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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

“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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Another of the Greek poets I liked was Horace (65-8 B.C.) because he appeared to enjoy nature. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

Every cloud has its silver lining, you just have to go through all the darkness to get it.” – Stef Railey

Euripides (480 B.C.-406 B.C.)

As I continue to read quotes from the ancient Greeks in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, I finally came across one of the writers who didn’t raise my blood pressure. It was Euripides.

He was, according to Wikipedia, identified with theatrical innovations that have profoundly influenced drama down to modern times, especially in the representation of traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

More important, in my mind, is that he didn’t demean women as so many of the Greek poets so frequently did.

A bust of Euripides

A bust of Euripides. — Wikimedia photo

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Euripides’ written thoughts also agreed with many of mine; and this morning when I was looking back through my writing notebooks for something to blog about, I noted that I had saved many of his quotes, such as:: “I have found power in the mysteries of thought.” And “In this world second thoughts, it seems, are best.”

These appealed to me because the years have finally given me time to think and connect the dots of my life, something I am finding fascinating.

Waste not tears over old griefs,” he wrote, and “Every man is like the company he is wont to keep.” Both actions seem sensible,  I believe.

And his advice: “In a case of dissension, never dare to judge till you’ve heard the other side,” was always an important task of my journalism years.

Thank you, Euripides, for being the silver lining among the majority of those Greek macho old farts whose anti-female words are still being repeated today.

Bean Pat: Glorious books https://isobelandcat.wordpress.com/2020/03/04/books-glorious-books/

available on Amazon

Any blogger who loves books as much as I do deserves a Bean Pat.

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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Morning Thoughts

When Scmp gets bored, he looks for things to shred. This morning it was two bookmarks. At least he doesn’t eat the pieces, and I get plenty of exercise picking up after him. — Photo by Pat Bean

With a cup of cream-laced coffee in hand, and my canine companion Scamp squeezed into my recliner with me, I continued my morning perusal of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotes, the first edition of which was published 165 years ago. Just for fun, I’ve been reading a couple pages a day of the old book.

It’s arranged chronologically and I’ve only gotten up to the 300 B.C.s. This morning’s reading included words by the

Theocritus — Wikimedia photo

Greek poet Theocritus’ His thoughts echoed in my own mind, speaking to an old broad who has finally slowed down and longs for peace in her life — which given the chaos in the world has been difficult to achieve.

Wrote Theocritus: “Sweet is the whispering music of yonder pine that sings. Our concern be peace of mind: some old

crone let us seek. To spit on us for luck and keep unlovely things afar. Cicala to cicala, and ant to ant, And kestrels dear to kestrels, but to me the Muse and song.

“The frog’s life is most jolly, my lads; he has no care … Who shall fill up his cup; for he has drink to spare … Verily, great grace may go. With a little gift; and precious are all things that come from friends.”

I thought it interesting that on the same page, Bion, another Greek poet, also mentioned frogs: “Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.” A good point to ponder, I think.

And now I’ll go put up Bartlett until tomorrow morning, and go walk Scamp, He has been looking at me with injured eyes because I have been ignoring him.

I wonder if Theocritus and Bion ever used a dog as an analogy in their writings?”

Bean Pat: Never Assume https://forestgardenblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/23/sunday-dinner-never-assume/ My thoughts exactly.

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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Photo of Mount Lemmon taken from my youngest daughter’s backyard patio. I live 13 miles closer to the mountain and thus the overview is not visible, just like the lives of those less fortunate. — Photo by T.C. Ornelas .

“Many people … wake up one day and say, ‘Hang on. Who am I? Is this really me? Is this what I really wanted?’ – Kate Winslet

Who Am I to be so Blessed?

I’m sitting in my bedroom, barricaded in a comfortable chair with my computer on a table in front of me so I can write and my beloved canine companion Scamp can’t get on my lap and lick my face for attention.

I’m drinking cream-laced coffee, looking out the window as the day lightens. Between the tree branches, I watch as the sun dances among the peaks of Mount Lemmon. It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Mount Lemmon from my living room balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

I love mornings. They are my favorite time of day, before my mind forgets itself and goes about the business of the sometimes-chaotic day.

This morning, however, my little gray cells had a mind of their own. My thoughts considered a conversation a friend and I shared recently about not always having a bedroom of our own when we grew up.

We both bemoaned this very fact.

But as I wrote this morning, I thought about the fate of babies born in places in the world where they not only don’t have a bedroom, but no roof over their heads, not enough food to eat, and war raging outside their doors. I thought of women who can never travel alone freely across their country, who are married off at 11 or sold into sexual slavery.

Who am I to be so blessed with the place of my birth? To be comfortably housed, with plentiful food in my cupboards, to have the leisure to write, to travel, to read, to simply go to a movie when I want, and to sit here and enjoy my mornings?

Life is not fair. How could I ever have thought it was? I wish I could find a silver lining for every baby born into this world.

My thoughts have turned this bright day suddenly dark. I want to scream and yell and do something to change things. But what?

When I started this post, it was meant to be light and upbeat, but my fingers on the keyboard decided otherwise. It sometimes happens when I let the words just come. This morning I let them be. They needed to be said, even if they brought tears to my eyes.

I needed to be reminded how blessed my life has been, even if I didn’t always have a bedroom of my own.

Bean Pat: Dawn’s post:  http://dawndowneyblog.com/index.html/ another blogger whose day went awry.

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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Sleep and Dreams

I often find myself in nature in my dreams. — Painting of Shone Falls by Thomas Moran, which was discovered at the Twin Falls, Idaho, Library when I lived there in the mid-1980s This would be a nice place to dream about. –

          “I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” – Henry David Thoreau

Morning Chat

          I went ice skating last night. That’s amazing because in reality I never could do it. I played tennis, I hiked, I even roller skated. But I could never stand up on a slim blade of steel on ice.

But when I awoke this morning, the image of myself skimming around a frozen pond on skates was still vividly in my mind. I don’t remember anything else about the dream except the feeling of competently gliding across the ice.

It was wonderful, and I didn’t want to let it go. But go it went as soon as I opened my eyes to see my canine companion Scamp staring into them as his way of demanding his morning walk.

Scamp sitting on my bed watching me as I write this blog. He seems to be asking if I’m writing about him. — Photo by Pat Bean

I don’t sleep well these days, often waking frequently to shift into a more comfortable position or go to the bathroom, or to try and scoot Scamp over to his side of the bed. I think at least the first two awakenings are simply a side effect of being 80 years old, as I hear similar complaints from other oldsters among my acquaintances.

When I was younger, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I awoke rarely remembering my dreams. These days, some mornings arrive with me feeling I never truly slept. I don’t worry about it, however.

I once read that if you close your eyes and lay still it’s as good as sleep. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but since I usually wake refreshed, I suspect it might be. Or else I sleep more than I think.

I do know I dream more, or at least remember more, and seldom are my dreams anything but pleasant. When I do have a nightmare it usually involves me back once again as a reporter chasing a story and in danger of missing a deadline.

I usually wake myself up before that happens. Then I lay still so as not to wake Scamp, who is ready to go for a walk the second his eyes open – even if it’s 4:30 a.m., as it was this morning.

I took him for his walk, then crawled back in bed for a rare, solid three hours of sleep before waking to find myself skimming across the ice on those thin steel blades.

  Bean Pat: 1WriteWay https://1writeway.com/picking-up-after-others-makeamericabeautifulagain-leaveonlyfootprints/ This is a writer’s blog I follow, but she has a non-writing goal that tunes into my soul. Let’s all do it.

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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“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” — Philip Marlow as created by Raymond Chandler in Farewell, My Lovely

Crows: Their flock name is A Murder. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

So Many Lists, So Little Time

I frequently come across lists of recommended books to read, from 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die to The 50 Best Travel Books. There is even a book about book lists, aptly titled A Book of Book Lists: A Bibliophile’s Compendium,

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was on one of these lists, so I checked it out of the Library. The book, published the year I was born, with its cynical private eye Philip Marlow, was made into a movie in 1946 starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlow and Lauren Bacall as the leading lady.

As a sample of Chandler’s Marlow character, here are a few bits of his dialog:

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep.

           “A really good detective never gets married.”

           “The kind of lawyer you hope the other fellow has.”

           “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

“The streets were dark with something more than night.”

Chandler wrote seven and a half Marlow novels with the eighth finished by Robert B. Parker (whose Spenser books I also love) after Chandler’s death. Parker died in 2010.

Perhaps because I picked up Sue Grafton’s D is for Deadbeat (published 1987) to read right after I finished The Big Sleep, I decided Grafton probably had might have been influenced by Chandler’s books because I saw similarities between Grafton’s protagonist Kinsey Millhome and Philip Marlow. Both are no-nonsense characters with a strong sense of morals, their own if not society’s, and fiercely independent.

Says Kinsey in V is for Vengence: “I know there are people who believe you should forgive and forget. For the record, I’d like to say I’m a big fan of forgiveness as long as I’m given the opportunity to get even first.” And in F is for Forgiveness: I pictured a section of the ladies’ auxiliary cookbook for Sudden Death Quick Snacks… Using ingredients one could keep on the pantry shelf in the event of tragedy.”

Grafton, meanwhile, was more prolific than Chandler, getting all the way up to Y in her alphabetical murder series before she died two years ago. But even she wasn’t as prolific as another of my favorite dead mystery authors, Agatha Christi. Her characters, the egotistical Hercule Poirot (“Hercule Poirot’s methods are his own. Order and method, and ‘the little gray cells.” – The Big Four), and the old pussy Miss Marple (“Everybody in St. Mary Mead knew Miss Marple; fluffy and dithery in appearance, but inwardly as sharp and as shrewd as they make them.” — 4:50 from Paddington) have enthralled me almost as long as I’ve been reading, which is well over half a century.

So, what are you reading?

Bean Pat: To all the authors, dead and alive, whose characters and thoughts and knowledge have enriched my life. Thank you!

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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Western Kingbird: Along with reading books on writing, I also love to read books on birding. Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway is one of my favorites.

“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.” – Agatha Christie

Morning Chat

          I’m a big fan of books about writing and the writing life, beginning with E.B. White’s 100-year-old classic The Elements of Style.

Among my favorites are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life; On Writing by Stephen King; Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: and The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

These writers have offered me some very good advice, but also lots of other advice that doesn’t work for me. I thought about this as I finished reading Dani Shapiro’s book, Still Writing. It was full of good writing tips, but as one who has been writing for the past 55 years, I know only about half of her advice would work for me.

For one thing, she’s a lock yourself in the room and stay there and write kind of person. I’m more like Barbara Kingsolver, who calls herself a writer who does other things. Staying active and busy, but with some time for thinking and writing, works best for me.

Even so, the best writing advice of all times is simply: Butt in chair. Well, unless you write standing up.

What’s your favorite book on writing? Inquiring minds want to know.

Bean Pat: A blog about a western kingbird http://www.10000birds.com/a-western-kingbird-at-jones-beach. If you’re a birder, check out Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway. I once birded with Kenn (at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival) and the first bird of the day was a western kingbird.

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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