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Ten years ago I took this photo of Mount St. Helens from a ridge six miles away that was directly in the blast zone. — Photo by Pat Bean

          “If you are too focused on the end result, you may miss the rewarding journey that will ultimately get you there.” – Anil Kuma Sinhar

          Ten years ago, I was still living and traveling full time in my small RV with my canine companion Maggie. This was the year that I visited Mount St Helens.

Looking out at the gaping mouth of Mount St. Helens from a point six miles away once known as Coldwater Ridge triggered goose pimples on my arms. I knew that David Johnston, the first to report the volcano’s eruption, had been standing on this same ridge, a spot that stood directly in the volcano’s blast zone. The 30-year-old Johnston had been one of 57 people who lost their lives to the angry mountain.

As I noted the 40th anniversary of that tragic event as I drank my coffee and caught up on world news this morning, images of my visit to that once again sleeping volcano dug their way to the surface of my thoughts.

What I remembered, and confirmed by the photos that I had taken at the time, was that life was returning to the blast area. Grasses and trees were reestablishing themselves, and flowers were blooming.

And grasses and Indian Paintbrush were growing around a tree stump left by the blast.

Life changes but it goes on, as it has for millions of years. As it will after the coronavirus is conquered. Not all of us will make it. Whether the virus gets us, a truck runs over us in the middle of the street, a crazed madman shoots us at a MacDonald’s, or we simply run out of the days allotted to us, we’re not going to get out of this world alive.

Focusing on when that final day will be is not something I’m going to do. Instead, I’m going to simply treasure every minute I have left on this planet, and just keep going until my tomorrows run out.

I’m glad today for the memory of looking out on Mount St. Helens as it returned to life and the reminder that view offered me to savor every moment because tomorrow may not come. Everyone dies – but not everyone lives.

Bean Pat: To all those on the front row helping others survive the coronavirus.

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.

Searching for Joy

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” – Eleonora Duse

Joy was hugging my oldest great-grandchild a few years ago.

Appreciating the Little Things in Life

I developed a habit over the years for the times when I would, for one reason or another, begin to feel sorry for myself. I would ask how many people in the world would trade lives with me?

Since I’ve always had a roof over my head, enough food to eat, adequate clothing, and when I worked a job I loved, I immediately knew there would be millions clamoring to take my place.

Joy is painting a watercolor and actually liking it.

That recognition quickly shut down what I came to call my Pity-Pat-ing minutes.

The past two months of social distancing, which have been hard for the extrovert side of this old broad, has found me adopting a new habit: Looking for, and appropriately appreciating, the little things in life. Toward this goal, I created what I call a Joy Is list. The following are a few things that have made it there.

Joy is books, and always having a stack of them to read.

Joy is getting up in the morning and putting on Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” and loudly, off key, singing along with her

Joy is finally finishing a difficult jigsaw puzzle and not having a missing piece.

Joy is a virtual Jack and Coke night via Zoom with my best friend, or a Zoom night with three adult granddaughters.

Joy is a hot bath in a deep tub, hot enough to turn the skin pink and send warmth and ease all the way down to my bones

Joy is that time just before dawn when I lay in bed and listen to the birds waking up and twittering their own joy for a new day.

Joy is solving and fixing a computer glitch all by myself — after an unsuccessful hour on the phone with a computer expert.

          Joy is watching a sliver of moon shining down like the Cheshire Cat on Scamp and me as we take our last walk of the day.

What would make your Joy Is list?

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Bean Pat: Joy is taking a virtual bird walk in Celery Bog with Dave https://pinolaphoto.com/2020/05/17/the-canada-warbler-at-the-celery-bog/#like-15836

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.

I didn’t get my Texas bluebonnet fix this year. The isolation curfew kept me home here in Tucson. But at least I have my memories. This photo was shot on Goose Island State Park a few years ago. — Photo by Pat Bean.

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part and discuss it only with consenting adults.” – Molly Ivins

But My Soul Requires Mountains

I’m a transplanted Texan, but the Lone Star State has a grip on my heart, even after half a century of living elsewhere.

My old Texas roots wink at me from a hoopoe-pecking oil rig sitting in a meadow full of bluebonnets when I go home to visit family once or twice a year; they wave at me when I pass a field full of cotton ready to be harvested, jogging my memory of the story my mother told about her father picking cotton during the Great Depression so she could have a prom dress.

A drive to the top of Mount Lemmon on Sky Island Parkway is just minutes away. I think I will break the isolation curfew and drive it this weekend. It will make up for missing Texas’ bluebonnets. — Photo by Pat Bean

The sight of a mockingbird brazenly flashing the white on its gray wings takes me back to the apricot tree that sat in my grandmother’s large garden. Almost every piece of ripened fruit I picked had first been tasted by one of these noisy Texas state birds.

My memory then morphs from mockingbirds to me as a little girl sitting on the tall back steps of my grandmother’s home eating her freshly baked pralines until I made myself sick.

I sat on those same steps often each afternoon as I waited for the silver Texas Zephyr to roar past on the railroad tracks beyond the vacant field behind the house. I always waved at the engineer and imagined that the whistle, blown as the train neared the crossing, was sounded just for me.

Perhaps I did inherit my grandfather’s wanderlust, as my mother told me, but I think that Texas Zephyr might have roared its ways into my veins as well.    Where had it been? Where was it going? I wanted to go, too – and over the years I did.

My grandmother, whom I adored, was a Texan through and through. She said if a person wasn’t born in Texas than they didn’t deserve to be. It’s an attitude difficult for non-Texans to understand. It also an attitude not likely to earn friends – yet I have it.

But while I truly feel Texan through and through, I’ve chosen to live the latter and longest portion of my life among the mountains, first living and working next to the Wasatch Range in Utah, then visiting as many mountains as I could, and now nesting next to the Santa Catalina Range in Arizona.

My life doesn’t feel right if I can’t watch the daily changing moods of a mountain, and feel the comfort of its sturdiness as the years of my life race by.

How does this flatlander Texan — the person who goes back home and almost weeps with delight as truck drivers tip their hats at me as I pass them on one back road or another — feel about this dichotomy?

It’s mind-boggling. All I can think is that while my roots are planted in Texas soil, I’m thankful the dirt has been rich enough to let me flourish wherever my feet have taken me.

Bean Pat: One of my favorite Texas bloggers. https://pitsfritztow nnews.wordpress.com/2020/05/15/mama-with-twins/

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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.

Mrs. Pollifax

Mrs. Polifax is quite fond of flowered hats.

“She drew herself up to her full height—it was a little difficult on a donkey—and said primly, ‘I have found that in painful situations it is a sensible idea to take each hour as it comes and not to anticipate beyond. But oh how I wish I could have a bath!’” – Words spoken by Dorothy Gilman’s fictional Emily Pollifax, a white-haired senior citizen who decided she wanted to be a spy.

A Series Quite Worth Rereading Today            

I discovered Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax books back in the 1970s, which marked some major turning points in my life. I was influenced by the character’s upbeat, adventurous and realistic attitude, and her efforts to make her life more meaningful than garden club meetings. I was, in a different way, trying to do the same.

Angela Lansbury played Mrs. Pollifax in a 1999 CBS TV Movie. And Rosalind Russell played her in a 1971 movie. Angela fit the role much better than Rosalind.

Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax was the first book in the series, written in 1966, and Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled, published in 2000, was the 14th. On discovering the books, I quickly read all that had been written at the time and eagerly awaited the next to come out.

Given that I have been a bit out of sorts with the current coronavirus and world situation, and my decision to stay isolated, I decided I would reread the Pollifax books. I finished the first of the 14 in the series at 2 a.m. this morning, and am eager to go on to the next.

Perhaps you would like to join me. Here are a few Emily Pollifax quotes so you can judge for yourself.

“Tragedies don’t interest me, tragedies and heartbreaks are all alike, what matters is how a person meets them, how they survive them.”

“It’s terribly important for everyone, at any age, to live to his full potential. Otherwise a kind of dry rot sets in, a rust, a disintegration of personality.”

“Everything is a matter of choice, and when we choose are we not gambling on the unknown and its being a wise choice? And isn’t it free choice that makes individuals of us? … I believe myself that life is quite comparable to a map … a constant choice of direction and route.”

“I have a flexible mind—I believe it’s one of the advantages of growing old. I find youth quite rigid at times.”

Dorothy Gilman

“Because lately I’ve had the feeling we rush toward something-some kind of Armageddon-set into motion long ago. There are so many people in the world, and so much destructiveness. I was astonished when I first heard that a night-blooming cereus blooms only once a year, and always at midnight. It implies such intelligence somewhere.”

Gilman was born in 1923 and died in 2012 at the age of 88. Her Pollifax series was begun at a time when women in mystery meant Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and international espionage meant young government men like Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Emily Pollifax became a spy in the 1960s’ and may be the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the CIA and her local garden club, according to Wikipedia.

Bean Pat: A tribute to Dorothy Gilman for the many, many hours of pleasure and contemplation she has given me for nearly half a century, and to the hundreds of other writers who have done the same

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.

Morning Coffee Rant

Blue Herons on a cold morning at Farmington Bay in Utah. Nature is what helps keep my blood pressure in check during these days of isolation, even if it’s just remembering past moments spent in the outdoors. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The survival of democracy depends on the ability of large numbers of people to make realistic choices in the light of adequate information.” – Aldous Huxley

From a Moderate Independent

I’m sick and tired of the blame game, politicians’ personal and hateful attacks on their opponents, and no one standing up and taking responsibility for their own acts when they’ve made a mistake.

I don’t expect the leaders of this country to be perfect, but I do think they should put what’s best for all of this country’s people ahead of their own welfare and personal agendas.

And I want to hear exactly what today’s candidates for office would do to improve things if they do gain leadership power, not just that they think their opponent is a slug, or whatever else name-calling they decide will get them elected.

As a former journalist who believed that it was not my duty to change the world but to inform the world, I’m sickened by those in the media today who distort facts, repeat lies, and take sides. These tactics weaken the real media’s role as a government watchdog, a role which some journalists still take seriously.

I’m also quite sick of slogans that mean absolutely nothing but are just words that sound good or patriotic.

To quote a well-known rant, I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore — even if all this old broad can do at this point in her life is to speak out against hate and lies and in favor of justice and kindness.

Anyone else out their want to join me?

Bean Pat: Isolation is getting to me. This blog, which looks to nature as a resource for these days, inspired me. https://windbreakhouse.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/spring-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/

 

available on Amazon

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.

Home with a Scamp

Scamp taking in the morning sun as it came in through my bedroom balcony this morning. — Photo by Pat Bean

“No one appreciates the very special genius of our conversation as the dog does.” – Christopher Morley

At Least I Can Hug My Dog

The shelter ad said she was eight months old, a schnauzer mix, and it called the dog Smidge.

Wrong, wrong and wrong. She was a he, and probably a couple of months younger than claimed, and there is not a smidgen of schnauzer in him– at least according to the DNA results I received yesterday, a gift from my youngest daughter who did the swabbing.

Scamp taking a snooze after a lengthy session of ball throwing and retrieving in the house. — Photo by Pat Bean.

I immediately knew the dog’s name was not Smidge, and thought it might be Harley. But two weeks later, I knew without a doubt that his name was Scamp. For one thing, he resembles the Disney animated dog Scamp, and he definitely is one.

His puppy ways and how he kept growing and growing out of the 20-pound lapdog I was expecting convinced me that he was quite a bit younger than eight months when I took him home last May. He finally stopped growing in January, weighing in today at about 35 pounds.

His DNA results show he is 50 percent Siberian husky, 37 percent Shih Tzu, with some cocker spaniel, Maltese and miniature poodle thrown into the mix, which may be why he is convinced he is the lapdog I wanted.

Whenever I sit in my living room recliner, he shares it with me, lays at my feet when I am at my desk, and is a bed hog when he sleeps with me at night. We do have lots of conversations these days, as he is my only isolation companion.

He’s a better listener than most of my other friends, cocking his head to one side as if he truly understands what I’m nattering on about.

Both of us are extroverts who like people and animals. So, this isolation is not the easiest to endure. Thankfully we have each other.

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Bean Pat: Zimmy https://lithub.com/meet-zimmy-the-quarantine-dog-or-an-insane-response-to-an-insane-time/ This post was my inspiration for today’s blog. It’s cleverly written and funny.

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.

 

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” — Robert Frost 

Chillon Caste at sunset.

Two Poems from Childhood

When I was quite young, about 10 as I best recall, I began reading a poem that I came across in one of the books in my late grandfather’s collection, and which I remember clearly to this day. My grandfather had died when I was about three years old. I don’t remember him, but I evidently inherited his love of reading, and also, according to my mother, his wanderlust.

After his death, his books were stored in an upright chest with a door — and forgotten. When I found them, it was like having dug up the buried treasure Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about in Treasure Island, the first of my grandfather’s books I read.

His book stash, mostly cheap book club copies of the classics that were already beginning to disintegrate when I discovered them, included the entire works of such authors as Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, James Fennimore Cooper, and Jack London.

Poppies — By Pat Bean

I read them all. The poem that fascinated me, however, was in a literature book that I later learned had belonged to my mother. It seems she had failed a high school English class and had to purchase the text book and take the course over.

The poem was titled The Prisoner of Chillon, written by Lord Byron in 1816. It was a ghastly long narrative, but I eventually memorized it, as determined to accomplish the achievement as today’s youth are to achieve the highest level in some video game or another.

I was fascinated by the way the words went together, just as I had been by a shorter poem that started off my memorization goals. I found it in the same literature book, and although I didn’t understand its true meaning, I loved the way the words rolled off my tongue. While I’ve long forgotten the exact words of The Prisoner of Chillon, I can still recall from memory John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.

“In Flanders Field the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; And in the sky;

The larks, still bravely singing, fly.

Scarce heard beneath the guns below…”

I wouldn’t know I would want to become a writer for another 15 years. And even then, I thought such a lofty goal was not for the likes of a high school dropout like me. Now, as I approach my eighth decade on this planet, I wonder how much McCrae’s simply words sent me off in a direction that has given me joy, sustained me through bad times, and has satisfied my love of learning, both for the things I learned in order to write about them, and two in my unending pursuit to learn how to be a better writer. The two are unending tasks that will fill my days with purpose until the hour my hands can no longer hold a pen and my fingers have not the strength to press a computer’s keyboard.

While I’ve long forgotten the exact wordage of Lord Byron’s Prisoner of Chillon, its message has long intrigued and influenced me. The poem is about a prisoner who became so used to his chains that he misses them when he is finally freed. A simple plot, if one can call it that, but the wording seems like magic to my ears and mind.

I’ve thought about the poem’s premise often, ever since my 10-year-old eyes first went through the narrative line by line. While I’ve had no physical chains to restrain me in my own life, I’ve recognized that there are many ways to imprison oneself: Refusal to change, always playing life safe, not continuing to adapt with the circumstances, and not accepting responsibility for one’s own life.

I’ve dallied with all these, but then I remember, and grieve for The Prisoner of Chillon. These words of Byron, which come toward the last of his poem, are ones still stuck in my head:

And all my bonds aside were cast,

These heavy walls to me had grown

A hermitage – and all my own!

And half I felt as they were come

To tear me from a second home

With spiders I had friendship made

And watch’d them in their sullen trade.

Had seen the mice by moonlight play,

And why should I feel less than they?

We were all inmates of one place.

And I, the monarch of each race,

Had power to kill – yet strange to tell!

In quiet we had learn’d to dwell’

My very chains and I grew friends

So much a long communion tends

To make us what we are – even I

Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.