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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.

Saw -Whet owl — Art piddling by Pat Bean

Poet Mary Oliver writes that we should make the best of our “one and precious life.” I agree. The quandary is how to do that when you’re 83, and not by a long shot as agile as you once were, and you’re retired from what you once thought of as a meaningful job.

I’ve created myself a happy life, filled mostly with reading, writing, piddling with art, watching birds, spending time with friends, and having the time to connect the life I’ve lived with what’s going on in the world today.

Mostly, it’s satisfying. But there’s still something missing. I want to somehow have an influence on making the world a better place.

When I was a working newspaper reporter, I felt useful in that I kept readers informed of their community and felt blessed that I got to write about people who were doing positive things in the world — even if I also had to write about people who were doing the opposite, too.

I also felt extremely lucky that I loved my job, and that it gave me a sense that I counted for something in this world.

That feeling is gone. I’ve become a spuddler, one who satisfies herself with trivial things.

I recently expressed these things to a friend, who told me to stop thinking so much and simply enjoy the life I had earned. I love my friends.

And then I came across these words by author and poet Donna Ashworth; Ageing isn’t about lost youth, it’s about finding the difference between shiny and worthy … and the time to dedicate to the things that bring you joy. It’s the wisdom to say no to the things that don’t… The courage to be happy in your own skin. It’s about finding out who you were meant to be, all along.

I love being an old broad – most of the time.

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.

Be Nice

I was taught, when I was growing up, that it wasn’t polite to talk politics. But perhaps it’s time “nice” people should start doing it. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I want a kindle, gentler nation,” Geroge W.H. Bush

I Agree

Where are all these hate mongers coming from? People like the 18-year-old guy who just killed 11 people because he believed only whites should occupy this planet.

As a former journalist, it goes against my grain to call him a killer instead of an alleged killer before a jury convicted him, but this sadist filmed himself committing the murders.

And I’ll probably read in the news tomorrow something just as horrible. It’s disheartening.

There is no one in my circle of friends who spouts such hate as that coming from the mouths of some of our politicians and white supremacists these days – and they’re not all bleeding-heart liberals either. While I consider myself a moderate independent, I have friends – and family members – who lean far to the right. They’re still nice people.

Maybe it’s time we threw this partisan bullshit into a garbage bin and started basing our voting choices on whether candidates believe in the Golden Rule or not — the only one in my opinion that matters. Even if they support our own political agenda, we shouldn’t be electing bullies, racists, liars or narcissists, especially those who encourage, or commit violence to get their way.

I can’t help but think that we nice people are handing over control of this planet – I say planet because America isn’t the only country being destroyed by hateful actions. It’s way too easy for those of us who don’t have goals of a world ruled by a single class of people to just go about our daily business, hoping things are going to change.

It’s time for nice people to let their voices be heard. And for those of us who are nice, which the optimist in me still wants to believe is the majority of us, to take back control.

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.

1953 House of Wax Movie Poster

Back in the mid-1950’s, I watched a movie called “House of Wax,” starring Vincent Price, whose character created his wax figures using people he killed. The part of the movie that stayed with me for months afterwards involved a missing head.

 Every time I went into the garage, which held a freezer and a washing machine, I feared I would come across that head. Perhaps the fact that the movie was presented in 3D had something to do with my fright, but I’ve not watched a true horror film since then.

But I have children, grandchildren and friends who love nothing better than going to a scary movie. I thought about the reason behind this willingness to be scared this morning. It popped into my head while I was reading Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird, in which the author talked about the fear of letting oneself be imperfect when writing that “first shitty draft.”

Before you ask, I have to say I don’t know why my brain made this odd connection. It just did. And then it jumped to what I have done over the years that gave me a fright. For one thing, I loved riding roller coasters, the bigger, faster – and scarier – the better.

And then in my 40s, I took up white-water rafting. There was nothing I enjoyed more than sitting in the front of a raft facing a roaring rapid – even after I fell out of the boat in Granite Rapid floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. When I was pulled back into the boat, after being thrashed through the racing water quite vigorously, I was still eager to take on the next stretch of rapids, of which there were many ahead.

 Was I afraid? Yes. But adrenalin coursed through my body and I felt more alive than ever. Remembering this, I might have just answered my own question of why people want to be scared.

But no way will I watch a horror movie.

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.

Great Horned Owl

“Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese and freight trains,” said Aldo Leopold.

I could easily be added to that list. For most of my working career, I reported to the office no later than 6:30 a.m. – and I wasn’t beloved for doing so. 

There would usually be one or two other reporters who had come in early to meet their early-morning deadline for a story they had covered the night before. They would be sitting in the dark in front of their computers.

As a light-loving, morning person, I would turn on the lights and utter a cheery “Good morning!” All I usually got back was a snarl or a groan.

Scamp, my current canine companion, insists on a walk at the first sign of dawn, often when stars are still visible. He usually wakes up even before I do, but this morning the tables were turned. I had taken him for a later-than-usual last walk yesterday, and he was still snoring away when I awoke at 5:55 a.m.

I let him sleep until 6:10, when I couldn’t stand it anymore and roused him for our morning walk. We came back and he promptly went back to sleep while I enjoyed drinking my cream-laced coffee and watching the birds from my third-floor balcony. There were sparrows, mourning doves, hummingbirds and house finches, but no geese.

As for trains, when I was traveling across the country in my RV, I often heard a train somewhere nearby blow its whistle right around 6 a.m. I wondered if it was just coincidence or if all train engineers had a pact to took their horns at daybreak.

Then there are the great horned owls. We have resident ones who yearly raise chicks here in the apartment complex. I often hear them hooting in the early mornings, and sometimes I even see them zooming overhead between tall Ponderosa pines and the red-tile rooftops. Their silent, broad-winged flight always leave me awed.

Yesterday, a great horned owl was sitting on a large tree stump near my path. I’m pretty sure it was a juvenile because of how close it let me come. After spotting it, I took Scamp back to the apartment and grabbed my camera.

With each snap, I got closer to the owl until I was only about 10 feet away. The bird didn’t move, just stared straight at me with golden yellow eyes. I snapped a few more shots before retreating so as not to disturb the owl more.

I was excited about the photos I had taken, but later I discovered the memory card in my camera had been missing. It was still in my computer from the last time I had downloaded my photos.

I guess my brain, if not my body, decided it wanted to sleep in.

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.

Books and Birds make me happy. — Art by Pat Bean

I’m currently reading Bury the Dead by Louise Penny, whose protagonist features Armand Gamache, a homicide inspector in Quebec. He’s an older man who’s risen through the ranks to a leadership position, and a thoughtful man whose mind is always pondering about the people he meets and what makes them tick.

I wouldn’t call Louise’s books a cozy. They’re darker than that, but the darkness comes more from looking into the corridors of the black places in the mind of possible suspects than blood and gore.

Reading Penny’s words this morning was like taking a graduate course in psychology. It was wonderful.

I came away with bits of wisdom and much to ponder about how the author’s words translate to my own life. One of the many thoughts of wisdom scattered throughout the book, was the idea that things are clearer from a distance. Quite true. I know that from experience. But then I also know, as did Gamache, that from a distance, details are missing. So, which is view is more important, he and I pondered.

I decided the best option is to be able to view an event from both distances, a tip I should keep in mind when pondering life events. Even an old broad can learn something new.

A few pages later, another character told Gamache: “Sometimes life goes in a direction not of our choosing. That’s why we need to adapt.”

Recalling all the directional detours in my own life, I silently said Amen to that – which was quite appropriate as the character speaking was a pastor. But not just a pastor, one who would rather canoe a half-frozen river than sit one-on-one with a dying parishioner. He did both. Because he felt weak for not wanting to do the second task, he was doing the adventure to prove to himself that he was strong.

Penny brings her characters to life on the pages, even the minor ones feel like they are worth knowing.

As I put down the book to go wash my breakfast dishes, I thought about how fortunate I was to have books like Penny’s to read. And then another thought hit me. Bury the Dead was only the sixth in the Gamache series and the author has written 17.

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.

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Hummingbird Visitors

Broad-Billed Hummingbird — Wikimedia Photo

I have seen eight different hummingbird species from my third-floor Catalina Foothills apartment balconies since moving to Tucson in 2013. One of these was a Lucifer’s hummingbird that sat in a nearby tree but didn’t visit my nectar feeder. It was a lifer, a first-time sighting that hasn’t happened again.

My field guide says this hummer only comes as far north as the tips of southern Arizona and Texas and is only rarely seen. I did a double take when I saw it, and triple-checked my bird guide before I accepted what I was looking at. The bird, a male, had a distinctive purple patch on its neck and a long, decurved bill. So, I finally decided it couldn’t be anything but a Lucifer.

I was thrilled, as it’s rare for me to see a new species now that my lifer list has grown to over 700 species.

In contrast, I almost daily see Anna’s hummingbirds, the male of which has a head that shimmers a brilliant magenta. I have one Anna’s that sits on a branch in the tree next to my front balcony — and attacks any other hummers that come in range. It’s quite a show to watch when he’s in residence.

But since he can’t be on guard broad every minute, I also see quite a few broadtail hummingbirds with their rose-red throats and wings that produce a trilling whir when they are flapping. The Anna’s makes a sharp clicking sound instead, which makes the two species easy to tell apart when they’re zipping around. This is especially true if the birds are the less distinctive females.

The broadbills, meanwhile, don’t seem to be as intimidated by the Anna’s as some of the other species that hover around my nectar feeder, which is probably why they are the second most common hummingbird to visit.

The next two most common visitors are the black-chinned, a smaller bird with a dark head and a sometimes-visible purple throat, and a broad-billed, a darker colored bird and the only visitor with an orange bill.

It’s taken hours of study for me to now identify my hummingbird visitors, and I still keep my bird guide close by. But being able to identify the birds I see is a major part of the enjoyment I get from birdwatching. It’s kind of like the thrill I get from reading a mystery book and correctly guessing who the killer is before the author reveals it.

I considered the time well-spent.

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.

The Magic of a Dance

Even the moon acted like Friday night was Magic. — Photo by Shanna Lee

 Shanna and Dawn, my granddaughter and her wife, threw an 83rd birthday bash for me Friday night. I had a blast.

I laughed a lot, drank just a bit too much, played pool and near the end even had one dance. It was magic.

 When I was young, I had loved to dance. But one night, the man I was dancing with told me I was a horrible dancer and had proved it by (I now suspect) maneuvering me so I stepped on his feet.

I stopped dancing for the next twenty years,

It was not until 1983 — when I found myself footloose and single in a small Idaho town, and friends with three women who liked to party on Wednesday nights after work, that I began dancing again.

At first, I would turn down invitations to dance. But one night, perhaps after a drink too many, I accepted.  My partner told me that I was a good dancer. I thought he was lying, but I didn’t turn down offers to dance after that. Amazingly his compliment was repeated a few times again by other partners.

For the next two years while I lived in Twin Falls, and for quite a few years after that, I danced at every opportunity that came my way. My favorite was the country western swing with a six-foot-two guy who was just a friend. Our favorite move was something we called the Octopus.

 But until Friday night I hadn’t danced in at least 20 years. The body reacted as if I had just danced the day before, and brought with it a flood of dazzling memories. It also felt good to have a man’s arms around me once again. I guess this old broad still has a bit of life in her yet.

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.

On Being a Writer

Great blue herons on frozen Farmington Bay in Utah: One of the best things about being a writer is that it makes you more observant because you will want to put what you see with your eyes into words. This is just one way being a writer has enriched my life.

I Think of Writing as a Gift

  For 37 years, as a newspaper journalist, I wrote almost every day. It meant I often saw my name in print, and the thrill of this never dimmed. It’s probably why I write a blog, as I’ve eschewed having ads on it.

Author Anne Lamott, whose book Bird by Bird is one I’m currently rereading for the third time, says some writers need to see their name in print to know they exist. I think I am one of them.

Now retired and having lived over eight decades on Planet Earth, I still get a joyful satisfaction in seeing my byline, whether it is on the book I have written, on magazine articles that occasionally get published, or this blog.

 And I was overjoyed yesterday, when I learned that my blog earned third place in Story Circle Network’s blog contest for my post Then Being Then.  https://patbean.net/2021/11/03/then-being-then/ The well-deserved first place, in case you are interested, went to Stephanie Rafflelock for We Matter at Every Age https://www.byline-stephanie.com/post/we-matter-at-every-age

As an old broad, writing has come to be just about my only outlet to still try and make a difference in the world, however tiny it might be.

 To date, I’ve posted 1,499 blogs. I’ve often encouraged readers to be kind, to be more open-minded, to not believe everything they hear or read, and to get their news from multiple sources – and I’ve written thousands of words about birds and nature, two things that keep me sane when chaos reigns.

These days, I write a lot about past experiences, a validation for my own life, but hopefully the posts let others who have had similar experiences know they are not alone. And I also try to make readers laugh or be awed by some trivial fact – as I laugh or am awed.

I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I can’t imagine being anything else.   

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.