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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Schadenfreude

Thistles look pretty but are prickly, just like us humans.

The Meaning of a New Word

I was scanning through the New York Times this morning in search of something to write about when I came across the word schadenfreude. As usual when I come across a word I don’t know – and this has been a habit even before I hit my teens – I stopped reading and looked the word up.

Schadenfreude means taking pleasure from someone else’s misfortune. Now who in the hell would want to do that, I instantly thought. But then I remembered how much pleasure it gave me over the years when I heard my narcistic ex-husband was having a bad time. So much for my momentary feeling of superiority.

And I knew if I thought about it longer, I would come up with other instances in which I took pleasure from someone else’s pain. We humans are not a nice lot. I’ve long known this, but it was confirmed in my head even stronger after reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a book I highly recommend, by the way.

The book concluded that we humans were the cause of most extinctions and that groups of more than 100 humans quickly found something to go to war over – beginning with religion and politics. The big item in today’s news that has everybody disagreeing is Covid. Masks, no masks. Vax or no vax. Isolation or herd immunity.

I wonder how humankind is still managing to survive?

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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Madelaine Albright and My Granddaughter

          I had an enjoyable conversation with my granddaughter and her wife last night about working women and overcoming myths about the female gender, long considered the weaker sex.

          Having myself given birth to five children, I find that idea seriously demented, but I’ve heard it hundreds of times in my 82 years.

          Then, this morning, as I was reading Madelaine Albright’s book, Hell and Other Destinations, I came across the chapter about her pins, and the suggestion that she write about them.

          Her answer was a resounding “No way,” noting how demeaning it would be for the first woman secretary of state to write about her jewelry. It would be like one of the male presidents writing about their ties, she wrote, despite the fact that she often wore pins to convey how she felt about an issue. Just as one president was known for saying “Read my lips,” she became known for urging others to “Read my pins.”

          Some years down the road, Madelaine relented. While the Smithsonian put together the pin exhibit, she wrote Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewelry Box.

          In writing about this, Madelaine noted that in her day – and my day —   women emulated men in order to succeed. It’s time that ended, Madelaine suggested, noting that “punctured earlobes do not mean a leaky brain.”

          Now that’s a quote I’ll keep in my head for the next time my granddaughter and I have a gender conversation. But then she, and her wife, already know that women don’t have to emulate men to succeed.

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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I’m thankful for the great horned owls that make their home in my Tucson Catalina Foothills apartment complex. — Art by Pat Bean

My Blessings are Many

          I no longer believe the Thanksgiving story I was taught as a child, but the day is still a good one for acknowledging our blessings, of which I have many.

          These are some of them:   

          My renewed good eyesight, after cataract removal and recovering from botched surgery on one eye that left me in pain for a month this year.

That I’m addicted to bird watching because it brings me much joy.

          Scamp, my canine companion who brings love and balance to this old broad’s life.

          That I better remember the good times of my life instead of the bad times.

          Air conditioning, because summer temperatures in Tucson can exceed 115 degrees.

          Advil and my pain doctor, both of which keep this 82-year-old arthritic up and walking.

          That I’m a writer who has kept journals.

          A hot bath before bed.    

          Family and friends. They are the most valuable treasures in my life.

My continued zest for life and learning new things.

Trees, each unique and beautiful in its own way, especially Aspen trees in the fall when the leaves look like golden coins and shimmer in the sun, and play music in the wind — and that I got to see them this year.

My computer and the Internet, which instantly satisfies my curiosity on most subjects, and keeps me in better contact with those who live far away, like seeing my seven great-grandchildren grow up.

Deep conversations about books, life and the world with agreeable people.

Comfortable clothes and shoes.

My chef friend Jean’s chocolate chip cookies and our weekly happy hours on my balcony.

Blank journals to fill, and filled ones to reread.

That I’m an optimist and not a pessimist.

Shared birthday experiences this year, a tradition, with my long-time friend Kim.

Long, solo drives on scenic backroads, like 89A in Arizona and Utah.

Daily emails from my daughter-in-law, Cindi, who also sends me surprise care packages occasionally.

That I have the ability to laugh out loud, especially at myself.

A rare day when political bullshit doesn’t raise my blood pressure.

Discovering a writer new to me who has written many books. There were several this year, including Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay’s Rules of Ten series, Ella Jameson’s Hetheridge series, and Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series.

          My Story Circle Network’s support team of awesome female writers, who’ve now been in my life for 11 years.

          Color in all its forms: lemon yellows, cardinal reds, forest greens, sky blues, ocean turquoises, rainbow pastels, and orange and purple sunsets – just to name a few.

A renewed relationship with my oldest daughter, Deborah, who shares my love of good books and writing.

Oreo cookies, my go to when I absolutely must have something sweet and chocolate.

Card games with my oldest granddaughter, Shanna, and her wife, Dawn, who moved to Tucson to be near to me, and who live in my same apartment complex.

My mornings with cream-laced coffee and the New York Times.

          Tucson’s colorful sunsets.

          A Jack Daniels and Coke nightcap.

          My oldest son, D.C. who checks up on his old mom to make sure she is still alive every day.

          The few TV programs I enjoy: Survivor, Amazing Race, The Challenge, Sunday Morning, and that I can stream them on my computer because I don’t own a television.

          Live theater, which sadly has been missing from my life during these Covid times, but which is slowly coming back.

          The Catalina Mountains, whose many moods I see daily as I walk my dog, Scamp.

          Hugs.

My monthly Social Security Checks.

          Scamp’s groomer, Vaune, because he’s a handful and no one else wants to groom him.

           Audible books to keep me company at night when I can’t sleep and reading a book in bed hurts my neck.

          People who are kind and non-judgmental.

          A soft blanket to wrap up in on a cool day — Tucson does actually have a few — and flannel pajamas and sheets on cool nights.

          Snail mail letters from old friends.

          Colorful jigsaw puzzles.

          Flowers, all kinds but especially the gardenias that grow here in my apartment complex and remind me of my grandmother’s home.

          Watching Scamp and his best friend Dusty curl up together on my bed when I’m on my computer. I’ve babysat Dusty for eight years, and she and Scamp follow me from room to room all day long.

          Piddling with watercolors to create art.

          Rainbows.

          Readers of my book and blog.

          Surprises.

          Modern day appliances.

          Vaccines, of all kinds, that have made the world a safer place to live and saved my children from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and small pox.

          Grocery delivery.

          Learning new things.

          Armchair travel when I can’t do the real thing.

          A bold, black-ink, and smooth moving bold black gel pen.

          Morning snuggles with Scamp.

          A thick, rich chocolate milkshake.

          A new toothbrush.

          A good massage.

          Dinner leftovers for breakfast.

          Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

          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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Chickadee and berries. — Art by Pat Bean

Fingers Take Over Brain

Amy Hale Aucker, in her book Ordinary Skin, writes about her choice to camp in a primitive area near a natural hot-spring pool despite warnings against doing just such a thing. While her mother only told her to be careful and not talk to strangers, others asked where she was going to plug in the hair dryer.

Even the campground host Jim, an older gentleman, asked if she was sure she wanted to do this.

She did, and she talked to strangers, even a rough-looking vagrant who joined her in the hot pool one night. Jim just happened to wander by, a few times, just checking out the campground. But Amy knew that he was making sure she was OK.

“He was taking care of me,” Amy wrote, noting that other men had also taken care of her during her life.

My first thought on reading this was the campground host, also an older gentleman, who daily checked up on me at a lonely Michigan campground during my solo RVing days.

It felt nice. Taking care of women was how most men were raised in my generation. And some of then took it very seriously. But then along came the female rebellion, when women decided things like opening doors for them wasn’t a good thing at all because it let the man feel superior.

Ha! Men have felt superior from almost the moment they were born, often simply because of the way they were treated by their loving parents, who gave them more freedom than their sisters, and made sure if there was only enough money for one child to be educated it would be them.

I was even told by a male high school teacher that females had no reason to go to college. They would be taken care of by a man. I remembered that clearly the day I realized nobody in my life would be taking care of me, but me. I had no problem with men opening doors for me. All I cared about was getting equal pay for equal work.

That, at least, was/is my generation, and I’m an American woman. In some eras and countries, female babies weren’t even allowed to live. Even today, in some countries, women can’t walk outside their homes without a male escort.

Hmmm. This essay took an unexpected turn, which often happens to me when I have my fingers on a keyboard and they take charge of the brain. My original thoughts were to compare Amy’s experience of Jim looking out for her, with the times men looked out for me.

And, like Amy, I, too, wouldn’t let the fear of being harmed by men stop me from doing the things I loved to do, like my solo RVing across America, or hiking a mountain trail alone because that was my favorite way to be in nature.

And also to note that if I saw a man with his hands full, I would quickly open the door for him. It’s the little courtesies between us all that make life more pleasant. And we don’t have enough of them in the world today.

Sorry for the detour from my first nice thought. But it’s hard escaping the real world.

Kindness, meanwhile, knows no gender.

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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A storm’s brewing — but the sun will come out tomorrow. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

Trying to Think Positive

          Sometimes stuff – translate shit — happens that might be a blessing in disguise. At least that’s what I would prefer to think about losing a writing folder on my computer.

About a year ago, I started writing a book about my journalism years. I’ve titled the book Between Wars, because it’s how I see my 37-year newspaper career.  My first significant bylined story was an interview with a mom whose son had been killed in Vietnam – we cried together; and one of my last pieces was an editorial urging the president not to take us back into Iraq a second time – he didn’t listen.

          Anyway, I got about 10,000 words into it when I realized what I had written was garbage. OK, maybe not quite garbage, but I’m a writer, and like most writers, I usually feel that what I write is never good enough. But this time I believed I was right – my narrative bored me. So, how in the heck was it going to keep readers turning pages

I finally just put the project away because I couldn’t figure out a way to go forward.  Lately, I’ve been reconsidering tackling the project again. Perhaps you’ve even noticed that I’ve been using my blogs, writing about journalistic events in my life, to stimulate my thinking. And I started a new computer folder to keep track of research and ideas for the book.

          Yesterday, I decided it was time to go back and read what I wrote a year ago, and salvage anything usable. The folder, however, was missing – which had me saying that four letter S word numerous times.

          Had I accidentally deleted that old Between Wars folders when I had done a cleanup of my computer a couple of weeks ago? Maybe. Then I started asking myself if that was actually a bad thing? Or was it a good thing because it meant I truly had to start over?

          After a bit of wailing and hair-pulling, my silver-lining syndrome kicked in and I began thinking positive. But excuse me while I stamp around and rage, and maybe even cry, for at least another hour.  

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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This painting is nothing more than blobs of color, but they come together to make a whole that is pleasing. This watercolor was also painted by two different people. Is there a lesson here? — Art by Pat Bean and Jean Gowen

An Unlikely Hero

A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.”

“One thing is clear to me: We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves.”

“What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

“The imperative is to define what is right and do it.”

“Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.”

“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.”

While doing some research for a story, I came across the above quotes. They touched my heart, and had me asking why aren’t our leaders saying these kinds of things today. 

If you hadn’t already guessed, these words came from a tall, outspoken, husky-voiced Black women from Texas, Barbara Jordan, whom I was privileged to write about in my early journalism years. She was from Houston, and I worked for a newspaper just 50 miles away.

 Barbara (1936-1996) was the first Black woman to be elected to the Texas State Senate, and in 1972, she became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

She served three terms before retiring to become a professor at the University of Texas. While Jordan’s quotes from above touched me, this one chilled me to the bone: “But this is the great danger America faces. That we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual. Each seeking to satisfy private wants.”

I think she perfectly described America as it is today, and it deeply saddens me. What do you think?

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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I never felt like a fish out of water when I was in a newsroom, but there were many times I felt like I was alone in a fish bowl with everyone keeping an eye on me simply because I was often a woman doing a man’s job. — Art by Pat Bean

A Shared Past

I’m listening to Madelaine Albright’s latest book, Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir, which she reads herself. As I read, I find myself greatly identifying with the author because of our shared years of experiences. She’s 84 and I’m 82.

Although I never reached the fame Madelaine did, we were both working mothers during a time when that was looked down upon; we both survived working with men before the Me Too Movement; and we both side-stepped inappropriate work-involved situations so as not to hurt our chances of advancing in our jobs. 

Madelaine, I thought, summed it all up with her comment after an incident involving a male chauvinistic quip while she was seeking campaign funding during a Dollars for Democrats fund drive. One man told her he had “No money for Democrats, but five dollars for you babe.”

“Then being then,” she said, she chose to simply ignore the comment and move on with her task. It made me remember the many times something similar happened to me and I, too, ignored it.

Madelaine and I also both lived through a time of female firsts, like the first woman to become a Fortune 500 CEO, the first woman to drive in the Indy 500, the first woman on the Supreme Court, and on and on. As a working journalist when these events and many others on lesser scales happened, I wrote newspaper stories about the achievements – to the point I never wanted to do another first woman story in my life.

On my own personal level, I was the first woman to infiltrate several, all male newspaper editorial decision-making meetings. I quickly learned that the first words out of one of the men’s mouths would be: “OK guys. We have a lady present. We have to watch our language.”

Translated, I understood that to mean she can’t handle our world, and considered it a big put down.

While I’m not exactly fast on the uptake, I think I got this one right for then being then. I, who never cussed, followed the man’s comments with my own. “That’s right. You mother #@&*%#* sons of a #@^%&* just better watch your language.” That got a laugh, and the point across that I could handle just as much as the men could.

And that’s kind of how I handled most of my career. While I one hundred and ten percent supported the equal rights movement back then, I never talked about it at work, or complained when I wasn’t treated equally, (well, except for equal pay for equal work) because I saw that feminist-talking women were thought uppity and the Good Old Boys Club – why in the hell isn’t there a Good Old Girls Club frustrates me — edged those women out of advancement. I saw it time and time again. Meanwhile I stood by feeling helpless … Because, as Madelaine said, “Then being then.”

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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Great Horned Owl — Art by Pat Bean

          The western sky was glowing orange and purple as I walked down the stairs from my third-story apartment to give my canine companion Scamp his last walk of the day. I stopped to watch — while Scamp watered a couple of trees — as the fiery scene slowly vanished below the horizon. Never have I lived where such a late evening sight happens most nights of the year.

          And just as the colors coalesced into the dark hues of night, our resident female Great Horned Owl silently swooped across the courtyard to land in the giant Ponderosa where she often sits for hours. She and her mate have raised chicks here in the apartment complex all but one year since I moved here in 2013. It’s easy to tell the genders of the pair because the female is about a third larger than the male, a common trait of raptors.

          The night felt magical, as if the Sun and the Owl had put on a special performance for my eyes only. Such moments seem to happen to me a lot, but I never tire of them. While I still have itchy feet that wants to explore all the places I’ve never been, I’m glad my own backyard can still thrill me.

          Richard Bode, author of First You Have to Row a Little Boat, said he once met once met a man who had visited every exotic place from the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall, but then admitted he hadn’t seen the songbirds in his own backyard.

          I met quite a few people like that when I was traveling this country in a small RV. People, like me, came from all over to visit some waterfall, cave, or other wonder of nature, and the person who lived just 10 miles away had never taken the time to view it. How sad.

          If ever there was a time that we needed to be given proof that beauty and wonder can exist amongst chaos, these days are it. I need sunsets and owls, and colorful flowers and fall leaves, and hummingbirds and coyotes to keep me sane.

And thankfully, they’re all just outside my apartment door.

          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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A bit messy but I never would have tried this Black-Capped Chickadee post without taking the art class.

I took a bird history/drawing Atlas Obscura Zoom class yesterday afternoon. The instructor noted that birds evidently had a lot of fans, judging by the number of participants who signed up for the short course.

She’s right. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey, 51.3 million Americans watch birds, and the hobby is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in this country.

I became one of the addicted in 1999. And my life has been richer because of it. My latest way to watch birds, given that Covid’s isolated me from taking field trips with other birders, are live bird cams. Check out explore.org if you are interested.

This morning I watched a bald eagle sitting on a snow-filled nest near Decorah, Iowa, a blue-gray tanager at a Panama fruit feeder, and puffins in a burrow off the coast of Maine. I especially like watching the fruit feeder because I personally have to identify the birds that visit it, which often involves an extra bit of research.

I’ve kept a life list of birds I’ve seen personally in the field for 22 years now – 700 plus different species. The list grew rapidly in my early years of birding, but now grows only by one or two birds a year, if I’m lucky.

So, I’ve started a second list of virtual birds. The criteria for this list include a good visual observation, location of the bird, and a bit of research about any bird I list. My impossible goal is that the list will eventually grow to 10,000 bird species, which is almost as many birds as there are on this planet.

As an avid list maker, and an old broad who is retired, it’s an ideal activity, as is drawing birds. It was a fun class that began with the instructor noting birds evolved from dinosaurs. I already knew that. Did you?

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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A bit messy but I would never have attempted this Black-Capped Chickadee pose if not for the drawing class.

          I took a bird history/drawing Atlas Obscura Zoom class yesterday afternoon. The instructor noted that birds evidently had a lot of fans, judging by the number of participants who signed up for the short course.

          She’s right. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey, 51.3 million Americans watch birds, and the hobby is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in this country.

          I became one of the addicted in 1999. And my life has been richer because of it. My latest way to watch birds, given that Covid’s isolated me from taking field trips with other birders, are live bird cams. Check out explore.org if you are interested.

          This morning I watched a bald eagle sitting on a snow-filled nest near Decorah, Iowa, a blue-gray tanager at a Panama fruit feeder, and puffins in a burrow off the coast of Maine. I especially like watching the fruit feeder because I personally have to identify the birds that visit it, which often involves an extra bit of research.

          I’ve kept a life list of birds I’ve seen personally in the field for 22 years now – 700 plus different species. The list grew rapidly in my early years of birding, but now grows only by one or two birds a year, if I’m lucky.

So, I’ve started a second list of virtual birds. The criteria for this list include a good visual observation, location of the bird, and a bit of research about any bird I list. My impossible goal is that the list will eventually grow to 10,000 bird species, which is almost as many birds as there are on this planet.

          As an avid list maker, and an old broad who is retired, it’s an ideal activity, as is drawing birds. It was a fun class that began with the instructor noting birds evolved from dinosaurs. I already knew that. Did you?

          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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