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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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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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Cat No. 4; Cat in a pink room.

Morning Thoughts and Cat. No. 4

About the Cat: It’s my version of one of the cats given as examples in the art book: Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. The goal was to quickly draw 30 cats from imagination while lying in bed. I guessed that the goal was to get the reader/artist to stop feeling like they had to be perfect, because the cat illustrations were certainly not drawn realistically.

Learning to accept that I wasn’t perfect, somewhere in my mid-30s, was one of the best moments my life. Remembering this got me thinking about other lessons learned during my 81 years on Planet Earth. I decided to make a list of 10 things, but only got to eight before my brain shut off. They are:

          No. 1: Accept that you’re not perfect and be happy about it.

          No. 2. Don’t take anything personal unless it makes you feel better.

          No. 3. Realize that people are more concerned about how they look than how you look.

          No. 4. Get a dog and walk it daily.

     No. 5. Find your passion in life, and follow it.

     No. 6. Get back on the horse when you fall off.

     No. 7. Learn something new every day.

No; 8: Get enough sleep most nights. I say most nights because us old broads still gotta have fun once in a while.

Perhaps readers can lengthen the list by sharing things life has taught them.

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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Cat No. 3: The Covid Cat

          I moderate a writer’s chat group called Writer2Writer for Story Circle Network, an international writing support group for women. Each Wednesday, I provide a writer’s prompt.

          This week, wanting to inject a little silliness into the life of writers, who like all of us are living on Covid time, I asked them to have a conversation with an animal who could respond with words instead of just a nodding of the head.

          Below is what my oldest daughter, Deborah, who is a member of W2W, wrote. I laughed all the way through. So, to give a bit of time to dog lovers to go along with my promised 30 artful cats, I decided to share it. I hope reading it brings a smile to your face.

Nightcap with Whiskey and Kahlua

By Deborah Bean

Welcome to the world of a new senior citizen (me) and my two lovable dogs. Whiskey weighs in at 25 pounds and is a Schnauzer/Cocker Spaniel mix — a Schnocker that you have to imagine with a Scottish accent. Ten-pound Kahlua is an energetic, sometimes frenzied Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix – a JackChi. Ironically, re names, I’m a teetotaler.  

Me: (Nighttime, Take 395) Okay, Whiskey, bedtime.

Kahlua: (Scampers downstairs) I’m going, I’m going, I’m going.

Me: Whiskey, come on.

Whiskey: (Opening one eye) Harrrrumph. (Then he closes that eye)

Me: Whiskey, it’s time for bed.

Whiskey: Your bed be much morrrre comfortable. Just leave me be.

Me: Whiskey! Time for bed!

Kahlua: (Scampering back upstairs and starting to bark) Hey it’s bedtime. Time to go pee and then I get a treat! I like treats. Treats are good.

Whiskey: I be in a bed, ye frrrenzied Kahlueless. And it be comforrrtable. And Mistress, if ye please, get idget down tharrre to be quiet.

Me: Whiskey, it’s bedtime. Coooome ooon. (Grabbing his hind legs and pulling slowly, I work his body off the edge of the bed)

Whiskey: (Still not getting up) Hey! What be you doing? And keep yerrr bloody hands offin me prrrivates! (I gently slide him off the bed so his hind feet touch down before I pull him all the way off) And how, the now, did I get down herrre. Ye bloody well tricked me, ye wench.

Kahlua: (Racingdownstairs and back up a second time) C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Time to go outside – then I get a treat! Treats are good. Don’t you want a treat Whiskey? And we’ve got a comfortable crate with pillows and blankies.

Me: Alright. Downstairs now.

Whiskey: I be strrrrretching. And yawning. And be ye sure ye don’t want me back in that tharrrre comfortable bed. I’d be keeping you warm all night.

Kahlua: (Racing up and down the stairs a third time) Time to go pee. I’m a good puppy. I know what to do.  Go outside, go pee, get my treat, and then off to bed in our crate.

Me: Whiskey, let’s go. It’s bedtime. Come on.

 Whiskey: (Grumbling all the way down to the kitchen door) And it’s a crrruel human ye be. Forcin’ me out of me comforrrtable spot. And now you sends me out into the darrrk to be a’peein.

Kahlua: (After making several circuits of the yard before stopping to go potty) I’m done. See, I went potty. I’m a good puppy. You love me because I know what to do. I’m loved, I’m loved. (Then races up the stairs to see the husband, barking all the way. He sends her back down as Whiskey saunters in from the yard. Kahlua is panting)

Me: Okay, into the crate, both of you.

Whiskey: (Giving me the evil eye, again) And, I be askin’, what will ye be givin’ me? Kahlueless over there may be willin’ but she be titched in the head.

Me: Of course. Here’s your treat. Now into the crate.

Kahlua: I got a treat. Treats are good. Now I’m in the crate. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: I’ll not be likin’ this a bit, but since thare be a treat, so shall it be.

Me: (Sighs) Why do I put up with this? It’s a good thing you’re such a snuggle bunny.

Whiskey: Hey! Who ye be besmirchin’ wit’ your bunny talk? It’s a fierce fighter I be — at least five minutes of the day. Hmph!

Me: Night puppies. Love you. See you in the morning.

Whiskey: Hmph! Well, at least there be comforrrtable blankets. Scootch over ye idget. Give me space.

Kahlua: (Snuggles between Whiskey’s legs) I did good! I said goodnight, peed, and went to bed with a treat. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: Quiet little beastie. I be tryin’ to sleep here.

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Cat No. 2: Green Eyes and Glasses

Some People Might Call It Stubbornness

          Although I love cooking, and am reasonably good at it, I never bake cakes these days. I tried in my younger years but almost always they were dismal failures. They drooped, didn’t rise, had raw centers or a dozen other mishaps.

          That’s because I can’t ever seem to follow rules. While I can successfully add or subtract to my favorite one-pot dishes, leaving out or adding something a cake recipe calls for rarely works.

          I thought about that as I was drawing one of the cats for the first assignment in Drawing: 52 Exercises to Make Drawing fun. I sort of fudged yesterday when I wrote that the first exercise was to draw 30 cats.

          The exact words of the exercise were: “Draw 30 cats from your imagination while sitting or lying in bed.” But that didn’t seem fun to me. I’m not a daytime bed person, rarely even taking naps. So, I simply snipped off the end of the assignment to suit my style.

          The truth is I’m one of those people, whoever they are, who only read instructions when all else fails. And telling me I must do something is like waving a red banner in front of an angry bull.

          My journal writing has helped me understand these and many more of my failings — or strengths if you look at things from an opposite angle. I doubt I’m going to change at my age. But I am going to eventually draw 30 cats.

          More journaling and cats to come …

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

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First assignment from Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. Draw 30 cats. This is Cat No. 1

          When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to become both a writer and an artist. Writing won out. For over half a century, writing was as important to me as breathing. Actually, it still is.

          As a newspaper journalist for 37 years, I felt what I wrote was important – because I was keeping people informed of what was going on in the world and what they needed to know. Thankfully, that was the priority goal of the newsrooms I worked in from 1967 to 2004.  

I cringe today when I read, or hear, so many journalism personalities (certainly not reporters) editorialize their version of events. I belong to the days of journalists like Walter Cronkite, who ended his news shows with “And that’s the way it is.” I’m not sure when demonizing and hate-mongering to win readers and viewers became so prevalent.

Ok. Enough of that. I didn’t plan on a soapbox rant for this blog. I was going to write about how these days my writing mostly consists of journaling. It’s helping me, at the grand age of 81, to connect the dots of my life. I find it quite enjoyable and rewarding, as well as helping me better understand who I am.

But I’ve also begun to piddle more with art, and finding it also rewarding.  I’m too old, however, to take it seriously, which is why I picked up Drawing:52 Creative Exercise to Make Drawing Fun.

The first exercise is to draw 30 cats. Above is my first one.

More journaling and cats to come…

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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A Late Political Rant

I feel like these American whistlers, just sitting around, watching the day go by.. —
Photo by Pat Bean.

          For four years I’ve been racking my brain to find a reason the Christian Right has been supporting a man more flagrantly sexually immoral than the former president they condemned so heartily for his sexual sins.

          To my way of thinking, it felt like the Christian world had been turned upside down. But finally, a light bulb in my fuzzy brain was ignited. One simple reason is that the Christian Right is a predominantly patriarchal society. It wasn’t that I didn’t know this. It was the reason I left my church almost 40 years ago. Its teachings stressed that woman would not have access to the highest degree in heaven without a man.  

          To have remained in that church would have been that I accepted being a second-class human, and I hadn’t accepted that from the minute I could think for myself at about six years old.

          It is most common in religious right thinking that a man has to lead, and even if a man isn’t a good person, too many male Christians and concurring females, felt it was better to put a man in charge of this country than a woman, especially one who thought she was as good as any man.        

This explains, to my dimwitted brain, why this country has had to put up with four years of bullying, lying, racism and flagrant egotism from a man who considers himself first and all others second — if even that.

            To think that anyone who considers himself a Christian and voted for this man today, especially after actually accepting his faults, continues to blow my mind.

          And why our leaders in Congress, many who spoke out against him before he gained office, did not call him out for his behavior and continued to back him saddens me. Sure, they got some of their political goals met, but only by accepting that the end was more important than the means.

          I don’t expect our president to be perfect. No one is. But I do expect him to be a decent human being.

I should have written this blog earlier – and not waited until I was biting my nails over today’s election results. They are already down to the quick. I suspect that whoever wins, we are facing some tough days ahead.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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