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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

“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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          “I woke up today with a challenging bump. Whom do I trust? Is it Bannon or Trump? … Should I stick with The Times, for reliable views, or is Twitter the place to keep up with the news … I had no reply, so went back to my sleep. To hell with it all. It will keep, it will keep.” – Day 178, Jan Morris at the age of 92.

Jam Morris’ daily thoughts often had a bit of squirreliness about them. Have you ever watched a squirrel running from here to there? They’re fun to watch — and Jan’s words were fun to read, sometimes serious,  full of unanswered questions, and often laugh-provoking. Life can be thoughtful and fun at any age. — Photo by Pat Bean

In My Mind’s Eye by Jan Morris

          Sadly, this morning I finished reading Jan Morris’ book of daily thoughts, In My Mind’s Eye. It ends on Day 188 – but I wanted it to go on forever. I’ve enjoyed her books for years – she has written over 40, mostly travel and history genres. This book, however, is about the journey of aging, a trip that I am now taking.

Jan Morris, who lives and writes these days from her home in Wales.

Since Morris has 13 years on me, I figured she had lots to teach me about the route. I was right. We both regret what the years have done to our bodies but like having this late time in life to reflect forward and backward.

While I’m blessed to be in good health for my age, I do suffer a bit from back pain that has considerably slowed me down.

Thinking about it last week, I cried after finally accepting that I would never again be able to take day-long hikes. But self-pity says Morris — and I agree. – is not attractive. So, like her, I tell myself: “Oh do shut up!”

Morris and I also agree that kindness is the most important of attributes, and preaching it is, at our ages, the best we have to offer the world in this time of chaos.

Writes Morris about kindness: “…it is the ultimate virtue, embracing all others, understood by everyone, recognized by most religions and a pleasure to practice.”

I’m so going to miss my morning thoughts with Morris.

Bean Pat: Viewpoints https://forestgardenblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/sunday-dinner-viewpoint/#like-27331 Photos with quotes to match. I loved this.

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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“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” — Friedrich Nietsche

I was trying to come up with a name for this recent watercolor and all I could think of was “Happy Poppies.” I asked my friend, Jean, what she would name the painting, and she came up with “Poppies ,Poppies,” and invoked a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” Our two minds certainly aren’t on the same page. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

Time Changed the Lens in my Eyes

How each of us views life is colored by a unique perspective – our own. Truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I first began to see this years ago when I compared how different reporters covered the same event, and then by listening to my adult children render five different accounts of the same event – or if I added in my two cents, six different accounts.

Eyewitnesses of events can vary so greatly they sound like two different happenings. For example, when I was an environmental reporter, I might lead my story about a speech by a lumber industry spokesman by using his quote: “A tree can produce enough oxygen to keep five or more people alive for a year.” But the paper’s business reporter’s lead would more likely quote him saying: “Logging is the lifeblood of hundreds of small communities; stop cutting trees and people will starve or turn to welfare.”

An art teacher once told me to set out to paint a bad painting as an exercise to free my anxiety. Well, this one fits that description. I was not happy at all with how this yellow-crowned night heron turned out. Life is like that. You win some and lose some.

Both of us are accurately quoting the speaker, but the reader is likely to only like, or even believe, the story that bends in his or her direction. The polarity of politics today certainly supports this conclusion.

But I also got to thinking about how this dichotomy even works as we age while reading Mary Karr’s book, The Art of Memoir. “Getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle,” she explained while talking about how age can change how we look at our own pasts.

Susan Branch, author of “The Fairy Tale Girl,” explains this phenomenon by noting: “The thing I like about getting older is finally getting a handle on what the heck was going on back then.”

I’m also reading Dani Shapiro’s book, Still Writing, and she says: “…the idea that there is ever a definitive spot from which life can be understood is, I think, to miss the point of the ever-evolving nature of consciousness and life itself.”

I find it quite interesting that these three writers, so unalike in their personalities and writing styles, all seem to agree that everyone sees things differently, and as we age, even we begin to see things differently than we did when we were younger. I know I do.

Confusing, but it keeps life interesting.

Bean Pat: Bird Note https://www.birdnote.org/ A great way to learn about birds from your comfortable living room.

Check out Travels with Maggie on Amazon.

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

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Cooper’s Hawk. Once I became addicted to birdwatching, I couldn’t not see birds. And occasionally I got lucky and got a good photograph. — Photo by Pat Bean 

“Does the road wind uphill all the way?  Yes. To the very end. Will the journey take the whole day?  From morn to night, my friend.” — Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Dredging up the Past

I’ve begun work on my memoir, which friends have been urging me to do for years. Like most people’s lives, mine has good parts and bad parts. My book, Travels with Maggie, is 100 percent upbeat, focusing only on the life’s sunshine. I’m happy with it.

If you’re looking for a good book with lots of trivia about America’s cities and landmarks, check out Travels with Maggie on Amazon. It’s G-rated and an excellent book to read together with your kids. Maggie was my canine companion on the six-month birding trip. — Book cover by Sherry Watcher.

For the past year or so, I’ve been working on a second book about my adventures as a late-blooming, bird-watching old broad, tentatively titled Bird Droppings. It also looks at the world through Pollyanna’s eyes. I’m thinking I might start trying to market the chapters I’ve written as single essays.

Meanwhile, as I think about my memoir, tentatively titled Between Wars, a book that will focus on my 37 years as a journalist while also being the mother of five children, and surviving a nasty divorce, I know I will have to put the rose-colored glasses in the trash bin.

I’m not sure I can do it. But I’ve started going back through all my journals and finding I at least enjoy doing the research.

For example, as a former river rat who took two, 16-day, white-water rafting trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I almost couldn’t stop laughing after reading this entry:  The difference between a fairy tale and a river trip: The fairy tale begins “Once upon a time,” while the river trip tales begins: “No shit! There I was…”

            This past day’s entry also contained some quotes that are still worth repeating.

Me, at the Standard-Examiner in 1992, when I was the paper’s environmental reporter. It was my favorite newspaper job, and I held it for 10 years before I became city editor to get more money.. — Photo by Charles Trentelman.

“To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think I was reading one of Emerson’s journals at this time.

I was also probably reading one of Natalie Goldberg’s writing books, too. For I wrote down this quote of hers. “If you do not fear the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.”

I also wrote down some thoughts of my own, in quote form. “At one time in life, I sought logic in everything. Now I know better,” and “If our thoughts were not continually shifting, we’d be a broken record to ourselves.” – Pat Bean

Bean Pat: What a Waste https://brevity.wordpress.com/2019/08/29/what-a-waste/ Leonard Bernstein and scammed writers.

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

 

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Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

“The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

A page from my Journal.

After spending way too much time driving to the end of the road in Canyonlands National Park, I knew most of the rest of the day’s explorations would have to come through the windshield of my vehicle. That was OK because I was traveling through familiar territory that I had been through many times.

My Journal

While I often tried to drive new roads and see new sights on my trips to Texas to visit family once or twice a year, the one I was traveling this time was the shortest and the most used. Shortly after leaving Canyonlands, I stopped in Moab, one of my favorite towns, to gas up and get snacks for the road. Cheetos and a Coke, I suspect, as this is my usual travel fare.

But even in my hurry to get down the road, I did stop for about 10 minutes at Wilson Arch to take a few pictures.  Wilson Arch is about 25 miles south of Moab and quite visible from the road (Highway 191). There is also a half-mile trail leading up to and around it.

The first time I spotted the 46-foot-high by 91-foot-wide arch,, I had been amazed. It simply stood there without fanfare.

Today there are turnouts and interpretive signs noting that Wilson Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby. Additionally, the signs say the rock formation is entrada sandstone and that the arch was formed when ice-filled cracks formed and caused parts of the rock to break off. At least that’s my interpretation of the more scientific data.

Whale Rock in Canyonlands National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the same page of my journal that I noted my stop at Wilson Arch this day, I also listed the birds I saw, a habit I followed each day of my journey and one I continued in my book, Travels with Maggie about my later RV-ing years. And yes, the same Maggie who made this trip with me is the same one in the book.

The birds this day included American robin, European starling, California gull, magpie, raven, violet-green swallow, Say’s phoebe and pinyon jay, the latter being a species I saw for the first time and which I added to my then-growing life list.

Bean Pat: All about the Everglades https://earthstonestation.com/2019/03/06/two-people-that-saved-the-everglades-earnest-coe-marjory-stoneman-douglas/  Great blog for nature lovers like me.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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A Week with No Internet

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

I did finish this painting during my no-internet agony. Watercolor by Pat Bean

It Wasn’t Intentional

A few months ago, my Wi-Fi was down because I needed an updated modem. As a stop gap, I realized the Wi-Fi connection of my brother was near enough by so that I could use it.  It worked well and my life wasn’t interrupted while I waited for a new modem to arrive.

A few months later when the contract for my internet provider expired, I learned that the company wanted to increase the cost of my internet-only service – I don’t own a TV – from $70 a month to over a hundred dollars, I was incensed. I talked to my brother, and he encouraged me simply to cancel and use his Wi-Fi, which I already knew worked quite well for me.

The Internet lets me see my youngest great-grandchild Cora grow up, and lets others see me with this precious one when I do get to see her in person. — Photo was taken by another family member during our Christmas get-away in Florida.

Great, I thought. My limited, fixed-income budget was grateful for the brotherly love. And it was — for a couple of months. But then things began to go haywire, and after I was without internet for a couple of days, I knew I had to get my own. I found a different provider, however, one that was only going to charge me $45 a month for life –well there was another $10 for monthly modem rental and the life was only good for as long as I never moved from my current location, which I almost certainly will.

Of course, it took time to get reconnected to my own Wi-Fi, which left me almost a whole week without internet. It was agony. It made me realize how much I need and enjoy being connected to the world.

I begin my days by reading the New York Times online. I stay in touch with friends and family, getting to see my great-grandchildren who live far away grow up day by day.  I blog. I submit writing to potential publication markets and search out potential writing jobs.  I use the internet prolifically to find answers to my always questioning mind. I stream TV and movies on my computer or Kindle. I do research for my essays and blogs. I play computer games. I look at maps to see where I’m going or want to go. I shop online. I read Amazon reviews of my book Travels with Maggie online, and I download books from Amazon and the library. And I moderate a daily writing forum called Writer2Writer for Story Circle Network.

That’s a haystack made entirely of needles to this old broad, seeing as my family didn’t get a TV until I was 14 years old.

The world changed, and I guess I changed with it.

Bean Pat: First you must believe you’re a writer https://lithub.com/how-to-say-im-a-writer-and-mean-it/  A blog for writers.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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