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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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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Mrs. Polifax is quite fond of flowered hats.

“She drew herself up to her full height—it was a little difficult on a donkey—and said primly, ‘I have found that in painful situations it is a sensible idea to take each hour as it comes and not to anticipate beyond. But oh how I wish I could have a bath!’” – Words spoken by Dorothy Gilman’s fictional Emily Pollifax, a white-haired senior citizen who decided she wanted to be a spy.

A Series Quite Worth Rereading Today            

I discovered Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax books back in the 1970s, which marked some major turning points in my life. I was influenced by the character’s upbeat, adventurous and realistic attitude, and her efforts to make her life more meaningful than garden club meetings. I was, in a different way, trying to do the same.

Angela Lansbury played Mrs. Pollifax in a 1999 CBS TV Movie. And Rosalind Russell played her in a 1971 movie. Angela fit the role much better than Rosalind.

Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax was the first book in the series, written in 1966, and Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled, published in 2000, was the 14th. On discovering the books, I quickly read all that had been written at the time and eagerly awaited the next to come out.

Given that I have been a bit out of sorts with the current coronavirus and world situation, and my decision to stay isolated, I decided I would reread the Pollifax books. I finished the first of the 14 in the series at 2 a.m. this morning, and am eager to go on to the next.

Perhaps you would like to join me. Here are a few Emily Pollifax quotes so you can judge for yourself.

“Tragedies don’t interest me, tragedies and heartbreaks are all alike, what matters is how a person meets them, how they survive them.”

“It’s terribly important for everyone, at any age, to live to his full potential. Otherwise a kind of dry rot sets in, a rust, a disintegration of personality.”

“Everything is a matter of choice, and when we choose are we not gambling on the unknown and its being a wise choice? And isn’t it free choice that makes individuals of us? … I believe myself that life is quite comparable to a map … a constant choice of direction and route.”

“I have a flexible mind—I believe it’s one of the advantages of growing old. I find youth quite rigid at times.”

Dorothy Gilman

“Because lately I’ve had the feeling we rush toward something-some kind of Armageddon-set into motion long ago. There are so many people in the world, and so much destructiveness. I was astonished when I first heard that a night-blooming cereus blooms only once a year, and always at midnight. It implies such intelligence somewhere.”

Gilman was born in 1923 and died in 2012 at the age of 88. Her Pollifax series was begun at a time when women in mystery meant Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and international espionage meant young government men like Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Emily Pollifax became a spy in the 1960s’ and may be the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the CIA and her local garden club, according to Wikipedia.

Bean Pat: A tribute to Dorothy Gilman for the many, many hours of pleasure and contemplation she has given me for nearly half a century, and to the hundreds of other writers who have done the same

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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“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” — Robert Frost 

Chillon Caste at sunset.

Two Poems from Childhood

When I was quite young, about 10 as I best recall, I began reading a poem that I came across in one of the books in my late grandfather’s collection, and which I remember clearly to this day. My grandfather had died when I was about three years old. I don’t remember him, but I evidently inherited his love of reading, and also, according to my mother, his wanderlust.

After his death, his books were stored in an upright chest with a door — and forgotten. When I found them, it was like having dug up the buried treasure Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about in Treasure Island, the first of my grandfather’s books I read.

His book stash, mostly cheap book club copies of the classics that were already beginning to disintegrate when I discovered them, included the entire works of such authors as Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, James Fennimore Cooper, and Jack London.

Poppies — By Pat Bean

I read them all. The poem that fascinated me, however, was in a literature book that I later learned had belonged to my mother. It seems she had failed a high school English class and had to purchase the text book and take the course over.

The poem was titled The Prisoner of Chillon, written by Lord Byron in 1816. It was a ghastly long narrative, but I eventually memorized it, as determined to accomplish the achievement as today’s youth are to achieve the highest level in some video game or another.

I was fascinated by the way the words went together, just as I had been by a shorter poem that started off my memorization goals. I found it in the same literature book, and although I didn’t understand its true meaning, I loved the way the words rolled off my tongue. While I’ve long forgotten the exact words of The Prisoner of Chillon, I can still recall from memory John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.

“In Flanders Field the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; And in the sky;

The larks, still bravely singing, fly.

Scarce heard beneath the guns below…”

I wouldn’t know I would want to become a writer for another 15 years. And even then, I thought such a lofty goal was not for the likes of a high school dropout like me. Now, as I approach my eighth decade on this planet, I wonder how much McCrae’s simply words sent me off in a direction that has given me joy, sustained me through bad times, and has satisfied my love of learning, both for the things I learned in order to write about them, and two in my unending pursuit to learn how to be a better writer. The two are unending tasks that will fill my days with purpose until the hour my hands can no longer hold a pen and my fingers have not the strength to press a computer’s keyboard.

While I’ve long forgotten the exact wordage of Lord Byron’s Prisoner of Chillon, its message has long intrigued and influenced me. The poem is about a prisoner who became so used to his chains that he misses them when he is finally freed. A simple plot, if one can call it that, but the wording seems like magic to my ears and mind.

I’ve thought about the poem’s premise often, ever since my 10-year-old eyes first went through the narrative line by line. While I’ve had no physical chains to restrain me in my own life, I’ve recognized that there are many ways to imprison oneself: Refusal to change, always playing life safe, not continuing to adapt with the circumstances, and not accepting responsibility for one’s own life.

I’ve dallied with all these, but then I remember, and grieve for The Prisoner of Chillon. These words of Byron, which come toward the last of his poem, are ones still stuck in my head:

And all my bonds aside were cast,

These heavy walls to me had grown

A hermitage – and all my own!

And half I felt as they were come

To tear me from a second home

With spiders I had friendship made

And watch’d them in their sullen trade.

Had seen the mice by moonlight play,

And why should I feel less than they?

We were all inmates of one place.

And I, the monarch of each race,

Had power to kill – yet strange to tell!

In quiet we had learn’d to dwell’

My very chains and I grew friends

So much a long communion tends

To make us what we are – even I

Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.

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These are times when I need the calming influence of nature to calm my thoughts. This photo is of Maggie at Andrew Jackson State Park in South Carolina, which I describe better in my book, Travels with Maggie. — Photo by Pat Bean

“What is history? An echo of the past in the future, a reflex from the future on the past.” – Victor Hugo

History in the Making

          I share a birth year with Lily Tomlin and Tina Turner. The three of us were all born in 1939. I discovered this fact while doing research for my memoir, which if it ever gets written will be called Between Wars.

The most significant events of 1939 were the official ending of the Great Depression and the official beginning of World War II. I was raised by a mother who had been influenced by the Depression and could make a penny stretch to the moon. While I’m not nearly as thrifty, it pains me to see things go to waste.

As for the war, I would only be six years old when it ended, and thus have few personal memories about it. The one thing I do recall, probably because I was severely scolded, was finding and childishly destroying the family’s stash of ration coupons. As I vaguely remember, it meant that I ate my cereal without sugar for the month. According to the history books I studied in school, items rationed during the war included sugar, meat, coffee, and automobile fuel.

I overheard a conversation once that left me believing my dad had illegally acquired gasoline to take my brother to the doctor. Knowing my dad, that’s quite possibly true, but he probably had to do so because he earlier wasted gas gadding about for his own purposes, Gas, by the way, cost about 17 cents a gallon in 1939

I compared rationing in my early years with what is going on in the world today because of the coronavirus pandemic. Stores here in Tucson, and elsewhere I’m sure, are limiting how much toilet paper, and other items considered essential to life as we know it, can be purchased to halt hoarding.

Meanwhile, on a much lighter note, there were some other interesting firsts for 1939.

Batman was introduced in Detective Comics No. 27 and Superman got his own comic book. John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was published and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlow character was introduced in The Big Sleep.

Premiering on the big screen were Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, while Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood gossip show made its radio debut. Nylon stockings went on sale for the first time and Harvard University students swallowed goldfish.

In New York, both the Baseball Hall of Fame and LaGuardia Airport opened.

Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow topped the music charts, with Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade coming in second, Kate Smith’s God Bless America third and Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit fourth. It was Holiday’s first civil rights song.

I wonder if future 80-year-olds will look back on their own birth years – and discover that the coronavirus pandemic tops the list of significant events?

Bean Pat: A Slice of Life https://lindahoye.com/and-yet/ A reflective post for today’s times.

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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