Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Too Many to Count

If you saw a Bald Eagle when it was only two years old, you would see a ratty-looing bird with no white head. It takes these birds of prey four years to gain their magnificence. If all goes as expected, it takes many more years for humans to become their best selves, I believe. — Sketch by Pat Bean

What am I now that I was then is a line from Delmore Schwartz’s poem, “Calmly We Now Walk Through This April’s Day.”  The words sent my brain working overtime to answer the question.

I am not the same person I was over half a life ago, so much so I tell friends today they wouldn’t have liked me back then, when I was insecure, took things too personally, tried too hard to please everyone, cried too much, was searching for love while ignoring the love I had all around me, and thought of myself as two Pat Beans, one dull and following all the rules while the second one was learning to color outside the lines.

When I did the latter, I would say to myself, often aloud, Pat Bean doesn’t do that. It took a 16-day rafting trip, when I was in my 50s, on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon where nothing that was important in the outside world mattered, for the two Pat Beans to merge.

The one Pat Bean that stepped off the raft at the end of the adventure was both a stronger and a weaker person. She, at least I like to think, was a more likeable person because she was comfortable with her faults, didn’t have to prove she was perfect, and finally bold enough to accept and use her strengths.

But even that Pat Bean is not the same today, or even the day after. It seems each action, each book read, each new thought, each new experience, whether good or bad, changes me. I think that’s how life is supposed to be.

What do you think?

Bean Pat: You can read or listen to Delmore Schwartz’s poem here. https://www.poetryoutloud.org/poem/calmly-we-walk-through-this-aprils-day/

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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“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” — Robert Frost 

Chillon Caste at sunset.

Two Poems from Childhood

When I was quite young, about 10 as I best recall, I began reading a poem that I came across in one of the books in my late grandfather’s collection, and which I remember clearly to this day. My grandfather had died when I was about three years old. I don’t remember him, but I evidently inherited his love of reading, and also, according to my mother, his wanderlust.

After his death, his books were stored in an upright chest with a door — and forgotten. When I found them, it was like having dug up the buried treasure Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about in Treasure Island, the first of my grandfather’s books I read.

His book stash, mostly cheap book club copies of the classics that were already beginning to disintegrate when I discovered them, included the entire works of such authors as Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, James Fennimore Cooper, and Jack London.

Poppies — By Pat Bean

I read them all. The poem that fascinated me, however, was in a literature book that I later learned had belonged to my mother. It seems she had failed a high school English class and had to purchase the text book and take the course over.

The poem was titled The Prisoner of Chillon, written by Lord Byron in 1816. It was a ghastly long narrative, but I eventually memorized it, as determined to accomplish the achievement as today’s youth are to achieve the highest level in some video game or another.

I was fascinated by the way the words went together, just as I had been by a shorter poem that started off my memorization goals. I found it in the same literature book, and although I didn’t understand its true meaning, I loved the way the words rolled off my tongue. While I’ve long forgotten the exact words of The Prisoner of Chillon, I can still recall from memory John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.

“In Flanders Field the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; And in the sky;

The larks, still bravely singing, fly.

Scarce heard beneath the guns below…”

I wouldn’t know I would want to become a writer for another 15 years. And even then, I thought such a lofty goal was not for the likes of a high school dropout like me. Now, as I approach my eighth decade on this planet, I wonder how much McCrae’s simply words sent me off in a direction that has given me joy, sustained me through bad times, and has satisfied my love of learning, both for the things I learned in order to write about them, and two in my unending pursuit to learn how to be a better writer. The two are unending tasks that will fill my days with purpose until the hour my hands can no longer hold a pen and my fingers have not the strength to press a computer’s keyboard.

While I’ve long forgotten the exact wordage of Lord Byron’s Prisoner of Chillon, its message has long intrigued and influenced me. The poem is about a prisoner who became so used to his chains that he misses them when he is finally freed. A simple plot, if one can call it that, but the wording seems like magic to my ears and mind.

I’ve thought about the poem’s premise often, ever since my 10-year-old eyes first went through the narrative line by line. While I’ve had no physical chains to restrain me in my own life, I’ve recognized that there are many ways to imprison oneself: Refusal to change, always playing life safe, not continuing to adapt with the circumstances, and not accepting responsibility for one’s own life.

I’ve dallied with all these, but then I remember, and grieve for The Prisoner of Chillon. These words of Byron, which come toward the last of his poem, are ones still stuck in my head:

And all my bonds aside were cast,

These heavy walls to me had grown

A hermitage – and all my own!

And half I felt as they were come

To tear me from a second home

With spiders I had friendship made

And watch’d them in their sullen trade.

Had seen the mice by moonlight play,

And why should I feel less than they?

We were all inmates of one place.

And I, the monarch of each race,

Had power to kill – yet strange to tell!

In quiet we had learn’d to dwell’

My very chains and I grew friends

So much a long communion tends

To make us what we are – even I

Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.

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 “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination. – Don Williams.


The yellow winding road warning sign was no joke. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

For two days now, I’ve been traveling south on Highway 395 in Oregon. It’s an awesome road, full of twisty turns, steep canyons, grazing cattle, grassy meadows and flowing water.

I began my journey in Pendleton, where cowboys and Indians still roam, and on the first day I made it to the beautiful Clyde Holliday Park just outside John Day, where quail and deer still play. The second day found me in Lakeview, south of Lake Albert and just north of the California border..

The town of John Day is named for the John Day River, which was named for a Virginian who accompanied the Astor Expedition that followed the footsteps made by the earlier Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clyde Holliday is a successful logging entrepreneur in the area.


The roadsides occasionally hinted of autumn ahead. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The first day on the road took me through Battle Mountain State Park, and gave me a history lesson about the Bannock War. The park is the site of the last major fight the Bannock Indians fought against the encroachment of white settlers.

The highway north of John Day, while steep and winding, was mostly broad and open. The canyon south of John Day was steeper and narrower and often lined with trees. Except for an occasional logging truck, I was usually the only vehicle on the road.

Forks of the John Day River followed me both days. As I drove yesterday I composed a poem in my head. I seldom write poetry, but when I do, I call it soul words, which is my way of excusing my murder of poetic forms.

I hope you will, too.

Time Well Spent

Take me up to the mountain top

Up where the eagle and red-tailed hawk soar

Let me look out on a panoramic vista

Of meadows filled with golden grasses,

And clumps of frosty sagebrush

And patches of yellow wild blossoms

And here and there a tinge of red

That speaks of summer’s end.

Let me delight watching conifer leaves twinkle in the wind

And be amazed at how the stalky evergreens

March their way in jumbled rows up rocky cliffs

Let me linger a bit here on the high reach

Breathing in the fresh sky-scrubbed air

Scented with pungent sage and pine needles

Then let me slowly travel down canyon

Accompanied by the tinkling laughter of water

As it joyfully bubbles over riverbed rocks

Heeding the unwavering  call of gravity

Thankfully my life has seen such days as this

Unfettered by the world’s chaotic-ness

And doubly thankful again this precious day

That I’ve added yet another few peaceful hours 

To my piggy bank of memories.

– Pat Bean

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