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My Neighbors, The Coyotes

Cat No. 6 — Happy Fat Cat with Blue Eyes

          Somewhere around 5 a.m. this morning, a nearby pack of coyotes begin to howl.  My canine bed-partner Scamp sat up beside me and listened – and continued in that same position until I finally got up at 6 a.m. to walk him.

          The coyote howls brought back the time I had encounters with coyotes on Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake. I saw one or two often, especially when I visited the island to bird watch in winter.

          Once, when I was researching a story about coyote research at Utah State University, a playful coyote stole my camera bag. I admire the animal’s survivability, despite mankind’s desire to eliminate the species. 

          I live in Tucson, a city of more than half a million people, in a large apartment complex, near the corner of two busy four-lane roads, with banks, grocery stores, a MacDonald’s, two bagel places, a Starbucks, an animal clinic, two pharmacies, an Ace Hardware, a UPS office, several restaurants, and more businesses to the north and east.

          South and west of me is a scattered residential area broken up by desert ridges, washes, and even a dry river bed, to accommodate the area’s occasional monsoons, which recently have been rare.

          If you like having all the conveniences of a city but still a bit of nature in your life, as I do, it’s an ideal place to live.

I’ve seen bobcats in the parking lot, great horned owls raising chicks in large trees I walk by daily, rare North American birds from my third-floor balcony, and once or twice passed by javelinas that came into the complex when someone left a gate open.

          And then there are the coyotes that serenaded me and Scamp this morning. It was a good song, I thought, remembering my recent repair bill because desert packrats got into my car’s engine compartment.

Without coyotes, the desert rodent population might rise to take over Tucson. Just because they are different from us doesn’t make them evil.

          Hmmm! Now that’s a thought that can be expanded on.

          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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

           

Limiting One’s Options

Cat No. 5 — Black and White Striped Cat

Rethinking Ideas.

          Having options is a good thing. True or False?

          Without much thought, I would answer true. Then I read what

Carla Sonheim, author of Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun, and who dreamed up that crazy idea to draw 30 cats that I accepted as a challenge, has to say about having too many options.

          “Even though I love drawing and have completed hundreds, each day I have a little mini war with myself when I face that blank page.”

          To get over that hump, she has what she calls an arsenal of starter exercises – rules, restrictions and challenges to work within – to get herself going.

I immediately understand.

Carla’s starter exercises for her art are the same as prompts writers use to start their brains. “It’s a paradox: when you have complete freedom, you often freeze up and do nothing,” she says.

OK! Back to drawing cats. I’m actually having fun with the exercise.  

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Cat No. 4; Cat in a pink room.

Morning Thoughts and Cat. No. 4

About the Cat: It’s my version of one of the cats given as examples in the art book: Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. The goal was to quickly draw 30 cats from imagination while lying in bed. I guessed that the goal was to get the reader/artist to stop feeling like they had to be perfect, because the cat illustrations were certainly not drawn realistically.

Learning to accept that I wasn’t perfect, somewhere in my mid-30s, was one of the best moments my life. Remembering this got me thinking about other lessons learned during my 81 years on Planet Earth. I decided to make a list of 10 things, but only got to eight before my brain shut off. They are:

          No. 1: Accept that you’re not perfect and be happy about it.

          No. 2. Don’t take anything personal unless it makes you feel better.

          No. 3. Realize that people are more concerned about how they look than how you look.

          No. 4. Get a dog and walk it daily.

     No. 5. Find your passion in life, and follow it.

     No. 6. Get back on the horse when you fall off.

     No. 7. Learn something new every day.

No; 8: Get enough sleep most nights. I say most nights because us old broads still gotta have fun once in a while.

Perhaps readers can lengthen the list by sharing things life has taught them.

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 (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Cat No. 3: The Covid Cat

          I moderate a writer’s chat group called Writer2Writer for Story Circle Network, an international writing support group for women. Each Wednesday, I provide a writer’s prompt.

          This week, wanting to inject a little silliness into the life of writers, who like all of us are living on Covid time, I asked them to have a conversation with an animal who could respond with words instead of just a nodding of the head.

          Below is what my oldest daughter, Deborah, who is a member of W2W, wrote. I laughed all the way through. So, to give a bit of time to dog lovers to go along with my promised 30 artful cats, I decided to share it. I hope reading it brings a smile to your face.

Nightcap with Whiskey and Kahlua

By Deborah Bean

Welcome to the world of a new senior citizen (me) and my two lovable dogs. Whiskey weighs in at 25 pounds and is a Schnauzer/Cocker Spaniel mix — a Schnocker that you have to imagine with a Scottish accent. Ten-pound Kahlua is an energetic, sometimes frenzied Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix – a JackChi. Ironically, re names, I’m a teetotaler.  

Me: (Nighttime, Take 395) Okay, Whiskey, bedtime.

Kahlua: (Scampers downstairs) I’m going, I’m going, I’m going.

Me: Whiskey, come on.

Whiskey: (Opening one eye) Harrrrumph. (Then he closes that eye)

Me: Whiskey, it’s time for bed.

Whiskey: Your bed be much morrrre comfortable. Just leave me be.

Me: Whiskey! Time for bed!

Kahlua: (Scampering back upstairs and starting to bark) Hey it’s bedtime. Time to go pee and then I get a treat! I like treats. Treats are good.

Whiskey: I be in a bed, ye frrrenzied Kahlueless. And it be comforrrtable. And Mistress, if ye please, get idget down tharrre to be quiet.

Me: Whiskey, it’s bedtime. Coooome ooon. (Grabbing his hind legs and pulling slowly, I work his body off the edge of the bed)

Whiskey: (Still not getting up) Hey! What be you doing? And keep yerrr bloody hands offin me prrrivates! (I gently slide him off the bed so his hind feet touch down before I pull him all the way off) And how, the now, did I get down herrre. Ye bloody well tricked me, ye wench.

Kahlua: (Racingdownstairs and back up a second time) C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Time to go outside – then I get a treat! Treats are good. Don’t you want a treat Whiskey? And we’ve got a comfortable crate with pillows and blankies.

Me: Alright. Downstairs now.

Whiskey: I be strrrrretching. And yawning. And be ye sure ye don’t want me back in that tharrrre comfortable bed. I’d be keeping you warm all night.

Kahlua: (Racing up and down the stairs a third time) Time to go pee. I’m a good puppy. I know what to do.  Go outside, go pee, get my treat, and then off to bed in our crate.

Me: Whiskey, let’s go. It’s bedtime. Come on.

 Whiskey: (Grumbling all the way down to the kitchen door) And it’s a crrruel human ye be. Forcin’ me out of me comforrrtable spot. And now you sends me out into the darrrk to be a’peein.

Kahlua: (After making several circuits of the yard before stopping to go potty) I’m done. See, I went potty. I’m a good puppy. You love me because I know what to do. I’m loved, I’m loved. (Then races up the stairs to see the husband, barking all the way. He sends her back down as Whiskey saunters in from the yard. Kahlua is panting)

Me: Okay, into the crate, both of you.

Whiskey: (Giving me the evil eye, again) And, I be askin’, what will ye be givin’ me? Kahlueless over there may be willin’ but she be titched in the head.

Me: Of course. Here’s your treat. Now into the crate.

Kahlua: I got a treat. Treats are good. Now I’m in the crate. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: I’ll not be likin’ this a bit, but since thare be a treat, so shall it be.

Me: (Sighs) Why do I put up with this? It’s a good thing you’re such a snuggle bunny.

Whiskey: Hey! Who ye be besmirchin’ wit’ your bunny talk? It’s a fierce fighter I be — at least five minutes of the day. Hmph!

Me: Night puppies. Love you. See you in the morning.

Whiskey: Hmph! Well, at least there be comforrrtable blankets. Scootch over ye idget. Give me space.

Kahlua: (Snuggles between Whiskey’s legs) I did good! I said goodnight, peed, and went to bed with a treat. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: Quiet little beastie. I be tryin’ to sleep here.

          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.

Cat No. 2: Green Eyes and Glasses

Some People Might Call It Stubbornness

          Although I love cooking, and am reasonably good at it, I never bake cakes these days. I tried in my younger years but almost always they were dismal failures. They drooped, didn’t rise, had raw centers or a dozen other mishaps.

          That’s because I can’t ever seem to follow rules. While I can successfully add or subtract to my favorite one-pot dishes, leaving out or adding something a cake recipe calls for rarely works.

          I thought about that as I was drawing one of the cats for the first assignment in Drawing: 52 Exercises to Make Drawing fun. I sort of fudged yesterday when I wrote that the first exercise was to draw 30 cats.

          The exact words of the exercise were: “Draw 30 cats from your imagination while sitting or lying in bed.” But that didn’t seem fun to me. I’m not a daytime bed person, rarely even taking naps. So, I simply snipped off the end of the assignment to suit my style.

          The truth is I’m one of those people, whoever they are, who only read instructions when all else fails. And telling me I must do something is like waving a red banner in front of an angry bull.

          My journal writing has helped me understand these and many more of my failings — or strengths if you look at things from an opposite angle. I doubt I’m going to change at my age. But I am going to eventually draw 30 cats.

          More journaling and cats to come …

          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 free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Morning Chat and 30 Cats

First assignment from Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. Draw 30 cats. This is Cat No. 1

          When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to become both a writer and an artist. Writing won out. For over half a century, writing was as important to me as breathing. Actually, it still is.

          As a newspaper journalist for 37 years, I felt what I wrote was important – because I was keeping people informed of what was going on in the world and what they needed to know. Thankfully, that was the priority goal of the newsrooms I worked in from 1967 to 2004.  

I cringe today when I read, or hear, so many journalism personalities (certainly not reporters) editorialize their version of events. I belong to the days of journalists like Walter Cronkite, who ended his news shows with “And that’s the way it is.” I’m not sure when demonizing and hate-mongering to win readers and viewers became so prevalent.

Ok. Enough of that. I didn’t plan on a soapbox rant for this blog. I was going to write about how these days my writing mostly consists of journaling. It’s helping me, at the grand age of 81, to connect the dots of my life. I find it quite enjoyable and rewarding, as well as helping me better understand who I am.

But I’ve also begun to piddle more with art, and finding it also rewarding.  I’m too old, however, to take it seriously, which is why I picked up Drawing:52 Creative Exercise to Make Drawing Fun.

The first exercise is to draw 30 cats. Above is my first one.

More journaling and cats to come…

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.

Guadalupe Peak in Guadlupe Mountain National Park in Texas. — Wikimedia Photo

One of the things I’ve concluded after eight decades of iving is that beauty can be found anywhere. It’s easy to believe this when you’re spending a day hiking in the magnificent Guadalupe Mountain National Park, which is what I was doing on a warm April day about 11 years ago.

Blooming cacti and ocotillo plants dotted the Chihuahuan Desert landscape, whose mountain scenery is a rare sight in mostly flat-land Texas. Overseeing this nature haven were the picturesque peaks of El Capitan (Yes, it has the same name as better know peak in Yosemite) and Guadalupe, the latter peak, at 8,752 feet, being the highest point in the Lone Star state.

It was 360 degrees of awesome, brought to life by collared lizards darting among the yellow and magenta colored prickly pear blossoms.

That sentiment about beauty, however, was challenged a few days later when in contrast, I found myself camped for the night in an El Paso RV park, my small Class C motorhome squeezed between two huge Class A vehicles with wide slide outs in a cement parking lot. In addition, the park was surrounded by a low rock fence beyond which passing traffic kept up a yowling roar.

It was the kind of place I avoided as carefully as I did the alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp when I visited. But time and distance left me no choice. It was the only place near enough I could reach before dark, and I never drove my RV at night. 

I tried to follow Garth Brooks’ advice about basing happiness on what you have and not what you don’t have, but I was still grumbling to myself about the drab view as I sat at my table and stared out the window of my motorhome.

I wanted a meandering creek whose gurgles would lull me to sleep, and a large tree to sit beneath while reflecting on my day, and perhaps a small camp fire whose flames I could get lost in. During my nine years on the road, I spent many a night in just such a setting.

 Thinking of those nights, I admonished myself to be thankful for my life, and started to get up and get a book to read. That’s when the beauty happened.

A Gambel quail, followed by nine chicks, strolled into view. The She was headed across the cement to the far side of the campground, and she was followed by 11 chicks. And trailing behind them was another adult quail, a bit gaudier than the first so I assumed he was the male parent.

The birds brought a smile to my face, and my optimistic view that beauty could be found everywhere was renewed.

Why, I asked myself, had I ever doubted that beauty could be found everywhere, even if you don’t go looking for it.

Bean Pat: Guadalupe Mountain National Park: Here, you’ll find one of the finest examples of an ancient, marine fossil reef on Earth.

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.

Gross National Happiness

Being able to see the wonders of nature, such as these jellyfish at the Monterey Aquarium makes me quite happy. What makes you happy? — Photo by Pat Bean

          “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. Mahatma Gandhi

          One of my Christmas gifts this year was a Table Talk game featuring prominent women on one side of a card and a question on the other side. It’s not as much of a game as it is a conversation ice breaker.

           One person pulls a card from the boxed deck, reads what it says, and then everyone, in turn, answers the question. It’s a way of getting to know people better.

          For example, one question in an earlier Table Talk version I own, asks if you were to lose your sight or your hearing, which sense would you keep.

Eyes, I responded, without even thinking. I’m a very visual person and can’t imagine not being able to see Mother Nature’s many wonders. The next person, who is daily inspired by music, said she would keep her ears.

          I was gobsmacked by the answer. Although there was no right or wrong answer to the question, I had thought everyone would have wanted to keep their sight. To hear a different answer stretched my own understanding of people’s differences.

          Meanwhile, I’ve been using my newest Table Talk deck that focuses on women of achievement as a journaling prompt to better explore my own thoughts. This morning I pulled out the card featuring Shirley Temple Black, who was a child star in the 1930s and ‘40s, and as an adult served as a U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

I had an immediate answer to the question the card posed: If you were to be an ambassador, what country would you choose to represent?

 Bhutan, I thought, because its government’s goal is Gross National Happiness.

          While I wondered if that really works, I hoped so. It would be nice to know there was one country where success was measured by a happy population. I’m not sure anyone in America is happy right now.

          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.

Screaming on the Inside

Wood storks, egrets, roseate spoonbill and white ibis all different yet getting along. Why can’t Americans. —
Photo by Pat Bean

          This is the fourth day in a row that I have sat down in front of my computer screen to write a blog, one about something insignificant that readers might find meaningful or amusing. I usually feel I’ve achieved that goal if my words give me my own aha moment, or bring a smile to my own face.

          But each time I tried to put light-hearted words together this week, I couldn’t find any. Instead, I would go back to perusing the news, which quickly had my insides screaming in agony.

          How did we become such a divided country, so full of angry people who can no longer tell truth from lies, or who can but won’t accept it because they don’t like it?

          Why do I see facts differently from some of my own friends and family?

          How can Americans put aside differences and work together — even if they never will see eye-to-eye?  Writing this, I think of the words my granddaughter and her wife spoke at their wedding: “You be you and I’ll be me.” It works for them. Why can’t it work for this country’s population?

          Michel Montaigne, a 16th century French philosopher wrote: “Men are tarnished with the opinions they have of things and not by things themselves.” I think this translates to what is going on in America today.

          Frankly, I’ve always thought our country works best when one party has the presidency and the other party has control of Congress. It forces the opposing forces to work together, mitigating extremes in either direction. Anyone who thinks they deserve to get their way in everything every time is a selfish, spoiled child with no empathy for others.

          OK. Perhaps this is enough ranting so that the next time I sit in front of my computer screen with a blank page in front of me, I will be able to write something insignificant and amusing. I dang well hope so.

          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.

Good-Bye 2020

A Few of Story Circle Network’s Writing Sisters during conference in Austin, Texas

In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips.” (I dedicate this blog to my writing sisters.)

Sisters of My Heart, If Not My Blood

I’ve belonged to Story Circle Network for 11 years now. It’s an international writing organization that supports female writers in many ways, like giving me the voice I needed to publish my book, Travels With Maggie.

I met a half dozen of the women in my circle at an SCN writing conference held in Austin, Texas back in 2010, when I was still traveling around the country in my small RV. Over the past decade these same women have become the sisters I never had.

SCN members range from prolific writers like Susan Wittig Albert, who founded the organization, to women who are trying to get published, to women who write only for themselves. Most feel the same about writing as I do: To write is as important as to breathe.

The prompt for my writing circle this month was the question: How has Covid changed your life during the past year?

I answered that question in my previous post, noting that because I was retired, didn’t lose my income and was already nesting, the changes to my life were few.

While I’m still puzzling over what to write for the circle, others in the group responded immediately. The piece submitted by Nancilynn Saylor, whose memory of hugs I hold dear from attending five SCN writing conferences with her, delighted me so much that I wanted to share it with others.

So, here goes.

End of the Line

By Nancilynn Saylor

A cold snort from old man winter

Today, does not deter

This aging woman holding

Her broom. No

Quite the contrary

She props the front door open with

Deliberation, determined to finish

Her task with

No dust pan needed.

Each speck and loathsome particle

Sails with precision across threshold into the blustery abyss.

Au Revoir

Auf Wiedersehen

Adiós

Adieu,

Ciao

Sayonara

Then, remembering a phrase from her long ago youth:

“Make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here!”

She wiped her hands together, then slammed the door

Firmly against the jamb.

The scent of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove,

Enticed her back to the kitchen.

Good riddance,2020!

           Nancilynn is a Texas girl who knows that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck for the coming year. I had mine. Did 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.