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   “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Fall was in full progress when I arrived in Maine, and followed me on my southward return. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Fall was in full progress when I arrived in Maine, and followed me on my southward return. — Photo by Pat Bean

Is Finished

For all of you who have stuck with me for a bit, and followed the writing journey of my book, “Travels with Maggie,” I’m delighted to inform you that it is now ready to go out to the world.

Maggie claiming the driver's seat during a stop for gas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Maggie claiming the driver’s seat during a stop for gas. — Photo by Pat Bean

The 75,000-word travel book/memoir is about a six-month journey my canine companion, Maggie, and I took in 2006. The title is inspired by John Steinbeck’s  “Travels with Charlie,” and I’ve been telling prospective agents it would sit nicely on a book shelf between his book, and Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road,” with Tim Cahill’s “Road Fever” nearby, but that its uniqueness lies in the fact that it was written by an old-broad, wandering-wonderer.

I’m currently in the process of looking at ways to get it published as an e-book, and getting a cover designed for it. Next will come a printed book – I’m hoping.

The journey began in Camden, Arkansas, where my youngest daughter lived at the time, and ended in Rowlett, Texas, in time for Thanksgiving dinner at my oldest daughter’s home. It was a trip of 7,000 miles that took me to Maine and Acadia National Park that wriggled its way through 23 states and Canada.

Any advice those of you who have self-published a book is welcome. Especially helpful would be experiences any of my readers have had with Vook or Bookbaby.

Meanwhile, this is my way of yelling from the mountain top that the third rewrite of “Travels with Maggie” is now behind me.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Two short videos. Footloose and Kevin Bacon fans will enjoy this one, even if they saw it on the Jimmy Fallon show: http://tinyurl.com/oldwfxj And old broads and anyone who loves life will enjoy this one. I smiled all the way through it. http://tinyurl.com/qz8btq6

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Lake Powell, the setting for Nevada Barr's "The Rope," and one of my favorite places. -- Photo by Pat Bean.

Lake Powell, the setting for Nevada Barr’s “The Rope,” and one of my favorite places. — Photo by Pat Bean.

            “Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” – R. I. Fitzhenry

“The Rope”

I love Nevada Barr’s books. Not only is she a good writer, but I always learn something new about the places I love, this country’s wild lands  and our national parks.

Lone Rock at Lake Powell: I camped in sight of this rock on a Lake Powell beach the first night of my RV travels back in 20004. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Lone Rock at Lake Powell: I camped in sight of this rock on a Lake Powell beach the first night of my RV travels back in 20004. — Photo by Pat Bean

Her books have taken me from Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains to the South’s Natchez Trace, and from Yosemite’s high country to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty – and lots of other places in between.

But Nevada’s writing has a dark side to it. You can expect, at least somewhere in the book, to find her leading lady  in a deadly place that leaves her body ravished to the near point of death. The scenes fit her fictional character, Anna Pigeon, who is on the opposite side of the planet from Janet Evanovich’s  fun-loving Stephanie Plum.

While Stephanie’s biggest nemesis is a mother who wants her to settle down and get married and a grandma who gets her kicks at funerals, Anna fights against lost love, alcoholism and depression.

I can read Janet’s books in a day, but Nevada’s get stretched out over many days because I have to stop for a while so I won’t get too caught up in the tension.

Take last night for example, when I settled down with an audible version of Nevada’s “The Rope,” a flashback novel that explains Anna’s National Park Service career beginnings. It starts off very dark. And when I put the book down and fell asleep, I also fell into a nightmare – which thankfully I awoke from before it got too scary.

Wahweap Marina at Lake Powell. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Wahweap Marina at Lake Powell. — Photo by Pat Bean

I admonished myself to stop it, then went back to sleep and had a crazy dream in which I was treated royally at a funky party by a gray-haired, but handsome, Arabian man.  It was definitely more inspired by Stephanie than Anna.

This morning, I listened to a bit more of  “The Rope,” because of course I have to know how Anna gets out of her hole – and because I love reading about Lake Powell, the setting for the book. I’ll eventually finish the book, but I doubt I will take it to bed with me again.

My nighttime mystery reading from now on will be cozies, where there’s more mystery than blood. Even Anna, in her thoughts about her seemingly inescapable situation in the opening of “The Rope,” decided she was living a Stephen King novel.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Mystery Fanfare http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/ This is a good blog to follow if you like mystery books.

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  “Without mysteries, life would be dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?”  — Charles de Lint

Can you identify this bird. Or will it remain a mystery.

Can you identify this bird? Or will it remain a mystery?

Which Is Why I Enjoy Bird Watching

“My detective story begins brightly, with a fat lady found dead in her bath with nothing on but her pince-nez. Now why did she wear a pince-nez in her bath? If you can guess, you will be in a position to lay hands upon the murderer, but he’s a very cool and cunning fellow…” – wrote Dorothy Sayers as she plotted her first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery in the early 1920s.

Cover of Are Women Human?, which contains two of Sayers' feminist essays. -- Wikimedia

Cover of Are Women Human?, which contains two of Sayers’ feminist essays. — Wikimedia

When the book, “Whose Body” came out in 1923, the naked victim was male, but the pince-nez clue was still there. Many Lord Peter Wimsey books followed. I think I’ve read them all.

Along with writing the Wimsey mysteries, which like Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple books, continue to be popular today, Sayers was a poet, playwright and advertising writer.

One of the latter efforts included a toucan jingle for Guinness Beer: “If he can say as you can. Guinness is good for you. How grand to be a Toucan. Just think what Toucan do?”

This same kind of humor continues in the Wimsey mysteries, which is consistent with the character’s name-play on the word whimsy.

DVDs of some of the Lord Wimsey films I checked out of the library get the credit for this blog idea.

DVDs of some of the Lord Wimsey films I checked out of the library get the credit for this blog idea.

The joy of reading Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries for me is that it is all about figuring out whodunit before the killer is revealed.

It’s sort of the same with bird watching. You have to read all the clues – profile, coloring, beak size, and a jillion other field marks – if you want to make an identification before the bird flies away.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: She’s a Maineaic  http://tinyurl.com/psgwdqx Einstein said what about anger?

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”  Hunter S. Thompson

The first time I  rafted down the Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado River entrance to the mightier Colorado River was red and thick with mud from recent upstream rains. The second time it was crystal clean, and we floated in its current. I'm the middle blonde, and I was 60 when the photograph was taken.

The first time I rafted down the Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado River entrance to the mightier Colorado River was red and thick with mud from recent upstream rains. The second time it was crystal clean, and we floated in its current. I’m the middle blonde, and I was 60 when the photograph was taken.

A fantastic read.

A fantastic read.

 

Bookish Wednesday

A fairy tale begins with “Once upon a time.” And a river story with “No shit! There I was,” said outspoken journalist Linda Ellerbee in her essay about rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

And there she was — on an adventure one summer taken by 14 other fantastic female writers. The 15 women ranged in age, and in lifestyles that went from city women who had never peed outdoors to athletic women who considered nature their true homes. They each wrote about the Grand Canyon from their own perspective, and about how the fickle river and the high rock walls affected and changed them.

Being a female writer who has been on this same adventure twice in my life – the last time as a birthday present to myself when I turned 60 – my soul triumphed with joy when I came across their book, “Writing Down the River (1998, Northland Publishing, photographed and produced by Kathleen Jo Ryan) in the public library.

Of course I checked it out. Reading the book these past few days has brought back many memories of 32 days, 16 for each trip, that rank high on my list of the best days of my life.

Among my own writings about my Grand Canyon trip was one about the canyon wren, which often serenaded us during our early mornings on the river.

Among my own writings about my Grand Canyon trip was a bird column about the canyon wren, which often serenaded us during our early mornings on the river.

The first time I went down the river, I paddled myself almost the entire 225 miles in a small raft. I came away from the experience a whole person, accepting both my strengths and my weaknesses.

The second time I let the boatman (she was female but she was still called a boatman) oar me down the river, an admission that time had come for me to slow down a bit and take more time to smell the flowers and watch the birds – but also that my adventuring days were still far from over.

I highly recommend this trip for all women who are at turning points in their lives – and if you can’t go, at least read the book. The words and photographs can’t help but touch your heart and make you stronger.  

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

  Bean/s Pat: Where Have All the Flowers Gone  http://tinyurl.com/l89g62e In honor of Pete Seeger and my generation of flower-child music.

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Yesterday's use of paper included adding a kestrel painting to my sketchbook, writing down dates to remember in my diary calendar, which is full of paintings and quotes, and writing in my to-do journal, which includes a hodgepodge of notes and ideas to myself. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Yesterday’s use of paper included adding a kestrel painting to my sketchbook, writing down dates to remember in my diary calendar, which is full of paintings and quotes, and writing in my to-do journal, which includes a hodgepodge of notes and ideas to myself. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with meaning.” – Maya Angelou

I’m So Sorry My Beloved Trees

            I love paper, crisp new pages in a book, cold pressed and textured artist sheets, fanciful stationary, designer pages for my scrapbooking and even the thick block of white for my printer.

But I especially love the blank pages that fill new journals, even more so when their artistic creators have filled bits and pieces of the pages with fairies, flowers, dragons or animal images, and even more when they have left words behind to tickle my little gray cells.

Like these words, which I came across yesterday:  “Let’s talk about mountains. You start climbing one, you toil, you sweat, you finally reach the top, and what do you get? Well, along with a sense of accomplishment, of peace, of a job well done, along with the satisfaction of doing what you set out to do … you get a great view of the next mountain. Looming, Challenging, Calling your name.”  These words were left me behind to ponder from the journal creators, Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers –  And ponder I did.

I wonder if the spirits of trees like this beauty in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas are infused into the paper I touch and use daily.

I wonder if the spirits of trees, like this beauty in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, are infused into the paper I touch and use daily.

These days, I usually have several journals going at once, the most used being a daily journal in which I write to-do lists (Things I want to keep from this journal get rewritten into my computer journal, which I began several years ago to preserve my writing fingers from cramping),  and  a  journal that I keep beside me when I read, and use to write down quotes and a mishmash of thoughts and ideas.

Even though I love computer journaling, which these days includes this blog, I can’t imagine a day without putting my hands on real paper. It’s an oxymoron for me, because I also love trees. Sometimes I wonder about the origin of the paper I write on, and almost feel the trees talking to me. I hope they forgive me.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: The Blood-Red Pencil http://tinyurl.com/lm2k2pg This is for all the writers who have procrastinated until the deadline monster is close enough to bite off our noses.

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The Palo Verde tree and Mission Cactus growing in Tucson's Tono Chul Park have made a connection. Without the support of the tree, the cactus could never have grown so large, while the large pads of the cactus help capture rain water that gives the tree extra moisture. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The Palo Verde tree and Mission Cactus growing in Tucson’s Tono Chul Park have made a connection. Without the support of the tree, the cactus could never have grown so large, while the large pads of the cactus help capture rain water that gives the tree extra moisture. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “When you feel a connection, a gut connection, a heart connection, it’s a very special thing.” Alfre Woodard

Looking in all the Right Places

            There is something special, as Alfre said, about making a connection. She was talking about that love/lust thing, which thankfully I’ve experienced a few times in my life. While these have all bloomed and faded, they’ve left behind memories, both good, and bad, that put under the microscope help me define who I am.

One tree, or two trees? Either way, there is a connection between them. I do love trees. -- Photo by Pat Bean

One tree, or two trees? Either way, there is a connection between them. I do love trees. — Photo by Pat Bean

Now, in my seventh decade, I find connections that define who I am in different ways. Mostly they come through travel, books and family relationships, the latter of which, when I think hard enough about them, leave me understanding that I was at times better than I gave myself credit for, but also sometimes not as good as I thought I was.

It’s a complicated thing, and sometimes I simply decide to give up thinking about whether I was a good, strong mother, or a weak, spineless one. .

It’s much more rewarding and fascinating to come across things in my travels that connect to my life, like a Chinaberry tree that reminded me of the many hours I spent up in one in  my grandmother’s back yard – until the day I discovered  a rattlesnake sunning on the rock I used to boost myself up into the branches. The snake scurried away as fast as I did. It was probably as afraid of me as I was of it, but I never climbed that tree again.

The perfect setting for making a connection with another human, I thought when I saw these chairs sitting in a Flagstaff, Arizona, RV park.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

The perfect setting for making a connection with another human, I thought when I saw these chairs sitting in a Flagstaff, Arizona, RV park. — Photo by Pat Bean

All this came back to as I watched a white-breasted nuthatch in a Chinaberry tree growing next to where I was camping in my RV, Gypsy Lee. Time, I realized, had taught me to fear the snake when it was where I would place my foot, but not to fear it when it wasn’t there. It was a well-learned lesson that gave me many years of freedom in the outdoors and the courage to face the unknown unafraid.

Books, meanwhile, let me know that I’m not alone in my odd ways of thinking. I delight when I come across a person in a memoir, or a character in a novel, who sees the world as I do, which is through rose-colored glasses despite accepting the reality that the world is chaotic and often unfair.

These are the kinds of connections I never had time to make when I was younger. I was too busy simply living life. But suddenly I find them fascinating. These connections to my life happen often these days, and they enrich my days. So I have come to search for them – in all the right places.

Bean’s Pat: The Gift of Time http://tinyurl.com/lskfbh4 Tosty Mae makes me laugh. And I loved this blog about unwelcome “connections.”

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Wherever I traveled, books were always part of the journey. And this lake in Illinois' Lincoln Trail State Park is just one of many I've sat beside while reading. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Wherever I traveled, books were always part of the journey. And this lake in Illinois’ Lincoln Trail State Park is just one of many I’ve sat beside while reading. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Travel is like love: It cracks you open, and so pushes you over all the walls and low horizons that habits and defensiveness set up.” – Pico Iyer

Finding Buried Treasure

The above quote begins essayist Pico Iyer’s foreword in the book “Wanderlust: Real Life Tales of Adventure and Romance.”

Just find me a bench, like this one that sits in Amherstburg, Ontario, beside an Erie River harbor and a book, and I can be happy for hours. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Just find me a bench, like this one that sits in Amherstburg, Ontario, beside an Erie River harbor, and a book, and I can be happy for hours. — Photo by Pat Bean

I recently reclaimed this book of travel essays, unread except for the foreword, from one of the dozen or so bins of stuff I couldn’t part with when I began a life on the road in 2004. Finding it again – with its many intriguing chapter titles such as “On the Amazon,” “Naxos Nights,” “I Lost it at Club Med,”  “Bewitched on Bali” and “Sleeping with Elephants,” was like coming across buried treasure.

A travel book is always one of the books I’m reading at any given time, along with a mystery, a fantasy and a nature book (more and more these days on my Kindle); and I always have dozens of backups – I guess you could say books are my security blanket.

As I renewed my acquaintance with this book of essays called “Wanderlust,” which I acquired before spending nine years living full-time in a small RV, I saw that I had highlighted quite a few of Pico’s travel quotes in its foreword, which probably coincided with my frame of mind with freedom of the road loaming ahead.

Perhaps they will mean something to you, too.

  “…home is something portable that we carry around with us”

            “…’wander’ has little to do with crossing borders and getting stamps in one’s passport, and everything to do with stretching the boundaries of one’s perspective and being constantly drawn to challenge. The person susceptible to wanderlust is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.”

            “We travel, then, in search of both self and anonymity … and people cannot put a name or tag to us.”  

            “A man (or woman) never goes so far as when he doesn’t know where he is going.”

            “Many of us travel not in search of answers but in search of better questions.”

That last was certainly true of my travels. I found few answers but hundreds of questions.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Autumn Path http://tinyurl.com/mt4uedk I chose this blog today because it made me want to get out and take a walk – and moving is a good thing to help insure this old broad’s ability to continue traveling.

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Bookish Wednesday

            “A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.” Caroline Gordon

The dark mirror in the book of the same name is a dark lake. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The dark mirror in the book of the same name is a dark lake. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

Yup! I may be an old broad, but I still haven’t lost my ability to stay awake when I’m in the middle of a good book.

And the woods and rocks of the landscape are integral to the story. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And the woods and rocks of the landscape are integral to the story. — Photo by Pat Bean

But I must admit that it’s been a long time since I stayed awake reading – actually I was listening to an audible book – until 4:53 a.m. That was the time on the clock in my kitchen – I don’t have one in the bedroom – when I finally looked.

I had known it was late, but not that late.

The book was “The Dark Mirror: Bridei Trilogy, Book One,” by Juliet Marillier.

I  knew it was getting late last night, and I kept saying I was going to put the book down as soon as I found out what was happening next, but by the time I did that, there was something else going on that kept me reading. And so it went all through the night.

“The Dark Mirror” was the first Juliet Marillier book I’ve read. I was delighted to know she’s published many more.  This first, published in 2004, is an epic fantasy with tangled plots, characters with depth and good writing.

I just downloaded the second audible book in the trilogy onto my Kindle. It is 23 hours long. Let’s hope it keeps me as intrigued about what’s going to happen next as book one.

I predict many more sleepless nights ahead of me.

“O frabjous  day! Callooh! Callay!” – and who knows what this is from?

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: The Blood-Red Pencil http://tinyurl.com/lbxm4nv The woman, who is proofing and editing by book, “Travels with Maggie,” and I differ over the use of commas, which is probably why I enjoyed this blog so much.   Perhaps my writer-readers will enjoy it, too

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“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” – Richard Wright

            “It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows:  he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.” — Vita Sackville-West

This is the view of the Catalina Mountains from my third-floor bedroom balcony. The sliver of rock between the two larger humps is called finger rock. I've adopted it as a finger pointing at me, asking: "So have you met your writing goal today."  -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is the view of the Catalina Mountains from my third-floor bedroom balcony. The sliver of rock between the two larger humps is called finger rock. I’ve adopted it as a finger pointing at me, asking: “So have you met your writing goal today?” — Photo by Pat Bean

Is it Good Enough?

            I’ve been a writer for half a century, although I didn’t call myself one for many years. It seems to be a failing with writers. Many of us think that unless we’ve written a best-selling book, we’re just a piddler of words.

I recently met such a person, a retired history professor who read a chapter of his book in progress. He started it by saying “I’m not a writer.” But he was. His words were richer and more readable than those of many a published author. I later told him he was a writer, and should call himself just that

The place where I spend many hours a week. Sometimes I simply open the shutters and gaze out the windows, wondering. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The place where I spend many hours a week. Sometimes I simply open the shutters and gaze out the windows, wondering. — Photo by Pat Bean

Yet, even as I accept that my book, “Travels with Maggie”  – which  is undergoing a final editing — contains some of my best work,  this Monday morning I found  myself asking: “Is it good enough” – good enough to throw out to the public and risk it not being good enough?

Perhaps I’m still thinking about the words contained in a blog I read this past week: “The fine line between creativity and crap.”

Why do writers have such a hard time admitting they are writers when asked their occupations?  What’s the proper usage of passed and past? Do I write my book in first or third person? Will what I write offend a loved one? What will someone think if they read my journals and learn my true feelings? Why can’t I find an agent for my book, is it not good enough?

The questions are endless, and writers seem to have too many of them rattling around in their heads, like a poisonous snake coiled and ready to kill their ability to write. Some call it writer’s block.

I’m learning to call it simply wondering.

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Lime Bird Writers http://tinyurl.com/nv7mrs6  One of the writing blogs I follow regularly. This day’s  blog offers some market opportunities.

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Just a Reminder

             “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C. S. Lewis

Some say the Mourne Mountains  in Ireland were Lewis' inspiration for the land of Narnia.  -- Wikipedia photo

Some say the Mourne Mountains in Ireland were Lewis’ inspiration for the land of Narnia. — Wikipedia photo

The Chronicles of Narnia

            One of the nice things about growing older is the opportunity to go back and reread the books that you loved reading as a child. I recently did that with the “Chronicles of Narnia.”

What fun!

And this is how film makers pictures it in one of the Narnia movies.

And this is how film makers pictured it in one of the Narnia movies.

As a child, I read for the love of the adventure, not being able to turn the pages fast enough to satisfy my need to know what happens next. I still do that. But I also sometimes take time to look for deeper meanings.

It was easy to find them in Lewis’ Narnia, which he wrote about in seven fantasy novels for young people. The books sold over 100 million copies, and are now being made into movies that  have hit it big at the box office.

I guess I’m not the only one enchanted by Lewis’ imaginative mind and words.

More C.S. Lewis

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to earn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

            “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

            “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

            “We are what we believe we are.”

            “Reason is the natura order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Being Present http://tinyurl.com/pxzl5nk Something worth remembering.

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