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During my traveling days, I did manage a few train trips, like the one to the top of Colorado's Royal Gorge. I took this photo as the train curved around a bend while on the train itself. -- Photo by Pat Bean

          “There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who lived between 535-475 B.C.

          I’m currently reading Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar by Train Through Asia, which was published in 1975. It recalls a four-month trip the author took in 1973.

          Almost half a century has passed since then, which makes the book as much about history as travel. At times, it’s a bit confusing because names of countries have changed, and the places Paul visited are not the same today as they were then. Some sites have died out, while others have grown into giant cities.

To keep track of everything, and because armchair travel has become the most comfortable way for this 82-year-old-broad to continually be exposed to new places, my reading is constantly being interrupted with questions. I’m continually chasing down the answers to my curiosity by checking up-to-date maps (I have a good atlas) and internet resources, the latter being one of the reasons why I don’t long for the “good old days.”

Having the time to do this is one of the upsides of aging to offset the downsides.

But the changes that happened in the world since Paul’s book was written, makes me wonder about the changes time has brought to the places I visited in my own rambling journeys in a small RV between 2004 and 2013. My book, Travels with Maggie, is about a slice of that traveling life that took place during six months of 2006, but the book wasn’t even published until 2017.

I wonder if someone will read my book with questions, and if they will take the time to find the answers as I do? No idea how to answer this question.

Meanwhile, I noted that Paul’s journey began with him taking the 1530 -London to Paris Train, and him writing: “Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I were on it.”

Those words made me think of when I was a young child and the Texas Zephyr that blow its whistle each day as it roared behind my grandmother’s home in Dallas.

I always wondered where it had been and where it was going, and yearned to go along for the ride. Perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying my trip across Asia with Paul.

Photo: Train to the top of Colorado’s Royal Gorge, which I rode in 2007. I took the photo from the train as it curved around a bend.

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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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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An Alexander Kind of Day

It may look like a dark day, but the sun is out there somewhere. — Photo by Pat Bean

I cried as a kid because other kids made fun of me, because I didn’t have a boyfriend, because I foolishly married the first one, because my kids were sick or had been hurt, because after the divorce I couldn’t find my true soul mate, at Lassie movies, because my teenagers had minds of their own, because I made a mistake at work and got yelled at.

I really could go on and on.

But then my kids grew up, I had great friends, and I realized I was my own soul mate and a dog was much easier to live with than a man, even if I liked or even loved him.

I came to appreciate not having to listen to music or TV programs I didn’t like, of being able to get up on a weekend morning and go exploring only where I wanted to go, to eat cold fried chicken or listen to audible in bed at 2 a.m. without earplugs, to not have to cook if I weren’t hungry, to not having to share a bathroom, and simply to enjoy having some solitude.

Suddenly there were no more tears, well except at sad movies — but those tears dry out before the movie’s credits end.

While I don’t miss the reasons for my other tears, I realized this week that I do miss the feeling of release that flows through the body after a crying jag ends.

That’s because I experienced one. Like Alexander, I had A Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And I cried about it.

But, as Annie predicted, the sun came up the next day.

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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Curlew Day

Long-billed Curlew in flight. — Wikimedia photo

          Today, April 21, is World Curlew Day.

On reading this bit of trivia in Bird Watcher’s Digest, I immediately thought of being dive-bombed by Long-billed Curlews while traveling across the eastern causeway to Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island in the late 1990s.

          I was researching a series on the lake and had gotten permission to travel the little-used, non-public causeway with a photographer. We were carefully making our way down the rutted road when we came across a bunch of curlew chicks dashing back and forth.

       . We stopped and got out of our four-wheel vehicle to investigate — and immediately found ourselves being dive-bombed by birds with long pointy bills.

          I immediately got back into the vehicle, but the photographer stayed a few more seconds to try and snap a few photos. One of the birds knocked his hat off, and as I recall, he didn’t even try to retrieve it.

          I consider that day one of my best off-the-beaten-track adventures.

          There are eight species of curlews in the world, but only the Long-billed makes its home in North America. The other seven are Little, Eurasian, Bristle-thighed, Slender-billed, Whimbrel, Far Eastern and Eskimo, which is thought to already be extinct. One hasn’t been sighted since the 1980s.

Only the Whimbrel, Long-billed and Little curlews are not considered endangered. The Long-billed Curlew is actually fairly common in the western half of North America.

          Bean Pat: If you want to know about curlews, check out curlewaction.org. or read Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell, who walked 500 miles — from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast of England –, to discover what is happening to the UK’s much-loved Eurasian Curlew, whose population had dwindled 50 percent over the past 20 years.

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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The Sahara Desert

10 Favorite Travel Books

          I’m reading Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert by William Langewiesche. My reading is inching forward across a land the size of the United States a chapter a day – and taking notes like I do when I travel by vehicle and foot.

          It’s the way this 81-year-old non-wandering wanderer living on Covid time is mollifying her wanderlust – and constantly thanking the universe for travel writers and their books.

          Michelle Morano says that when we travel, our powers of   observation are unmoored from everyday and we pay keener attention to things around us.

           I’m following Langwiesche’s journey using the map at the book’s beginning. So far, I’ve only traveled from Algiers to Ouargla, savoring every mile. As Ursula K. Le Guin said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters.”

        My love of travel books was quite evident when I recently read a list of the best 100. I had read 82 of them — and am trying to find the remaining 18, most of which are out of date.

          And I added a new one to that wanted list, Sand, Wind and War: Memories of a Desert Explorer, while reading Sahara Unveiled. Lanhwiesche mentioned the author, Ralph A. Bagnold, who studied sand “grain by grain.” I looked up Bagnold online to learn more about him, and found his story fascinating.

          Meanwhile, here are 10 of my favorite travel books

          Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. An early model for my own travels.

          Road Fever by Tim Cahill. He makes me laugh, and I thrill at his adventures.

          I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson. The first travel book I read. I was 10 years old.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. Serious nature writing.

          Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck. Another model for my own travels.

          Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. One of my very favorite, irreverent, authors. I also consider his The Monkey Wrench Gang a travel book.

          A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  Lots of hiking while laughing.

          The Man Who Walked Through Time by Collin Fletcher. A serious backpacker’s journey down the Grand Canyon.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Great, inspiring story.

Travels with Maggie by Pat Bean. Well, it is one of my favorite travel books. And I dedicated it to all of the great travel writers who inspired me.

        Perhaps you would like to share some of your favorite travel books? The wanderlust in me is itching to know.

          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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Cat No. 4; Cat in a pink room.

Morning Thoughts and Cat. No. 4

About the Cat: It’s my version of one of the cats given as examples in the art book: Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. The goal was to quickly draw 30 cats from imagination while lying in bed. I guessed that the goal was to get the reader/artist to stop feeling like they had to be perfect, because the cat illustrations were certainly not drawn realistically.

Learning to accept that I wasn’t perfect, somewhere in my mid-30s, was one of the best moments my life. Remembering this got me thinking about other lessons learned during my 81 years on Planet Earth. I decided to make a list of 10 things, but only got to eight before my brain shut off. They are:

          No. 1: Accept that you’re not perfect and be happy about it.

          No. 2. Don’t take anything personal unless it makes you feel better.

          No. 3. Realize that people are more concerned about how they look than how you look.

          No. 4. Get a dog and walk it daily.

     No. 5. Find your passion in life, and follow it.

     No. 6. Get back on the horse when you fall off.

     No. 7. Learn something new every day.

No; 8: Get enough sleep most nights. I say most nights because us old broads still gotta have fun once in a while.

Perhaps readers can lengthen the list by sharing things life has taught them.

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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One of the best ways to jog my memory is to reread my journals,, which sometimes include sketches, like the one above about the day I watched a ruby-crowned kinglet.

          “Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories – and telling others a somewhat different version of our stories.” – Alice Munro

          While reading Mustard’s Last Stand, by Kathy McIntosh, I came across a fictional character who popped a rubber band around his wrist because he had a negative thought.

          The action took me back over 40 years, back to when I dated a guy who frequently popped a rubber band that he wore around his wrist. Why? I had asked. He had been evasive.

         His name was Jon, and he was a very nice guy, a reporter at the Fort Worth Star Telegram where I worked for a couple of years. But we dated only a couple of times, and never became more than just good friends. He went back to an old girlfriend whom he was still carrying a torch for, and I moved 1,500 miles away.

          If I hadn’t come across that rubber band passage, I might never have thought of Jon again. The passage also answered my unanswered question about why someone would purposely give themselves a jolt of pain, as I imagine a rubber band does when snapped against skin.

          I wondered if Jon had snapped the rubber band every time he thought about his old girlfriend? And then I wondered if people still wear rubber bands around their wrists to break a habit?

I wonder a lot.

          Meanwhile, at 81, when I have forgotten more than I can remember, I’m glad when my little gray cells are jogged. It’s almost always fun.

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

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White-Eared Hummingbird. — Wikimedia photo

The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.” – Carly Simon

White-Eared Hummingbird

I loafed through the past three days, which seemed an appropriate thing to do for a holiday weekend stuck at home. I binged on old Survivor seasons, walked my dog, had a night out playing Frustration and drinking Jack and coke with an adult granddaughter who also lives in my apartment complex, read a lot — and let my apartment get a bit dusty.

I live in the desert and you need to dust almost every day just to keep up with the blowing sand, which is thick enough that occasionally the night sky has a pink haze to it because of sand particles in the air. I was quite amazed the first time I saw this phenomenon.

White=Eared Hummingbird. — Audubon Field Guide

And I was just as amazed at the unexpected sight I saw this morning when I was sitting on my balcony with my morning coffee and writing out my to-do list, a bit lengthier today because of my lazy weekend.

Sitting on the table next to me was my ever-faithful pair of Leica bird-watching binoculars. Several familiar hummingbirds were flitting about the trees and my nectar feeder, mostly Anna’s, easy to identify because of the bright magenta feathers on their necks and head.

And then one flew in that was a bit different, a Broad-Billed, I assumed from its coloring and bill, and the fact they it is one of the more common hummers  I see at my nectar feeder, But it looked a bit odd, so I picked up my binoculars for a closer look as it sat peering at me from a nearby tree branch.

It had a wide white strip of feathers that stretched from above its eye almost to its neck, and not a hummingbird I was familiar with. But a quick flip through my favorite field guide let me know I was looking at a White-Eared Hummingbird. Wowzer!

This was a lifer, a bird that I was seeing for the first time. The 712th bird for my personal bird list. It was a big thing because it was the first new bird I had seen all year.

The White-Eared is a Central American hummer that barely crosses the Mexico border into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. And I got quite a good look at it, and even heard its distinctive tink-tink-tink voice as it fed at my nectar feeder.

What a great way to start the day.

Bean Pat: To Roger Tory Peterson, who published the first modern birding field guide that made it possible for non-ornithologists like me to identify the birds they see. I love the Peterson field guides, but my favorite for birding is

Travels with Maggie tracks my earlier birding days, when my bird list was only in the 400s. Check it out on Amazon. You might be able to read it free.

National Geographic’s Birds of North America, in which I keep a record of my first bird species sightings. I currently use the sixth edition.

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

 

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Joy is taking pleasure in little things, especially in nature. — Photo by Pat Bean

Political foolery, political bullying, political lying, political egotism, political shenanigans and political partisanship favored over what’s in the best interest of this country make me want to scream. And scream, and scream! I feel this way partly because I feel helpless to change things for the better.

Joy is my canine companion Scamp. — Photo by Pat Bean

What this country needs is a political party that’s not so far right, and not so far left, and is devoted to truth and facts. I would call it the Common Sense Party. All in favor, please stand up and say AYE!

I’m assuming the idea passed, so now all someone has to do is create it.

Meanwhile, since I need to stay sane during these chaotic times, I’ve started a list of things that give me joy. I try to put something on it daily. Here are a few recent joys from my list.

Joy is my third-floor balconies that look out on the Catalina Mountains, proving me a daily show of their changing moods

Joy is the almost daily phone call from one of my sons who tries to keep up with his old-broad mom, and the daily email chat I have with a daughter-in-law who has taken on the responsibility of being my guardian angel.

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

Joy is a call from a 10-year-old grandson who is reading the Dr. Doolittle books I so loved as a child, and who is loving them, too.

Joy is me getting to hold my great-granddaughter Cora. — Photo by T.C. Ornelas

Joy is getting a snail-mail letter from a friend, or from one of my grandchildren.

Joy is playing a competitive game of Frustration with my oldest granddaughter and her wife, and cussing and laughing a lot as we play.

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

          Joy is my dog Scamp, who is my companion, bedmate and exercise trainer. Having to walk him up and down three flights of stairs daily has become my foolproof exercise plan.

Joy is listening to the gurgling sound of coffee brewing, and smelling its toasty aroma while it is still dark outside.

Joy is sitting my butt in a chair and writing – or reading.

Bean Pat: Watching birds is one of the things that always give me joy, like watching these West Texas humming bird feeders on one of Cornell University’s live bird cams. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/west-texas-hummingbirds/

Available on Amazon.

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

 

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Scott’s Oriole — Wikimedia photo

A Colorful Walk

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Walking my canine companion Scamp early every morning is both a chore and a pleasure. Living in a third-floor apartment with no yard means it’s something that must be daily done – and at the first glimpse of dawn when I’m awakened by a dog sticking his cold nose in my face. If that doesn’t work, Scamp drapes his 40-pound body on top of mine and begins to whine.

You can read more about Maggie and her adventures with her mistress in Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon.

I have no choice but to get up, throw on some clothes and get his leash. Every morning I do this, I think of my former dog Maggie. She, as anyone who knew her would tell you, was a spoiled brat, but she liked to sleep in and so I got to wake up at my leisure not hers.

But by the time Scamp and I are going down the stairs, often with the moon still visible in the morning sky, the pleasure of being out and about so early, with rarely another soul in sight, takes hold of me.

After Scamp waters a tree, he begins a slow exploratory stop-and-go trot to the dog park where he likes to do his more serious business. We live at the top of the apartment complex and it’s at the bottom, leaving me with plenty of time to observe the sights around me.

The first thing that caught my attention this morning were eight white-winged doves sitting on a utility line. Mostly all I could see were dark profiles, emphasizing their individual shapes. Six looked exactly alike while one appeared skinnier and one fatter, the latter with a tail a bit longer than the others. Seven of the doves were facing away from me, but the one at the farthest edge faced toward me. I wondered what they were all thinking.

As we turned a corner, my eye was then caught by three large round bushes that were covered in bright purple flowers. The bushes had been trimmed a few days earlier by the apartment’s gardeners, and it seemed to me as if they had simply bloomed overnight. Or had I simply not seen them the day before?

The color purple always stops me for a better look when I see it in nature. Pictured here is a Rose of Sharon blossom.

Finally, Scamp — whom I let lead during his morning walks because once the day warms his walks are quick and short because this old broad doesn’t do well in the heat – headed back to our apartment for his breakfast. My own mind at this point was focused on the cup of cream-laced coffee that awaited me.

But as we began walking up the stairs, I got distracted by some movement in a nearby tree. I stopped to look more closely and was rewarded with a flash of yellow and black before a bird flew directly in front of me. It was a Scott’s oriole. While common in Southeast Arizona, one doesn’t see this oriole species often. As an avid birder I was thrilled at the sight – and immediately forgave Scamp for waking me so early.

Bean Pat: As one who wants to identify all the plants I see on my walks, I love this blog. Perhaps you will, too. https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/

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

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