Too Much Stuff

“The most important things in life aren’t things.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

I promised myself when I moved into my new apartment that I wouldn’t bring anything into it that I didn’t love. And I do love these tin birds which were a gift, and my home will always have room for flowers. — Photo by Pat Bean

Once Again I’m at that Point

            Back in 2004, when I downsized from my two-bedroom home in Utah to a 21-foot RV, I was amazed at how much stuff I had. That was nothing, however, to the stuff I had when I moved from a six-bedroom family home, after three of my five children had grown up and started life on their own, into a two-bedroom apartment.

And I love having a simple place where I can read and write, and look out at the world. — Photo by Pat Bean

That time I finally called the local thrift store to come empty out my large unfinished basement. It seems if you have plenty of storage space, you tend to fill it up.

Space in my small RV during the nine years it was my home on wheels hardly existed, and I quickly learned that if I brought one item into my life, another item had to go out.

I was thinking about this the day I drove through the small town of Leakey, Texas, and saw a sign on an antique store that read: “Sophisticated Junk for the Elite.” That was worth one of my loud belly laughs.

I turned to my canine companion Maggie and asked her if we should

Having a great view, as I do from my writing chair is important, too. It’s better than stuff. — Photo by Pat Bean

stop. She looked up at me from her co-pilot seat in my RV and yawned. I guess not, I told her. Sophisticated or not, there was no room in my RV for old, or even new, doodads.

When I retired from my traveling RV life, settling into a small one-bedroom, third-floor apartment with a view of the Catalina Mountains out my bedroom balcony window, I felt as if I had moved into a mansion, and loved its spaciousness.

Looking around, six years later, I realized that it wasn’t quite as spacious. It’s time to go back to the practice of when one thing comes in, another goes out.

Bean Pat: Bo’s Café Life https://boscafelife.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/11561/ Life shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon. Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

Road Trip Oddities

The abandoned cement mixer that’s been turned into and abandoned space capsule by an artist. The oddity sits eats of Phoenix near the Casa Grade exit on the south side of the road.

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.: — Rosalia de Castro

Between Phoenix and Tucson

I was heading home to Tucson from Phoenix on Interstate 10 with my friend Jean when I saw a strange object in a barren farm field off the road to my right. It kind of looked like part of a rocket, was my immediate thought,

The cement tree that sits off Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wendover, Nevada.

“What’s that?” I asked Jean.

Truly a woman of the times, Jean said she didn’t know but she would find out.

“I doubt you’ll find that on your smartphone,” I said as she began tapping its keypad.

“Wanna bet?” she replied. Fortunately, I didn’t because a few minutes later she

Told me exactly what we had passed. It was an abandoned cement mixer from an old truck that artist Jack Milliard had painted to look like a downed space capsule. The abandoned mixer had sat in the field for 30 years before that.

Weird, I thought. Then my mind went to the cement tree that sits in the middle of the Bountiful Salt

The two-story outhouse in Gays, Illinois. — Photo by Pat Bean

Flats between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wendover, Nevada. As a journalist, I had written about this 83-foot-tall structure that was built to withstand desert winds gusting at over 130 miles an hour, and earthquakes in the order of 7.5 on the Richter scale.

According to the local Highway Patrol, and Wikipedia, more than two million cars travel past the tree annually, and five to seven an hour of these cars stop for a more thorough look. When Utah pumped water out of Great Salt Lake onto the West Desert to avoid the lake from flooding in the 1980s, the joke was that the state was doing so to water the cement tree.

Then I remembered the Two-Story Outhouse in Gays, Illinois. I did a short travel blog for American Profile magazine on this roadside oddity.

Such surprising sights are what make road trips so delightful. Do you have a favorite roadside oddity?  I hope you do. I’d love to hear about it.

Bean Pat Frog Diva thoughts https://frogdivathoughts.com/2018/12/03/all-i-want-is-a-hippopotamus-for-christmas/#like-8863 Do you remember this? I do.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon. Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

Quotes to Inspire


Painting from a photo I took on the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful. — Taylor Swift

Or Disagree with

I came across this quote by Rita Mae Brown — “A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all” – while drinking my cream-laced coffee this morning. My instant reaction was to disagree with Rita Mae.

Deadlines, which I had almost daily as a newspaper journalist for 37 years, are my best, and most favorite, writing inspiration. They mean I have a writing job. I also think I do my best work when scrambling to meet a deadline.

I collect quotes. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t write one down in my journals. I want to remember the best of them because their words inspire me, make me laugh, or speak one of my own truths to me in better words than I’ve yet thought out.

But as this old broad gets wiser, I’ve come to question whether some of the more popular quotes are actually true, especially ones that indicate animals have no feelings or reasoning. How do we know the lark is happy, or the owl wise?

The years have taught me that I can’t believe – or agree with – everything I read. It’s a skill that I treasure in the age of the Internet, where anyone can say anything and everything they want, which is not a bad thing unless what they say is malicious.

Meanwhile, the beauty of Rita Mae’s quote is that a deadline isn’t everybody’s favorite thing, and it truly is a negative inspiration for them. In this, as in most things in life, how one looks at deadlines is neither right nor wrong, simply different.

Taylor Swift says it perfectly.

Bean Pat: Baltimore orioles

https://belindagroverphotography.com/2018/11/28/baltimore-oriole-two-photographs-2/?wref=pil  To brighten your winter day. I write about seeing my first Baltimore oriole in Travels with Maggie.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon and would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who likes to travel. Bean is currently writing a second book, which she is calling Bird Droppings, and which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

The Sonoran Desert

Looking across the valley from the undeveloped ridge near my apartment complex where I often take my morning walks, — Photo by Pat Bean

“… an ordinary desert supports a much greater variety of plants than does either a forest or a prairie.” — Ellsworth Hunting

Just a Happy Accident

A gila woodpecker on a saguaro cactus, one of many I see on my walks in the desert. — Photo by Pat Bean

Six years ago, after spending nine years traveling this country full-time in a small RV with my canine companion Maggie, I made a small third-floor apartment in Tucson my home. It was an unplanned move, but the time had come when I wanted a nightly hot bath instead of a skimpy shower; and I wanted the pleasure of a local library. This southeastern Arizona apartment complex had a nice bathtub, was dog friendly with shady places to walk my pet, a library was close by and, just as important, it was affordable.

It also helped that my youngest daughter lived in town, the area was a great place to watch birds, and my new apartment stood in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, which are comparable in their 10,000-foot elevation to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, whose shadows I lived in for 25 years before I retired, sold my home and bought my RV — I’m not sure I could ever again live away from mountains. That I found

A Tucson sunset. — Photo by Pat Bean

myself living in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was just a happy accident.

The surprise has been how much I have learned to love the desert, particularly this morning during my early walk with my current canine companion Pepper – after I read about all the snow storms taking place elsewhere in the country.

Life is good – and this old broad is happy and grateful for her many blessings.

Bean Pat: Good signs https://simpletravelourway.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/consider-this/?wref=pil This goes along with my goal of encouraging people to be kind to one another.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is available on Amazon.  She is now working on a book tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

2018 Thanksgiving

{‘m thankful for rainbows. — Photo by Pat Bean 

This is my annual 100 things I am thankful for list, in no particular order. I wake up every day with gratitude in my heart, and you should know that this list is far from complete. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to say, but thinking about my blessings keep me sane in today’s chaotic world.

1, That I can laugh at myself

2, Soft flannel pajamas.

3, A snail-mail letter

  1. The view of the Catalina Mountains’ from my third-floor apartment.

    I’m thankful for a white-winged dove on top of a blooming saguaro. — Photo by Pat Bean

  2. The smell of the Sonoran Desert after a rainstorm.
  3. Sweet kisses from Pepper, my canine companion.
  4. That my back this year is not hurting like it was last Thanksgiving.
  5. The 29 stair steps that I go up and down at least a half dozen times a day because they help keep this soon-to-be-80-year-old-broad moving.
  6. That I finally have time to sit a bit and simply think, to connect all the dots of my life together so that there is meaning.
  7. Advil
  8. Good friends who know me – and still like me.
  9. Authors who write the books I love to read.
  10. Sunrises and sunsets.
  11. The great horned owls that are residents of my apartment complex.
  12. Road trips.
  13. My new 10-inch Kindle to watch TV and movies on.
  14. Art.
  15. That my book, Travels with Maggie, was finally published.
  16. The hummingbirds that scrabble at my nectar feeder.
  17. My Tucson daughter’s washing machine and dryer.
  18. Recently discovered old family photos
  19. That I have good, if barely affordable, health insurance.
  20. My 37-year journalism career that ended in 2004.

    I’m thankful for my canine companion Pepper. — Photo by Pat Bean

  21. My joy in learning new things.
  22. The unending support of My Story Circle Network writing colleagues.
  23. Readers of my blog.
  24. That I remember way more of the good things of my life than the bad.
  25. A good pair of comfortable shoes.
  26. Hot baths.
  27. That I can almost always find a silver lining when shit happens.
  28. Good blank journals to fill with my daily thoughts.
  29. Jean and Dusty, my apartment complex loving and supportive friend and her dog, who is my dog’s best friend.
  30. The Internet, which quickly helps answer most of my many curious questions.
  31. Hugs.
  32. The readers who reviewed Travels with Maggie.
  33. Trees and their shade on a hot Tucson day.
  34. Butterflies.,
  35. Board and card games.
  36. Ice Cream.
  37. That life still holds surprises,
  38. A good pen.
  39. Air conditioning.
  40. A good cup of cream-laced coffee to start my days.
  41. Wildflowers.
  42. Bright colors that radiate cheerfulness.
  43. Wolves that have returned to Yellowstone.
  44. Smiles and belly laughs.
  45. A comfortable bed and soft blankets.
  46. Skin moisturizers.
  47. The Writer2Writer online forum I moderate for Story Circle members.
  48. Interesting and meaningful conversations with pleasant people.
  49. My dabbling with watercolor painting.
  50. British mysteries, both books and TV shows.
  51. Sitting on my balcony and watching a summer storm as it waters the desert.
  52. National and state parks.
  53. Rainbows.
  54. Staying up until 2 a.m. with an old friend and reliving good times.
  55. The magic moment between night and dawn when the world is all shades of gray.

    I’m thankful for dandelions and butterflies. — Photo by Pat Bean

  56. Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, which is my most special place in the whole world.
  57. Landscaped gardens with the work all done by someone else.
  58. Museums.
  59. A gurgling stream to sit by and simply enjoy.
  60. Electricity.
  61. Audible books.
  62. Old, gnarly live oak trees.
  63. Honking geese.
  64. Clean water to drink. Not everybody has it.
  65. The right to vote, and drive, and be independent, which all women in the world should have.
  66. That there’s enough undeveloped land nearby so that I occasionally hear coyotes howl at night.
  67. My GPS, which I only have had for the past four years – and maps, which I still use.
  68. A good haircut, both for myself and my dog Pepper.
  69. Happy hour on my balcony with a good friend and a Jack and Coke.
  70. My favorite stainless-steel cooking pot.
  71. Mexican food.
  72. Being called Nana by grandkids and great-grandkids.
  73. That I finally like myself.
  74. The black ravens that perch on the red tile roof and are visible when I sit at my bedroom desk.
  75. Scented candles.
  76. My computer.
  77. Funky earrings.
  78. Tucson’s offering of live community playhouses.
  79. Making a new friend.
  80. Bra-less days, which get more numerous with each passing year.
  81. Jean’s chocolate chip cookies.
  82. Memories of my mother and grandmother.
  83. Fireworks that light up a night sky.
  84. Hiking trails – short ones these days,
  85. Nature, travel and wildlife photographers who brings the beauty of the world to my living room.
  86. My daily walks with my dog Pepper.
  87. Tucson’s late falls, winters, and early springs, when the weather is almost always perfect.
  88. Old friends and family members who visit me in Tucson.

    I’m thankful for good friends.

  89. A dependable car and that I am comfortable driving.
  90. An occasional manicure and pedicure.
  91. Facebook, because I get to see photos of distant family.
  92. A comfortable recliner and good lamp to read by.
  93. Full-moon nights.
  94. The New York Times, which I read every morning.
  95. My easy-to-use digital camera that takes great photos.
  96. The public library.
  97. And last, but certainly not least, each and every member of my large family who give meaning to my life and make me feel loved. At latest count, my family includes five children and their spouses, 15 grandchildren and their spouses or partners, and six great-grandchildren (soon to be seven). I am indeed blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!   



Howling with Wolves

“…on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over the rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it – a vast pulsing harmony – its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.” – From Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.

There is something of magic in a wolf’s howl that speaks to my soul. — Wikimedia photo

A Moment to Remember

My fascination with wolves began at a young age, triggered when I read for the first time, but not the last, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” I discovered the book when I about eight years old among my late grandfather’s book collection.

Down through the years I read many more books that encouraged this love affair, including “Never Cry Wolf,” that details the summer the author spent observing wild wolves in the Arctic tundra. I longed see one of these wild creatures outside of a zoo. But given the way we humans had been eradicating these animals for decades, it was a miracle I doubted would ever happen. Then it did, in 2005.

I was traveling in Yellowstone with my youngest son. We had stopped at an overlook to check out an unkindness of ravens in some trees, as were other visitors to the park. Or so we thought. We finally noticed that humans and birds alike were focused on something moving on the far side of the small pond below. When I saw it was a wolf, I was almost afraid to breathe. Here was nature at its purest.

One of the wolves at Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana.

The overlook placed the wolf center stage while the morning sun, just capping a ridge to our east, spotlighted it.  The wolf ignored our presence until a small dog, left in a vehicle by its owner, began yapping. Only then did the wolf tilt its head in our direction. It clearly knew we pitiful humans were watching.  The barking dog, as if feeling the heat from that glance, became silent, and the wolf again continued its ground-covering stride.  Through my birding telescope I could almost count the hairs on the wolf’s back.

In comparison to seeing a wolf in the wild, which I would rate 20-plus on a 10-point scale, Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, was a mere 10.

I arrived at the park just in time for an afternoon guided tour of the 75-acre grounds. While much more than a zoo, the wolves here were not free and only half wild. Wolf Park is a research facility, created to allow researchers to make closer observations of these animals than would be possible in the wild.

While the wolves are kept in large enclosures that encourage them to form, and live, in packs as they would in the wild, they have been conditioned to human contact to facilitate researchers. This begins when they are only a couple of weeks old, at which time they are removed from their wolf mothers and given to human mothers to continue raising. At about four months old, the cubs are returned to their packs.

A tour guide explained all this as he walked us around the park. His spiel included a genealogy of the pack affiliations, and stories about the personalities of each of the park’s 24 wolves. I was fascinated.

The pack I would late howl with was led by Tristan.  As wolves do in the wild, he had gained his position by asserting his dominance over higher-ranking wolves. This pack in-fighting, unless death of an animal seems imminent, is not interfered with by the park staff. Fights for the alpha female role, our guide said, tended to be more vicious than those of the male wolves, probably because the right to breed belongs only to the female alpha.        ,

I returned to the park later that night for the weekly Friday Night Howl, and found myself sitting on bleachers in front of a large fenced enclosure. A couple of staff members entered the compound and were greeted enthusiastically by the wolves, much as my daughter’s Great Dane, Tara, greets me. She is extremely loving, but if I’m not careful of my stance, she could easily bowl me over.

With the greeting between humans and animals completed, the staffers talked a bit about the work at the park, and then invited us to start howling to encourage the wolves’ response. I found the howling a bit weird at first. I didn’t sound at all like a wolf. Tristan seemed to agree – and looked at us humans as if we were missing our brains. But just then, somewhere in the background, one of the wolves from a different pack howled.  Tristan answered the wild night song. Other members of his pack quickly joined him. The chorus of human and wolf howls went on for a while, but at some point, I stopped howling and simply listened, feeling a freedom in my soul that I find hard to describe. It’s a writer’s block that actually gives me pleasure.

When I began my human, screechy imitation of a wolf’s howls again, Tristan gave me a disdainful stare. Then, never taking his eyes from mine, he decided to take pity on this mere human and howled with me. Shivers of delight rolled up my spine. It is a moment I will never forget.

Now available on Amazon

The above essay is a short piece from my book Travels with Maggie, which — to toot my own horn – would make a great Christmas gift for travel enthusiasts, especially RVers. You can get it on Amazon.

            Bean Pat: Window into the woods https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/11/19/really/#like-11871 Brave little chickadee.

            Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com


When I’m watching birds, like this common yellowthroat, I forget all about one-gallus creatures. — Watercolor by Pat Bean


“If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will change it.” Richard Dawkins

Wishful Thinking

I recently came across the word one-gallus while rereading Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. I had no idea what it meant, so I looked up the meaning. When I found it, I laughed out loud.  Leopold had called people who didn’t respect wildlife “low-class, ignorant and backward.”

I used to read with a dictionary beside me, but these days it’s my Kindle because it gives me quick access to the internet. I love this modern highway of information, although like almost every change in life, it comes with a dark side – those one-gallus creatures who use it maliciously.

Does the good in life always have to be countered with a dark side? This is a question I ask myself often. I would like the answer to be no, but the longer I live on this planet the more saddened I become that my wished-for answer is never going to come to pass.

And this brings me to one of my favorite quotes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Or in my case, asking the same thing over and over and expecting a different answer.

I did get a different answer, however, when I went online to double-check the name of the author of the quote. It’s usually attributed to Albert Einstein, but now someone is saying it might have been Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain, or none of the above.

If made me think that perhaps nothing is set in concrete, and that perhaps there is still a chance, slight though it will be, that we can eliminate the word one-gallus from the dictionary.

But I suspect this is simply wishful thinking.

            Bean Pat: Bluebirds to cheer your day https://pinolaphoto.com/2018/11/16/a-bluebird-day-at-the-celery-bog/  A photo blog that makes me happy

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com