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Writers on Writing

My writing often starts out like this night's sky. While I'm kind of moonstruck, heading toward the light, the magical way to get there is light years away. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My writing often starts out like this night’s sky. While I’m kind of moonstruck, heading toward the light, the magical way to get there is light years away. — Photo by Pat Bean

“We are the only ones who can tell our stories because we are the only ones who have lived them.” – Susan Wittig Albert*

Words Whisper in my Ear – Or Scream in my Head

The first words I read this morning, as I sipped my cream-laced coffee after taking Pepper out for her first walk of the day, were:

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a writer’s pick, a wood carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.”     

       This is the first paragraph in Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Her words felt as if they had picked a line in my brain, as if she had read my mind before writing them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat down to write about one thing and ended up writing about something else entirely; then on editing and rewriting my words, I discover it’s the very first, often well-thought out, sentence that requires the deepest knife cut.

Then suddenly the light I was aiming for disappears in a splash of brilliant color, and my writing path is lit by a magical brain wave that lets me know what I'm really writing about. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Then suddenly the light I was aiming for disappears in a splash of brilliant color, and my writing path is lit by a magical brain wave that lets me know what I’m really writing about. — Photo by Pat Bean

My brain thinks differently when I write. And I love it when I discover a writer who can explain the phenomena so well.

My favorite writing quote of all time is:

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

What writer whispers in your ear, or screams in your head?

 

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: I am a member of Story Circle Network, which for the past five years has been a tremendous support to me in finding my own writing voice after 37 years of writing with the voice of a journalist. It’s a community of women who have taught me much and never failed to offer an encouraging word. In April, SCN is holding a Stories from the Heart Workshop in Austin, Texas, which is well worth today’s Bean Pat. Check out the details of the conference at: http://www.storycircle.org/Conference/  and if you decide to go, please look me up.

Friends

Kim and me retiring the raft that gave us many years of exciting adventures on the Snake River in Wyoming.

Kim and me retiring the raft that gave us many years of exciting adventures on the Snake River in Wyoming.

“The greatest gift of life is friends.” – Hubert Humphrey

 

Lucky and Blessed Am I

Kim a long-time friend, who now lives a thousand miles away, called yesterday and we talked for hours. And when I hung up, I realized how blessed and lucky I was to have her in my life.

We’ve been friends for over 30 years now. She’s more family to me than some members of my own family.

Kim and me on my 70th birthday, right before we went sky diving together.

Kim and me on my 70th birthday, right before we went sky diving together.

As a person who has lacked roots most of her life, I’ve had friendships that seem to have simply disappeared after a year or so when I moved away. Others, like Kim in Utah and Kris in Idaho, are friendships that have survived the distance. Whenever I talk with, or see, them, it’s as if our conversations just ended the night before and we pick up right where we left off.

I thought about this when I walked my canine companion Pepper at o-dark-hundred this morning beneath a sliver of moon that reminded me of the Cheshire Cat’s grin. Both Kim and Kris are as unlike me as a live oak tree is from a palm tree. But I’ve found over the years that such friends are the best kinds, because each fills in the holes of the other person.

Thinking about how each of these two friendships began, as I am now, is making me giggle. I met Kris after a breakup with my second husband, and at that point in my life was still searching for a male soul mate, as was she. She found hers, and I realized I was sabotaging relationships because I enjoyed being single much more than I had ever enjoyed being married.

Kim came later, after I had given up on ever finding a soul mate and was focusing on outdoor activities, like rafting, skiing, sailing and hiking. Kim, who worked at the same newspaper as I did, was more dedicated to being a single mom than finding a man – and so it was that we found ourselves the only single women at work who weren’t chasing after some man.

And once we started hiking and taking road trips together, the friendship was cemented. Or maybe it was the night we had too much to drink and pledged we would get tattoos, then both reneged the next morning when we came to our senses.

Whenever I count my blessings, I always include Kris and Kim. As I said, I’m a very lucky and blessed woman. I hope you are, too. 

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

        

Bean Pat: The Paths of the Spirit http://tinyurl.com/zofb836 Sleepers are quiet. Lovely post that left me with lots to think about.

Art: American Bittern

Painting by Pat Bean

Painting by Pat Bean

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” –Picasso

            “A picture is a poem without words.” – Horace

Hiding in Plain Sight

An American bittern in its natural habitat. -- Wikimedia photo

An American bittern in its natural habitat. — Wikimedia photo

I haven’t seen many American bitterns, but the ones I have seen have all been surprises. By that, I mean that I usually had stared at a weedy patch of grass in shallow water for some time before seeing this wading bird.

And then I only saw it because it moved.

The American bittern is one of my favorite birds, perhaps because it’s striped feathers are in themselves art.

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. – Francis Bacon      

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Daily Echo http://tinyurl.com/jt9r6rx Meeting on the Moor. My kind of walk.

Nature: Winter Trees

Winter gives this tree a stark beauty that spoke to me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Winter gives this tree a stark beauty that spoke to me. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully. – Matthew Fox

I didn't realize until I got home and compared my photos with ones I had taken earlier at Arivaca Cienega that the same tree had spoken to me when it was decked out in spring finery. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I didn’t realize until I got home and compared my photos with ones I had taken earlier at Arivaca Cienega that the same tree had spoken to me when it was decked out in spring finery.  — Photo by Pat Bean

There’s Beauty in Starkness

            I took a friend and her dog with me and my canine companion Pepper this past weekend to hike the Arivaca-Cienega trail 70 miles southeast of Tucson. It’s an important birding area, and a place where I’ve hiked before, only in the months when everything was lush and verdant..

I realized, looking at the naked branches of trees on the narrow, winding and rough backroad that we traveled to get there, that today was going to be different. It was winter and the color green was almost nowhere to be found.

But as before, beauty was around every corner. It was just different, a starkness that let you see deeper into the heart and soul and bones of Mother Nature.

It was an awesome day, even though we got there late and the birds were taking a nap somewhere out of sight. The exception was a pair of greater roadrunners that scurried across the road ahead of us as we headed back to Tucson.

I will return… Perhaps I can catch the tree in autumn.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Open Suitcase http://tinyurl.com/zohd9u6 Take an armchair train ride through Africa.

Turtle Rock at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.

Turtle Rock at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah.

            “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” – John Muir

 

A Turtle and a Lizard

One Saturday morning back in January of 1999, I woke up at o-dark-hundred feeling lazy and bored after a heavy-duty work week. My first inclination, as I noted in my journal that morning and reread for the first time this morning, was to turn over and go back to sleep. That, however, was quickly followed by the words “road trip” jumbling around in my brain.

Lizard petroglyph at ; Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Lizard petroglyph at ; Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Knowing which of those two thoughts would reinvigorate me more, my then canine companion Peaches and I set out on a day trip to Dinosaur National Monument, a mere 250 miles away from my Ogden, Utah, home. .

We left in time to see what I think is the most magical moment of the day, those seconds between night and dawn when the world is all gray and silvery and the world recatches its breath – and so do I. But we missed it because of the bright street lights on Harrison Boulevard as we exited the city. I was disappointed, but I consoled myself by knowing the day was young and there were still magical moments ahead that I wouldn’t miss. It’s the same feeling I have at the start of any road trip – and I’ve never been disappointed.

Among the sights I recorded on the drive to the dinosaur quarry were a farmer feeding his cows, snow in Echo Canyon and ice fishermen out on Strawberry Reservoir. I stopped in Heber for breakfast, where I was waited on by a grandmotherly woman who sweetly called me honey. Her words took me back to my Southern-raised origins.

There was more snow after Heber, but the road was mostly a sandy slush as the snowplows had already been out. I passed a guy rubbing snow on his car’s windshield to clear it, and was thankful my wipers and windshield fluid were keeping mine clean. The windshied fluid, however, ran out just as I was coming into Duchesne, where thankfully I stopped at a gas station and replaced it so I could see clearly again.

Just a few of the 1,500 or so dinosaur bones on display at the monument's enclosed quarry exhibit.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Just a few of the 1,500 or so dinosaur bones on display at the monument’s enclosed quarry exhibit. — Photo by Pat Bean

After Duchesne, it was sunny and bright all the way to the Dinosaur Monument, which was located east of Roosevelt. On arriving, I didn’t spend too much time looking at the actual bones of dinosaurs exposed by diggers in the quarry. I was more in the mood to explore the 10-mile Tilted Rocks Road, which is rife with petroglyphs and pictographs, and scenic views of Split Mountain, which a few years earlier I had rafted past on the Green River.

It was memories of a quick drive on this stretch many years earlier that had been in my mind as destination for this morning’s spur-of-the-moment road trip. And this time, as I had not earlier because someone else was in charge, I was able to leisurely enjoy the drive at my own pace. I stopped often to get closer up views of the wall paintings and landscape. I saw mule deer, rabbits and visited a shelter site that may have first been used over 9,000 years ago.

The views of Turtle Rock and the Lizard on the Rock were two of my favorite sightings. They held the magic for me that made up for missing the gray still seconds between day and night.

I didn’t pull back into my driveway until well after dark, and after encountering more snow in the mountains. It had been an invigorating road trip, and I didn’t feel lazy or bored anymore; nor did Peaches, who enjoyed a good romp in the snow on our return drive.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Glenrosa Journeys http://tinyurl.com/htmsjfj Do a bit of bird watching with Candace.

A Yellow Burst of Cheer

            “It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just beyond the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.” – Henry Ward Beecher.

The lowly dandelion: Perhaps to some but not to me.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

The lowly dandelion: Perhaps to some but not to me. — Photo by Pat Bean

Neither Storms, or Mowers, Deter Dandelions

While what may become one of America’s 10 top blizzards is menacing the Eastern United States today through Sunday, I admired my first dandelion of the year here in the Sonoran Desert this morning.

A dandelion in two stages with a butterfly to boot.  -- Photo taken at Rowlett Park near Dallas by Pat Bean

A dandelion in two stages with a butterfly to boot. — Photo taken at Rowlett Park near Dallas by Pat Bean

It was a lonely little thing on a manicured lawn that will be mowed over next Tuesday, which is when, regardless of the weather or need, the ground crew for my apartment complex will cut, rake and trim everything into perfection. .

The timed sprinklers even sprinkle to keep things green when it’s raining. Not a huge problem, however, since the sprinklers only stay on for maybe five minutes at a time. They repeat several times a day, and the grass here is always green.

In fact, my apartment complex is one of the few landscapes in Tucson with grass instead of xeiscaping, although there’s as much of that here, too, keeping the extravagant luxury of the green stuff to a respectable minimum. .

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love dandelions. They add a sparkle to life, one that pops up despite all human efforts to thwart them. You simply can’t keep dandelions down.            There’s a lesson here I think.

Bean Pat: Interesting Literature http://tinyurl.com/honweqd Interesting facts about Robert Burns.

 

          “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese 

The route of Phineas Fogg in Jule Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days."  -- Wikimedia illustration

The route of Phineas Fogg in Jule Verne’s “Around the World in 80  Days .”                                                                   — Wikimedia illustration

 

Around the World in Less than 80 Days

            In November of 1889, two women set out to beat Phineas Fogg’s record-setting trip in “Around the World in 80 Days.” Fogg and his journey were the 1873 fictional creation of Jules Verne. The journeys of Nellie Bly, who went east from New York, and Elizabeth Bisland, who went west from the same city, were true journalistic adventures.

001    I knew of Nellie Bly, who won the race in 72 days, four days ahead of Bisland. She was the first woman to fight for equality with men as a female reporter, a fight that was still going on three-quarters of a century later when I had my first byline in a daily newspaper.

I had never heard of Bisland, however, until I read the two women’s compelling, and well researched story in Matthew Goodman book, “Eighty Days.” Published in 2013, it was a great library find. In addition to the compelling story of the two women and their journeys, Goodman weaved in details of what the world was like in the late 1890s, as well as historical events that took place during this time period.

The book also had me turning pages to see what would happen next. Because of the way the book was written, which woman would win the race was a question mark until almost the end. I identified more strongly with Nellie, and so found myself rooting for her when she was behind. And when she did win, the entire country cheered. She was an instant celebrity, acclaimed by all.

But fame is fickle, and in the end, it was Bisland whom I came most to admire.

Goodman didn’t end his book with the race, but followed the two women’s lives and careers until their death.

Although it had been Nellie Bly who had convinced her World Newspaper editor to send her around the world, and it was Bisland’s Cosmopolitan editor who persuaded her to undertake the journey against her wishes, it was Elizabeth who enjoyed the journey simply for itself. She became the true traveler of the two women.

Nellie was simply glad to be back in America, which she defended as the best country in the world. Elizabeth, who admired the English and her Anglo-Saxon heritage, developed wanderlust after the journey was over.

While the two women went on to lead entirely different lives after their journalistic adventures, they both stayed writers to the very end.

            Bean Pat: Why Climb Mount Kilimanjaro http://tinyurl.com/jj386yt This could inspire you to get out there and do something different.

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