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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Old Age is Not for Sissies

A page from my sketchbook

When I young, too many years ago, I would occasionally hear one well-matured person or another comment “old age is not for sissies.” I heard it more often as my own mother struggled to retain her independence.

          These days I find myself muttering the same words, and also those of Dylan Thomas who wrote: Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage at the dying of the light.

          I’ve worked hard at keeping my brain sharp and up-to-date with what’s going on in the world today. And I joke that my third-floor apartment. with no elevator, and a dog to walk five times a day, are my fool-proof exercise plans.

          That’s all good, but my recent inability to take a small step down on uneven ground, because I was afraid I would lose my balance and fall, had nothing to do with stairs or walking.

          “Try Tai Chi,” my former journalism colleague Charlie Trentelman, told me.

          So, I ordered a digital video copy of Tai Chi lessons that focuses on balance for older people. I participated in the first class this morning.

          In it, we beginners got to hold on to a chair, or even sit in it for some exercises. Piece of cake, I thought, as the demonstrations began. Ha! I had to sit out a couple of the exercises because I pooped out. I was straining muscles I didn’t even know I had.

And when it came to the point in the video where the instructor said we could end our first lesson here if we were tired, or continue on, I opted to halt the video.

          I’ll try again tomorrow. I’m not a sissy.

           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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Imagine: A World at Peace

From my Sketchbook

          Fifty years ago, just before we got out of Vietnam, pretty much the same way we got out of Afghanistan last month, and how England got out of Afghanistan in 1842, John Lennon sang a song that brought tears to my eyes every time I heard it.

          It did the same again this morning as I listened to it on my car radio while running an early morning errand.  The song is titled Imagine, and it’s a call for world peace and brotherhood, and asks listeners to imagine what that would be like.

          As my tears flowed once again, I tried hard to imagine such a world, and also thought of Peter, Paul and Mary’s words of 50 years ago as well.  “When will we ever learn …” they sang.

          Lennon was denigrated because Imagine asks that people imagine a world without religion, without heaven and without hell. But looking around, one can’t help but see how religion has created wars, not peace.

          Just as an example, I recall one of my favorite childhood hymns, Onward Christian Soldiers.

          Lennon’s song doesn’t ask for us to imagine a godless world, at least as I understand the lyrics, just that it not be an organized thing in which everyone is expected to believe the same thing – and if they don’t, they’re bad.

Lennon ends Imagine by singing that he may be a dreamer, but that he is not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.

           I admit it. I’m a dreamer. And thinking about the possibility of world peace makes me cry. I know I’m not going to see it. But it sure would be nice if my great-grandchildren could.

           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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An insignificant watercolor that also marks the passage of my days. — Art by Pat Bean

I just completed the last page of my current journal, whose first page was written Nov. 9, 2020.  Before I put the book away, I perused back through it.

On the very first page, I had written the definition of the word pedantry, which means an excessive concern with minor details. A good word for a journal keeper, I wrote.

Here are a few other insignificant details and thoughts I wrote to mark the passage of the days.  

The estimated number of insects in the world is 10 billion billion, according to David Attenborough’s book Life on Earth. He also wrote that an ancient split in the ancestry of fish means humans are more closely related to a cod than a cod is to a shark. Hmmm?  

A coxcomb is a jester’s cap.

In this day and age, doubt is the only way to read social media. Duh.

Socrates lived from 470 to 399 B.C. and yet already understood that we are all in this chaotic mess together.

You can use your knuckles as a memory aid to remember what months have 31 days. You learn something new every day.

It is a shame everyone else is an idiot.

More than two dozen cars got towed because their owners ignored, or didn’t get, the memo that our apartment parking lot was being repaved.

Today, December 21, is supposed to be the shortest day of the year. But I see that the sun came up and went down at the exact time as yesterday.

The first Amazon Kindle came on the market in 2007, and sold for $399. I love my Kindle.

          My good Tucson friend, Jean, was exposed to Covid. She’s a teacher. (P.S. Two weeks of isolation from her, but she didn’t come down with it, and now we both have gotten the vaccine)

Get over it. Just do it.

“Let me live, love and say it in good sentences,” – Sylvia Plath.

And with that said, I think I will now go start a new journal.

          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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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These days, I have time to not just smell the flowers but to paint them. Life is good.

What the heck! Who have I become?

I asked myself that question this morning as I carefully zipped closed Scamp’s package of peanut butter doggie treats after our morning walk.

          The bag hadn’t fully closed the first time I zipped it shut, and I was taking the time to redo it, and then checked a third time to make sure it was truly closed.

          This time-consuming action made me think of the person who was always in too much of a hurry to even close cabinet doors, a habit that annoyed orderly people.

          Following this memory, I remembered myself merrily tripping up and down stairs as if they were flat ground. Hand holds – well except when I was climbing to the top of Zion’s Angels Landing – were mere architectural doodads.

Today I hold onto stair railings for dear life and look for other handholds anytime I have to maneuver uneven ground or floors. What happened to that person who ran instead of walked from place to place, I ask myself?

That impatience gene that once ruled my body, driving me to constantly sprint to get somewhere, to jump from one task to another, to always come in first, has clearly taken a vacation to Timbuktu — and decided to stay.

I guess it’s what happens to you when you’ve lived on this planet for 82 years. The funny thing is that life is still rich and exciting. I’m more observant when I get out in nature, sometimes seeing more on a short walk than I did on a 10-mile hike.

I take time to satisfy my curiosity. My home stays neater. I explore the world through travel books. I bird from my balcony window. I piddle around with watercolors. Sometimes I just sit and connect the dots of my life. My writing is richer because of my experiences and I get to write what I want to write. And I feel closer to friends and family than I ever did during my younger years.

That person who never had time to make sure packages or cabinet doors were closed is gone. I miss her. But I love her replacement.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Soap Box Rant: Bullies

One way to keep America Great would be export all the bullies. — Bald Eagle art by Pat Bean

          Reading the news this morning sent me off on one of my rants, and I decided it was time to vent.

When did calling people hateful names for something they said instead of intelligently debating their words become a daily part of American culture?

          This behavior sickens me. And the only way I could escape it these days would be to read no newspapers, unplug my radio and television and lock myself in my apartment and shut all my window shutters.

That’s not a life I want to live, especially after being somewhat isolated for over a year.

          Instead of mouthing nothing but derogatory rants about political opponents, tell me what your plans for America are. If you don’t like the proposals of the opposite side, give me a different solution. Why are your ideas better than your opponents?

          Heaven forbid – OK I’m being sarcastic — that a bit of one and a bit of the other might even be a better solution.

          It sounds to me that those who savage people instead of their words don’t have any solutions or plans, and they think if they shout the insults loudly enough it will scare off any contenders who oppose them.

          It also seems to me that all these revengeful attacks against people with different ideas is no different than schoolyard bullying of the kid who is different, only on an adult level.

What kind of example is being set for our young people? I ask as a great-grandmother of seven who wants them to be raised in a kind world – without bullies.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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          “I want there to be no peasant so poor in my realm that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” – Henry IV (1553-1610)

          I grew up knowing where food came from. My grandmother raised pigs, chickens and rabbits, had an apricot and a peach tree from which jam was made, and a large vegetable garden, the produce of which my mother and grandmother preserved to see us through the winter.

We ate well all week, but Sunday dinner was always special, and it began with my grandmother wringing the head of a chicken, which would then spasm around on the ground for a bit before joining its passed-on kin. .

The dead bird would then be dropped into a bucket of boiling water for a few minutes before its feathers were plucked out. Once that was done, the bird was cut into pieces, dipped in a seasoned egg, milk and flour mixture and fried until they had a golden-brown crispy exterior and a juicy interior.

I’ve never tasted better fried chicken, so delicious it would turn the Colonel and Popeye green with envy.

                   ***

Cat No. 11: Alice’s Loony Cheshire

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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Lake Pend Oreille — Wikimedia photo

“Forever is composed of nows” — Emily Dickinson

It was a sunny June day in 2010 in Northern Idaho, where from my RV window I was watching a multitude of animals scampering about.

  Rabbits were hopping among the shadows of the trees, which were full of noisy squirrels chattering above. Mourning doves and dark-eyed juncos were pecking at the bird seed I had scattered about, while colorful butterflies flitted to-and-fro among a patch of wildflowers not too far away.

Closer still, a black-chinned hummingbird was drinking from my small nectar feeder.

The animals would come and go for the next three months, just another perk to go along with the free camp site and utilities provided in exchange for being a volunteer at Farragut State Park.

Located in the Idaho Panhandle at the tip of Lake Pend Oreille near the Canadian border, the 4,000-acre park was a Naval Training Station during World War II – and Lake Pend Oreille, which is over a thousand feet deep, is still used by the Navy for submarine research.

I got to spend an afternoon and evening on the lake, which included watching Rocky Mountain Goats scamping high on the cliffs above the lake.

When I wasn’t animal watching, or greeting and registering visitors and campers at the park’s entrance kiosk, I spent my days bird watching and exploring the park.

I saw my first chestnut-backed chickadee here. These birds were frequent visitors to the bird feeder at the park’s visitor’s center.

And from one of the park’s permanent workers, I learned to identify Douglas Firs from Grand Firs. The Douglas Firs could easily be spotted by the new growth of bright green on their tips, which gave them a lighted Christmas tree appearance.

            Park Ranger Errin Bair told me I could also tell the two trees apart by their cones. The Douglas’ cones are light brown and hang down; the Grand’s are greenish or even purplish and grow upright.

          It was a grand summer.

          Meanwhile, I know I’ve been off the grid for a bit, but I haven’t forgot my 30-cat challenge. Here is Cat No. 10: Fierce Cat.

Cat No. 10L Fierce Cat

          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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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On Drawing Cats

Snarky Cat in a Tree — Cat. No. 10

          “A line is a dot that went for a walk,” says Paul Klee. Not sure why, but that thought, and Klee’s own out-of-the-box paintings, loosens my artistic inhibitions. The first fear, of course, is being judged for my lousy drawing ability.

          To push myself to do more art, the doing of which, regardless of the outcome, makes me feel good about myself, I took on the challenge of drawing 30 cats, which is actually the first assignment in Carla Sonheim’s book Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun.

          The cats are supposed to be drawn quickly, and although the maximum amount of time I’ve spent — since beginning the challenge over a month ago – on drawing and painting each cat is less than 15 minutes, this morning I completed only Cat. No. 10.

          Like Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, I am a writer who also does other things, and it’s the same for my art.

          Although retired, 81, and living in Covid isolation time, my days are full and pass quickly. For that I am blessed. But I’m still committed to finishing the challenge, so more cats are coming, even if slowly.

Meanwhile, acknowledging the goal and sharing my imperfect efforts, are keeping me on task. My thanks to all my readers.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Nothing About Life is Logical

Cat No. 8 — Stalking a Bird

Frank Herbert, author of the popular Dune series, said: ‘Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

          If ever there was a time for those words to make sense, we’re living in them. As Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Polifax said — as best as I can remember it – life isn’t like a table setting where everything has its proper place.

          No, life is messy and impossible to control.

          I remember once standing by a lake, across which a dark storm cloud was dumping rain on the southern landscape. To the north, a summer sky was bright blue with sunlight shimmering down through puffy white clouds, while beneath my feet the rocky shoreline was framed by a colorful bush indicating fall had arrived.

          From a single spot, I was being presented with three stories, each in conflict with the other. Since I couldn’t deny reality, I had to believe them all. It’s the same with life and people. There are many realities, and just because we believe one doesn’t mean the others aren’t true. Mother nature’s triple feature left me pondering over this for a good long while.

          And then my brain tuned in to Bob Marley: “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So, when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”

          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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Answering the Muse

Cat Ni, 7 — Orange Fuzzy Cat

Morning Thoughts and Cat No. 7

          I can procrastinate with the best, but underneath I’ve always had a strong work ethic – from doing homework assignments on time to always doings what I’ve signed up to do, which includes showing up for my writing even when the muse is on vacation in Paris or Timbuktu.

          As Octavia Butler says: “Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t.”

          Or as Natalie Goldberg says: “There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. If you’re having trouble writing, well, pick up the pen and write.”

          But life has changed for me. I’m no longer a working mother or a woman chasing a career. I’m a retired old broad. And while I keep myself quite busy, I no longer have a time schedule to follow.

          For the first time in my life, I am able to answer the muse when it visits, and to follow Henry David Thoreau’s advice to “Write while the heat is in you … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”

          It’s exciting to be able to sit down and write when an idea crossed my little gray cells. But I have to admit, the outcome doesn’t seem to know the difference. The butt in chair action doesn’t seem to care if the muse is looking over my shoulder or not. In the end, the important thing is to just do it.

          And that, if you remember, is my New Year’s Resolution.

          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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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