

But I didn’t forget a single wrong my mom ever committed, not even if that failing was only in the mind of a stubborn, difficult child who defiantly wanted her own way. It was my mother’s screaming that woke me in the early morning hours when my father finally did straggle home. I would try to shut out the sound but my mother’s voice had a shrillness to it that penetrated deep beneath any pillow. 

My mother’s anger never seemed to cool. I still remember the time she threw a beer bottle at my dad and knocked him unconscious. I thought he was dead. The incident became part of our family’s history and everyone, including my dad, laughed when it was retold. Everyone that is but me.

I rarely saw my father. He was gone in the morning by the time I awoke. As long as I could remember he worked for the same auto body and paint shop in Dallas, but most or all of his weekly paycheck was long drunk up or gambled away by the time he made it home. Those payday Friday nights, usually early Saturday mornings, were the times my mother was at her worse.

By the time my father died, I had married, moved out state, and had children of my own. I was only 16 when I got married. My mother signed the papers for the marriage because I was a minor. Her consent left me thinking she was glad she no longer had the responsibility of an ungrateful, difficult child. I swore I would never be like her, and had high expectations I would now get the love I so craved. It was an illusion I stubbornly maintained for years and when the call came about my father’s stroke, I could no longer deny my marriage was in crisis.

I drove alone to see my father one last time, planning to use the solo drive as a time to sort out my life. Instead, I began to see my father in his true light and to get a glimmer of the demons that had so long plagued my mother. 

When I arrived in Dallas, my father was lucid, even joking although he was blue from lack of oxygen. He could hardly talk and coughed a lot. He mimed for a cigarette and I told him the doctor said he shouldn’t smoke. “To hell with the doctor,” he scribbled on a bedside pad. So, I held a cigarette to his mouth and he took a few puffs before motioning it away.

Two hours later he was dead. 

It was a very small funeral. Dad had come from a large family of 11 children but he had estranged himself from them. Even if we had located them, they might not have come. I sat through the funeral dry-eyed, remembering all the times this man had never been there for me.

There was no question that I loved my dad, but it was simply because he was my dad. Try as I would, I could not recall a single time he had ever walked across the street for me. My own children, who had stayed with him and my mom for two weeks once, had more of his attention than I did in 16 years. By then, however, he was sick and his gallivanting days over, and his boss had also started giving his paycheck to my mother.

My mother stayed with my dad to the very end, but I finally chose to end my own marriage. While I still had younger children to provide for, I walked away with nothing, preferring to start fresh with no ties to the past. I quickly found myself thinking of my mother in better and better light. It was she, I realized, who had held our family together, and she who had worked long hours to see that we children never went to bed hungry. She did it all under the most difficult of circumstances.

When I found myself a single parent, I had skills to fall back on as I had worked during my marriage. My dad wouldn’t let my mother work outside the home. Why she gave in to this pronouncement until after we kids were grown, I do not know. It was just one of her few concessions to the standards of society at the time. When she finally did go to work as a desk clerk for a laundry, my father joked that her job cost him more in taxes than she made.

 Not true of course, but it was a way for him to salve his macho image. Besides, for the first-time mother had a decent car and my parents were able to buy a home. Mother could squeeze a penny, when she had one, to the moon and back.

My early image of my mother was that of a small woman who smoked constantly, wore socks with high heels and had bad teeth. That appearance was shockingly different from a picture I found of her before she married my dad in 1938 when she was 23. She had been a secretary and in that photo was dressed to perfection with a neat cap of waved hair.

 I never knew that woman, and to my discredit I was ashamed of the woman she had become. I often hid notes that invited parents to school events. I know I hurt her feelings more than once, especially the time I told her I wanted to go live with her sister who wanted to adopt me because she couldn’t have children of her own.

When my grandfather died, my father moved us into my grandmother’s home over my mother’s protests. I was about 3 at the time and still an only child. My grandmother adored me but she and my mother, both strong-minded women, were often at odds. My mother put in long hours in a garden, then just as many hours in the kitchen canning its output. We lived on that bounty, along with the chickens and rabbits and pigs my grandmother raised. The work of taking care of them was just another chore loaded onto my mother. My father, of course, was never around. 

When my grandmother broke her hip, the job of taking care of her fell solely on my mother.

While we lived with my grandmother, my mother gave birth to two sons less than a year apart. Taking care of them with all of her other chores often left me to fend for myself. While I thrived on the freedom of being out from under my mother’s eye, I did a pretty poor job of dressing myself for school and my unkempt appearance prompted my schoolmates to accuse me of having cooties. Added to that was the fact I was a know-it-all brat. They called me Cootie Brain. It was a hurtful title that often made me cry. When I was much older and reading Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird by Bird,” in which she talks about having to be very careful during your early school days or you’ll find yourself being that kid standing alone by the fence, I realized I had been that kid. And that kid blamed it all on her mother.

The one thing my mother really enjoyed was crocheting. I don’t think I ever saw her sitting down without a crochet needle in her hands. She made potholders and afghans and laced and ruffled dollies, which she starched and ironed so they stood up like a picket fence To this day, I’ve never seen stitches so perfectly the same size as her tiny hands made.

It was my job, one of the few I had growing up, to take these handmade items around the neighborhood and sell them. I hated doing it but could never talk my way out of it, and so another stab of hate for my mother went into my personal pin cushion. I now understand that the small pittance she got for her crocheting usually went on food or clothes for us kids. After we had to move out of my grandmother’s home after she died, her crocheting, and my selling skills became even more important. We now had to pay rent and we had no garden, yet my father’s way of life did not change.

It was during this time that my mother had a miscarriage. The baby had been an accident but she was so hurt and sorry she had lost it that she immediately got pregnant again. I was 12 when my youngest brother, Richard, was born. He gave my mother more heartache than any of us other three children who amazingly were always straight A students and became self-sufficient at young ages.

Richard barely made it through school and afterwards would disappear for months. When he finally did show up, always down and out, Mother would always let him move back home, right up to the end when he died of AIDS. He had been a gay man during a time when the only way to survive was in a closet. Looking back, I now believe that he was the best of us siblings. I never heard him say a single bad word about anyone.

I, however, saw little of either my mother or brother because I lived out of state. And when I did see my mother, once or twice a year, I was perfectly polite to her and hid my true feelings behind a false front, because I at least had the decency to be ashamed of them.

But at some point, I realized my own children adored my mother. I had never told them about my own childhood or what I considered my unnatural hatred of my mother. This left them free to see her with a clean slate. They came to love her because she cooked special dishes for them when we visited, because she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, because she didn’t talk down to them and because she asked nothing from them. My mother never asked anything of anybody. She was a fiercely proud woman who kept her own counsel.

I was nearly 40 before all the hatred in my heart for my mother melted into love. I realized that all the time I had spent determined to be as opposite of my mother as possible had been in vain. I had vowed that my children would never suffer the same hurts, or feel as unloved as I had been. Instead, they suffered different kinds of hurts and pains, some of them because I hadn’t been strong like my mother.

Toward the end of her life, my mother lived 1,500 miles away because my work had taken me to Utah. At my insistence she began coming to visit for a month in summer and a month at Christmas. During those times I tried to make up for all the hurts I had inflicted on her in my younger days. She loved Jackson Hole and the Tetons in Wyoming, and since they were only a few hours away from my home, we went there every summer. My mother, being who she always was, sometimes even threatened not to come unless I promised to take her.

When she visited, I made sure she had a beer at 10 a.m. and one at 4 p.m., which was her daily limit as well as her established habit. My mother was still no angel and could get cranky as hell if she missed her beer, or heard a barking dog, or a mailman interrupted her nap, or her favorite baseball team, The Texans, lost a game. I think her day wasn’t complete if something hadn’t annoyed her. It meant she had something to tell me the second I walked in the door from work.

My friends, like my kids, came to adore her. She was a 99-pound package of uniqueness that defied conformity. There even came a day when I realized her frequent rants and raves amused more than irritated me. 

The last Christmas she came for a visit my youngest son, Mike, escorted her on the plane because of her frailty. Even so, she wouldn’t agree to be transported to the airplane’s door by wheelchair. It hurt her pride to even have to use a cane. I instinctively knew this visit would be her last and became determined not to let her return to her home in an Illinois assisted living facility. Before she arrived, I fixed up my guest bedroom to meet her needs and did all in my power to convince her to stay. One day she agreed. I breathed easier.

The next three months we settled into a routine. Before I left for work, I would fix her coffee and try to get her to eat something and urge her not to forget lunch, which often she did. On returning home, she would greet me with some complaint and in the same breath ask if I was up to a game or two. Usually it was Yahtzee, Rummy or Scrabble. Although my mother’s body was giving out, her mind stayed sharp to the end. On weekends I would usually take her for a drive but the last month of her life even that was too much for her.

Then came the day I returned home from work and found her lying on the living room floor. She had fallen and couldn’t get up. With my help, she limped into bed. I fixed her some dinner and brought it to her but she said she wasn’t hungry. She had bumped her head when she fell and I asked her if perhaps we shouldn’t take her to the emergency room and have it checked out. Looking me straight in the eye, and using her shrill voice as loudly as she could still manage, she said: “No doctors! No hospital!” 

I agreed and sat with her until she fell asleep. I stayed up late worrying about what I was going to do. I knew she shouldn’t be left alone any more but I still had to go to work. When I went in to check on her in the middle of the night, I discovered her again lying on the floor. She had tried to get up to go to the bathroom. She was now a dead weight in my arms and could barely talk. I spent the remainder of the night sitting in a chair and wondering what to do. It was the loneliest time of my entire life.

When morning came, I phoned a visiting nurse agency and then called my oldest son’s wife, whom I knew would have the word spread as fast as an eye blink. When the nurse came, she explained my options: Take my mother to the hospital, keep her home but put her on intravenous feeding, or simply do nothing. I chose the latter, knowing that my mother would haunt me to the end of my days if I did either of the other two. She had been a sickly child and all her life she had hated needles.

Mike, my son who had escorted my mother to Utah, was at my house by noon. He heard the last words his grandmother spoke. She looked at this favored grandchild who had always understood her and said; “It’s time.” Shortly after, she went into a coma from which she never woke.

 My brother, Robert, arrived that evening and my oldest daughter, Deborah, the next day. She and I daily bathed my mother and often tried to coax a little water down her throat. Toward the end, the visiting nurse said not to offer the water unless she asked for it. It was becoming clear that my mother’s body, if not its will to live, had already died.

  My friends, her friends, popped in and out for the next eight days. We played the card games which mother had always loved and we laughed and talked about the woman whose every struggled breath echoed throughout the house. Her son, grandson and granddaughter took turns sitting up with her at night, until the last one. That night I sat with her, often finding myself matching my breath with the labored one of my mother’s. The stubborn determination of her frail body to keep breathing was a final testament to the strength that had propelled her through a difficult, hard life. As I sat by her side, I realized every strength within me came from this small woman.

Mother lingered through the night but we all knew the time was close. A game of cards was in progress in the dining room when something compelled me to get up and go to her side. As I stood there, her bony hand in mine, the room suddenly became quiet.

I have missed her every day of my life since.

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Soap Box Rant: Bullies

One way to keep America Great would be export all the bullies. — Bald Eagle art by Pat Bean

          Reading the news this morning sent me off on one of my rants, and I decided it was time to vent.

When did calling people hateful names for something they said instead of intelligently debating their words become a daily part of American culture?

          This behavior sickens me. And the only way I could escape it these days would be to read no newspapers, unplug my radio and television and lock myself in my apartment and shut all my window shutters.

That’s not a life I want to live, especially after being somewhat isolated for over a year.

          Instead of mouthing nothing but derogatory rants about political opponents, tell me what your plans for America are. If you don’t like the proposals of the opposite side, give me a different solution. Why are your ideas better than your opponents?

          Heaven forbid – OK I’m being sarcastic — that a bit of one and a bit of the other might even be a better solution.

          It sounds to me that those who savage people instead of their words don’t have any solutions or plans, and they think if they shout the insults loudly enough it will scare off any contenders who oppose them.

          It also seems to me that all these revengeful attacks against people with different ideas is no different than schoolyard bullying of the kid who is different, only on an adult level.

What kind of example is being set for our young people? I ask as a great-grandmother of seven who wants them to be raised in a kind world – without bullies.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Curlew Day

Long-billed Curlew in flight. — Wikimedia photo

          Today, April 21, is World Curlew Day.

On reading this bit of trivia in Bird Watcher’s Digest, I immediately thought of being dive-bombed by Long-billed Curlews while traveling across the eastern causeway to Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island in the late 1990s.

          I was researching a series on the lake and had gotten permission to travel the little-used, non-public causeway with a photographer. We were carefully making our way down the rutted road when we came across a bunch of curlew chicks dashing back and forth.

       . We stopped and got out of our four-wheel vehicle to investigate — and immediately found ourselves being dive-bombed by birds with long pointy bills.

          I immediately got back into the vehicle, but the photographer stayed a few more seconds to try and snap a few photos. One of the birds knocked his hat off, and as I recall, he didn’t even try to retrieve it.

          I consider that day one of my best off-the-beaten-track adventures.

          There are eight species of curlews in the world, but only the Long-billed makes its home in North America. The other seven are Little, Eurasian, Bristle-thighed, Slender-billed, Whimbrel, Far Eastern and Eskimo, which is thought to already be extinct. One hasn’t been sighted since the 1980s.

Only the Whimbrel, Long-billed and Little curlews are not considered endangered. The Long-billed Curlew is actually fairly common in the western half of North America.

          Bean Pat: If you want to know about curlews, check out curlewaction.org. or read Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell, who walked 500 miles — from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast of England –, to discover what is happening to the UK’s much-loved Eurasian Curlew, whose population had dwindled 50 percent over the past 20 years.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Lake Moraine in Banff National Park — Wikimedia photo

          Lake Louise is one of the more popular sites in Canada’s Banff National Park. I visited it in 2001 and was quite impressed, more so perhaps because it was here that I saw my first Clark’s Nutcracker. It was during my early days of birdwatching and I remember being quite excited to add this bird to my life list.

          But while Lake Louise merely impressed me, my next stop in the park was one of those soul-touching moments that made me vow to return. It was the smaller, nearby Lake Moraine, around the edge of which sat a few cabins that looked out over the water. I could see myself sitting for a week or more in one of them watching as the light changed the mood of the view hour by hour.

          My vow to return, however, wasn’t a realistic one, given the distance, the time and the cost involved, not to mention how many other places to visit are still on my bucket list.

          And Lake Louise wasn’t the first place I’ve vowed to revisit. There was the Top of the World Highway, which started with a ferry trip across the Yukon River in Dawson City, Canada, and traveled on a mostly unpaved road to Tok, Alaska; Then there was Acadia National Park in Maine, where I stood on top of Cadillac Mountain and was the first person in the United States to feel the sun on my face that early morning; And the Galapagos Islands, which I sailed around and where a blue-footed booby danced with me; And Farragut State Park in Idaho, where I was a camp volunteer one summer; And Flume Gorge State Park in New Hampshire, where I enjoyed a solo hike that I still treasure – just to name a few of those vows.

          Thankfully, I’ve been wise enough to realize that some things only happen once in your life, so I’ve tried hard not to miss anything, and to store up the good memories. Those at least are vows that can be kept.  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

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Gila Woodpecker at my hummingbird feeder

          With few exceptions, you can only find saguaro cactus in Arizona, and the same can be said for the Gila (pronounced heela) Woodpecker’s appearance above the Mexican border. Saguaros and Gilas go together like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. If you see one, you’ll find the other nearby

The plant and fauna duo share a mutually beneficial relationship. The saguaro provides shelter and food for the woodpecker, and the woodpecker rids the plant of harmful insects. I’ve seen the two together often around my Sonoran Desert Tucson apartment complex, including from my third-floor balcony, where the birds sometimes hang upside down on my hummingbird feeder to get at its nectar content. It’s a rather comical sight.

Since I live next to some undeveloped patches of land that have been left to Mother Nature’s whims – and her whims include saguaro cactus — I’ve also been privileged to see a pair of these brown and zebra-striped woodpeckers raise three chicks in a hole pecked out in a tall, three-armed saguaro that most likely was well over half a century old. Saguaros grow slowly and don’t grow arms until they are in the neighborhood of 50 years old.

          I probably wouldn’t have discovered the nest if it hadn’t been for the young ones clamoring to be fed. I saw them about a half dozen times after that, and then one -day the nest was quiet and deserted.

          I wonder if one of those young Gilas will one day visit my  humming bird feeder?

Cat No. 12: Pirate Cat

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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          “I want there to be no peasant so poor in my realm that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” – Henry IV (1553-1610)

          I grew up knowing where food came from. My grandmother raised pigs, chickens and rabbits, had an apricot and a peach tree from which jam was made, and a large vegetable garden, the produce of which my mother and grandmother preserved to see us through the winter.

We ate well all week, but Sunday dinner was always special, and it began with my grandmother wringing the head of a chicken, which would then spasm around on the ground for a bit before joining its passed-on kin. .

The dead bird would then be dropped into a bucket of boiling water for a few minutes before its feathers were plucked out. Once that was done, the bird was cut into pieces, dipped in a seasoned egg, milk and flour mixture and fried until they had a golden-brown crispy exterior and a juicy interior.

I’ve never tasted better fried chicken, so delicious it would turn the Colonel and Popeye green with envy.

                   ***

Cat No. 11: Alice’s Loony Cheshire

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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Lake Pend Oreille — Wikimedia photo

“Forever is composed of nows” — Emily Dickinson

It was a sunny June day in 2010 in Northern Idaho, where from my RV window I was watching a multitude of animals scampering about.

  Rabbits were hopping among the shadows of the trees, which were full of noisy squirrels chattering above. Mourning doves and dark-eyed juncos were pecking at the bird seed I had scattered about, while colorful butterflies flitted to-and-fro among a patch of wildflowers not too far away.

Closer still, a black-chinned hummingbird was drinking from my small nectar feeder.

The animals would come and go for the next three months, just another perk to go along with the free camp site and utilities provided in exchange for being a volunteer at Farragut State Park.

Located in the Idaho Panhandle at the tip of Lake Pend Oreille near the Canadian border, the 4,000-acre park was a Naval Training Station during World War II – and Lake Pend Oreille, which is over a thousand feet deep, is still used by the Navy for submarine research.

I got to spend an afternoon and evening on the lake, which included watching Rocky Mountain Goats scamping high on the cliffs above the lake.

When I wasn’t animal watching, or greeting and registering visitors and campers at the park’s entrance kiosk, I spent my days bird watching and exploring the park.

I saw my first chestnut-backed chickadee here. These birds were frequent visitors to the bird feeder at the park’s visitor’s center.

And from one of the park’s permanent workers, I learned to identify Douglas Firs from Grand Firs. The Douglas Firs could easily be spotted by the new growth of bright green on their tips, which gave them a lighted Christmas tree appearance.

            Park Ranger Errin Bair told me I could also tell the two trees apart by their cones. The Douglas’ cones are light brown and hang down; the Grand’s are greenish or even purplish and grow upright.

          It was a grand summer.

          Meanwhile, I know I’ve been off the grid for a bit, but I haven’t forgot my 30-cat challenge. Here is Cat No. 10: Fierce Cat.

Cat No. 10L Fierce Cat

          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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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An Aplomado Falcon: A good place to see one is Laguna Atascosa National Wilklife Refuge in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley

  While perusing the latest issue of Bird Watchers Digest as I drank my cream-laced coffee this morning, I saw that Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

          Located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the 96,000 refuge is home to Aplomado Falcons. While predominantly a South America bird, until around 1950 the species could also be found in Texas and a couple of other southern border states. But Texas’s population of the birds had dropped to only two pairs by the time they were listed as “endangered” in 1986.

Human efforts to increase the numbers, which have included introducing Aplomados from Mexico, have had varying degrees of success but the birds are still listed as endangered and a Texas sighting of one is considered “rare.”

Of course, that makes it a challenge for avid birders like myself.

I’m happy to note that I met the challenge on Nov. 13, 2005, at Laguna Atascosa NWR. I was with a group of birders attending a birding festival in Harlingen. It was a life bird for several of us that day. And I was the first one to spot the bird’s nearby mate.

       It was this awesome sighting that I thought about when I read that the refuge was celebrating its 75th anniversary.

          Visiting wildlife refuges was one of my goals during the years between 2004 and 2012 when I lived and traveled all across this country in a small RV. And Laguna Atascosa was near the top of my list to visit because The American Bird Conservancy calls it as one of the 500 Most Important Birding Areas in the United States.

          Also on that list is the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which is just an hour’s drive away from my Tucson home.

Bean Pat: This country’s 568 National Wildlife Refuges. Which one is closest to you?

          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 (Free to Kindle Unlimited members) and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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On Drawing Cats

Snarky Cat in a Tree — Cat. No. 10

          “A line is a dot that went for a walk,” says Paul Klee. Not sure why, but that thought, and Klee’s own out-of-the-box paintings, loosens my artistic inhibitions. The first fear, of course, is being judged for my lousy drawing ability.

          To push myself to do more art, the doing of which, regardless of the outcome, makes me feel good about myself, I took on the challenge of drawing 30 cats, which is actually the first assignment in Carla Sonheim’s book Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun.

          The cats are supposed to be drawn quickly, and although the maximum amount of time I’ve spent — since beginning the challenge over a month ago – on drawing and painting each cat is less than 15 minutes, this morning I completed only Cat. No. 10.

          Like Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, I am a writer who also does other things, and it’s the same for my art.

          Although retired, 81, and living in Covid isolation time, my days are full and pass quickly. For that I am blessed. But I’m still committed to finishing the challenge, so more cats are coming, even if slowly.

Meanwhile, acknowledging the goal and sharing my imperfect efforts, are keeping me on task. My thanks to all my readers.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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