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The Years Have Changed Me

Just as a butterfly changes from a caterpillar so have I changed … Art by Pat Bean

Aging my Way

What I write is a record of what’s currently banging around in my mind. Sometimes my thoughts, once shared though a pen on a blank page or my fingers on a computer’s keyboard, surprise me. Just as often they help me connect the dots in the tangled web of my thoughts.

Sometimes I choose to share what I’ve written, and sometimes I don’t. It may be because what I’ve written is a jumbled mess, or it may be that I think it’s too personal.

But what I do know is that what I’ve written one day, I won’t be able to write another day. Even a small span of time will have changed how I view life.  This is the joy, and the beauty, of being a journal keeper.

For 50 years now, I’ve written down my thoughts. Sometimes the journal keeping is sporadic, especially in the earlier years when six months or more of my life is sometimes missing. Sometimes, however, I’ve journaled daily, as is the usual case these days.

I like having a record of my life, one that shows me how much I’ve changed, how much I’ve grown, how sometimes I’ve even made a U-Turn in my core.

I’m thankful I’m a writer and journal keeper because, as Vita Sackville West said, “The writer catches the changes of his mind on the hop. Growth is exciting…”

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Learning from Experience

Watching the Sun creep towards the Watchman Campground at Zion National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Aging my Way

Not sure what my brain was up to this morning, but after reading some words by Eleanor Roosevelt — “You gain strength, courage and confidence in every experience … You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along” – I thought of a few things I had lived through.

Like falling asleep in a hot bath and dropping the book I was reading into the water. Or sitting out a windstorm in Amarillo and being thrown six feet onto the ground by a huge gust when I opened the RV door.

I guess what I learned from those experiences was to not fall asleep in the bathtub, and to stay inside when the wind was gusting. Of course, I did continue to read in the bath (it was a safety zone away from my five children) and I still go outside on windy days.

Knowing is not always doing.

Then I remembered a horrible, horrible morning back in 2009 (that was how I referred to it in my journal) when I was camped out in Zion National Park. I had spilled coffee grounds inside my tennis shoes, used hand lotion instead of conditioner on my head, and then discovered my RV wouldn’t start because I had forgotten to turn its lights off after coming through Zion’s mile-long tunnel. To make things even worse, I couldn’t find my driver’s license.

Then a friend came along and got my RV started, and then found my driver’s license. While he couldn’t do anything about my hair, he fixed us both some coffee – with fresh grounds – while I dumped the ones in my tennis shoes in the trash.

As we sat outside and drank the coffee, with a little Irish Cream added to ward off the chill until the sun creeped up and over the red-rock ridges to our east, I knew what I had learned that day. It’s good to have a handy friend.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

The Season of Old Age

Cattle Egret — I wonder if birds worry about aging? — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

There’s all sorts of advice out there in the media world these days about not letting yourself grow old. This morning I came across a piece that indicated no one should feel old until they’re well into their 80s, and that even then it was iffy.

Hmm… Well, I’m into my 80s.

Some days I feel old, and some days I feel younger than I was in my 20s and 30s, when I was bogged down with child care, a career and catastrophes around every corner.

I love not being responsible for anyone but myself, and not having to get up to the sound of an alarm clock – although sleeping in for me means I’m often up even before the sun. I’m a morning person.

The change in my life at my age is that if I feel like going to bed at 7 p.m., or even 6 p.m., I do so. And when I stay up until midnight, or later, it’s because I want to, not because I have responsibilities to fulfil before I can finally crawl beneath the covers.

I feel young when I can get out into nature and bird watch – and forget that I’ll never again make it up to the top of the mountain to see peregrine falcons flying beneath me.

I feel young when I’m behind the wheel of a car taking off for a road trip. The feeling lasts until my body screams: Stop and rest! And that happens well before dark. But then I never liked driving in the dark anyway. I want to see all the wonders I’m passing.

I feel young when I’m socializing with old friends and laughing together with them about the good old days. Of course, they weren’t all good, and these days aren’t all bad. At my age, you realize that nothing is ever perfect, but that what goes around comes around.

Age, meanwhile, has brought me peace, and a love for myself that youth kept just beyond my reach. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  I’m in the season I was meant to be in. So, pains and wrinkles be damned, I’m going to take each day as it comes – and be thankful for it.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Eighteen Missing Cats

Cat No. 13: The Blue-Eyed Cat — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

I just realized I’m missing 18 cats – although I don’t own a single one.

Some people start a task and then finish it before starting 10 other projects. That’s not me. I get bored or distracted, bereft of ideas or anxious that I’m going to miss something, and then I go off on multiple tangents, leaving behind unfinished manuscripts, art work, and numerous other projects.

I don’t know if its old age setting in or something else, but I’ve decided to either finish a multitude of unfinished writing projects and folders full of art projects – or toss them as lost causes. I want to clear the decks for new ideas and new projects after crossing into new territory and a new season in my life.

Regarding the missing cats, I just came across the folder containing my artistic depictions of 12 cats. Eighteen, I realized, were missing. Almost two years ago, my brain reminded me, I had undertaken an art challenge to draw 30 cats. I even blogged about the challenge and posted art of the first cat on Feb. 3, 2021. That was followed by posts featuring 11 more cats.

As I recall, I had wanted each of the cats to be different, but that after 12, I ran out of ideas. I meant to think on the cat project a day or two and then complete it. But, of course, that never happened.

I’m not willing to toss the idea yet, however, so here’s Cat No. 13, with more to follow if the ideas flow. Age has given me the wisdom to stop making so many promises to myself … and the freedom to let each day take me where it will. I’m liking that.

Meanwhile, I’m now only missing 17 cats.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Nature scenes take away the cacophony in my brain. — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

When I was a kid, I read few children’s books, having graduated into adult fiction almost as soon as I could put words together into sentences.

I mean, how boring is: See Dick and Jane run with their dog, Spot. While Theodore Geisel’s first children’s book, And to Think What I Saw on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937, and I was born in 1939, I don’t recall ever seeing a Dr. Seuss book until I bought them for my own children in the 1960s.

My reading of adult books at such an early age, however, meant that I often came across words I didn’t understand. I simple passed over them, guessing their meaning from the context of what I was reading. But then came the day – I think I was about 11 – when the word cacophony had me stumped.

I remember rummaging through the chest of books that I had inherited from my late grandfather’s library, which included the complete works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens and even Kathleen Windsor’s Forever Amber – which I had to read a second time when I was older because a classmate called it a “dirty book – until I found a well-worn thick Webster’s Dictionary. I had known it was there, but I had only opened it once, thinking it was as boring as Dick and Jane.

Cacophony, I learned, meant a bunch of loud, discordant sounds. There was more, and I was fascinated. It would take more than a decade after that incident, before I had even an inkling that I wanted to be a writer. But I never stopped searching out the meaning of any strange, new words I came across.

At this point in my life, I absolutely love it when an author sends me scrambling for a dictionary. While the tattered Webster is long gone, I now resort to the internet to find meanings and answers.  

I do this almost daily, especially when I’m reading books written by authors like Peter Matthiessen, who casually uses such words as leucogeranus, and japonensis. Discovering the meaning of such words means I’ve met my goal of learning something new for the day.

Cacophony, meanwhile, is still one of my favorite words. What is yours?Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

It’s Nice to be Got

We are all strong — and in our own way, each of us is perfectly enough, I imagine this wise old bird saying.

Aging My Way

          I am a strong woman — most of the time. Let me see someone hurt an animal or a child and I am standing tall and vocal and ready to do battle. And I was 110 percent into fighting the tough battle for equal pay for equal work when I was a working journalist.

          However, that strength didn’t extend into all areas of my life, including many instances of ignoring career and personal injustices. And I haven’t gotten much better with age. One example is that I would rather take a loss than return an unwise purchase.  

Most recently, I have let the promised trim of the two Oleander trees in the patio area of my new apartment go undone ever since I moved into the new place on August 20. Yeah, I made two half-hearted requests of the apartment manager, and even cornered one of the landscape guys – without success.

Then I started trying to trim the trees myself because I didn’t want to ask anymore. I’m not sure what this reluctance is all about, but I do know I have one granddaughter, Heidi, who takes after me. We tell her to get her sister, Lindsey, to act as her voice when something is serious. Lindsey takes no prisoners.

 And neither does my granddaughter Shanna, who also lives in my apartment complex. She recently took off from work for a few hours to corner the landscapers and demand they trim her grandmother’s trees.

The result was that I soon watched the workers through my sliding glass doors go about doing the job. They not only trimmed the trees but gave my patio area a good raking to take care of all the fallen leaves. And when they finished, they gave me a thumbs up.

I’m not exactly sure what Shanna said to them, but it certainly worked. When I thanked her, all she said was: “I got you Nana.” It’s nice to “be got.” 

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Bird Watching on the Side

A dull version of the Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, a bird that sneaks across Mexico’s border into Arizonia.

Aging My Way:

          I keep a list of all the bird species I see flying free in the wild. So far, I’ve seen 712. It’s been that way for a while, but I thought I had finally found two new ones this weekend.

As I set and partied outside to celebrate a friend’s birthday in the town of Sahuarita, a brown hummingbird suddenly caught my attention. This was after another bird flew into my sight and landed in a scenic dead tree.

I suspected this latter bird was a kite, but I wasn’t sure what species. My host Doris said someone had told her it was a Mexican bird, which made sense since we were partying in Southeast Arizonia near the border with Mexico.

I had no idea the specific species of either bird until I got home and looked in my birding field guides. I have two. My favorite is National Geographic’s Birds of North America. But I also use Sibley’s Guide to Birds, when I’m stumped or want a second opinion.

While I couldn’t say with surety what the Kite species was, because I didn’t get that close a look, I basically ruled out anything but a White-Tailed Kite, a bird I had previously seen on the Texas Gulf Coast at the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. This meant that even if my identification was spot on, it still wouldn’t count as a new bird.

I was more confident about identifying the little brown hummer. Despite its plainness, I was about 90 percent certain it was a Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, as it’s the only brown hummer that can be seen in North America, and then normally only in Southeastern Arizonia. This one was most likely a juvenile whose crown hadn’t come into its color yet, or one whose color wasn’t visible to me because I wasn’t looking through my binoculars at it. Some violet crowns, or so my field guide alluded to,  have color crowns that are duller or darker.

Anyway, I would really like to go back and have a second look at the hummer through my binoculars. I’m still kind of hesitant about adding it to my list – so, despite my high hopes my list continues to stand at 712.  

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

My Canine Companion Scamp keeps me smiling all day long.

Aging My Way

I was recently thinking about things that make my current life better. While earlier lists might have included climbing a mountain, winning a journalism award, or rafting a wild river, this one’s for the 83-year-old I am today.

Being able to walk my canine companion, Scamp — even if I have to use a rollator to do it.

Not taking anything other people do or say personally.

Writing and journaling.

Watching birds, anywhere, anytime.

Reading and listening to audible books.

Believing in myself.

Accepting that I’m not perfect.  

Learning something new every day.

Watching Survivor, Amazing Race and the Challenge on TV, and then discussing the programs with my son, D.C,

Getting enough sleep, but also occasionally having a fun night out to keep going until I drop.

Smiling.

Living independently in my own cozy apartment.

Hugging someone.

Playing computer games.

Watching my great-grandchildren grow up on Facebook.

Third Wednesdays – because that’s the day I get my Social Security check,

Laughing often and loud, especially at myself

Eating chocolate – especially with a Jack and Coke before bed.

Piddling around with my watercolors.

A surprise box from my Guardian Angel daughter-in-law.

Completing a project.

Saying no when I don’t want to do something.

Not breaking promises to myself.

Doing something I’ve never done before.

Watching sunrises and sunsets.

Completing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Entertaining and cooking for friends.

Playing Frustration with my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn.

Visits, phone calls, email and snail mail from loved ones and old friends.

Simply sitting and connecting life’s dots in my head.

Getting paid for something I’ve written.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Finger Rock — Photo taken in 2006 by Scott Tucker following a winter storm.

I was 14 years old when I saw my first mountain, and it was instant love.

I was born in Dallas, Texas, where the tallest thing for miles around was the flying red horse atop the 29-story Magnolia Petroleum Building, which at the time was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. I was probably never more than 35 miles from that horse until I was invited to take a vacation to California with my aunt and uncle, who wanted me along to babysit their 2-year-old daughter.

I still remember the exciting, albeit hot, August ride across the desert on Highway 66 in a brand new red and white Oldsmobile – with my uncle’s heavy foot on the accelerator pushing it to go 100. But it was the mountain views in Sequoia National Park that stole my heart away. I think I knew then that someday I would live in the mountains.

And I did.

For over 25 years I lived in the shadow of Northern Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, most of that time spent at the base of 9,570-foot Mount Ogden. Now I live in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, more specifically at the base of   Tucson’s 9,171-foot Mount Lemmon.

I thought about this as I looked at the mountain from my new home this morning. In the crosshairs was a landmark known as Finger Rock. If I were younger, I know I would have already hiked the trail up to it. I heave a sigh thinking this, but life moves on and so am I.

Meanwhile, although I loved the views of Mount Lemmon from my nearby third-floor walk-up apartment that I had to abandon for something a bit more accessible for an old broad, I seem to have gained as much as I lost – and I am blessed.  

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.

On Being Still

These days I go to bed with the chickens but wake with them at o-dark-hundred as well. I used to make fun of my mother for doing the same thing. Thinking back, I realize she could never sit still either. I’m proud I share her DNA. — Art by Pat Bean

Trying to Age Gracefully

As those who read my blog regularly know, I’m a big fan of Louise Penny’s Inspector Garmache. Well, I’m currently reading the 11th book in the series, The Nature of the Beast. In it, Gamache has retired to the peaceful village of Three Pines, where he is sitting on a bench mulling over a murder case in which he has been consulted, and an opportunity offered him to return to work.

As I read, I came across this sentence, which so totally describes my present situation that I wrote it down in my journal. “Garmache knew that sitting still was far more difficult, and frightening, then running around.”

After a lifetime of running around – raising five kids, working for a newspaper and chasing stories on deadline, and leading an active outdoor life of hiking, rafting, tennis, skiing and exploring the wonders of nature, here I am mostly stuck at home. I’m just now able to slowly walk my dog using a rollator – and very thankful I can do so, because for a while I couldn’t even do that.

Being still is harder on me, emotionally, than all the running around I used to do. But I’m doing my best to adjust. It’s part of my plan to age gracefully and to be thankful for all the things I can still do – and things I love to do but never had enough time to do when I was younger and in better shape than I am at 83,

I read, write, journal, draw and paint, do jigsaw and crossword puzzles, write snail-mail letters to friends, moderate a writing chat group, spend a little time on Facebook to keep up with friends and family, peruse and weep over the news, cook and do my own housework a small bit at a time, usually between chapters in books, watch birds at my feeders and in my yard, play Candy Crush, Scrabble or Spider Solitaire games, snuggle with my canine companion Scamp, visit with friends who drop by, watch sunsets with a cocktail, and occasionally stream  a TV program.

Writing all this down makes me think I’ve found my own way to continue running around. And thankful I am for finding it. Being still, I think, is not yet a part of my DNA.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days learning to age gracefully.