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Great horned owlets hanging in during a storm. — Photo by Pat Bean

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending an extra amount of time hanging out on my living room third-floor balcony, where I always see hummingbirds and often great horned owls during the day and a spectacular sunset almost every evening.

The views have become especially precious since I know I will be leaving them behind when I move to a new place mid-August. We humans are quite funny in that we tend to value more what we don’t have than what we do have. And that certainly includes more than just a pleasant view.

My new place offers me things I need, like a fenced patio for my dog, and it does have trees and birds and brilliant red and orange desert bird of paradise plants which make me happy. So, I will be receiving new gifts for my eyes, for which I’m thankful.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying my tree-house view with more appreciation, knowing that I’m going to be leaving it behind. The attention I’ve given it let me take the owl photo above of this year’s great-horned owl siblings. During the 10 years I’ve spent in my apartment here, I’ve watched newly fledged owls learn their way around for seven.

I’ve also listened to their parents courting hoots early on in the year, but these more mature birds are more aloof and don’t hang around in full view as often as their young – who haven’t yet learned that man is the most dangerous beast on earth.

The favorite roosting spot of this year’s owlets is a tall Ponderosa Pine that stands in perfect view of my balcony They are a brother and sister, easily told apart because the female is quite a bit bigger than the male, a trait of just about all predator birds.

Recently I watched the pair during a rain and wind storm, one strong enough that it crashed down another large Ponderosa Pine here.  As I watched the owlets, the female actually seemed to hover over her brother as they stood high on a large branch right next to the tree trunk as smaller limbs and tree needles tossed to and fro around them. This was when I took the photo.

Last year, there were three owlets adjusting to the world here in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills. Their favorite hangout was usually the rooftops, and I usually only saw them when walking my canine companion, Scamp.

But for days and days, one of them spent many hours in what sounded like literal crying. It was quite an unpleasant screech. I suspect that it began after their parents stopped feeding them because it was time for them to be off on their own.

Shortly after this happens, the new crop of owls disappear, and the courting songs begin again soon after.

 I feel quite blessed to have had the past years with these owls. But it’s time for me to move on and start making new memories to cherish.  I can do that, too.

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.

New Beginnings

A tree and birds. I like that. — Art by Pat Bean

Nothing like a day spent at a hospital emergency room after being woke up at 3 a.m. with crippling leg pain to set you on a path of new beginnings. I swear it was worse than childbirth, and I have five children.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a blood clot, or something else life-threatening. After tests, it turned out to be related to the back pain I’ve been fighting for a few years – just on an atomic bomb level.

It clearly called, however, for a major change in my life, one family members have been pestering me to take for a few years now, a move to a ground-floor apartment. I know I’ve been a stubborn bitch for not heeding their advice, but I loved my apartment, and I wasn’t interested in a change, even if it meant continuing to walk my dog up and down three flights of stairs four or five times a day, not to mention laundry and errand trips.

I’ve been calling it my fool-proof exercise plan. But dang-it, the plan was no longer working.

So, while recovering this week at home, with family and friends taking on my dog-walking duties, I came across a quote by Stephanie Raffelock, which I found in her book, “A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

We should all take a little more time to cry and wail, allowing tears to baptize us into fresh starts,” she wrote.

Well, I certainly did that Friday. I wailed and sniveled practically all day about my horrid, bad, no-good dilemma. Then on the weekend, I begin online searches for a new apartment. It wasn’t looking good, until my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn, remembered a small nearby apartment complex that they had looked at for themselves a few months ago.

Its office was closed until Monday, but with them carefully ushering me down the stairs, we drove by to take a look at the apartment that was for listed to rent on their web site. It was just about 10 minutes away, a location near the top of my priority list because I wanted to stay in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills, which I’ve come to love since moving to Arizona in 2013.

While I still haven’t looked at the inside, I immediately fell in love with the soon-to-be-vacated outside’s large, fenced-in patio that had doors leading to it from both the bedroom and living areas. It would be perfect for simply letting my canine companion Scamp in and out, an amenity that topped my list of must haves, given that I’m 83 and my back pain is likely to recur.

The clincher for me was the huge tree growing in the middle of the patio. You should know that I once bought a house almost solely because I fell in love with its huge backyard tree.

The new neighborhood is older but nice, and the small apartment complex grounds abounded with flowers and greenery. And within minutes I was looking at birds, including nesting doves above the office door. I can already envision a small fountain and bird feeders beneath that patio tree.

All of the above gave me the confidence that I can meld the inside to fit my needs. Age has let me know that no one can ever simply have everything they want, but it looks like I will have all I need for a happy life.

I cinched the deal Monday and will be moving in around the middle of August. I’m so excited about this new beginning that I’m not even thinking about all the tasks involved in a move. Not yet anyway.

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.

Viewing Niagara Falls from the bow of the Maid of the Mist

In The Beautiful Mystery, book eight of Louise Penny’s Inspector Garmache series, one of the homicide investigators is sitting at the bow of a boat as it speeds across the water, reveling in the spray of water peppering his face.

The writing reminded me of all the times in my life that I, too, have claimed the bow of a boat.

My first experiences were simply sitting up front as someone else drove a motorboat around a lake. Then I discovered white-water rafting when I was 40. From the first, I wanted to be up front.

Never was I happier than facing an oncoming wild wave with only a paddle to defend myself. If I plunged the paddle just right into the oncoming torrent, I would both be able to help pull the raft through the onslaught and be held firmly in the raft.

Misjudge, and the wave would eat you and not so gently toss you around in a maelstrom of fast-running water and currents. If you were lucky, it would finally let your life jacket float you to the life-giving air above. I lost the wave battle a few times during my white-water days – but I was lucky.

Why would somebody do something so stupid, you might ask? I think, back then, I might have said because it’s fun, exhilarating. Thinking on it now, I know it was more than that. I don’t consider myself brave, as my ski instructors well knew from my fear of pointing my skis downhill. I don’t try to beat red lights and these days I always hold on to railings when I walk up or down stairs.

But I think each of us might need just a little something to let us know we’re truly alive. For me, it was sitting up front in a boat and being drenched with spray, or as close to that as I could get.

 I also remember a time when I scrambled my way through a crowd of tourists to grab a front-row view on the Maid of Mist for a water-drenching view at the bottom of Niagara Falls. The ferry, which has operated since the mid 1800s, takes passengers quite close to the falls. I got so drenched that the blue plastic poncho handed to me as I boarded the boat was totally useless. But the exhilaration lasted for hours – as did my wet jeans.

Louise Penny’s words brought back all those magical memories so clearly that I suspect she might have sat at the bow of a boat a time or two herself.

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.

Texas Roots

Even the chairs are bigger in Texas. Me, Savannah and Charlotte. — Photo by David Bean

  I grew up being properly indoctrinated to the belief, according to my beloved grandmother, that if you weren’t born in Texas, you didn’t deserve to be. That way of thinking was not challenged for the first 30 years of my life – not until I moved out of the state and was perceived to be that obnoxious, loudmouth girl from Texas who didn’t know how to speak properly –right on all accounts.

I dropped the y’all,s and fixing tos, and sure things, until I no longer sound Texan, although, every once in a while, a person with an educated ear picks up on it. Or I become a bragging blabbermouth, just one more Lone Star trait I inherited. 

But it’s hard to dig up one’s roots when they grow deep, as mine do. There’s a part of me that is proud of being a Texan, just as I’m proud of being an American, though politics and history’s lies have tarnished my Pollyannish image of both in my later years.

I recently spent three weeks in Texas, where much of my family lives, and came away with a few observations that let me know I could have been nowhere else. For one, I rarely got out of sight of huge, side-by-side red, white and blue flags, one representing America, and the other Texas.

Pickup trucks, boots, cowboy hats, cattle and country western music abounded. Pumping oil rigs and summer wildflowers (courtesy of Lady Bird Johnson’s encouragement to dump flower seeds along highways) were common sights as I drove around.

Among the people I visited on my rounds were my third-oldest grandchild David and his wife Sheila, who are the parents of my two great-granddaughters seven-year-old Savannah and five-year-old Charlotte. They had recently returned from a trip to Disney World, where David said they attended a show in which the emcee asked how many in the audience were from a different country.

“Savannah raised her hand and shouted out, ‘Texas,’” David told me.

And she never even got to know my grandmother.

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.

Smart phones and bugs are not on my favorable list. — Art by Pat Bean

Sometimes I fling myself into the future and hug technology close to my bosom, afraid I’ll be left behind or miss something if I don’t take that step forward. And sometimes I stubbornly balk and cling to old ways.

As a writer, I fell in love with computers quickly. It just took me realizing how much easier they were to use when I needed to correct mistakes or rethink a sentence. Instead of having to start over, or use a product called Wite-Out tape or liquid to conceal the errors, all I had to do was push a button labeled delete.

While I was far from expert at dealing with computer quirks – and there were and are many – my best friend is a techie. And there are backup geeks when my own logic fails me. In my own way, I understand computers. We get along.

Yet, when it comes to smart phones, I seem to have a phobia. I didn’t even come into the cell phone age until my work demanded I get one – and they paid for it. From the very first, those danged things have felt like a ball and chain.

It was with great reluctance that I finally joined the age of smart phones – and the danged thing has plagued me ever since. If it is not one thing going wrong with it, it’s another. A phantom is always turning the sound to mute, I hit the dismiss button when I mean to answer a call, or things go wrong that I don’t understand.

But my recent three-week road trip to Texas did finally give this stubborn, balky old broad a sudden appreciation for it.

Lost in Austin, after my outdated Garmin GPS gave up the ghost, I was forced to use my phone – for the very first time — for directions. I hate to admit it, but the danged “smartie” saved my bacon. I got to my Story Circle Network board meeting on time. And it later guided me through San Antonio, which I believe must have the worst traffic in the world, and then though Houston and Dallas.

 Now if I can just figure out how to make it give me notifications for when I receive a text message, I’ll apologize for all the times I’ve cussed it out. Maybe…

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.

Mishaps on the Road

Texas Canyon Rest Stop — Which I passed twice last Wednesday. — Photo by Pat Bean

I left Tucson – for the first time — right around 7 a.m. last Wednesday. It felt joyous to be on the road after too many months of covid-enforced hibernation. The morning was cool and breezy and the roadway was lined with tall-stemmed blooming agaves. I drank in every sight with delight.

I made it to the Texas Canyon Rest Stop before I realized that while I had remembered to pack my camera, binoculars, spare glasses, and all the other important accoutrements needed for my trip to Texas, I had forgotten my purse.

I said the S-word out loud, three times with vigor, and then became thankful I still had enough gas to make it back home.

A U-Turn, and 144 miles later, I left Tucson – for the second time — around 10 a.m. this time, and driving just a little faster to make up for lost time, but still not thinking yet about how often in my life mishaps came in threes.

I wouldn’t start thinking about that until I ran into another stumbling block just as I was about to drive through El Paso. A blinding dust storm and I hit the Texas border city at the same time. The dust interfered with my vision, while the wind tried to yank the wheel of the car from my hands, and as I gripped the wheel tightly, I watched large semis weaving from side to side. Traffic slowed to a crawl.

On past drives through El Paso, I usually cleared the city limits in half an hour. This day it took me over an hour, and I still had 120 miles to go to get to Van Horn where I had motel reservations for my canine companion Scamp and I.

Once past El Paso, the wind waned, traffic lightened, and then the third mishap struck. Out of nowhere, or so it seemed, it started raining, which then increased in intensity until I couldn’t see the road ahead of me. I finally managed to pull off to the side of the road, as thankfully the cars ahead and behind me were able to do the same.  

This mishap had been a bit scary, but since it was the third one of the day, I hoped it would be the last.

And it was. And I arrived at the end of my day’s journey before dark, an important detail to an old broad on the road whose night vision went on strike a few years ago. I was exhausted, but actually pleased with myself for surviving the day – and still eager to get back on the road for the rest of my trip.

You never know what’s going to happen when you’re on the road – and that’s one of the things I like best about traveling.

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.

I painted this as part of an online art class. While the instructor painted fish creatures, I painted birds, for the first time using a water brush. Imperfect art by Pat Bean.

I miss my mother. I dreamed about her last night. I wanted her to tell me all about her life, something I never had time to listen to before she died.

I moved away from home when I was only 16, and she and I never again lived closer than 300 miles from each other, and most of the time it was over 1,000 miles away. While we didn’t exactly get along in our earlier years, we were never estranged. Still, I only saw her for a couple of days once or twice a year after I moved away from Dallas.

We also didn’t talk regularly, partly because back then long-distance phone calls were expensive. I’m glad that’s changed, and that we also now have the advantages of the internet because my children, when they left home, didn’t stay in town either. They moved on to different states, and even at times, to different countries.

While we can easily talk these days, and even view each other online, we’re still not there to celebrate special occasions or Sunday dinners or evening walks, or just to hold each other when STUFF happens — as it always does. I miss my children; it seems to be a family pattern.

But I’m not complaining. My children and I made good lives – ones that were enriched by new places, new experiences, new friends.

I once had a dear friend who never moved from the town in which he was born. His children always lived less than 10 miles away. I saw the pluses his life enjoyed, but also the minuses of him not having a life more like mine. Knowing what I do now, I would still make my more nomadic choices. Neither lifestyle is wrong – simply different.

Thinking a bit more about my mother, and my dream, I remembered she did live with me during the final months of her life. While we had time to talk then, she preferred to play games, like Scrabble, in which she won as many as she lost. I also remembered my mother was not really a talker, especially about herself. In fact, I remembered her firmly telling me several times to shut up so she could watch her favorite baseball team, the Texas Rangers, play on television in peace.

Even if we had lived closer, I still might be wanting to know more about her life.

That doesn’t change the fact, however, that I still miss my Mom.

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.

Art by Pat Bean

What part of sanity says we let 18-year-olds buy assault weapons? My conscience insisted I ask this question.

Do we actually think this is what our founding fathers had in mind?

Well, I don’t

While we do put guns in the hands of some 18-year-olds in the military, they aren’t given them without instructions on how and when to use them. And even then, that sometimes comes at a cost, as we’ve seen from the many gun-toting men and women suffering post-traumatic stress in later life.  

Buying a gun for protection is one thing. Buying an assault weapon is a completely different thing. Do the makers of these weapons, those who get rich off selling of them, feel any responsibility?

Why do mentally unstable gun owners target the innocent? What and who determines mental stability?  

These are just a few of the questions that flooded into my brain following the mass murders of children and others in Buffalo and Uvalde. I wish I had answers and an easy solution. But I don’t.

I do know, however, that a solution is not going to be found by those who choose to point fingers at political opponents instead of coming together to try and solve the problem. When my kids were young and started pointing at their siblings as the cause of some wrongdoing, I usually said: “I don’t care who did it. Just stop it and don’t do it anymore?”

And that’s what I want the men and women whom we elect to start doing. Work together and try to stop the madness. Care more about the well-being of our children – and our country – then you do for your own personal cause.

 I hate writing blogs like this. I would much rather write about birds and silver linings and nature and other upbeat topics. But my conscience insisted.

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.

Goose and Chicks — Drawing by Pat Bean

Sometimes it seems the whole world is going to hell in a handcart, but the pansies keep on blooming – year in year out.” — Jack Scott.

Thankfully, that’s true, I thought, as I pondered the words of the former Canadian rock and roll singer. I came across Scott’s words as I was rereading one of my journals, this one filled between the summer of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

Every few pages seemed to contain a quote that had impressed me or gave me pause for thought. As a writer, I greatly appreciate when another writer expresses a thought in just the perfect words.

I’m usually just as impressed when rereading them, although occasionally I do come across a quote that leaves me pondering what I had been thinking back then, because the words seem to have no meaning to me on this day.

The mind is a strange thing.

Anyway, while skimming through my filled journal, along with Scott’s words, I came across the following ones that meant as much to me today as when I first wrote them down. They sounded like words of wisdom and they shouted at me to share them.

“Rest and you rust.” –Helen Hayes

“If you really do not want to do it, just say No!’ –Annette Aben

If all things are in a state of constant change, then human behavior can change too – and for the better.” –Aldo Leopold.

“Never ask whether you can do something. Say instead that you are going to do it, then fasten your seat belt.” – Julia Cameron

“The clearest way into the universe is though a forest wilderness.” – John Muir.

And finally, “Honor your life by laughing more.” – Pat Bean. It is, after all, my journal.

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.

A Good News Day

Daily Sketch, by Pat Bean: Another way I keep my mind off the bad news that dominates the media these days.

I often start my day by reading the news. I’ve made it my goal to find something good in what I read, just a little something to offset all the bad news going on these days.

I’m stubborn, so I usually do eventually find something to cheer me up, to confirm the belief of one of my journalism mentors, Charles Kuralt, that there’s enough goodness and kindness out there to make up for all the bad-news headlines.

I’ve been in this habit since way back in the late 1960s, when I was a green-behind-the-ears reporter working at a small local Texas Gulf Coast newspaper.

It started when a woman called into the paper to report that some young teenagers had aided her in changing a tire when she had a blowout on a back road.

“You just never print anything good about teenagers,” she said.

As it happened, this was a week in which our paper had been running a daily, front-page story, featuring outstanding high school students in our community. I asked the woman if she had seen the articles. She hadn’t, then shamefully admitted that she read the paper every day but somehow had missed them.

It seems people are drawn more to reading bad news than good news, I concluded, and made a promise to myself to not ever be that woman. It influenced how I read a newspaper, and how I reported the news. Most news, at least back then, was just basic information, neither good nor bad. And while the bad news, even back then, had bolder headlines, the newspaper also included good news stories, a new business opened, a dog saved its owner in some way, scholarships were awarded.

Good news back then also included many first-woman achievements, which I wrote about frequently in the 1970s and 1980s. It was yet one more of these that caught my attention today in the 2020s.

 For the first time, soccer players representing the United States men’s and women’s national teams will receive the same pay and prize money, including at World Cups, under landmark agreements with the U.S. Soccer Federation that will end years of litigation and bitter public disputes over what constitutes “equal pay.”

The U.S. women’s soccer team, it should be noted, won a World Cup championship and an Olympic bronze medal during its six-year fight for equal pay.

As a woman who fought for equal pay for most of her career, I think this achievement is definitely good news. While it doesn’t outweigh the other news I read this day, it does let me continue believing in silver linings.

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.