Archive for the ‘Wildflowers’ Category

The bluebonnet is “a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as Cowboy boots and the Stetson hat,” —  Texas historian Jack Maguire.

Texas bluebonnets. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 26, 2002

My next journal entry takes me into Texas, my home state where the majority of my family still lives. Today, that includes three of my five children, 11 of my 15 grandchildren, and five of my seven great-grandchildren.

In 2002, however, the numbers were fewer and I only had to visit Dallas, Fort Hood, and Lake Jackson to see them all. This coming Thursday, I’m flying home to Dallas, where I was born, and then will rent a car for trips to San Antonio, Lake Jackson, and West Columbia to see all my Texas family, except one granddaughter who will be on a delayed honeymoon to Disneyland in Florida.

I’m excited to be going at this time because this is prime bluebonnet season. However, I noted in my 2002 road trip journal that one of the first things I saw when I crossed the border from New Mexico into Texas were bluebonnets, even though it was then late June.

Texas late singing governor W. Lee O’Daniel (1939-41), sang; “You may be on the plains or the mountains or down where the sea breezes blow, but bluebonnets are one of the prime factors that make the state the most beautiful in the land that we know.”

Indian paintbrush is often seen blooming with bluebonnets. — Photo by Pat Bean

The bluebonnet, all five varieties of them, are Texas’ state flower. And thanks to former First Lady Ladybird Johnson, the roadsides are abundant with them. She encouraged Texans to toss flower seeds all across the state – and they did. But how all five bluebonnets became the state flower makes for a good Texas tall tale.

According to the Aggie Horticulture web site, the story goes like this:

In the spring of 1901, the Texas Legislature got down to the serious business of selecting a state flower, and the ensuing battle was hot and heavy. One legislator spoke emotionally in favor of the cotton boll, since cotton was king in Texas in those days. Another, a young man from Uvalde, extolled the virtues of the cactus so eloquently that he earned the nickname of “Cactus Jack,” which stuck with him for the rest of his life. He was John Nance Garner who later became vice president of the United States.

But the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Texas won the day. Their choice was Lupinus subcarnosus, generally known as buffalo clover or bluebonnet. And that’s when the polite bluebonnet war was started.

While you’re looking for bluebonnets, don’t miss the butterflies, like this swallowtail at Brazos Bend State Park.

Lupinus subcarnosus is a dainty little plant which paints the sandy, rolling hills of coastal and southern Texas with sheets of royal-blue in the early spring. But some folks thought it was the least attractive of the Texas bluebonnets. They wanted Lupinus texensis, the showier, bolder bluebonnet. So, off and on for 70 years, the Legislature was encouraged to correct its oversight. But the solons weren’t about to get caught in another botanical trap, nor did they want to offend the supporters of Lupinus subcarnosus. They finally solved the problem with typical political maneuvering.

In 1971, the Legislature added the two species together, plus any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded, and lumped them all into one state flower. What the many things the Legislature did not know then was that Texas is home to three other species of lupines and the umbrella clause makes all five of them the state flower.

A bit of interesting history that I only learned when doing some research for this blog. It adds a bit of pondering to my upcoming bluebonnet viewing.

Bean Pat: Sunrise at Bryce Canyon http://www.trailsunblazed.com/sunrise-at-bryce-canyon/ One of my favorite places.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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Welcome sign at the entrance to Hico, Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean


 “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” — Lily Tomlin

Say What?

When entering a new town while I was living on the road in a small RV with my canine companion Maggie, I was often greeted by bragging welcome signs.

My favorite was the one that greeted me as I drove into the small Texas town of  Hico: “Where Everybody is Somebody.”

If you visit Knox during Horse Thief Days, don’t forgt to buy a T-shirt.

That was much better than Knox’s claim to fame as ‘The Horse Thief Capital of the World.’ The name referred to a former resident, Sebastian “Boss” Buck, who got rich by stealing horses and printing fake money. Unashamed of its past, the Pennsylvania town holds an annual event called Horse Thief Days that is popular with residents and visitors alike.

Seven cities, meanwhile, claim to be the Watermelon Capital of the World: Cordelle, Georgia; Weatherford and Naples, Texas; Green River, Utah; Beardstown, Illinois; Rush Springs, Oklahoma; and Hope, Arkansas. Common sense says six of them are exaggerating.

Show Low, Arizona, meanwhile, proclaims itself as the only city named by the turn of a card, which occurred during a poker game between rival ranchers. The pair agreed to draw cards, and the one who got the lowest got to keep the land and start the town.

Certainly, one of the weirdest claims to fame is held by Berrien Springs. This Michigan town calls itself “The Christmas Pickle Capital of the

The Christmas Pickle

World.”  There are several tall tales about how the Christmas Pickle came to be, but the most common one is that Santa Claus saved two boys who had been imprisoned in a pickle barrel by an innkeeper who had stolen all their possessions.

Berrien Springs, located in a pickle-producing community, celebrates the pickle with an annual parade led by the Grand Dillmeister, who hands out pickles along the route. Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, hype the tradition to sell pickle ornaments, pickle earrings and even chocolate covered pickles.

I searched for my current home town’s claim to fame, but found nothing definitive. But if I had to name one, I would say Tucson is the World Capital of Saguaro Cacti.

So, what’s your town’s claim to fame?

Bean Pat: A morning walk with observant eyes https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/more-from-nature-on-december-25-2018/ 

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you’ll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.” — Eartha Kitt

The entrance to South Llano River State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Turkeys, Wildflowers and Dark Skies

A pair of Rio Grande wild turkeys.

It was one of those days when my canine companion Maggie and I took off down the road in our small RV with no destination in mind. We were simply exploring Texas’ Hill Country. I was confident that I would come across the perfect place for us to camp before night overtook us.

As I recall, it was well before noon when I came upon South Llano River State Park, and on seeing the abundance of lavender wildflowers dominating the lawn in front of the small building near the entrance, I figured we had found the place. I brake for wildflowers the same as I do for birds.

The South Llano River, a spring-fed tributary of the 105-mile Llano River that flows through Texas’ Hill Country.

And on checking into the park, I learned that here there were both. The park’s 500 plus acres of Hill Country river bottomlands, are home to the Rio Grande turkey, as well as habitat for wood ducks, white-tailed deer, squirrels, jackrabbits, javelinas, foxes, beavers, bobcats, cottontails and armadillos. It would be nice to see an armadillo walking around, I thought, recalling the roadkill one I had passed earlier in the day.

The park also had 18 miles of hiking trails, a few miles of which I explored, and modern campsites with electricity and water to feed my RV. I stayed for several nights, one of which I stayed up late watching a sky full of twinkling stars, a bonus of the park being a designated Dark Sky site.

Wildflowers, birds and stars – life doesn’t get much better for this fan of Mother Nature.

Bean Pat: You Gotta Live:  https://theenchantedoutlook.com/2018/02/20/you-gotta-live/ T0 this great post, I add my own mantra. Live so that when you die, you’ll know the difference.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book that she is tentatively calling Bird Droppings. It is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“The sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with base notes, or dark lake with the treble.” – Wassily Kandinsky

Vincent van Gogh liked the color yellow, too.

Vincent van Gogh liked the color yellow, too.

The Hue of Sunshine

I’ve watched this past month as cacti and palo verde trees have burst forth with yellow blossoms. I’ve come to think of this buttery splash on the landscape as a likely subject for a Van Gogh painting – well, if he had lived in Tucson.

Palo verdes, the state tree of Arizona, heavily dot the Catalina Foothills where I live. I love the color.

Palo verdes, the state tree of Arizona, heavily dot the Catalina Foothills where I live. I love the color.

Sometimes, as I observe the miracle of the desert coming to life, I find myself singing John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulder Makes Me Happy” – Because it does.

It’s just one more reason I start each day thankful for my life – and extra thankful that I live in a country where a woman is free to enjoy the bounties of Mother Nature anytime she wants. I wish it were true for all men and women alive in the world today. And I grieve because it isn’t, especially for the women who make up the majority of the oppressed in many countries.  Don’t you?*

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Portrait of Wildflowers http://tinyurl.com/ojb29cy I’m not the only one who enjoys the color of sunshine.

*This topic crept its way into my blog, not at all where I intended the end of my writing to go. It is, however, a topic that is much on my mind. I often feel guilty because of my simple luck of not being born in a country where an outspoken woman has to fear for her life. I seriously doubt I would have survived to become the old broad I am today if not for my birth-place luck.   


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“No one knows what causes an outer landscape to become an inner one.” – Margaret Atwood

The drive between Dallas and Austin is filled with roadside bluebonnets right now. Get out and go see them. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The drive between Dallas and Austin is filled with roadside bluebonnets right now. Get out and go see them. — Photo by Pat Bean

Catch ‘em While You Can

I drove from Dallas to Austin this past Thursday to attend the Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart memoir conference. The bluebonnets alongside the road on my I-35 and toll road 130 route were magnificent.


Up close and personal with Texas' state flower.

Up close and personal with Texas’ state flower.

On Sunday, after a fantastic few days of association with like-minded writer women, I made the return trip — and the bluebonnets were even more abundant and just as magnificent.

How could anyone not like bluebonnets?

They were named bluebonnets because someone thought they looked like the bonnets worn by pioneer women.

Texas’ singing cowboy “Pappy” O’Daniel, who became governor of the state when I was 2 years old, sang: “you may be on the plains or the mountains or down where the sea breezes blow, but bluebonnets are one of the prime factors that make the state the most beautiful land that we know.”

The Indian paintbrush blossoms along side Texas highways aren't too shabby either. --  Photo by Pat Bean

The Indian paintbrush blossoms along side Texas highways aren’t too shabby either. — Photo by Pat Bean

Did you catch that Texas pride there? I have to admit it’s something I share.

If you were a native Texan, like me, and saw the fields of bluebonnets I’ve seen this past week, you would understand. .

This is a really good year for bluebonnets, which require special conditions of rain, sun and cold, to bloom at their best. But the fields of blue are short-lived.

So if you can, catch them soon.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Not Yet There http://tinyurl.com/k243py5 This is one of my favorite bloggers, and this month Red Jim is writing poetry daily because it’s National Poetry Month.

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            “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” – Charles Farmer


Yesterday’s view from my balcony window. — Photo by Pat Bean

A Full Moon to Start my Day

I stood out on my balcony in my pajamas before dawn yesterday, where I was fully awakened by the morning’s crisp chill air, and wallowed in the beauty of a full moon.

Stepping back inside and grabbing my camera, I came out to capture its glow for future enjoyment. The picture, I decided, was flawed by the utility lines that marred the landscape.

Looking at this picture on my computer again this morning, I still didn’t like the lines that broke up the image. But then a thought struck me about how the photo was a symbol of how so many of us try to live our lives between the lines.

For the first half of my life that meant being perfect, an impossible goal. Thankfully, I’ve learned that not only was I never going to be perfect, deep down I knew I never wanted to be perfect. .

If I thought about it, and I did, the moon was just as awesome with the lines as it would be without them. And with that, one of my favorite quotes popped into my mind.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen.

Suddenly, I didn’t mind those dookie utility lines as much.

Bean’s Pat: Back on the Possumhaw Trail http://tinyurl.com/bjuznlh You don’t have to be a flower to have beauty. I love Steven’s Blog because I learn the names of plants, and not always just flowers. His photos make even weeds look awesome, although in this case it’s a winter tree.

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“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” — Winston Churchill

Favorite Places: The Tonto Basin

The first time I passed through Tonto Basin, I crossed the lake on the Roosevelt Dam. This bridge was opened to get traffic off the dam in 1990. I chose it as an example of near and far because of the yellow blossoms in the foreground, the bridge in the middle ground and the mountains in the far distance. — Photo by Pat Bean

During my cross-country journeys, even before I became a full-time RV-er, I often planned my trips so I would pass through Arizona’s Tonto Basin.

Located at the base of the Mongollon Rim, which runs across Arizona for 200 miles, with Tonto Creek flowing through it, the valley has always lifted my spirits. I love the tall arm-spreading saguaro cacti  that dot the landscape, the clear mountain air that fills my nostrils and the sight of curve-billed thrashers flitting the ground.



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 “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Ten of Hundreds


Lake Powell, which destroyed Glen Canyon and which wouldn’t ever have existed if Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang” characters had anything to say about it. — Photo by Pat Bean

I won’t say these are my 10 favorite travel books, because I could name 10 more just as easily. But these are books that influenced my decision to become rootless and make the road my home for the past eight years.

I Married Adventure, 1940, by Osa Johnson. I picked this book up at the library when I was about 10 years old. I was always sneaking into the adult section. I think I already knew I had wanderlust, and this book simply confirmed it. I, too, wanted adventure.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. My 22-foot RV, Gypsy Lee, is my version of Moon’s green van, Ghost Dancing. I loved this book so much that I’ve given dozens of copies away as gifts. The green-dotted scenic byways marked on today’s maps are my blue highways.

Road Fever, by Tim Cahill, I have loved everything this Wyoming author has written, especially this book that details a 15,000-mile trip from Tierra del Fuego to the top of Alaska. I’ve read everything this author has written that I could come across, including his many Outside magazine stories.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. This book fueled my desire to walk the Appalachian Trail, but except for a few miles on various sections it’s a to-do list item that I’ve waited too long to get around to doing. But I still have time to hike at least a few more miles on this trail whenever I come across one of its many trailheads.

One of Charles Kuralt’s more popular “On the Road” episodes wat the time he hooked up with a botanist to put names to all the wildflowers he was seeing, like this fireweed. — Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. I read this book many years ago, but reread it when I took to the road in 2004. My wordsmith friend, Charlie Trentelman, mentioned that I was the female version of Steinbeck, thus the title of my travel book, “Travels With Maggie.” Thank you Steinbeck.

On the Road with Charles Kuralt. Charles Kuralt was also influenced by Steinbeck. Kuralt, meanwhile, is actually the traveler most like me. We were both journalists, and we both prefer looking at life’s brighter side. I cried when Kuralt died, and one of my favorite travel photos is of his “On the Road” RV that’s on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthieson. A fantastic writer who makes one think. This book brought the Himalayas to life for me. I was privileged to have once heard this author speak.

Out of Africa by Isek Dinesen. Like Osa Johnson, this book made me want to travel to Africa. Not only did I do that in 2007, I visited Dinesen’s former coffee plantation in Nairobi.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. While I loved this book, Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is my favorite of all that he has written. It, too, could be considered a travel book in that it includes awesome descriptions of Utah and Arizona’s red-rock landscape.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. No travel book collection would be complete without Theroux. This is my favorite of his many.

Book Report: Busy morning, then a four-hour lunch with a group of mostly crazy old broads, whose Bay of Pigs nickname rivals my former group of crazy old broad friends called the Murder of Crows, that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. It comes under my umbrella mantra of smelling all the flowers and grabbing all the gusto this life has to offer. While I will do some editing as part of the rewrite of my travel book late this afternoon, I doubt I will add any significant word count. It’s the story of my writing life, conflicting goals. The good thing is that I no longer flagellate myself for such lapses.

Bean’s Pat: Photos and Facets; http://tinyurl.com/ckpfxer No! It’s not the London Bridge you’ve been seeing on television.

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 “The town was glad with morning light; places that had shown ugly and distrustful all night long now wore a smile; and sparkling sunbeams dancing on chamber windows, and twinkling through blind and curtain before sleepers’ eyes, shed light even into dreams, and chased away the shadows of the night.” – Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop

These Canada geese floated away from the shore as Pepper and I approached. — Photo by Pat Bean

It Couldn’t Have Been Any More Perfect

The stone wall is a CCC legacy, and the basalt rocks used to build it a legacy of the area’s volcanic past. In the background is Hole 12 of the park’s disc (Frisbee) golf course, a specialty here at Lake Walcott. — Photo by Pat Bean

I varied my walking route this morning, which usually sees me taking the trail from my RV to the boat dock. I chose instead to visit the fishing decks at the other end of the park, then immediately realized why this was a hike usually saved for the evenings.

Early mornings were when the sprinklers came on in this section of the park.

I managed to dodge all but one big spray, while my canine traveling companion, Pepper, purposely splashed through the raining water and any puddles she came across. Her joy at doing so delighted my heart.

A lone western grebe floats on the lake, whose reflective surface is muted this morning by an overcast sky. — Photo by Pat Bean

The overcast day spread a kind of magic over the landscape and lake, whose watery reflections were muted and quiet.

Running ahead, Pepper startled a flock of yellow-headed blackbirds that took to the sky from several Russian olive trees, their golden heads flashing before their dark bodies like large fireflies lighting their way.

A half-dozen nearby magpies were slower to flight as we approached. With their long tails swishing, these black and white birds didn’t go far, landing out of reach but near enough to keep an eye on us as we passed.

A goose family, also wanting to get out of reach, floated farther out from shore.

Sweet pea blossoms beneath a Russian olive tree added to the morning’s perfection. — Photo by Pat Bean

As they did that, a couple of mallards quacked from behind some bank bushes. I never did see them, but a mallard is one of the few North American ducks whose voice I can recognize. It’s the only one that quacks like Donald Duck.

Pepper and I took the long way back to our RV, taking the route that led past the park’s day-use grounds and visitor center. I noticed that a patch of sweet pea blossoms had sprung up beneath a tree and at the edge of some sagebrush that the sprinklers catch. They fragrant pink flowers hadn’t been there the last time I had walked this way.

I don’t think, even with the sprinkler dousing I took, that my walk with Pepper could have been any more perfect.

Bean’s Pat: Stewards of Earth http://tinyurl.com/cu36rtm Butterfly House. Fantastic photos. Blog pick of the day from the wondering wanderer.

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“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and behave very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed … and everything collapses.” – Collette

Morning sunrise at about 6:40 a.m. here at Lake Walcott State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

In the Flicker of an Image

I never tire of waking up to a sunrise here at Lake Walcott. Each one is different, but all are usually awesome.

Flags at half-mast in front of the Lake Walcott State Park visitor center. — Photo by Pat Bean

This one, since my canine traveling companion, Pepper, let me sleep in an extra hour, was taken at about 6:40 a.m. The days are slowly getting shorter here now. This would have been too late to catch even a glimmer of sunrise when I first arrived.

And I noticed last night that it was now getting dark before 10 p.m. Lake Walcott is far enough north from southern Texas, where I grew up, that there’s a significant difference in how long summer days can be. That was emphasized when I was on the phone the other evening with my son. He noted that it was dark outside at 8 p.m. while there was still two hours of daylight left here.

It’s also finally gotten hot here at the park, not by Texas standards perhaps, but enough that I take Pepper for long walks only in the early mornings and late evenings. On this morning’s walk, I saw that the flags at the park’s visitor center were at half-mast.

It took me a moment before I realized that this was probably done to honor those whose lives were so senselessly lost in Aurora, Colorado. Because I don’t have a TV, that tragedy is only brought to my attention when I read the news on my computer.

A single sunflower reminded me that life goes on. It’s just that after the Aurora tragedy, it will never be the same again for those who lost loved ones or those who will carry scars of that day. — Photo by Pat Bean

Suddenly all the joy of my morning evaporated.

Like the rest of the caring, honorable, law-abiding people in this world, my heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, and to those whose lives will never be the same again.

I know life will go on, just as the sunflowers I left dying when I left Lake Walcott last fall, are just now beginning to bloom again. My hope, however, is that one day we will live in a kinder, more caring, gentler world where such acts would never even enter anyone’s mind.

History tells me that will never happen, but I, for one will never stop hoping. If Mother Nature can change her face day by day, then so can we.

Bean’s Pat: Goodnight Precious http://tinyurl.com/d6dfkr3 A kinder picture for all of us who grieve Aurora. The wondering wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

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