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Archive for the ‘Journeys’ Category

Looking for Silver Linings

A goose doesn’t lay golden eggs, but it does lay eggs. — Art by Pat Bean

Aging Gracefully

Silver linings happen all the time. I know because I’m always chasing them. For example, my spoiled and rascally, but greatly loved canine companion Scamp recently gave me an unexpected one.

For the past three plus years, ever since I drove 1,000 miles roundtrip to rescue him from a shelter, I’ve had to walk him up and down three flights of stairs four times a day so he could do his business. I called it my fool proof exercise plan.

I loved my third-floor apartment, with its great views that this past year even included great horned owls visiting a Ponderosa pine in close proximity to my front balcony. I never wanted to move.

But after waking up on July 14 with atomic leg pain, which I am still trying to conquer, my granddaughter, her wife and friends, had to walk him, until I moved on Aug. 20 to a ground-level apartment with a small-enclosed area where Scamp was expected to do his business.

But Scamp, whom I had successfully house trained the first three weeks I had him, decided the fenced area, partially cement and partially dirt, was off-limits for doing his business. He stuck to his guns even after my granddaughter walked him around and around in the area on his leash, and even after his own poo was brought into the yard, he simply refused to pee or poo in the area.

Scamp held it until he was at least just outside the gate, and once that was for nearly two days. That stubbornness made him sick and I gave in.

Will that ever change. Probably not friends and family said, pointing out that was because he was as stubborn as his owner. OK. I admit it. I’m not easy and do want my way. But, like Scamp I would like to think I’m lovable.

So, what, you might ask, is the silver lining in this situation. Thankfully, I’m now enough back to normal that I can comfortably walk with a rollator, and Scamp and I have adjusted to walking together using it. So, the silver lining is that I will be walking more. And walking is good for me.

Also, since Scamp is a very social dog who wants to say hi to everyone he sees, I’m rapidly meeting many of my new neighbors. And that’s good because I’m a social person, too. I might also add that friends and family members, when visiting, help with the walking task, and they, too, are silver linings.

As, I said, silver linings aren’t hard to find. Sometimes it’s simply all about attitude.  

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, piddling painter, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

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A Red-Winged Blackbird: On of the first birds I painted after taking up birdwatching. — Art by Pat Bean

As you age, it’s ridiculous how fast bird-watching creeps up on you. You spend your whole life being 100 percent indifferent to birds, and then one day you’re like “damn is that a yellow-rumped warble?”

My good friend Kim from Utah, who is visiting me this week in Tucson, told me this as a joke, and I laughed until I almost peed myself. The comment describes me perfectly. I didn’t take up bird-watching until I was 60. Before then, even though I’ve always been a nature lover, I never noticed all the birds around me as part of my daily life. Now I can’t not see them.

And while bird populations have seriously declined world-wide since I was born, I’m seeing more at 83 than ever before.

Actually, I hope my neighbors don’t think I’m a peeping tom because I can often be seen wearing binoculars around my neck when I walk my dog – which by the way I’m finally back up to doing, although I use a rollator walker these days because my balance is a bit precarious.

A few years ago, I would have rebelled at being seen using such a thing. But I’ve now gotten into the mindset that anything that lets me keep moving is a good thing regardless of what people think.

I’ve even learned to maneuver the 16-pound contraption in and out of my car myself. And one of the best things about it – because I can walk more comfortably than just standing still – it has a convenient seat. I’ve used it several times now while waiting in a check-out line.

I’m also planning on using my new purple rollator, a gift from a caring daughter, to do more bird-watching, so I can see more birds than just the ones that catch my attention when I’m not bird-watching.

I really did think my friend’s comment was funny, but maybe you would have to have become a birder late in life, like me, to truly agree. If you are, I hope you feel as blessed as I am that you caught the addiction at a time when life is taking slower turns.

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 learning to age gracefully.

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Taking Flight

I recently went to a dark place in my life for the first time. It came about because of pain and the drugs I was taking to rid myself of it. The drugs really didn’t help, and for the first time in my life I lost my belief that a silver lining was just around the corner.

The darkness in my life only lasted two weeks before a loving granddaughter and her wife helped pick me up and put me on a new path. While not everything is perfect now, I’m back to believing in silver linings and managing to both conquer and live with some pain.

And I awoke this morning with a heart full of thankfulness for the 83 years of life that I lived pain free — and that I didn’t waste those days.

I’m also thankful this morning for my morning coffee, the overcast day outside my window, a visiting friend, the soft bed I slept in last night, children who have helped and encouraged me, my faithful canine companion Scamp, the hummingbird at my bird feeder outside my window, and so very much more.

It feels good to start the day with thankfulness – and my cream laced coffee.  It now tops my daily to-do list.

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 learning to age gracefully.

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A Sandhill Crane family at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

I just started reading The Birds of Heaven by Peter Matthiessen. The birds he refers to are cranes, of which there are 15 species, 11 of which are considered threatened or endangered. While the book was published in 2001, nothing seems to have changed much since then.

I have seen three of the crane species: Whooping and Sandhill cranes found in North America and the Grey-Crowned Crane, which I saw in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.

Where I live here in Tucson, Sandhill Cranes can easily be seen. They gather at a place just two hours away from me at a place called Whitewater Draw, where they spend the winters. I’m also seen Sandhill Cranes in Texas and in Utah, where I was privileged to see them conduct their mating dance. And I once had several fly overhead just a few feet above me. It was magical.

The Grey-Crowned Crane sighting in Africa was a one-time thing but I’ve been privileged to see Whooping Cranes twice on the Texas Gulf Coast, where they winter. The first sighting was at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the second was from a boat out of Port Aransas.

It was in Port Aransas that I met George Archibald, who wrote the forward in Matthiessen’s book. George is the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and is considered the Quixote of craniacs. I attended a workshop of his in which he entered wearing a crane outfit, which we learned he used in raising crane chicks so they would not become used to humans before being released in the wild.

I can’t help but think I’m going to enjoy reading The Birds of Heaven. Cranes are magnificent birds.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion. 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 learning to age gracefully.

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The Journey

Anhinga — Art by Pat Bean

I recently came across the phrase, “…that good book you read for the journey and not the ending,” which sent my mind scurrying in two directions

The first thought related to my memories of the many books I have read in which I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out how everything turned out, and that includes most of the mystery books I have read over my lifetime. And then there were the books that I never wanted to end. Usually those were ones that made me think and opened new doors in my brain.

The second place my mind scurried to was about bird watching, which I didn’t become addicted to until I was 60. Before one fateful 1999 April day, I was seldom aware of the bird life around me, even though all my life I’ve been an avid nature lover. After that day I couldn’t not see birds everywhere and wondered how I had missed them.

And since that April day, I have also faithfully kept a bird list of all the birds I have seen. It’s a common habit among bird watchers.

The thoughts that crystalized while I was reading Neil Hayward’s book, Lost Among the Birders, included the two kinds of birders I’ve come across while bird watching. The vast majority were birders who enjoyed the journey, but I’ve also met a few birders who were more interested in adding a new bird to their list then again watching common birds like house sparrows and their antics.

While I sort of pity the latter, I realize it’s a personal choice and just as valuable to them, as my choice is to me. Perhaps they pity me,

Because time has become so precious to me in my 8th decade on planet earth, I’m carefully weighing my choices these days. The years have shown me that almost all choices – except those that do harm to someone – are right ones. We just have to find what works best for ourselves, and hopefully come to respect the different choices others make.

I’ve also learned that if you make a bad choice, you can always reverse your direction. That little bit of wisdom comes from all the wrong choices I have made in life.

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 learning to age gracefully.

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Don’t Wait – Dive In

Passing scenery while floating down the Black River in Jamaica, just one of the many places my wanderlust has taken me. — Photo by Pat Bean

The older I get the more I realize that it’s not the big events in one’s life that give meaning to our lives, but the small ones. Hugs from a great-grandchild can be as precious as a pay raise at work, or getting down on one’s knees and closely observing draba blossoms that sparkle in the morning dew as delightful as floating unscathed through a Colorado River roaring rapid at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

That’s not to say I would have wanted to miss a pay raise, or those Grand Canyon rapids, but those things are not everyday occurrences and their excitement wanes, especially when you’re 83, the milestone birthday I passed this year.

I came across a quote this morning that got me thinking. It was: “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.” With a bit of online research, I learned the quote could most likely be attributed to the prolific English author Kathy Hopkins, but then I also learned there is also a book by Gary Wood with the title Don’t Wait for Your Ship to Come In … Swim out to Meet it.”

When I went back in my own memory, the quote reminded me of what my grandmother would tell me when I expressed a want for something. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait for your ship to come in because we don’t have the money for that foolishness,” she would say.

Of course, that never sat well with me. Perhaps that is why, when I suddenly found myself in a new place where I knew nobody, and nobody knew me, I decided I wouldn’t wait for the world to come to my door.

What I truly wanted was to be doing exciting things in the outdoors. But activities like that, well at least the way I was brought up, were always associated with having a male partner by your side. That was also the way it was in one of my favorite books, I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson, which I read when I was only 10, and which was the start of my lifelong wanderlust.

One of the biggest steps in my life was buying a canoe –, something I considered a man toy — and then inviting others to go canoeing with me.

From that simple step, I then bought a raft, a sailboat and a few other man-toys, and there were always people excited to join me in my outings, especially women who admitted they would never have gotten out on their own.

I think swimming out to meet your ship is a very good idea.

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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Difficult Times

It’s not wise do deny dragons exist when you live near one. — Art by Pat Bean

It’s been exactly a month and two days since I spent most of a day in a hospital emergency room because of atomic leg pain. It seems like a zillion years, because the pain is still coming and going daily.

I’m back to the doctor this Thursday to ask for painkillers, for the first time in my life, and thinking he better give me something strong. I don’t think all these new rules because of people abusing pain-killing drugs should apply to an 83-year-old in pain.

Meanwhile, I’m struggling to end each day by having done at least one thing to give me a sense of accomplishment, a trait that this old broad Type A personality still requires in her life.

When I was younger, the daily goals might be climbing a mountain, writing a story that topped the front page of the newspaper I worked for, or building a small picket fence to finish enclosing the backyard of my new home.

Today’s goals are much simpler. I get pleasure out of writing a long snail letter to a friend, painting a watercolor, cooking a tasty dinner for my granddaughter and her wife, getting together with friends, daily moderating my online writer’s chat group, journaling and reading, posting a new blog, or simply sitting still and watching the sunset as I try and connect the dots in my life.

 All these things, many of which I didn’t have time for when younger, do make my life still very enjoyable and rich. So even though I’m sniveling now, don’t feel sorry for me.  

But since my leg pain began, it’s been a struggle to end my days with that needed sense of accomplishment.

One of the changes forced on me because of my damn leg pain has been a move to a ground-floor apartment because I can no longer continue to walk my canine companion Scamp up and down three flights of stairs four times a day. This has been my fool-proof exercise plan for the past 10 years, and I’ve stubbornly refused to give it up. Now I have no choice.  

Thankfully, I found a nearby place, with trees and an enclosed area for Scamp. This move, which will take place this coming weekend, has prompted me to set a goal of packing up at least two boxes of my belongings every day. Accomplishing this gives me a sense of rightness at the end of the day, even if I haven’t done anything else except play computer games, which keep me from thinking about my leg.

While life isn’t perfect, I’m still committed to ending each day feeling like I’ve accomplished something – and always with gratitude for my family and friends who have been here for me during this difficult time.

I wish every old broad is this world could be as blessed.

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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Great horned owlets hanging in during a storm. — Photo by Pat Bean

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending an extra amount of time hanging out on my living room third-floor balcony, where I always see hummingbirds and often great horned owls during the day and a spectacular sunset almost every evening.

The views have become especially precious since I know I will be leaving them behind when I move to a new place mid-August. We humans are quite funny in that we tend to value more what we don’t have than what we do have. And that certainly includes more than just a pleasant view.

My new place offers me things I need, like a fenced patio for my dog, and it does have trees and birds and brilliant red and orange desert bird of paradise plants which make me happy. So, I will be receiving new gifts for my eyes, for which I’m thankful.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying my tree-house view with more appreciation, knowing that I’m going to be leaving it behind. The attention I’ve given it let me take the owl photo above of this year’s great-horned owl siblings. During the 10 years I’ve spent in my apartment here, I’ve watched newly fledged owls learn their way around for seven.

I’ve also listened to their parents courting hoots early on in the year, but these more mature birds are more aloof and don’t hang around in full view as often as their young – who haven’t yet learned that man is the most dangerous beast on earth.

The favorite roosting spot of this year’s owlets is a tall Ponderosa Pine that stands in perfect view of my balcony They are a brother and sister, easily told apart because the female is quite a bit bigger than the male, a trait of just about all predator birds.

Recently I watched the pair during a rain and wind storm, one strong enough that it crashed down another large Ponderosa Pine here.  As I watched the owlets, the female actually seemed to hover over her brother as they stood high on a large branch right next to the tree trunk as smaller limbs and tree needles tossed to and fro around them. This was when I took the photo.

Last year, there were three owlets adjusting to the world here in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills. Their favorite hangout was usually the rooftops, and I usually only saw them when walking my canine companion, Scamp.

But for days and days, one of them spent many hours in what sounded like literal crying. It was quite an unpleasant screech. I suspect that it began after their parents stopped feeding them because it was time for them to be off on their own.

Shortly after this happens, the new crop of owls disappear, and the courting songs begin again soon after.

 I feel quite blessed to have had the past years with these owls. But it’s time for me to move on and start making new memories to cherish.  I can do that, too.

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 tree and birds. I like that. — Art by Pat Bean

Nothing like a day spent at a hospital emergency room after being woke up at 3 a.m. with crippling leg pain to set you on a path of new beginnings. I swear it was worse than childbirth, and I have five children.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a blood clot, or something else life-threatening. After tests, it turned out to be related to the back pain I’ve been fighting for a few years – just on an atomic bomb level.

It clearly called, however, for a major change in my life, one family members have been pestering me to take for a few years now, a move to a ground-floor apartment. I know I’ve been a stubborn bitch for not heeding their advice, but I loved my apartment, and I wasn’t interested in a change, even if it meant continuing to walk my dog up and down three flights of stairs four or five times a day, not to mention laundry and errand trips.

I’ve been calling it my fool-proof exercise plan. But dang-it, the plan was no longer working.

So, while recovering this week at home, with family and friends taking on my dog-walking duties, I came across a quote by Stephanie Raffelock, which I found in her book, “A Delightful Little Book on Aging.

We should all take a little more time to cry and wail, allowing tears to baptize us into fresh starts,” she wrote.

Well, I certainly did that Friday. I wailed and sniveled practically all day about my horrid, bad, no-good dilemma. Then on the weekend, I begin online searches for a new apartment. It wasn’t looking good, until my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn, remembered a small nearby apartment complex that they had looked at for themselves a few months ago.

Its office was closed until Monday, but with them carefully ushering me down the stairs, we drove by to take a look at the apartment that was for listed to rent on their web site. It was just about 10 minutes away, a location near the top of my priority list because I wanted to stay in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills, which I’ve come to love since moving to Arizona in 2013.

While I still haven’t looked at the inside, I immediately fell in love with the soon-to-be-vacated outside’s large, fenced-in patio that had doors leading to it from both the bedroom and living areas. It would be perfect for simply letting my canine companion Scamp in and out, an amenity that topped my list of must haves, given that I’m 83 and my back pain is likely to recur.

The clincher for me was the huge tree growing in the middle of the patio. You should know that I once bought a house almost solely because I fell in love with its huge backyard tree.

The new neighborhood is older but nice, and the small apartment complex grounds abounded with flowers and greenery. And within minutes I was looking at birds, including nesting doves above the office door. I can already envision a small fountain and bird feeders beneath that patio tree.

All of the above gave me the confidence that I can meld the inside to fit my needs. Age has let me know that no one can ever simply have everything they want, but it looks like I will have all I need for a happy life.

I cinched the deal Monday and will be moving in around the middle of August. I’m so excited about this new beginning that I’m not even thinking about all the tasks involved in a move. Not yet anyway.

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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Viewing Niagara Falls from the bow of the Maid of the Mist

In The Beautiful Mystery, book eight of Louise Penny’s Inspector Garmache series, one of the homicide investigators is sitting at the bow of a boat as it speeds across the water, reveling in the spray of water peppering his face.

The writing reminded me of all the times in my life that I, too, have claimed the bow of a boat.

My first experiences were simply sitting up front as someone else drove a motorboat around a lake. Then I discovered white-water rafting when I was 40. From the first, I wanted to be up front.

Never was I happier than facing an oncoming wild wave with only a paddle to defend myself. If I plunged the paddle just right into the oncoming torrent, I would both be able to help pull the raft through the onslaught and be held firmly in the raft.

Misjudge, and the wave would eat you and not so gently toss you around in a maelstrom of fast-running water and currents. If you were lucky, it would finally let your life jacket float you to the life-giving air above. I lost the wave battle a few times during my white-water days – but I was lucky.

Why would somebody do something so stupid, you might ask? I think, back then, I might have said because it’s fun, exhilarating. Thinking on it now, I know it was more than that. I don’t consider myself brave, as my ski instructors well knew from my fear of pointing my skis downhill. I don’t try to beat red lights and these days I always hold on to railings when I walk up or down stairs.

But I think each of us might need just a little something to let us know we’re truly alive. For me, it was sitting up front in a boat and being drenched with spray, or as close to that as I could get.

 I also remember a time when I scrambled my way through a crowd of tourists to grab a front-row view on the Maid of Mist for a water-drenching view at the bottom of Niagara Falls. The ferry, which has operated since the mid 1800s, takes passengers quite close to the falls. I got so drenched that the blue plastic poncho handed to me as I boarded the boat was totally useless. But the exhilaration lasted for hours – as did my wet jeans.

Louise Penny’s words brought back all those magical memories so clearly that I suspect she might have sat at the bow of a boat a time or two herself.

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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