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Journal Keeping

The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write a journal. Take long walks in the woods.” – Robin Sharma

The Mark Twain Lighthouse in Hannibal Missouri, which I wrote about climbing up to see in 2006, when I was traveling the country full time with my canine companion Maggie in a small RV. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The Mark Twain Lighthouse in Hannibal Missouri, which I wrote about climbing up to see in 2006, when I was traveling the country full-time with my canine companion Maggie in a small RV. — Photo by Pat Bean

A Half Century of Memories

            I began keeping journals when I was 25, when, like a bolt of lightning on a clear day, I discovered I wanted to be a writer. For the next 15 years, my journals were cheap spiral notebooks that never got completed. I might write for a week, and then the next entry wouldn’t happen for three months, and sometimes the journal got lost in the between times.

I say lost because I never threw one away, and I think I eventually found most of them. A few years ago, I recopied the scant early journaling pages into one volume.

Pages from my journal  written when I was in Hannibal, Missouri, and took a paddleboat cruise on the Mississippi River.

Pages from my journal, written when I was in Hannibal, Missouri, in 2006, and took a paddle boat cruise on the Mississippi River.

My first journals were written when I was a working mother of five with no help, and the journal contents were too often filled with my beating up on myself because I never completed a day’s to-do list. What amazed me in the rereading, however, were all the things I did accomplish, and never gave myself credit for doing. Today, I honestly don’t know how I did all I did back then.

Around the age of 40, I decided to buy decent journals – one of my favorite being a Gibson that has thick enough paper to write on both sides and a spiral binding for ease in writing. I also began journaling more regularly. As time passed, the journals filled more quickly, until the present when I complete about two a year with a record of my days and thoughts. My journals, even the early ones, are also packed with quotes that have meaning to me.

Until recently, I had never read most of my journals, a task that now finds its way on my daily to-do lists. Unlike many of my journal writing friends, who told me they wrote more when times were bad, I’ve discovered that most of my entries are about the good times. While that means there are big gaps, especially in my earlier journals, and makes for an incomplete recording of my life, I’m discovering a treasure trove of memories that are delightful to relive.

And the thoughts I did record are enough for me to see how I’ve changed over the years – from a goodie-two-shoes who beat up on herself to an imperfect human who makes mistakes and is not usually sorry for them – and into someone who actually likes herself.

And that’s enough for me.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: 10 Forgotten Books http://tinyurl.com/hs5qh7n This dang blog cost me money. As an avid reader of travel books, I had to have The Illustrated Journeys of Celia Fiennes, 1685-c.1712, which was on the list. But thankfully I found one for 97 cents (plus $3.99 shipping) instead of having to buy a new one for the listed price of $59.

The Color Blue

A blue bench for birdwatching at Lake Walcott State Park in Southern Idaho. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A blue bench for birdwatching at Lake Walcott State Park in Southern Idaho. — Photo by Pat Bean

       “I think I have something tonight that’s not quite correct for evening wear. Blue suede shoes.” — Elvis Presley

A Many-Hued Thing

If you want a definition of the color blue, scientifically it is the color between violet and green on the optical spectrum of visible light.

Looking down on Bear Lake after exiting Logan Canyon in Utah. -- Wikimedia photo

Looking down on Bear Lake after exiting Logan Canyon in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

Blue comes in many hues. Just to name a few watercolor choices, there is Cobalt, Phthalocyanine, Antwerp, Peacock, Ultramarine, Prussian, Winsor, Cerulean, Manganese and, Turquoise.

As a writer, I’ve used such terms as robin’s egg blue, periwinkle blue and Steller jay blue, a bird whose brilliant coloring can send shivers down my spine when I see one in bright sunlight against a background of fluttering green leaves. It’s a sight that, thankfully, is a long-lived image that lingers in the soul.

Another blue that stands out in my mind is the color of Bear Lake in Utah as you crest the final summit in Logan Canyon and look down at the scene before you. No matter what the cold and deep lake’s color of the day was – and it was never quite the same each time I saw it – the intensity of the hue always made me gasp in awe.

Steller Jay --  Wikimedia photo

Steller Jay — Wikimedia photo

Graphic designer David Carson said: “Good things are associated with blue, like clear days, more than singing the blues. Just the word ‘blue’ in the singular is full of optimism and positive connotation to most people.”

Artist Wassily Kandinsky said: “The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and … the brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.”

And Ralph Waldo Emerson, less picky about colors, said: “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” His quote makes me think of green, which was the color of my mom’s eyes.

Red’s not bad either. That’s the color of my couch. So what’s your favorite color?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

            Bean Pat: Brevity http://tinyurl.com/h6m5khk Getting past the rejection slip. This is one of my favorite writing blogs.

The Soul of Wilderness

            “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”  Edward Abbey

Balanced Rock, one of he more recognizable features at Arches National Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Balanced Rock, one of the more recognizable features at Arches National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Edward Abbey

            I’m slowly rereading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, just a few pages a day as my morning read with coffee. I have more leisure time than the first time I read it, when I was a working mother of five whose every moment was double or triple-booked. If memory serves me well, I read it while soaking in a hot bath, about the only solitary luxury in my life back then.

Paved roads have brought crows to Arches. I'm thankful more people have the opportunity of seeing Mother Nature's red-rock creations, but miss the solitude I found there even back in the 1970s. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Paved roads have brought crowds to Arches. I’m thankful more people have the opportunity of seeing Mother Nature’s red-rock creations, but miss the solitude I found there even back in the 1970s. — Photo by Pat Bean

While I originally enjoyed the book for its content, this time around I’m also enjoying it with a writer’s eye, immersing myself in Abbey’s ability to put life into the landscapes with words that paint vivid images in my mind.

Desert Solitaire is about the author’s seasonal ranger job at Arches National Park back in the 1950s, when it was still just a monument and the few roads into it were unpaved. Arches is a place I’ve visited many times, having lived for many years only five hours away, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when I saw it for the first time. It was more civilized by then, but I can still recognize the landscape features as Abbey describes them with accuracy and poetry.

  “Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn,” he wrote, about his first morning at the park. Such imagery inspires me to get up in time to watch yet another sunrise.

The three gossips, one of my favorite landmarks at Arches. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The three gossips, one of my favorite landmarks at Arches. — Photo by Pat Bean

And then, moved back in time and place by words, I sit with Abbey on the step of his trailer as he waits for the sun to come up on a cold April morning.

  “Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the pinnacles and minarets and balanced rocks, on the canyon walls and through the windows in the sandstone fins. We greet each other, sun and I, across the black void of ninety-three million miles. The snow glitters between us, acres of diamonds almost painful to look at. Within an hour all the snow exposed to the sunlight will be gone and the rock will be damp and steaming. Within minutes, even as I watch, melting snow begins to drip from the branches of a juniper nearby…”

Abbey’s words brought a memory to life. They took me back through time and place to a moment when I looked down and saw a melting tennis shoe that I had placed too close to a campfire as I watched for a morning sun to creep down from a red-rock cliff and into the valley where it would warm my body.

Thank you Edward Abbey.

You may have left this world, but your words still bring joy to my soul. And my hope for you — wherever you are — are the words you wrote that I took to heart when I was on the road: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

Bean Pat: A photo to make you smile and some words to make you think.  http://tinyurl.com/jostvnh

 

The Morning Birds

“Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn.” – Edward Abbey. The Opposite of Bird Watching

White-winged doves to the left, mourning doves to the right. -- Photo by Pat Bean

White-winged doves on the ends, mourning doves in the middle. — Photo by Pat Bean

It is a dawn like what Abbey describes that makes me often wake before the sun rises. After watching the gray turn the landscape into a fleeting moment of golden glow, I began looking around for birds, knowing that when I return to my apartment I will note in my journal the first species of the day. More often than not it will be a dove, either a white-winged or a mourning dove.

White-winged dove on top of a blooming saguaro.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

White-winged dove on top of a blooming saguaro. — Photo by Pat Bean

Both these species are as common here in the Sonoran Desert as are the saguaro, which normally can only be found in Southern Arizona or just across the border into Mexico.

You can see a mourning dove anyway in the mainland 48 states, but white-winged doves can only be found in the more southern states. Here where I live, I often see them sitting atop a saguaro, especially when it is in bloom (like the photo on the left). Mourning doves more commonly tend to flock on the ground in bunches of two to six.

If I listen, as my canine companion Pepper and I make our morning circuit, I can hear the doves murmuring to one another. It’s an interesting chatter. The mourning doves have a mellow, cooing song, which sounds like a lament, but which also is close to the sound of our resident great horned owls. White-winged doves, named for just that, also coo, but there is more variation and cheeriness to their songs. It sounds to me like they’re happy to be up and moving, while the mourning doves are bemoaning having to get up.

Recently I added a bird feeder to the nectar feeder that hangs on my third-floor apartment balcony. Both the mourning and white-winged doves have been feeding from it. They empty it way too quickly, which is why I only partially fill it each morning. There is only so much bird seed my budget can afford.

The doves, having become familiar with my custom of putting out seeds after my morning walk, often gather on the tile roof across from my apartment in anxious anticipation. I think you can call that people watching.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: With Less Weight in my Back Pack http://tinyurl.com/z5kco7l Sedona area landscape — and the way I feel these days.

“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone – because we have the impulse to explain who we are.” — Maya Angelou

They call it Canaval Mountain, but it's really only a hill. -- Wikimedia photo

They call it Canaval Mountain, but it’s really only a hill. — Wikimedia photo

Or Turning a Hill Into a Mountain

            My grandmother used to tell me not to turn a molehill into a mountain whenever I got upset about something she considered insignificant. It was just one of her many sayings, like you’re going to hell in a handbasket when I did something wrong, or if it was raining but the sun was still shining, she would exclaim, “Well, the devil must be beating his wife.”

But there's no mistaking the Grand Teton as a hill. -- Photo by Pat Bean

But there’s no mistaking the Grand Teton as a hill. — Photo by Pat Bean

She was the only grandparent I ever knew, and she died when I was 11, which makes me wonder why, over a half century later. I can still hear her words in my head. It doesn’t take much to trigger the memories, which is what happened this morning when I was editing a chapter in my book, Travels with Maggie.

I had written about Poteau, Oklahoma, which claims to be home of the world’s tallest hill, despite the fact it’s commonly called Cavanal Mountain. That it’s a hill is based on the geological understanding that a landscape feature is a mountain if it’s 2,000 feet tall, and a hill if it is less than that. Cavanal is 1,999 feet tall.

And before I could move on to reading the next paragraph, my grandmother’s old time sayings were in my head. And then I found myself wanting to know where the phrase “don’t turn a mountain into a molehill” originated, which led me to the Internet.

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the phrase dates back to 1548, when Nicholas Udall used it in a translation of the New Testament. He wrote: “The Sophistes of Greece coulde through their copiousness make and an elephant of a flye, and a mountaine of a molehill.” Allegedly (you can’t always believe what you read), the comparison of the elephant with a fly is an old Latin proverb, but the mountain and molehill example was likely coined by Udall himself – and it’s been used ever since.

And the sound of my grandmother telling me, “Don’t turn a mountain into a molehill,” still rings in my head. I wonder where my grandmother first heard the phrase. My wondering mind just never seems to stop.           

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

  Bean Pat: Sometimes Once is Enough http://tinyurl.com/jybtbzz A spoonbill, an egret and a great post.

Reflections

Weekly Photo Challenge

“There’s an unseen force which lets birds know when you’ve just washed your car.” — Denis Norden

Roseate spoonbill at Brazos Bend National Park

Roseate spoonbill at Brazos Bend National Park — Photo by Pat Bean

And for good measure, since I do so enjoy watching these pink-winged birds with the funny bill, here is another photo I snapped of roseate spoonbills.

Roseate spoonbills in the World Fair's Aviary at the St. Louis Zoo.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Roseate spoonbills nesting in the World Fair’s Aviary at the St. Louis Zoo. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

 

      

I suggest you stop what you;re doing whent a butterfly is nearby ... and simply enjoy watching it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I suggest you stop what you;re doing when a butterfly is nearby … and simply enjoy watching it. — Photo by Pat Bean

      “When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.” — Erma Bombeck

But I Don’t Give Advice

When my children finally reached adulthood, I tried not to give them too much advice. I had made too many mistakes in my own life to think any advice I gave would be good. Well, all except for my youngest daughter. I never had any qualms about giving her advice because I knew she would never follow it.

And alqys take thepath less traveled ... although I traveled this one fairly quickly, and loudly, when at the halfway point I came across a sign that said Beware of Bears. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And I suggest you take the path less traveled … although I traveled this one fairly quickly, and loudly, when at the halfway point I came across a sign that said: Beware of Bears. — Photo by Pat Bean

She was simply that kind of child.

Nowadays, with three teenage boys in her home, she’s always asking me for advice on how to handle things when the boys do something she would prefer they not do.

I can’t help but laugh and say, “I didn’t have the answers when you were doing that. What makes you think I’m any wiser today?”

Meanwhile I came across some suggestions to myself that I had written down in my journal back in 2004 when I was newly retired. I think they’re still pretty wise, so I’ll share them:

Read the instructions …

Shut up and do something about it …

Relish the moment …

Add more color …

Decide what you want and give it to yourself …

Ask an old person to tell you a story …

Think before you …

Perhaps you have a few suggestions of your own that you would like to add to the list.

Bean Pat: Strasbourg http://tinyurl.com/zueuxhu For the armchair traveler