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Watching the Sun creep towards the Watchman Campground at Zion National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Aging my Way

Not sure what my brain was up to this morning, but after reading some words by Eleanor Roosevelt — “You gain strength, courage and confidence in every experience … You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along” – I thought of a few things I had lived through.

Like falling asleep in a hot bath and dropping the book I was reading into the water. Or sitting out a windstorm in Amarillo and being thrown six feet onto the ground by a huge gust when I opened the RV door.

I guess what I learned from those experiences was to not fall asleep in the bathtub, and to stay inside when the wind was gusting. Of course, I did continue to read in the bath (it was a safety zone away from my five children) and I still go outside on windy days.

Knowing is not always doing.

Then I remembered a horrible, horrible morning back in 2009 (that was how I referred to it in my journal) when I was camped out in Zion National Park. I had spilled coffee grounds inside my tennis shoes, used hand lotion instead of conditioner on my head, and then discovered my RV wouldn’t start because I had forgotten to turn its lights off after coming through Zion’s mile-long tunnel. To make things even worse, I couldn’t find my driver’s license.

Then a friend came along and got my RV started, and then found my driver’s license. While he couldn’t do anything about my hair, he fixed us both some coffee – with fresh grounds – while I dumped the ones in my tennis shoes in the trash.

As we sat outside and drank the coffee, with a little Irish Cream added to ward off the chill until the sun creeped up and over the red-rock ridges to our east, I knew what I had learned that day. It’s good to have a handy friend.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

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The Meadowlark and the Chukar: I wrote a bird column for three years back in the early 2000s, and a chukar I saw on Antelope Island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake was the first bird I wrote about. — Art by Pat Bean

 My mornings start with my to-do list, which is a carry over from the day before, and the day before that, and the days before those. Eventually a dreaded chore finally gets done because I’m tired of looking at it.

The daily list actually is two lists in one. The tasks I need to do, or simply want to do (like watch a bird cam located in Panama), and the list of the books I’m reading, or want to read.

As an old broad, my body appreciates many breaks during the day, and the reading list gives me something to fall back on besides computer games – which according to my self-imposed rule must not be played before 4 p.m. This rule, because I love playing games is often broken. So as a reminder I have a note taped to my refrigerator that says “You could be reading.”

 Besides the daily list, I keep lists of books I’ve read, places I’ve been, the proverbial bucket list, menu lists and an idea list, from which I always can find a topic to write about.

But one of my favorite lists is the one I begin on April 1, 1999 – the day I joined the world of avid (translate crazy) bird watchers.

 I keep a list of every bird I’ve seen, noting the place and the date. But thankfully, I’m not like the birder who once passed me on a favorite birding trail. I was dawdling along, watching red-winged blackbirds flash their scarlet marked wings while listening to a couple of breeding male meadowlarks trying to out sing each other.

Barely slowing his pace, a middle-aged hiker came upon me and asked if I had seen a chukar. I replied that I often saw this partridge-like bird in the rocks near a bend up ahead. About 10 minutes later, the man ran past me going the other way. 

  “Got it … that’s 713 birds for me now.” His voice was like the rumble of a passing freight train.

How sad, I thought, that he didn’t take a minute to admire the flashy scarlet markings on the blackbirds or to enjoy the melodic voices of the two meadowlarks.

 Numbers and names on a list are only that. It’s being present in the moment – seeing the golden yellow on a meadowlark’s throat as it tilts its head toward the sky in song, or the magic of a sunrise slowly coloring the sides of a canyon – that make my heart beat faster. And I’m thankful I enjoy such wonders whether I’m seeing them for the first or the hundredth time.

 Seeing birds is always delightful – but then so is getting my oven cleaned after seeing the chore on my to-do list for three weeks running.

  I’m glad I’m a list-maker.

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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   Joy is watching cacti flowers bloom in the Sonoran Desert. – Photo by Pat Bean

  A few years back I started listing things that bring me joy, then the list got put away and forgotten. I came across the notes this morning, however, and thought I would share some of the things I wrote down back then.

 Joy is getting up in the morning and putting on Helen Reddy’s I am Woman, Hear Me Roar, and loudly and off key, singing along with her. It gives my day an extra boost.  

Joy is watching a sunset from my third-floor balcony window as it goes from a pale glimmer into an explosion of oranges, reds and purples. It’s also watching a sunrise out my back window while still in bed. It’s a paler version of the evening show, starting with a golden glow that then turns the sky briefly pink.  

Joy is books and magazines that take me to faraway places, engage my brain and teach me something new every day.

Joy is having a 14-year-old grandson cheerfully carry a large load of groceries up to my third-floor apartment, then baking his favorite lemon cupcakes for him in return. That was seven years ago. Today I have my groceries delivered, so Joy is the smiling delivery person because I tip adequately.  

Joy is my Spirit Players group that reads a play once a month, such as Alice in Wonderland in which I got to read the part of the White Rabbit. Just for the record, joy is not Covid, which halted this and several other activities in my life.

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

Joy is watching a sliver of moon shining down like the Cheshire Cat on me and my canine companion as we take our O-dark-hundred first walk of the day.

Joy is sitting in a rocking chair or on a couch and holding one of my recently-born great-grandchildren. I’ve gotten to do this with six of my seven. Dang covid kept me away from the last, who lives in Florida.

And finally, Joy is the sights and sounds of nature that even an old broad can enjoy without going far from home. Joy is all around. We just have to look.

May you all have a joyful day.

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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Now who in their right mind wants to be found when they are exploring this beautiful country we live in. Photo of my parked RV taken by me while exploring the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in 2010 with my canine companion Maggie.

Or Else Its User is Dumb

I missed two zoom meetings recently, and didn’t notice I hadn’t received my normal 2 p.m. phone call from a son until about 6 p.m. – which had him calling my granddaughter to make sure I was OK.  And this is not the first occasion that I’ve let time run away from me.

My phone, which I also use as an alarm clock to remind me of things like zoom meetings, and when to take my clothes out of the washer and put them into the dryer, and for timing my writing, was out of order. But I didn’t discover that until I tried to call my son. Instead of ringing through, a message came up saying the device had no Sim card, and then said I should update the phone and reboot it. I did, and I, miraculously, had phone service again.

This is the second time in a month it’s done this to me. Did I mention that I actually hate smart phones. They’re not so smart, or else they have a dummy for a user. I’ll let you decide which.

I used a simple flip phone almost forever. I even went back to one when I retired from the traveling life. My son had bought me a smart phone when I was traveling because he wanted to know where I was at all times. I’m blessed that he loves me, but when you spend most of your life coming and going as one pleases, being tracked takes some getting used to. It also irks me that my children suddenly think I’m old and can’t take care of myself.

Meanwhile, what everyone else is doing on their phones today, I continue to do on my computer. The screen is larger and easier on old eyes, and I know how to use it, something I can never get the hang of with smart phones.

My children jumped at getting cell phones when they first came out, even when they were as large as breadboxes. I didn’t get my first cell phone until my work finally demanded it, and paid for it.

 Maybe I that’s why I kind of think of cell phones like a kind of ball and chain. I didn’t always want to be found. 

I don’t carry one in my pocket when I walk my dog, which my son says I should do. And I often forget to take it with me when I run errands. I’m trying to change that because I realized that if my car broke down, I haven’t memorized any phone numbers but my own — because they’re all stored in the $#&*@ smart phone.

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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Shoneshone Falls, as painted by Thomas Moran. One of the nicest things about Twin Falls, Idaho was its scenic location near the Snake River Gorge and this waterfall, which was located just six miles away from my home in town. The original of this painting was found in the local library during my two-year stay in the small Southern Idaho town. I remember those days, and my former boss, Steve Hartgen fondly.

Men do, Too Many Women Don’t

I recently received news that Steve Hartgen, the former managing editor of the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I worked as regional editor for two years in the mid-1980s, had died.

I had accepted the job at the small local newspaper during a transitional time in my life.  It was the first time that I was entirely on my own. Divorced and with all my children on their own in the world, I was kind of full of myself.

Steve was a hard-nosed newsman who didn’t go easy on his reporters when he didn’t think they were doing their best. I respected him, and we got along well, mostly I think because he allowed me to stand up to him when I thought he was wrong. I never thought of him as sexist, but several of the female reporters did. They complained to me — because I was a woman like them and would understand — that our managing editor was harder on women than he was on the male reporters.

I didn’t see it that way. There was no question in my mind about Steve being hard on the female reporters, because he was. But as I saw it. Steve treated both the men and the women exactly the same harsh way. So, what was the difference? I asked myself this question, and then began to look for answers. It didn’t take long for me to come to a conclusion.

 When the men received a lecture from the managing editor, they listened, nodded, then afterwards shrugged it off, not convinced they had done anything wrong, certainly not something they should worry about. The women, meanwhile, took every word of the boss’ admonitions to heart, some even crying about it. They feared being fired, and always promised to do better.

The difference was clearly the amount of self-confidence the men had, and the lack of self-confidence the women suffered from. It was something I had seen before but not understood, and something I would see again many times during the remainder of my journalism career.

I learned a lot from working with Steve Hartgen those two years, especially the need to stand up for myself because no one else probably would. As to Steve, he will be missed. The news media needs more of his kind today: Hardnosed newswomen and newsmen who believe facts and truth are important for readers to know, but especially those whose only agendas are truth and facts and not their personal agendas.

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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Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. — Photo by Pat Bean

Connections

I just learned that when the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum renovated its hummingbird aviary in 1992, the new hummingbird nests kept falling apart. Museum workers scratched their heads for a while, but finally realized why this was happening.

 During the renovation, all the old vegetation inside the aviary was   removed, and replaced by new plants. The removal took away any spiders that inhabited the vegetation and the hummingbirds needed the web spiders produced to hold their nest materials together. The problem was solved by workers gathering branches that held such webs, and placing them inside the aviary until the spiders could reestablish their presence.

While digesting this bit of information, I came across a mindfulness tip about how to stay calm during these chaos-filled days when the news is all about Covid, political shenanigans and tornado deaths. It came from TV writer Cord Jefferson, who said traditional meditation didn’t work for him. What did, he said, was to just get lost in the gentle pulses of jellyfish for a short mindfulness break during his workday,” Cord then noted that Monterey Bay Aquarium has a jellyfish cam that can be bookmarked on a phone or laptop browser.

I’ve watched hummingbirds at the desert museum and the jellyfish at the aquarium in person, and found both these things calming. I think it’s just letting ourselves get out of our heads a bit that does the trick.

But reading these two stories back-to-back, made me realize how interconnected we beings on this world are. And by beings, I don’t just mean we two-legged sapiens. It’s certainly something to think about. Meanwhile, if you’re in Tucson or Monterey, you might want to check out the desert museum and the aquarium. Both are great places to visit.

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

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A view of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River below from one of the many view points. The canyon is too big, and awesome, to be captured from a single point. — Photo by Pat Bean

          My latest travel book read is To Timbuktu by Mark Jenkins, an author I came to love over 20 years ago because of his articles in Outside Magazine, of which I’m a great fan.  

 Mark has a great way with words, such as his description in To Timbuktu of an equatorial mountain range: “…rumpled geology smothered by the octopus of botany,” he wrote.

As usual when reading, having one thought often cycles me to a related thought. This morning, I wondered how writers would describe the Grand Canyon, which I revisited for about the dozenth time this past week. So, I went searching for just such descriptions.

Most quotes that I found about the Grand Canyon echoed, in one way or another, the phrase that the author didn’t have the words to describe it.

But as I kept searching, I came across what John Wesley Powell, the first man to go down the entire length of the Colorado River through the entire Grand Canyon in 1869, had to say about this Arizona hole that was carved out over six million years ago. He wrote:

“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain … The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse.”

Another of my favorite authors, Ann Zwinger, whose trip through the Grand Canyon is described in her book Downcanyon, had this to say: “The astonishing sense of connection with that river and canyon caught me completely unaware, and in a breath, I understood the intense, protective loyalty so many people feel for the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. It has to do with truth and beauty and love of this earth, the artifacts of a lifetime and the descant of a canyon wren at dawn.”

Having paddled through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River twice, I well understood Ann’s words, especially about the impact of hearing canyon wrens welcome the day.

If you haven’t visited the Grand Canyon, above or below, you might want to add it to your bucket list, or at least read about it in books such as Zwinger’s Downcanyon or Powell’s journals of his epic 1869 and 1871 adventures.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get back to Jenkins’ Timbuktu adventure.

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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Actually, I made many wrong turns during my nine years of traveling this country full-time in a small RV. Above is where one of those wrong turns ended up. — Photo by Pat Bean

My good friend Kim and I were on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from St. George, Utah, last week.

“We go through Hurricane and Colorado City on the way to Highway 89A, then we turn off at Jacob’s Lake Junction,” I told her as we left her brother’s house. She was driving, but I knew the way because it’s the route I had followed, minus the Grand Canyon detour, to St. George from Tucson.

So, off we went, laughing and talking, and catching up on each other’s lives since last April, when she had flown down from Ogden, Utah, to help me celebrate my birthday.

This day we were beginning a three-day road trip to celebrate her birthday. And we made it a good five miles down Interstate 15 before we realized we were headed to Las Vegas in Nevada instead of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

We both laughed about it, and she did a U-turn. That’s what I love about road trips with Kim. We laugh instead of rant and whine about mishaps and imperfections – which seem to happen often when the two of us are together.

 In fact, we had a second oops when we pulled up in front of our Flagstaff hotel late that afternoon after our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Seems we were at the wrong Days Inn, and had to drive all the way back across town, during rush hour, to get to the right one.          We laughed about that, too.

Both this day’s wrong turns, however, were minor compared to the misadventure we had some years back when we explored Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon on an unpaved road after a heavy rainstorm. We missed a turn and kept going and going — much farther than nine miles — before we finally decided we had to retrace our route.

As if my magic, although it hadn’t rained any more, the muddy puddles we had earlier driven through in Kim’s four-wheel drive vehicle, seemed to have grown larger and deeper. At one point, Kim had to get out and wipe mud off the headlights with a T-shirt she found in the car so she could see to drive on.

It was almost midnight when we got back to our camp. It took us a couple of days before we could laugh about that one.

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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Goose Head Rock: One of my favorite Mount Lemmon hoodoos.

          Monday my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn took me for a drive up to the top of Mount Lemmon. I’ve made the drive a dozen or more times since moving to Tucson in 2013, and always found it enjoyable. This day was no exception, except the passing landscape was greener than I had ever seen it, thanks to the fact that this year the Sonoran Desert got its summer monsoon season back.

          It was so dry last year that part of the mountain areas suffered wildfires, some of the worst in Arizona’s history. The three of us got to see some of the devastation caused by the blazes from one of the upper overlook pullouts.

          The 25-mile drive up the Sky Island Scenic Byway winds upward from mile zero at just about 3,000 feet elevation to more than 9,000 feet at its end. Six life zones are crossed along the way. We lost the saguaros at 4,000 feet and were into Douglas firs by the time we reached the top.

          As an avid birdwatcher, I took along my binoculars, but the only birds we saw were a raven and a turkey vulture, and one unidentified small black and white bird that flashed past us as we were driving.

          Partway up the mountain, we stopped at one of the pullouts where a short trail skims along a canyon ridge, below which flows a small mountain stream. The girls went right on an unpaved section of the trail and I went left, partly because the trail here was paved and I’ve reached a stage in my life where my legs aren’t always stable, but also partly because I simply wanted to be alone for a few minutes in Mother Nature’s company.

          The pavement ended quickly but I decided to venture a little farther, deciding I could handle the unevenness of the rocky path. I did quite well, and was proud of myself. On the walk back, however, I came to a spot where, while I had easily made it up the rocks, I now felt I would fall if I tried to step down them.

          I was frustrated but tried to take it in stride until my granddaughter came along and gave me a hand down. What goes up should be able to come down – or not, I laughed. That was good, not all that many years ago I had cried when my old broad’s body couldn’t handle a much harder spot on a trail without help.

          This day, having finally begun to accept the consequences of being 82 years old, I pushed the incident out of my brain and went on to enjoy a marvelous day on Mount Lemmon with two marvelous companions.

Now if I could just push the image of that unidentified black and white bird out of my brain … maybe it was a downy woodpecker – or not.

           Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusstic 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 Moraine in Banff National Park — Wikimedia photo

          Lake Louise is one of the more popular sites in Canada’s Banff National Park. I visited it in 2001 and was quite impressed, more so perhaps because it was here that I saw my first Clark’s Nutcracker. It was during my early days of birdwatching and I remember being quite excited to add this bird to my life list.

          But while Lake Louise merely impressed me, my next stop in the park was one of those soul-touching moments that made me vow to return. It was the smaller, nearby Lake Moraine, around the edge of which sat a few cabins that looked out over the water. I could see myself sitting for a week or more in one of them watching as the light changed the mood of the view hour by hour.

          My vow to return, however, wasn’t a realistic one, given the distance, the time and the cost involved, not to mention how many other places to visit are still on my bucket list.

          And Lake Louise wasn’t the first place I’ve vowed to revisit. There was the Top of the World Highway, which started with a ferry trip across the Yukon River in Dawson City, Canada, and traveled on a mostly unpaved road to Tok, Alaska; Then there was Acadia National Park in Maine, where I stood on top of Cadillac Mountain and was the first person in the United States to feel the sun on my face that early morning; And the Galapagos Islands, which I sailed around and where a blue-footed booby danced with me; And Farragut State Park in Idaho, where I was a camp volunteer one summer; And Flume Gorge State Park in New Hampshire, where I enjoyed a solo hike that I still treasure – just to name a few of those vows.

          Thankfully, I’ve been wise enough to realize that some things only happen once in your life, so I’ve tried hard not to miss anything, and to store up the good memories. Those at least are vows that can be kept.  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

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