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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was 43 years old when I experienced my first white water adventure. Within the next week, I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years running rapids was my passion. The river taught me much about myself.

I was 43 years old when I experienced my first white water adventure. Within the next week, I had bought my own raft, and for the next 20 years running rapids was my passion. The river taught me much about myself.

A Long Swim

Being a writer and journal keeper, the artifacts of my life are found in words, like those that popped up yesterday when I was going through a box of photographs. Among the pictures was a faded proof of a story I wrote as a personal newspaper column back in 1988.

Who knows what is going to pop up when you're going through artifacts of your life? == Photo by Pat Bean

Who knows what is going to pop up when you’re going through artifacts of your life? == Photo by Pat Bean

While the story is about an incident that will forever be hazily embedded in my brain, the words I had written, when the details were fresh and new, brought back the memory in vivid, living color. I just love being a writer.

Here’s what I wrote over a quarter of a century ago – with a bit of judicious editing because I’m a better writer, if not a better rafter, these days.

            PIECE-OF-CAKE RAPID, SALMON, RIVER, IDAHO – I knew before it happened that it was going to happen. I was going swimming. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy swimming. But I didn’t have the slightest yen to take a dip in a fast-flowing, bubbling, chilly rapid.

            The last piece of advice given me by White Otter River guide, Randy Hess, as I stepped for the very first time into a one-person, inflatable kayak, was “Just keep it straight. These babies are steady and designed so they slice nicely through the water.”

            Somehow he forgot to say: “But don’t let the kayak get turned broadside to the rapid or it will flip.”

            Actually I already knew that. I had even been down this stretch of the Salmon River before, only in a large paddle raft with six people to keep the rubber boat pointed downstream.          

An eagle on shore spotted during one of my annual floats down the Snake River below Jackson Wyoming. -- Photo by Pat Bean

An eagle on shore spotted during one of my annual floats down the Snake River below Jackson Wyoming. — Photo by Pat Bean

   Today, however, I quickly realized that I didn’t have the hang of maneuvering my wobbly (Randy lied. It wasn’t steady) craft, or the skill to easily use the two-bladed paddle, which was also a first for me.

            I might have had a chance to overcome the learning curve if the first rapid, Piece-of-Cake, named I’m sure by some maniacal jokester, hadn’t been within sight of the launch point.

            “Stay to the left,” I heard Randy, who was nearby in his hard-body kayak, yell at me.

            I was able do that, but I didn’t have enough control to swing the raft around to meet the oncoming second wave – and so I flipped.

            “Sh-ee-it!” I uttered as I flew out of the boat just a couple of minutes after getting into it. As the water drowned my exclamation, I told myself to just go with the flow, and almost immediately I bounced off the river bottom and back up to where the air was less thick to breathe – until a mean wave reburied me beneath the water again.

            But finally I managed to get my life-jacketed, and thankfully wet-suited body above the waves, and then quickly pointed my feet downstream, so they, and not my head, would hit any rock obstacle in the way. This wasn’t my first time being dumped in fast-flowing water.

            The current, however, stramded me in a patch of tricky backwash.  Sh-ee-it! I managed to get my favorite “I’m-gonna-die” word out this time before another kayaker came up beside me.

            “Grab on,” she said. I didn’t have to be asked twice. But with my weight hanging on to her hard-shelled kayak, she couldn’t escape the backwash, and although my kayak was just on the other side of her, I couldn’t get to it.

            Finally the expert, Randy, comes in to save the day, maneuvering his kayak so I can grab hold of it. I breathe a sigh of relief, figuring I’m now in capable hands.   

            The feeling was short-lived. In a rare, slow-motion moment, Randy’s kayak flips When I realize I still have hold of the boat, and am hindering Randy’s attempts to roll up, I let go. The rapid immediately takes me to the middle of the river, shoving more water down my throat until the waves subsist and I’m floating in calm water. Exhausted now, I wait to be rescued.

            I ride in the group’s raft with the lunch supplies for a while, but then get back in that dang inflatable kayak and spend the rest of the day without mishap.

            The kayakers later congratulate me for dumping Randy, a “pretty sight” they say they had never seen before. An abashed Randy then gives me “The Salmon River Swimming Championship Award,”

            “I think the river,” he said, “was a bit high today.” And then he grins.  –30

A few years later, when the water wasn’t quite so high, I got back in another dang inflatable kayak and with a granddaughter by my side in a second inflatable kayak, stayed in the boat through Piece-of-Cake Rapid and the rest of the day’s float trip. No rewards for me this day, only a deeply felt satisfaction in my soul.          

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

  Bean Pat: A new mindset http://tinyurl.com/ovy7yh9 Ditto what this blogger wrote.

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Art and Words

 

I wish I hadn't made some of the coral so dark.

I wish I hadn’t made some of the coral so dark.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.” – Scott Adams

 Life Lessons

One of the most freeing pieces of advice I ever received was the one given to me by a Weber State University art professor.

Quick sketch of a barn

Quick sketch of a barn

“Give yourself permission to paint a bad picture,” he said, then gave us the assignment to do just that.

I absolutely hated the “bad” painting I did for the assignment. But when the professor posted all of the students’ “bad paintings” on the wall, he pointed out what he liked in each of them.  I was dumbfounded at what he liked in mine, but in reconsidering I did see a few elements of saving grace in my ugly picture.

While I never did come to like that painting, I did learn from the exercise. From that time foreword, I’ve given myself permission to paint a bad picture every time I have a blank piece of paper or canvas in front of me. It frees me enough that I can actually paint without having to worry about messing up. That’s good because I always do.

I can honestly say I’ve never painted a piece that I felt was perfect — and probably never will. It’s the same with my writing. I can always see ways, after a piece is published, where I could have made the words sing more vibrantly, or whisper more gracefully.

Perfection simply isn’t within me. But that’s OK. It’s the imperfections that make me who I am – and unique.           

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Leanne Cole Photography http://tinyurl.com/ohj4k9t Abbotsford Convent, a delightful blog for the armchair traveler.

 

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Monday’s Art and Quotes

The rooster walks with intent, wearing indifference as his charm. -- Illustration by Pat Bean

The rooster walks with intent, wearing indifference as his charm. — Illustration by Pat Bean

On Writing

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.” – Norbet Platt

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton  Chekhov

“Easy reading is damn hard writing”. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

 “I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when here was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it. – Ernest Hemingway

 “All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.      

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Wind Against Current http://tinyurl.com/k3mv8dp Fiddling along, crab style. I think these crabs look like pieces of art.

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Yesterday's art and the first piece in a new journal that I have promised myself I'm going to add a daily quick sketch.

Yesterday’s art … a scene captured on the hop. — Quick sketch by Pat Bean

            “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

            ‘If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” – Thomas Aquina

A Journey through the Mind  

Pepper taking a break on the picnic table after a hard run around the dog park. She got groomed later this day.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Pepper taking a break on the picnic table after a hard run around the dog park. She got groomed later this day. — Photo by Pat Bean

          As a young, but erratic journal keeper, I quickly realized that what I would write one day would not be the same thing I would write the next day. Not only is memory an infallible tool, life changes us every day.

No one puts this reality into luscious words better than Vita Sackville-West in my favorite writing quote:

   “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.”

While it can be confusing, irritating and even debilitating occasionally, I’m glad my mind, and hence my writing, is constantly in a state of flux. It’s a byproduct of my eagerness to learn something new each and every day, and my willingness to take my ship into unknown waters.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat:  The Return of the Modern Philosopher http://tinyurl.com/m3udejl A very large umbrella solves the problem. This blogger usually has a very upside down view of life. He makes me laugh.

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A Rainy Day in Tucson

      “Poetry is not the most important thing in life. I’d much rather lie in a hot bath reading Agatha  Christie and sucking sweets.” – Dylan Thomas

I was doing sky exercises with my watercolors, and came up with this one for a stormy day.

I was doing sky exercises with my watercolors, and came up with this one for a stormy day.

And It Captured too Much of my Attention 

It rained here in Tucson yesterday, a hard downpour that pretty much kept up a steady pace from early morning until mid-afternoon. I got drenched twice trying to walk dogs during pauses in the rain. But each time it began raining again before I could get back under a roof.

I  titled this one "After the Storm."

I titled this one “After the Storm.”

I’ve always loved rainstorms, but there seems to be something magical when rain falls in the desert. My neighbor said she watched the patterns of raindrops as they flowed on and off the leaves of the tree that shades her balcony for hours.

I also watched the rain — but only for a few minutes at a time. Even as an old broad, it’s hard for me to stay still doing nothing for long.

Instead, I found myself frequently glancing at the rain out the window that sits in front of my computer, while I tried to do a serious job of line-proofing my book, “Travels With Maggie.” It seemed like a good occupation for a rainy day.

Or maybe not.

I just reread some of what I had proofed yesterday, and found missed mistakes. Some days I don’t think there is an end in sight.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Martha died 100 years ago this month.  http://tinyurl.com/pvoaxsk Who is Martha, you ask? Check out this blog and find out.

 

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“Oh, I want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions, a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

There's noting better than a nice walk through a scenic landscape, such as this boardwalk loop at Point Pelee National Park in Canada. Some of my best ideas come to me on such walks. --  Photo by Pat Bean

There’s noting better than a nice walk through a scenic landscape, such as this boardwalk loop at Point Pelee National Park in Canada. Some of my best ideas come to me on such walks. — Photo by Pat Bean

Or Perspiration?

            I’m always being asked where I get my blogging ideas. A good answer would be everywhere.

Or how about this boardwalk trail outside of Galveston. It, too, would make for a good idea walk. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Or how about this boardwalk trail outside of Galveston. It, too, would make for a good idea walk. — Photo by Pat Bean

But I have noticed that they mostly come when I’m sitting still, perhaps drinking my morning coffee on my balcony, staring out at Mount Lemmon as the day comes to life, or when I’m soaking in my bathtub, thinking of nothing much but shaving my legs.

I also get ideas in my dreams at night – but unless I write these down immediately, they disappear before I sit down to drink that first cup of coffee.

The funny thing is that when I do sit down in front of my computer – the perspiration of writing – to put an idea into words, it’s not unusual for a slew of other ideas, usually better ones, to take over my writing fingers.

So I guess the best answer to where my ideas come from is my butt – when it sits itself down to write. I guess that’s why “Butt to Chair” is the No. 1 writing tip of all times.          

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

  Bean Pat: Zen Pencils http://tinyurl.com/mq5lqdp  Funny cartoon with great message. I loved it.

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            “I love playing. The keyboard is my journal” – Pharrell Williams

            “I think the word ‘blog’ is an ugly word. I just don’t know why people can’t use the word ‘journal.’” — Moby

Should I write about the butterflies I saw at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix for my blog or my journal? Does it matter. Does anyone care? -- Photo by Pat Bean

Should I write about the butterflies I saw at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix for my blog or my journal? Does it matter. Does anyone care? — Photo by Pat Bean

What Do You Think?

            I’m reading Dinty Moore’s book, “Crafting the Personal Essay.” It’s good. Really good! I’ve been reading a chapter every morning with my coffee – and taking lots of notes.

Mother Nature's wonders, I believe, are meant to be shared with the world. So I guess that means they belong in a blog and not a private journal. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Mother Nature’s wonders, I believe, are meant to be shared with the world. So I guess that means they belong in a blog and not a private journal. — Photo by Pat Bean

This morning’s session, however, cost me.

Dinty thinks it is important to write things readers might care about and be interested in reading; and I realized that what I had written didn’t sound interesting – even to me. Well, except for the quotes, which I do find thought-provoking.

My first draft of this blog, however, was taking too many words to say simply that. Thankfully, I have learned that the delete key is often the best editor.

As for the difference between blogging and journaling, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the audience.  My journal is for my eyes only, and my blog is for the entire world to read. And I hope they do.           

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat Are Blogs the New Journal? http://tinyurl.com/mu6lelo This was my inspiration for today’s blog, but the subject matter is one I have pondered now for over a year.

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