Hem and Haw

“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”  —  Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I hemmed and hawed about continuing on the trail when I saw this baby guarding it. Wisely I reversed my direction. — Photo by Pat Bean

Huh and Um

I have this idea list of blog topics. Every time something pops into my mind that intrigues me, I add it to the list, which by now is several pages long.

This morning, sitting in front of a blank page on my computer screen with a mind that seemed to have nothing to say, I got out the list. As I skimmed through it, I came to the words hem and haw. I had no idea where this idea came from. It must have been on my list a long time.

Not sure where it would lead me, but I decided to give it a shot.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hem is an interjectional utterance like a slight half cough, used to attract attention, the same sound depicted by the interjection “ahem. The verb “to hem” dates to the 15th century. “Haw,” which dates back to the 1600s, is another case of a word imitating a sound, in this case “as an expression of hesitation.

The dictionary went on to note that today we are more likely to say “uh,” “huh,” or “um” when faced with a sudden decision, but the feeling is the same.

Briefly, that’s it, and now you know as much as I do about hemming and hawing, which evidently is what I was doing trying to come up with a blog topic.

Or perhaps you know more. If so, this writer who loves words and is always curious as a cat, would like to know, too.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Santa Clause and Bruce Springsteen This should put you in the mood for Christmas. It did me.  https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/13/christmas-alphabet-s-for/

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com



A Morning Hoo

A pair of juvenile great horned owls from two years ago sitting n top of one of my apartment complex’s roof. — Photo by Pat Bean

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” — Dalai Lama

Great Horned Owls

It’s still dark when I walk Pepper at 6 a.m. this time of year. Sometimes I try to sleep in, but my beautiful canine companion will have none of that, and so it’s 6:15 when we take our walk – but it’s still dark then, too.

Great owned owl in all its glory. — Wikimedia photo

It’s quiet, too, Mostly. There’s the one guy who walks his cat on a leash the same time I walk Pepper, a couple of people leaving for work, and a clanging gate when one of them forgets to close the gate quietly when they exit.

But it’s silent and peaceful enough that I can enjoy the hoo-ing calls of our resident great horned owls. It’s an eerie sound coming from above, soft and full of nature’s wild things.  Here in the middle of Tucson, I often go to sleep with the yipping of coyotes, and then, more mornings than not, my first greeting of the day is that soft hoo, hoo, hoo from my owl friends.

On a morning like this, which is exactly how I welcomed this day, I can forget for a few minutes that all is not right with the world. And that’s a good thing, don’t you think?

            Bean Pat: A snowy owl https://tinyurl.com/y7pssdek Just another owl tidbit.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

Blue Feet – Red Feet

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” – Mary Oliver

Red-foted booby — Wikimedia photo

And Yellow Feet, Too

            Nothing makes me feel more content than being out in nature. I want to be able to put a name to every wildflower, every tree, every bug, every rock formation and since living in the desert, every cactus that sits along the paths I walk or drive. Did you know there are over 1,500 species of cacti? Finally, I settled on learning to identify and name birds. North America only has about a 1,000 of them. Of course, that’s only about a tenth of the species world-wide.

A dancing blue-footed booby. — Wikimedia photo

I’ve managed, since 1999, which includes nine years of full-time travel across this country, to see a bit over half of them. And a bit of travel to distant lands has added about 200 more to my life list of birds.

The boobies, which are among the latter, are some of my favorite birds. And seeing them for the first time was magical.

The red-footed beauties came first. There were hundreds of them, and I gasped in delight as I watched them, from a walkway above a sheer cliff, circling in flight as they headed out to fish in the Pacific Ocean.

I was at a bird sanctuary on Rota Island, just 35 miles north of Guam, where I was visiting my daughter, Trish. She had treated me to a flight to the island after I had been so disappointed about the lack of birds on Guam. The birds there had been decimated by the brown tree snake, a non-native invader. On Rota, where there were none of these nasty snakes, birds were everywhere.

From my high perch, and lower down on the cliff than the red-footed nests, I spied a few brown boobies, whose feet are yellow. It was a grand day to remember.

Just as grand was the day I danced with a blue-footed booby, my favorite of the three boobies.

I saw hundreds of these birds when I cruised the Galapagos Islands in a 16-passenger catamaran. We had along an official guide, which let us visit places where larger groups were not allowed. It was a birder’s paradise, as here the birds had never experienced human predation, and so weren’t afraid of us.

A hooded mockingbird landed on my shoe one day.  And on another I was kissed by a baby seal as I stepped off a small raft and onto the island, The touch made me feel special, unlike the next lady onto the island. That same small seal decided to see if she tasted good.

The rule for us humans was we couldn’t touch the animals, but there was no rule about them touching us.

My dance with the blue-footed booby happened when I came across the large bird blocking my way along a narrow path. He lifted one-foot and then the other to show off his blue feet, which how the male boobies court females. I lifted one foot and then the other in response. We both repeated the motion several times until our guide came around the corner. Stop teasing the booby,” he said.

I skirted around the bird, and when I looked back he lifted one foot , and then the other and our eyes locked. I imagined that he was saying, “Thanks for the Dance.

Bean Pat: A Woman of Worth  https://tinyurl.com/y825f58s   Telling HerStories: The Broad View is sponsored by Story Circle Network, which is an organization that supports female writers. I’m a member and it is the best support I’ve ever had as a writer.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson.

Who wouldn’t be thankful for butterflies? — Photo by Pat Bean

  1. To have survived another year.
  2. That my five children, 15 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren and their families survived the year, too.
  3. The little third-floor walk-up nest I’ve created for myself here in the Catalina Foothills of Tucson.
  4. My canine companion, Pepper, who daily brings me joy — and exercise as she requires four or five daily walks.
  5. That my book, Travels with Maggie, is finally out to the world. Now if they will just buy it.
  6. Story Circle Network, whose members are there daily to support my writing efforts, and cheer me when I’m sluggish.
  7. That I’m a writer, and can capture life as it flies past on the wings of a butterfly, and enjoy life twice over.
  8. My nightly hot bath, which I believe is the most luxurious thing in the world.
  9. Advil.
  10. Friends, far and near, old and new. My life would be much poorer without them.
  11. Kind, caring, and loving people whose actions bring sunshine to a world that too often these days is filled with cruelty.
  12. The beauty of the Sonoran Desert, which became my home in 2013.
  13. My journals, which are filled with memories of past days, so many of which I would have forgotten without them.
  14. Rainbows. They bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart.
  15. Caramel/sea salt ice cream, chocolate, too, of course.
  16. Comfortable clothing and soft blankets. Old skin, I’ve discovered is more tender than young skin.
  17. That I love to cook, and like what I cook, because eating out is too expensive for my budget.
  18. That my two sons and their spouses, children and grandchildren, who live on the Texas Gulf Coast and were in the path of Hurricane Harvey, all escaped harm and property damage, although some of them had to evacuate because of rising flood waters.
  19. Gold and orange sunrises and red and purple sunsets, and all their other colors, too.
  20. The surprises my guardian angel daughter-in-law, Cindi, is always sending me in the mail.
  21. Books.
  22. National parks, state parks, national forests, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges that protect the land and its critter inhabitants.
  23. That I still have a zest for life.
  24. Cayenne, my small car that provides me the freedom of the road when my feet itch and my wanderlust can’t be contained, even if it’s just for a day’s outing to the top of Mount Lemmon, whose peaks are visible from my bedroom balcony.
  25. Readers of this blog, and for those who have bought and read my book, Travels with Maggie.
  26. The freshly laundered smell of the desert after a rain storm.
  27. All the birds I’ve seen, and all the birds I hope to see. Bird watching has brought a joy to my life.
  28. Ponds moisturizer, which I’ve used all my life.
  29. The cup of good coffee laced with half and half that begins my days.
  30. Saguaro cactus blossoms.
  31. My monthly Social Security check.
  32. A new, blank journal and a good pen.
  33. The internet that lets me quickly me find answers to my unending questions.
  34. Sherry Wachter, who formatted Travels with Maggie, and without whose help my book may never have been published.
  35. Comfortable shoes.
  36. Butterflies.
  37. The New York Times, whose web pages I read with my morning coffee.
  38. Smucker’s sweet orange marmalade.
  39. My appreciation of art.
  40. Hugs.
  41. Stormy days with a good book in hand.
  42. Texas bluebonnets.
  43. The golden color of aspen leaves in the fall.
  44. Helen Reddy singing “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.”
  45. Smiles.
  46. A stiff Jack and Coke with a friend and good conversation.
  47. A good pair of eyeglasses
  48. Backroads and scenic byways.
  49. Rollercoasters
  50. Scented candles.
  51. Laughter.
  52. A good massage.
  53. A good haircut.
  54. That I come from strong female stock.
  55. The return of wolves to Yellowstone, and that I got to see one.
  56. My white-water rafting days that included two trips down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon.
  57. That Arizona does not do daylight savings time.
  58. Audible books.
  59. Board games with friends.
  60. People who pick up their dog’s poop, and who don’t litter.
  61. Still having more things that I want to do every day than I can possibly do.
  62. Polite drivers.
  63. Alone time to contemplate my navel.
  64. Roseate spoonbills, and the lovely pink reflection they create when standing in shallow water.
  65. Short, scenic hiking trails.
  66. Waterfalls.
  67. The verdins, hummingbirds, woodpeckers and bats that feed from my balcony nectar feeder.
  68. Children who worry about their mom, even if their worrying annoys me.
  69. Discovering a new author that I like, and who has a backlog of books I haven’t yet read.
  70. The color red.
  71. My new red tea kettle
  72. Potatoes slow-cooked in a skillet with onions and bacon for breakfast.
  73. Air conditioning that makes living in the desert possible.
  74. The pair of great-horned owls that live and raise babies in my large apartment complex.
  75. Trees: Live oaks, palo verde, cottonwoods, birch, aspen and all the other noble species that provide us with fresh oxygen.
  76. My old body, which has given me 78 good years and still counting.
  77. Grandsons that move furniture and carry in groceries.
  78. My library.
  79. The fragrant scent of a blooming gardenia bush, which always reminds me of my grandmother.
  80. Flannel pajamas on a cold night.
  81. That I was accepted as a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder this year.
  82. That one of my granddaughters is driving from Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with me.
  83. My microwave, which I use to heat up leftovers since I always cook more than I can eat the first time around.
  84. My daughter’s washer and dryer, since I don’t have one and I like clean clothes.
  85. My computer and Kindle
  86. For Facebook, which lets me see my great-grandchildren, who live in Texas and Florida, as they grow up.
  87. For clean motels that accept pets.
  88. For the treats, especially the chocolate chip cookies, that my friend, Jean, the culinary teacher, brings me.
  89. For a star-filled sky, and a full-moon night.
  90. A visit with long-time friends who live far away.
  91. My pocket digital camera.
  92. Mornings when I’m awakened by birds twittering.
  93. For Dusty, who is Pepper’s canine best friend, and the joy I get watching the two of them play together.
  94. Antibiotics.
  95. Live theater.
  96. Clean water to drink.
  97. All days in which I learn something new.
  98. Scotch Tape, because I’m always adding things like cards and photos to my journals.
  99. A comfortable recliner.
  100. And simply that I’m alive and happy to be so.

On Travel Writing

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

I took this photo last year when wanderlust had me driving to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon just to see the aspen trees in their autumn colors. — Photo by Pat Bean

Observe, Observe, Observe!

While I was a journalist for 37 years of my life, I now think of myself as a travel writer. The fact that I wrote a travel blog for American Profile magazine for a couple of years, have freelanced a few travel articles, blogged frequently about travel, and recently published a travel book, entitles me, I’ve decided, to the title.

Actually, this decision was easier than finally calling myself a writer, which I’ve discovered is often hard for writers to do. But whether one is a journalist, or a writer, these titles have made me a better observer.

Good travel writers don’t just write about a place. The best travel writers know that travel stories are also about the people, the landscape, the weather, the flora and fauna, a place’s history, its politics and culture, and its legends. The magic ingredient that pulls it all together is what a travel writer makes of what he sees, feels, hears, tastes and smells. And trying to pull all this together has educated me way beyond what I was ever taught in classrooms.

Traveling is also as much about discovering oneself as it is about seeing new places. I believe what Saint Augustine wrote over 1,000 years ago. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.”

But I also believe that one’s own backyard, if looked at with new eyes, can also be a way of traveling. I realized this on meeting people in my travels who, often I discovered, hadn’t traveled 10 miles to see a site that people from all around the world came to see.

Meanwhile, while far away wandering to see new places has become less often these days, I hope I will never stop trying to see familiar places with new eyes. Which, I believe, allows me to continue being a wondering-wanderer – and a travel writer.

            Bean Pat: Contractors Contractions http://tinyurl.com/y9lwdsbl If you’re as old as I am, you already know the language. But Diane gave me some laughs, but only because I live in an apartment complex, whose managers have their own language, and no longer am a home owner.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

A New Hero

“Every journey is personal. Every journey is spiritual. You can’t compare them, can’t replace, can’t repeat. You can bring back the memories but they only bring tears to your eyes.” — Diana Ambarsari

While I’ll never accomplish such a feat as walking the entire distance of the Nile River, I have had adventures, like going on Safari to Kenya and Tanzania. Above, me at the Amboseli Airport in Kenya. — Photo by Kim Perrin.

Found at the Library

I talk often about my wanderlust being fueled by such travel writers as Tim Cahill, William Least Heat Moon, Osa Johnson, Charles Kuralt, John Steinbeck, Freya Stark and Paul

Theroux. I felt as if I were following in their footsteps when my book, Travels with Maggie, was finally published.

Now, a book I checked out at the library has given me a new idol, Levison Wood, a British Army officer and explorer who is best known for his walking expeditions in Africa, Asia and Central America. But I had never heard of him until I picked up his book, Walking the Nile, from the travel section of my small branch library.

I was only a few pages into the book before I added Wood to my travel writer hero list. The start of his adventure, in December of 2013, at the tiny spring which is acknowledged as one of the sources of the Nile so long sought by 19th century explorers, hooked me.

Wrote Levison, about why he walked the 4,250-mile length of the Nile, “…I wanted to follow in a great tradition, to achieve something unusual and inspire in others the thirst to do the same. Much of my motivation was selfish, of course – to go on the greatest adventure of my life, to see what people can only dream about, and test myself to the limits. But ultimately, it came down to one thing. The Nile was there, and I wanted to walk it.”

Levison inspired me. While my body is no longer up to long expeditions or strenuous adventures, surely there are still small ones in my future, like walking the 10-mile path beside the Rillito River (It’s really only a river when it rains hard) here in Tucson. As an old broad, I’ve come to the conclusion that what counts is not the distance, or the speed, but that you just keep moving.

Meanwhile, I’m thankful for books, such as Wood’s Walking the Nile, which with just a little bit of imagination, can take me and my wanderlust anywhere in the world we want to go.

Bean Pat: Oh, the places we’ll see … http://tinyurl.com/y8aels9d Maine’s orange sunsets. I liked this because it took me back to my visit to Maine.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com



Northern mockingbird — Wikimedia photo

I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.” — Pete Hamill

I Brake for Birds

Galapagos mockingbird … Wikimedia photo

I was sitting outside with two friends in a small fenced-in park Sunday, drinking coffee and watching our three dogs have a play date. As usual, I was keeping my eye out for birds. Before 1999, when I got bit by the birding bug, I rarely noticed the winged creatures that share the outdoors with us. Today, I can’t not notice birds.

Mourning and white-winged doves were the most prolific this day, along with a flock of rock pigeons that flew together and landed on a utility line. But it was the lone gray bird with white flashing on its wings as it flew past that grabbed my attention.

“Look,” I said “A northern mockingbird.”

Hood mockingbird, which species I saw in the Galapagos, where birds are not afraid of humans. One landed on my foot and tried to get  at my water bottle. — Wikimedia photo

“Umhuh,” said one of the women, while the other one didn’t seem to hear me. They kept on talking, but my mind stayed on the bird, and flashed back to a Christmas Bird Count in 2003, when I was with a group of Audubon birders and we saw the first-ever northern mockingbird spotted in Ogden, Utah, on a Christmas bird count.

The expert birder who was leading the group asked for my confirmation of the ID, doing so because he knew I was a native Texan, and the northern mockingbird is Texas’ state bird. Since I was the newbie birder in the group, I felt honored.

The mockingbird was one of only about three birds I could identify growing up, and then only because all school children were taught about it being the state bird. The first mockingbird on my life list of birds, which I started keeping 18 years ago, was one I saw in Killeen, Texas, in 2001.

I added the hood and Galapagos mockingbirds to my life list in 2005, after seeing them during a trip to the Galapagos Islands in June of 2005, and the Bahama mockingbird was added to my list in 2008 during a visit to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

Shortly after I began watching and listing birds, my kids kidded me that I was better at remembering when and where I had seen a specific bird than I was at remembering family birthdays. I think they were right.

      Bean Pat: mybeautifulthings http://tinyurl.com/ya86h9e7 Simple daily things and a poem for lovers of words, like me.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com