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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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Texas Roots

Even the chairs are bigger in Texas. Me, Savannah and Charlotte. — Photo by David Bean

  I grew up being properly indoctrinated to the belief, according to my beloved grandmother, that if you weren’t born in Texas, you didn’t deserve to be. That way of thinking was not challenged for the first 30 years of my life – not until I moved out of the state and was perceived to be that obnoxious, loudmouth girl from Texas who didn’t know how to speak properly –right on all accounts.

I dropped the y’all,s and fixing tos, and sure things, until I no longer sound Texan, although, every once in a while, a person with an educated ear picks up on it. Or I become a bragging blabbermouth, just one more Lone Star trait I inherited. 

But it’s hard to dig up one’s roots when they grow deep, as mine do. There’s a part of me that is proud of being a Texan, just as I’m proud of being an American, though politics and history’s lies have tarnished my Pollyannish image of both in my later years.

I recently spent three weeks in Texas, where much of my family lives, and came away with a few observations that let me know I could have been nowhere else. For one, I rarely got out of sight of huge, side-by-side red, white and blue flags, one representing America, and the other Texas.

Pickup trucks, boots, cowboy hats, cattle and country western music abounded. Pumping oil rigs and summer wildflowers (courtesy of Lady Bird Johnson’s encouragement to dump flower seeds along highways) were common sights as I drove around.

Among the people I visited on my rounds were my third-oldest grandchild David and his wife Sheila, who are the parents of my two great-granddaughters seven-year-old Savannah and five-year-old Charlotte. They had recently returned from a trip to Disney World, where David said they attended a show in which the emcee asked how many in the audience were from a different country.

“Savannah raised her hand and shouted out, ‘Texas,’” David told me.

And she never even got to know my grandmother.

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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Smart phones and bugs are not on my favorable list. — Art by Pat Bean

Sometimes I fling myself into the future and hug technology close to my bosom, afraid I’ll be left behind or miss something if I don’t take that step forward. And sometimes I stubbornly balk and cling to old ways.

As a writer, I fell in love with computers quickly. It just took me realizing how much easier they were to use when I needed to correct mistakes or rethink a sentence. Instead of having to start over, or use a product called Wite-Out tape or liquid to conceal the errors, all I had to do was push a button labeled delete.

While I was far from expert at dealing with computer quirks – and there were and are many – my best friend is a techie. And there are backup geeks when my own logic fails me. In my own way, I understand computers. We get along.

Yet, when it comes to smart phones, I seem to have a phobia. I didn’t even come into the cell phone age until my work demanded I get one – and they paid for it. From the very first, those danged things have felt like a ball and chain.

It was with great reluctance that I finally joined the age of smart phones – and the danged thing has plagued me ever since. If it is not one thing going wrong with it, it’s another. A phantom is always turning the sound to mute, I hit the dismiss button when I mean to answer a call, or things go wrong that I don’t understand.

But my recent three-week road trip to Texas did finally give this stubborn, balky old broad a sudden appreciation for it.

Lost in Austin, after my outdated Garmin GPS gave up the ghost, I was forced to use my phone – for the very first time — for directions. I hate to admit it, but the danged “smartie” saved my bacon. I got to my Story Circle Network board meeting on time. And it later guided me through San Antonio, which I believe must have the worst traffic in the world, and then though Houston and Dallas.

 Now if I can just figure out how to make it give me notifications for when I receive a text message, I’ll apologize for all the times I’ve cussed it out. Maybe…

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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I painted this as part of an online art class. While the instructor painted fish creatures, I painted birds, for the first time using a water brush. Imperfect art by Pat Bean.

I miss my mother. I dreamed about her last night. I wanted her to tell me all about her life, something I never had time to listen to before she died.

I moved away from home when I was only 16, and she and I never again lived closer than 300 miles from each other, and most of the time it was over 1,000 miles away. While we didn’t exactly get along in our earlier years, we were never estranged. Still, I only saw her for a couple of days once or twice a year after I moved away from Dallas.

We also didn’t talk regularly, partly because back then long-distance phone calls were expensive. I’m glad that’s changed, and that we also now have the advantages of the internet because my children, when they left home, didn’t stay in town either. They moved on to different states, and even at times, to different countries.

While we can easily talk these days, and even view each other online, we’re still not there to celebrate special occasions or Sunday dinners or evening walks, or just to hold each other when STUFF happens — as it always does. I miss my children; it seems to be a family pattern.

But I’m not complaining. My children and I made good lives – ones that were enriched by new places, new experiences, new friends.

I once had a dear friend who never moved from the town in which he was born. His children always lived less than 10 miles away. I saw the pluses his life enjoyed, but also the minuses of him not having a life more like mine. Knowing what I do now, I would still make my more nomadic choices. Neither lifestyle is wrong – simply different.

Thinking a bit more about my mother, and my dream, I remembered she did live with me during the final months of her life. While we had time to talk then, she preferred to play games, like Scrabble, in which she won as many as she lost. I also remembered my mother was not really a talker, especially about herself. In fact, I remembered her firmly telling me several times to shut up so she could watch her favorite baseball team, the Texas Rangers, play on television in peace.

Even if we had lived closer, I still might be wanting to know more about her life.

That doesn’t change the fact, however, that I still miss my Mom.

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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Art by Pat Bean

What part of sanity says we let 18-year-olds buy assault weapons? My conscience insisted I ask this question.

Do we actually think this is what our founding fathers had in mind?

Well, I don’t

While we do put guns in the hands of some 18-year-olds in the military, they aren’t given them without instructions on how and when to use them. And even then, that sometimes comes at a cost, as we’ve seen from the many gun-toting men and women suffering post-traumatic stress in later life.  

Buying a gun for protection is one thing. Buying an assault weapon is a completely different thing. Do the makers of these weapons, those who get rich off selling of them, feel any responsibility?

Why do mentally unstable gun owners target the innocent? What and who determines mental stability?  

These are just a few of the questions that flooded into my brain following the mass murders of children and others in Buffalo and Uvalde. I wish I had answers and an easy solution. But I don’t.

I do know, however, that a solution is not going to be found by those who choose to point fingers at political opponents instead of coming together to try and solve the problem. When my kids were young and started pointing at their siblings as the cause of some wrongdoing, I usually said: “I don’t care who did it. Just stop it and don’t do it anymore?”

And that’s what I want the men and women whom we elect to start doing. Work together and try to stop the madness. Care more about the well-being of our children – and our country – then you do for your own personal cause.

 I hate writing blogs like this. I would much rather write about birds and silver linings and nature and other upbeat topics. But my conscience insisted.

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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I was taught, when I was growing up, that it wasn’t polite to talk politics. But perhaps it’s time “nice” people should start doing it. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I want a kindle, gentler nation,” Geroge W.H. Bush

I Agree

Where are all these hate mongers coming from? People like the 18-year-old guy who just killed 11 people because he believed only whites should occupy this planet.

As a former journalist, it goes against my grain to call him a killer instead of an alleged killer before a jury convicted him, but this sadist filmed himself committing the murders.

And I’ll probably read in the news tomorrow something just as horrible. It’s disheartening.

There is no one in my circle of friends who spouts such hate as that coming from the mouths of some of our politicians and white supremacists these days – and they’re not all bleeding-heart liberals either. While I consider myself a moderate independent, I have friends – and family members – who lean far to the right. They’re still nice people.

Maybe it’s time we threw this partisan bullshit into a garbage bin and started basing our voting choices on whether candidates believe in the Golden Rule or not — the only one in my opinion that matters. Even if they support our own political agenda, we shouldn’t be electing bullies, racists, liars or narcissists, especially those who encourage, or commit violence to get their way.

I can’t help but think that we nice people are handing over control of this planet – I say planet because America isn’t the only country being destroyed by hateful actions. It’s way too easy for those of us who don’t have goals of a world ruled by a single class of people to just go about our daily business, hoping things are going to change.

It’s time for nice people to let their voices be heard. And for those of us who are nice, which the optimist in me still wants to believe is the majority of us, to take back control.

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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1953 House of Wax Movie Poster

Back in the mid-1950’s, I watched a movie called “House of Wax,” starring Vincent Price, whose character created his wax figures using people he killed. The part of the movie that stayed with me for months afterwards involved a missing head.

 Every time I went into the garage, which held a freezer and a washing machine, I feared I would come across that head. Perhaps the fact that the movie was presented in 3D had something to do with my fright, but I’ve not watched a true horror film since then.

But I have children, grandchildren and friends who love nothing better than going to a scary movie. I thought about the reason behind this willingness to be scared this morning. It popped into my head while I was reading Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird, in which the author talked about the fear of letting oneself be imperfect when writing that “first shitty draft.”

Before you ask, I have to say I don’t know why my brain made this odd connection. It just did. And then it jumped to what I have done over the years that gave me a fright. For one thing, I loved riding roller coasters, the bigger, faster – and scarier – the better.

And then in my 40s, I took up white-water rafting. There was nothing I enjoyed more than sitting in the front of a raft facing a roaring rapid – even after I fell out of the boat in Granite Rapid floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. When I was pulled back into the boat, after being thrashed through the racing water quite vigorously, I was still eager to take on the next stretch of rapids, of which there were many ahead.

 Was I afraid? Yes. But adrenalin coursed through my body and I felt more alive than ever. Remembering this, I might have just answered my own question of why people want to be scared.

But no way will I watch a horror movie.

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 Owl

“Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese and freight trains,” said Aldo Leopold.

I could easily be added to that list. For most of my working career, I reported to the office no later than 6:30 a.m. – and I wasn’t beloved for doing so. 

There would usually be one or two other reporters who had come in early to meet their early-morning deadline for a story they had covered the night before. They would be sitting in the dark in front of their computers.

As a light-loving, morning person, I would turn on the lights and utter a cheery “Good morning!” All I usually got back was a snarl or a groan.

Scamp, my current canine companion, insists on a walk at the first sign of dawn, often when stars are still visible. He usually wakes up even before I do, but this morning the tables were turned. I had taken him for a later-than-usual last walk yesterday, and he was still snoring away when I awoke at 5:55 a.m.

I let him sleep until 6:10, when I couldn’t stand it anymore and roused him for our morning walk. We came back and he promptly went back to sleep while I enjoyed drinking my cream-laced coffee and watching the birds from my third-floor balcony. There were sparrows, mourning doves, hummingbirds and house finches, but no geese.

As for trains, when I was traveling across the country in my RV, I often heard a train somewhere nearby blow its whistle right around 6 a.m. I wondered if it was just coincidence or if all train engineers had a pact to took their horns at daybreak.

Then there are the great horned owls. We have resident ones who yearly raise chicks here in the apartment complex. I often hear them hooting in the early mornings, and sometimes I even see them zooming overhead between tall Ponderosa pines and the red-tile rooftops. Their silent, broad-winged flight always leave me awed.

Yesterday, a great horned owl was sitting on a large tree stump near my path. I’m pretty sure it was a juvenile because of how close it let me come. After spotting it, I took Scamp back to the apartment and grabbed my camera.

With each snap, I got closer to the owl until I was only about 10 feet away. The bird didn’t move, just stared straight at me with golden yellow eyes. I snapped a few more shots before retreating so as not to disturb the owl more.

I was excited about the photos I had taken, but later I discovered the memory card in my camera had been missing. It was still in my computer from the last time I had downloaded my photos.

I guess my brain, if not my body, decided it wanted to sleep in.

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 morning sunrise in Tucumcari, New Mexico chases the darkness away. — Photo by Pat Bean

I recently read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s New Year’s poem, which was written in 1850. It quickly struck me that he could have well written the poem as an ode to 2021.

“… Ring out the old, ring in the new. Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go,
” wrote Tennyson.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind, for those that here we see no more. Ring out the feud of rich and poor … And ancient forms of party strife … Ring in the love of truth and right … Ring out old shapes of foul disease … Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace …Ring in the larger heart, the kindlier hand. Ring out the darkness of the land.”

In 1850, America was heading toward a Civil War that would pit families against their own families, even brother against brother. In China, the Qing and Han Dynasties were fighting each other, and India was beginning to revolt against Britain – just the bare surface of a world seemingly gone amok – sound familiar?

It’s as if history has taught us nothing.

 I kept thinking about this yesterday until I watched a show about the life of Rita Moreno, a Porta Rican actress who survived sexual abuse and discrimination to win an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony. Her Mantra: “Damn the shadows, here’s to the light.”

  Hey Rita, here’s to you. And to the light. May we all find it in 2022.

 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 bit messy but I would never have attempted this Black-Capped Chickadee pose if not for the drawing class.

          I took a bird history/drawing Atlas Obscura Zoom class yesterday afternoon. The instructor noted that birds evidently had a lot of fans, judging by the number of participants who signed up for the short course.

          She’s right. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey, 51.3 million Americans watch birds, and the hobby is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in this country.

          I became one of the addicted in 1999. And my life has been richer because of it. My latest way to watch birds, given that Covid’s isolated me from taking field trips with other birders, are live bird cams. Check out explore.org if you are interested.

          This morning I watched a bald eagle sitting on a snow-filled nest near Decorah, Iowa, a blue-gray tanager at a Panama fruit feeder, and puffins in a burrow off the coast of Maine. I especially like watching the fruit feeder because I personally have to identify the birds that visit it, which often involves an extra bit of research.

          I’ve kept a life list of birds I’ve seen personally in the field for 22 years now – 700 plus different species. The list grew rapidly in my early years of birding, but now grows only by one or two birds a year, if I’m lucky.

So, I’ve started a second list of virtual birds. The criteria for this list include a good visual observation, location of the bird, and a bit of research about any bird I list. My impossible goal is that the list will eventually grow to 10,000 bird species, which is almost as many birds as there are on this planet.

          As an avid list maker, and an old broad who is retired, it’s an ideal activity, as is drawing birds. It was a fun class that began with the instructor noting birds evolved from dinosaurs. I already knew that. Did you?

          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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