Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

“The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

A page from my Journal.

After spending way too much time driving to the end of the road in Canyonlands National Park, I knew most of the rest of the day’s explorations would have to come through the windshield of my vehicle. That was OK because I was traveling through familiar territory that I had been through many times.

My Journal

While I often tried to drive new roads and see new sights on my trips to Texas to visit family once or twice a year, the one I was traveling this time was the shortest and the most used. Shortly after leaving Canyonlands, I stopped in Moab, one of my favorite towns, to gas up and get snacks for the road. Cheetos and a Coke, I suspect, as this is my usual travel fare.

But even in my hurry to get down the road, I did stop for about 10 minutes at Wilson Arch to take a few pictures.  Wilson Arch is about 25 miles south of Moab and quite visible from the road (Highway 191). There is also a half-mile trail leading up to and around it.

The first time I spotted the 46-foot-high by 91-foot-wide arch,, I had been amazed. It simply stood there without fanfare.

Today there are turnouts and interpretive signs noting that Wilson Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby. Additionally, the signs say the rock formation is entrada sandstone and that the arch was formed when ice-filled cracks formed and caused parts of the rock to break off. At least that’s my interpretation of the more scientific data.

Whale Rock in Canyonlands National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the same page of my journal that I noted my stop at Wilson Arch this day, I also listed the birds I saw, a habit I followed each day of my journey and one I continued in my book, Travels with Maggie about my later RV-ing years. And yes, the same Maggie who made this trip with me is the same one in the book.

The birds this day included American robin, European starling, California gull, magpie, raven, violet-green swallow, Say’s phoebe and pinyon jay, the latter being a species I saw for the first time and which I added to my then-growing life list.

Bean Pat: All about the Everglades https://earthstonestation.com/2019/03/06/two-people-that-saved-the-everglades-earnest-coe-marjory-stoneman-douglas/  Great blog for nature lovers like me.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.: — Margaret Atwood

The view this morning from my living room balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

Yea! A Pajama Day

I sat comfortably near my Living Room window this morning, drinking cream-laced coffee, reading the New York Times, and watching snow fall outside. What a great moment.

Pepper would rather watch the snow than walk in it. — Photo by Pat Bean

It made up for the fact that just a short time earlier, I had walked my canine companion Pepper in drizzling rain. Neither of us was too happy about it. Thankfully, instead of her usual dawdling, Pepper did her business quickly and headed briskly back to the stairs leading to our third-floor walkup apartment, where we both shook ourselves off before opening the door.

Pepper and those stairs are this old broad’s exercise program, so I’m not complaining.

Nor am I complaining about the snow. It’s a rare occurrence in Tucson, which sits in the Sonoran Desert. Besides, a snowy day is a good pajama day with a good book. I might even finish the two I am currently reading: Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell, and One More Warbler: A Life with Birds by Victor Emanuel and then start reading the next book on my reading list, My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Let it snow, let it snow.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Forest Garden https://forestgardenblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/still-learning-how-to-see/  Thoughtful words and powerful images.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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“When I have bad days, I just eat chocolate ice cream and dance to the “Lion King” soundtrack. It’s really odd, but it’s true.” Blake Lively

I discovered that this now out of print book about New York Cities Top Cats can be bought for $40 used.

Two Top Cats 


I recently started attending a writing group at my local library. It’s about the sixth group I’ve attended, searching for one that fit me, since moving to Tucson a few years ago. The others were all quite nice, but not exactly what I needed as a writer. This last one fits me perfectly. It’s a small group of serious writers who want to become both better writers and published writers.


That’s me — exactly.

During weekly meetings, up to six members submit a short piece for critique by the other writers in attendance. One of the more recent pieces was quite polished and excellent.  It was a section from an essay about the National Census, with a focus on counting the homeless in New York City.  The author used the two New York Public Library lion statues as an analogy, noting that they looked out and saw all. It was a piece of writing that I wished I had written, perhaps because of my long intrigue about the history of those two lions.

This native Texan, who has always lived well West of the East, has been blessed to have spent time in that magical – well you can’t be a writer and not think of it in that way – New York Library three times. And on each visit, I spent part of that time staring at those two killer felines, who are the stars in the book Top Cats: The Life and Times of the New York Public Library Lions published in 2006.  I would have bought the book when I discovered it had been written, except it is out of print and a used copy these days is selling for $40.  Instead, I tracked down what information I could about them from free website sources that included  Wikimedia, the New York Library, and New York City history pages.


What I discovered, briefly, first from Henry Hope Reed’s book, The New York Public Library, is that sculptor Edward Clark Potter was paid $8,000 to create the modeling for the two lions and the Piccirilli Brothers carved the statues for $5,000 using pink Tennessee marble. The lions were completed in time for the library’s official dedication in 1911.

Not particularly admired at first, The New York Times, which kept a close watch on the public reaction to the sculptures, reported that letter writers found the lions too tame. They were “mealy-mouthed,” “complacent,” and “squash-faced.” One critic compared their appearance to a cross between a hippopotamus and a cow and declared them “monstrosities.”

The lions were first called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Later, they were known as Lady Astor and Lord Lenox – even though they are both male lions.

In the 1930s, they were renamed Patience and Fortitude for the qualities New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia felt New Yorkers needed to survive The Depression. These names stuck. Patience guards the south side of the Library’s steps and Fortitude the north.

After World War II, the two began to symbolize holidays – wreaths and floral arrangements accompanied seasonal changes and sports fandom, with Mets or Yankees hats sometimes perched atop their heads.

Decades of pigeon deposits, climbing children, and decoration eventually took its toll. In 2004, the city spent two weeks and $114,000 to steam-clean and scrub the lions with a toothbrush before applying mortar to expanding cracks.

I think a revisit to Patience and Fortitude, and that magical library, is back on my ever-growing bucket list, which for this wandering-wonderer never seems to get any shorter.

Bean Pat: Brevity https://brevity.wordpress.com/2019/02/13/how-to-be-a-writer-in-five-steps/ Good writing advice for those of us with words in our brains that cry to be let out. This is one of my favorite blogs for writers.

           Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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When snow melts, the creeks do rise. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

Remembering my Grandmother

I was reading High Tide in Tucson, an essay anthology by Barbara Kingsolver who mentioned that she was often tempted to use one of her grandmother’s axioms when asked to commit to a future obligation. “Lord willing, and the creeks don’t rise,” she wrote.

My grandmother used to say exactly the same thing — and suddenly my wondering-brain was wanting to know the origin of the phrase  …  and then I was putting down Kingsolver’s book for a bit of research.

As usual, I came up with conflicting stories. One is that the phrase was first used by Benjamin Hawkins, U.S. General Superintendent for Indian Affairs between 1796 and 1818. Supposedly he used it in a letter to Thomas Jefferson requesting his presence in Washington D.C. in which he replied he would be there “God willing and the Creek don’t rise,” meaning the Creek Indians.

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors — and I’m loving this book of essays by her.

Others believe that Creek merely refers to a stream, and that it was simply a hayseed rural term meaning if nothing stops me or all goes well. One example for this is a mock rustic speech from an 1851 Graham’s American Monthly Magazine: “Feller-citizens — I’m not ’customed to public speakin’ before sich highfalutin’ audiences. … Yet here I stand before you a speckled hermit, wrapt in the risen-sun counterpane of my popilarity, an’ intendin’, Providence permittin’, and the creek don’t rise, to go it blind!”

Another example of early use of the phrase, according to Wikipedia, is from the 1894 Lafayette Gazette: “We are an American people, born under the flag of independence and if the Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise, the American people who made this country will come pretty near controlling it.”

It’s also said to be a sign-off tag line of the 1930s’ radio broadcaster Bradley Kincaid. My grandmother liked to listen to the radio so maybe this is where she picked it up. And finally, it has also been attributed to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, among others, on the usual principle that attaching a famous name to a story validates it.

Well, that was enough information, if not exactly uncomplicated, to placate this wondering-brain of mine — until the next time it is wants answers. In the meantime, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll go back to reading High Tide in Tucson. And in case you’re wondering about that title, Kingsolver explains it in her first essay.

Bean Pat: In tribute to Mary Oliver https://deborahbrasket.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/mary-oliver-washed-in-light/  Her words live on.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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Deer Creek Falls

“Who I am, what I am, is the culmination of a lifetime of reading, a lifetime of stories. And there are still so many more books to read. I’m a work in progress.” — Sarah Addison Allen

John McPhee’s Encounters  

I’m reading A Colorado River Reader, an anthology of essays that range from the exploration days of John Wesley Powell to modern-day river runners. The stories have both enlightened and educated me, and brought to the forefront my own experiences of time spent on the river.

Granite Rapid: I was tossed out of the boat at the top of this rapid, and wasn’t pulled back in until the raft got to the end. What an adventure.

In 1991, and again in 1999 as a gift to myself on my 60th birthday, I escaped from the world for 16 days and rafted 225 miles down the Colorado as it flows through the Grand Canyon. On the first trip, I spent most of my time in a six-person paddle raft, communing with the river when it was gentle, screaming with glee at it when it was wild, and straining with the five others in the boat to power our way safely down the river and through the rapids.

By the time of the 1999 trip, I was content to ride in a larger oar boat and let a boatman, or boatwoman, do all the work, leaving me just to hang on for the ride. The two trips were different in experiences, but every second of both were 100 percent joyous and worth remembering, which is why I so relished the memories of those trips that were refreshed and brought to the forefront of my brain when I read John McPhee’s piece in the anthology.

Tunnel, far right, dug to access rock structure for proposed Marble Canyon Dam.

The essay, “Encounters with an Archdruid,” was about a trip down the river with David Brower, a prominent environmentalist who opposed dam building (and whom I had met and wrote about as a journalist) and Floyd Dominy of the Bureau of Reclamation, who built dams. He got the Glen Canyon Dam built, but failed to get the one he wanted to be built in Grand Canyon’s Marble Canyon, although he got as far as getting a tunnel dug in the side of a cliff at the proposed dam site to access the rock structure.

I got to walk into this tunnel during my second trip down the Colorado River.

McPhee’s essay took me along on this now legendary white-water float through the Grand Canyon, dousing my memories with the cold-water waves of Deubendorff Rapid and sprinkling them with the rainbow-lit drops of mist coming off Deer Creek Falls, an awesome side canyon waterfall whose music filled my ears as I sat by it and ate lunch one day.

As I read, my mind wandered off to give thanks to the person who taught me to read. I can’t remember who it was, just that I truly can’t remember a time in my life that I couldn’t read. Reading has enlarged and brightened my world for as long as I can remember. And I’m thankful for this great gift.

I believe Ray Bradbury said it best when he wrote that not reading books was worse than burning them.

Bean Pat: Don’t call me sweet  https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/12/18/dont-call-me-sweet/  Take a break from the holiday chaos.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift for all those who wander but are not lost.

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“…on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over the rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it – a vast pulsing harmony – its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.” – From Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.

There is something of magic in a wolf’s howl that speaks to my soul. — Wikimedia photo

A Moment to Remember

My fascination with wolves began at a young age, triggered when I read for the first time, but not the last, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” I discovered the book when I about eight years old among my late grandfather’s book collection.

Down through the years I read many more books that encouraged this love affair, including “Never Cry Wolf,” that details the summer the author spent observing wild wolves in the Arctic tundra. I longed see one of these wild creatures outside of a zoo. But given the way we humans had been eradicating these animals for decades, it was a miracle I doubted would ever happen. Then it did, in 2005.

I was traveling in Yellowstone with my youngest son. We had stopped at an overlook to check out an unkindness of ravens in some trees, as were other visitors to the park. Or so we thought. We finally noticed that humans and birds alike were focused on something moving on the far side of the small pond below. When I saw it was a wolf, I was almost afraid to breathe. Here was nature at its purest.

One of the wolves at Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana.

The overlook placed the wolf center stage while the morning sun, just capping a ridge to our east, spotlighted it.  The wolf ignored our presence until a small dog, left in a vehicle by its owner, began yapping. Only then did the wolf tilt its head in our direction. It clearly knew we pitiful humans were watching.  The barking dog, as if feeling the heat from that glance, became silent, and the wolf again continued its ground-covering stride.  Through my birding telescope I could almost count the hairs on the wolf’s back.

In comparison to seeing a wolf in the wild, which I would rate 20-plus on a 10-point scale, Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, was a mere 10.

I arrived at the park just in time for an afternoon guided tour of the 75-acre grounds. While much more than a zoo, the wolves here were not free and only half wild. Wolf Park is a research facility, created to allow researchers to make closer observations of these animals than would be possible in the wild.

While the wolves are kept in large enclosures that encourage them to form, and live, in packs as they would in the wild, they have been conditioned to human contact to facilitate researchers. This begins when they are only a couple of weeks old, at which time they are removed from their wolf mothers and given to human mothers to continue raising. At about four months old, the cubs are returned to their packs.

A tour guide explained all this as he walked us around the park. His spiel included a genealogy of the pack affiliations, and stories about the personalities of each of the park’s 24 wolves. I was fascinated.

The pack I would late howl with was led by Tristan.  As wolves do in the wild, he had gained his position by asserting his dominance over higher-ranking wolves. This pack in-fighting, unless death of an animal seems imminent, is not interfered with by the park staff. Fights for the alpha female role, our guide said, tended to be more vicious than those of the male wolves, probably because the right to breed belongs only to the female alpha.        ,

I returned to the park later that night for the weekly Friday Night Howl, and found myself sitting on bleachers in front of a large fenced enclosure. A couple of staff members entered the compound and were greeted enthusiastically by the wolves, much as my daughter’s Great Dane, Tara, greets me. She is extremely loving, but if I’m not careful of my stance, she could easily bowl me over.

With the greeting between humans and animals completed, the staffers talked a bit about the work at the park, and then invited us to start howling to encourage the wolves’ response. I found the howling a bit weird at first. I didn’t sound at all like a wolf. Tristan seemed to agree – and looked at us humans as if we were missing our brains. But just then, somewhere in the background, one of the wolves from a different pack howled.  Tristan answered the wild night song. Other members of his pack quickly joined him. The chorus of human and wolf howls went on for a while, but at some point, I stopped howling and simply listened, feeling a freedom in my soul that I find hard to describe. It’s a writer’s block that actually gives me pleasure.

When I began my human, screechy imitation of a wolf’s howls again, Tristan gave me a disdainful stare. Then, never taking his eyes from mine, he decided to take pity on this mere human and howled with me. Shivers of delight rolled up my spine. It is a moment I will never forget.

Now available on Amazon

The above essay is a short piece from my book Travels with Maggie, which — to toot my own horn – would make a great Christmas gift for travel enthusiasts, especially RVers. You can get it on Amazon.

            Bean Pat: Window into the woods https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/11/19/really/#like-11871 Brave little chickadee.

            Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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These flowers aren’t periwinkles, but their color is about the right hue. — Art by Pat Bean

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.” — Dr. Seuss
The Word Stumped Me

I was reading Eric Brown’s Murder Takes a Turn, which is set in England shortly after the end of World War II, when I came across the word winklepickers. I love British mysteries set in this era, before DNA and other scientific methods changed the tone of modern-day crime solving; and I love reading books that teach me something and introduce me to new words.

They call these shoes Winklepickers. But they’re more of a cobalt blue than periwinkle blue, don’t you think?

Wunklepickers was one of these, and stopped me in my reading tracks. My Kindle was on the table beside me, so I used it to look up a definition of the word, and discovered that it is a boot or shoe with a pointed toe that became popular with British rock and roll fans in the 1950s.

The name is related to periwinkle snails, which I had also never heard of, but which are a popular snack across the ocean. The only periwinkle I’m familiar with is a five-petaled flower that is mostly purple or blue. Periwinkle is also a watercolor hue that I sometimes use.

The shoe moniker, however, refers to the sharp-pointed object that is needed by snail eaters to extract the soft snail flesh from the shell.

But then perhaps you already knew this. I asked my friend Jean this morning, when she dropped off her canine friend Dusty for me to watch while she went to work, if she had heard of winklepickers. She immediately thought of the snails, but then she’s a chef and spent many years working in Europe.

Stores are still selling winklepickers today, I discovered when I went online to research the word – but I think I’ll stick to my tennies. I’m sure they are way more comfortable.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: A fall walk https://pinolaphoto.com/2018/10/26/a-fall-walk-through-the-miami-whitewater-forest/?wref=pil Enjoy. I did.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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