Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Gilman’

Mrs. Polifax is quite fond of flowered hats.

“She drew herself up to her full height—it was a little difficult on a donkey—and said primly, ‘I have found that in painful situations it is a sensible idea to take each hour as it comes and not to anticipate beyond. But oh how I wish I could have a bath!’” – Words spoken by Dorothy Gilman’s fictional Emily Pollifax, a white-haired senior citizen who decided she wanted to be a spy.

A Series Quite Worth Rereading Today            

I discovered Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax books back in the 1970s, which marked some major turning points in my life. I was influenced by the character’s upbeat, adventurous and realistic attitude, and her efforts to make her life more meaningful than garden club meetings. I was, in a different way, trying to do the same.

Angela Lansbury played Mrs. Pollifax in a 1999 CBS TV Movie. And Rosalind Russell played her in a 1971 movie. Angela fit the role much better than Rosalind.

Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax was the first book in the series, written in 1966, and Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled, published in 2000, was the 14th. On discovering the books, I quickly read all that had been written at the time and eagerly awaited the next to come out.

Given that I have been a bit out of sorts with the current coronavirus and world situation, and my decision to stay isolated, I decided I would reread the Pollifax books. I finished the first of the 14 in the series at 2 a.m. this morning, and am eager to go on to the next.

Perhaps you would like to join me. Here are a few Emily Pollifax quotes so you can judge for yourself.

“Tragedies don’t interest me, tragedies and heartbreaks are all alike, what matters is how a person meets them, how they survive them.”

“It’s terribly important for everyone, at any age, to live to his full potential. Otherwise a kind of dry rot sets in, a rust, a disintegration of personality.”

“Everything is a matter of choice, and when we choose are we not gambling on the unknown and its being a wise choice? And isn’t it free choice that makes individuals of us? … I believe myself that life is quite comparable to a map … a constant choice of direction and route.”

“I have a flexible mind—I believe it’s one of the advantages of growing old. I find youth quite rigid at times.”

Dorothy Gilman

“Because lately I’ve had the feeling we rush toward something-some kind of Armageddon-set into motion long ago. There are so many people in the world, and so much destructiveness. I was astonished when I first heard that a night-blooming cereus blooms only once a year, and always at midnight. It implies such intelligence somewhere.”

Gilman was born in 1923 and died in 2012 at the age of 88. Her Pollifax series was begun at a time when women in mystery meant Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and international espionage meant young government men like Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Emily Pollifax became a spy in the 1960s’ and may be the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the CIA and her local garden club, according to Wikipedia.

Bean Pat: A tribute to Dorothy Gilman for the many, many hours of pleasure and contemplation she has given me for nearly half a century, and to the hundreds of other writers who have done the same

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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Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Polifax in the 1999 TV movie The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax. Other actors have also played this character, but Angela is how I always pictured the character when I read Dorothy Gilman’s books.Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us. – Boris Pasternak

The Write Words

One of my favorite authors back when I was trying to figure out life, which of course I still am, was Dorothy Gilman and her Mrs. Polifax series. For those of you who haven’t read any of the books, Mrs. Emily Polifax is a white-haired widow who adored hats, had a brown belt in karate and worked for the CIA as a spy.

Life”s surprises are a gift, like a butterfly that unexpectedly appears. — Art by Pat Besn.

What I liked about Gilman’s heroine was that no matter how difficult a situation she found herself in, she was always hopeful she would find a surprising way out of her difficulties.

Reading back journals, I discovered I often used the character’s dialog as quotes. The gist of the one I remember best is that life is not like setting a table where everything can be placed exactly like you want. I thought about this on reading this month’s prompt from my online writing circle, which is:  Write about a journey you’ve been on where you got sidetracked and ended up with a much more fulfilling outcome.

My second thought was: just my whole life.  

            Dreams I had of how my life would go – to quote one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings – went to hell in a handbasket. Other dreams turned out better than I could ever have imagined, even though they bumped forward on a rocky path with many detours along the way.

Looking back, I’m glad life didn’t go the way I had planned. It wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

Bean Pat:  https://lithub.com/alice-walker-on-writing-dancing-and-bursting-into-song/  I  loved this.

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, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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            “… letting life just happen without control … It’s much less painful than fighting every step of the way … and so much more delightful than trying to arrange life like a table setting, which one can never do anyway. Really, it’s quite exciting to see what will happen along next …” – Dorothy Gilman

In searching for my place in life, I found myself most happy when I was in places where Mother Nature ruled, like this marsh in Maine. -- Photo by Pat Bean

In searching for my place in life, I found myself most happy when I was in places where Mother Nature ruled, like this marsh in Maine. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Wise Words of Dorothy Gilman

            I’m rereading my journal of 1980, a year I spent trying to find out who this woman was that inhabited my body.  It wasn’t a bad year. In fact, it was a really good year after a few bad ones.

However, many of my journal posts saw me whining about not knowing what I wanted – or knowing what I wanted but couldn’t have.  I was yearning at the time for both a soul mate and to discover the place where I fit into life.

... and beneath a tree in which a bird perched and sang. -- Photo by Pat Bean

… and beneath a tree in which a bird perched and sang. — Photo by Pat Bean

I980 was also the year in which I discovered Dorothy Gilman and her Mrs. Polifax mystery series. After discovering The Unexpected Mrs Polifax, published in 1966, I quickly searched out and read The Amazing Mrs.Polifax (1970), The Elusive Mrs. Polifax (1971). A Palm for Mrs. Polifax (1973), and Mrs. Polifax on Safari (1976).

The fictional Mrs. Polifax, a widow in her 60s, was, like me, discovering herself and, also like me, having adventures while doing so. I bonded with Mrs. Polifax as if she were my lifelong friend.

On June 4, 1980, I wrote: Spent the night with Mrs. Polifax, Just the thoughts I needed. Marvelous you are Dorothy Gilman.

I discovered many Polifax/Gilman quotes scattered throughout my 1980 journal. But none has stuck with me more thoroughly than the quote about our not being able to arrange life like a table setting. I could even quote it verbatim because of how many times I thought about it when things didn’t go as planned in my own life.

This wonderful author, Dorothy Gilman, died at the age of 88 in 2012, after writing another nine Mrs. Polifax books between 1983 and 2000. I read every one almost as soon as they came out.

Mrs. Polifax changed over the years, and so did I. I now know my place and “Marvelous” it is.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Rolbos http://tinyurl.com/my4swzd The Extinct Instinct of Trust, a blog that leaves you with much to think about. At least it did me.

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