Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Gilman’


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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