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A Funky Bird: Just a fun painting to get your attention. — By Pat Bean

“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.” Harper Lee            

Three of a Kind

            I enjoy reading pretty much all genres of books except horror and true crime. Usually, I have about five books that are in my reading stack and a dozen or more eagerly waiting to be moved up to it. Most often the books in the reading stack include a mystery, a travel book, a fantasy novel, a book on writing and one other.

I just noticed, however, that my current reading stack includes three books on writing and journaling. I’m not sure exactly how this came about, but all three are by writers I admire.

The first is The Sound of Paper by artist and author Julia Cameron, who also wrote the Artist’s Way and many other books. She urges writers to do morning pages. This was something I was sometimes doing, but since picking up Julia’s book, I have been doing it faithfully. She urges three pages, but my goal is only two, although once I get started and let the brain take over, I usually end up with three or more. I find this morning journal writing helps focus my day. Her second rule is that we make an artist’s date with ourselves once a week, and the third is that we take daily walks. I already do the latter, and agree that it’s the best time in the world for thinking. As for the artist’s date with myself, I think that’s a great idea.

The second book in my stack is Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg, whose books Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones I have also read. This is Natalie’s memoir in which she talks about finding her way as a writer. It echoes many of my own writing thoughts, and is a delight to read. I especially love Natalie’s vivid way with words

The third book in my stack is A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman, whose A Life in Hand I have also read. While I found the first two books at my local library, I got Hannah’s secondhand on line after being unable to find one at the library. Like Julia, Hannah is also an artist and encourages the use of art work in journaling. Since it is full of illustrations, I’m glad I will be able to add it to my own library, or to pass it along to someone else who will enjoy it. My small apartment simply can’t keep all the books that come into my possession.

So, what are you reading?

Bean Pat: Lighthouse on a Cliff http://tinyurl.com/y8fj75pg

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Art for front and back cover of Travels with Maggie by Sherry Wachter

            “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”– St. Augustine– Saint Augustine

Finishing Up Loose Ends

I put everything in life on hold the past few days to finish up proofing, writing an author bio, writing a back of the book blurb, and putting together a table of contents for my book Travels with Maggie.  And then I let it go.

Natural Falls, which was one of the stopping points in Travels with Maggie. — Photo by Pat Bean

As a newspaper journalist for 37 years, I turned out almost daily copy that was read by thousands of people. I always wrote my stories the best I could, and won quite a few awards over the years as my writing improved. But there was always a deadline, and on reaching it, whatever I had written had to be put out to the world. Since, my book had no deadline, I’ve been piddling with it for years, afraid to let it go because it might not be perfect,

Finally, I told myself, enough is enough.

Back of the Book Blurb

Travels with Maggie by Pat Bean is a book about one woman’s fulfillment of a dream that began when she was 10 years old. It chronicles a 7,000-mile RV journey, mostly on backroads, through 23 states and Canada. The odyssey begins in May of 2006 from a daughter’s home in Arkansas, and ends in time for Thanksgiving at another daughter’s home in Texas. Bean’s writing brings a much-needed feminine voice to the world of such travel writer greats as John Steinbeck, William Least Heat Moon, Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson and Charles Kuralt. Travels with Maggie is also the story of a woman’s relationship with her canine companion, and it’s a story about chasing birds across America by a fledgling birdwatcher. The book is written in such a way that readers can follow the author’s adventures on a map – or in their own vehicle. While a realist who sees the changes that have taken place across America, the author prefers to look for their silver lining. “Change is change, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but mostly a combination.” Calling herself a wondering-wanderer, Bean asks many questions as she travels. Sometimes there are no answers, but always there is enlightenment.

Gypsy Lee — Photo by Pat Bean

Table of Contents

How it all Began … Letting Go of the World’s Worries … W hat Queen Wilhelmina Missed … Yes, Virginia, There is a Silver Lining … Two More Oklahoma Parks – And a Lifer …  Childhood Memories, A Kindred Soul and Marlin Perkins  …  Heart of the Ozarks …  Roy Rogers, A Tragic Past and an Ouch … A Scenic Riverway, a German Town, and a Margarita Night … Saint Louis: Chihuly, a Birdcage, an Arch and Beer … In the Footsteps of Mark Twain … Meandering Through Illinois Where Kickapoos Once Roamed … The Prophet – And Howling with Tristan … Hotter than Hell in Indiana …  Highway 12, Cade Lake, The Brick Dick and Henry Ford … Celebrating a Summer Halloween … Traveling Beside Lake Erie … Niagara Falls and New In-Laws …The Adirondacks … Ticonderoga, Norman Rockwell and Rainy Vermont … The Stone Man … Good-Bye White Mountains, Hello Maine  …  A Week on Desert Island … Strong Women and Paul Bunyan … It’s a Log … Or a Moose …  Scarborough Marsh, Bad Vibes and Boston … Help! My RV’s Lost at the Airport … An Embarrassing Moment and a Hug from a Granddaughter  … Hawk Mountain and the Big Apple … Sitting out a Storm in a Wal-Mart Parking Lot … Lost and Found in Philadelphia …  All Dressed up for Pony Watching … Crossing Chesapeake Bay and a Sick Dog … Dismal Swamp, Roanoke Rapids and Simple Things …  The Carolinas – Books, Tobacco and Art …  Georgia on my Mind …  Alabama: Home of the Bible Belt and a Boll Weevil Monument … Mississippi Bird Encounters and a Historic Trail … Know When to Hold ‘Em and Know When to Fold ‘Em …  Memories of a Dear Friend …   Epilogue

So, would you buy and read this book?

Bean Pat: Rumpy Dog http://tinyurl.com/y8wdudr4 Polls to ponder for the 4th of July.

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Fifty on Fifty

Having time to smell more flowers with the passing years is one blessing of aging. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I don’t want to sound like a Hallmark card, but to be able to wake up each day with food and shelter, that alone is good. Forget aging and the fact that my butt is becoming a little more familiar with my knees than my tailbone, If you are six feet above ground, it’s a good day. So, give me more.” – Faith Hill

Back when I was 60

In the spring of 1999, when I was turning 60, and just beginning to appreciate the beauty of being an old broad, I read a book titled Fifty on Fifty, in which 50 women over 50 talked about life and aging. .

I was fascinated by the book, and wrote at least one quote in my journal from each of the women. Here are some of my favorites:

And every year I live gives me more time to be awed by the wonders of this revolving ball we live on. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I was an oddity, and it played well.” – Geraldine Laybourne

“As women age, they ultimately all learn the same lesson: The only person I can depend on is me.” – Gloria Allred

“You have to do what feels right.” – Cher

“50 – It’s a time to think about your calling, your passions,” – Hillary Clinton

“Surely the consolation prize of age is finding out few things are worth worrying over, and how many things that we once desired, we don’t want anymore.” – Dorothy Dix

“You can’t wait for someone else to start your engine.” – Phyllis George

“No one with a happy childhood ever amounts to much in this world. They’re so well adjusted, they’re never driven to achieve anything.” — Sue Grafton.

“You will never succeed if you try to please too many people or stand in the middle of the road – there is nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and a dead possum.” – Marion Hammer

“Life definitely gets better – and as your history gets longer, you only get more interesting.” – Laura Hutton

“In the 10 years I’ve been reading death notices, I have yet to encounter the praise: ‘She maintained her ideal weight.’” – Mary Kay Blakely

“Mistakes are the dues we pay for a full life.” – Sophia Loren

“If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.” Anne Lamott.

That last one made me laugh, which may be why Lamott is the author of my favorite book on writing, Bird by Bird.

It’s been 18 years since I wrote these quotes in one of my journals, and they still apply.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Potato Pancakes http://tinyurl.com/y9nngaug My grandmother used to make these, and now I’m craving them. I can’t wait to make myself some.

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The cover for Travels with Maggie, which I had designed back in 2014.

“It is always better when you give a damn.” – John D. MacDonald

Coming to the End of a Long Road

In May of 2006, I left my youngest daughter’s home in Camden, Arkansas. Six months later, in time for Thanksgiving dinner, I arrived at my oldest daughter’s home on the outskirts of Dallas.

In-between, my canine companion, Maggie, and I traveled 7,000 miles in a small RV, through 23 states and Canada, to Maine, where we stood on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park one morning to get this country’s first ray of sunlight.

The Mark Twain Lighthouse in Hannibal, Missouri, which I climbed up to explore during my Travels with Maggie. — Photo by Pat Bean

The in-between miles are the topics of my book, Travels with Maggie, which soon will be available at Amazon. It’s part travelogue, part memoir, part bird book, part nature book, and part about one woman’s conversations with her dog. I think it would fit nicely on a book shelf between John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Charles Kuralt’s On the Road, with Peter Cashwell’s The Verb to Bird nearby.

But this book is written with a feminine voice, that of an old-broad, wandering-wonderer.

This week I put the mechanics of putting Travels with Maggie up on Amazon into the hands of an angel who, unlike me, knows what she is doing. I spent three frustrated weeks trying before I finally gave up.

A view from Acadia National Park in Maine, which was the destination of my journey. — Photo by Pat Bean

Late yesterday evening, when I was having a Jack and Coke on my back balcony with my friend, Jean, who needed it after her high school teaching day, to celebrate the new stage of my book, I suddenly found myself crying.

I’m not exactly sure why.

My book, whose first draft was named one of the top 10 when it was entered in a Mayborn Non-Fiction Writing Workshop contest, has now been through five rewrites, edits and proofings.

The second rewrite was a major one to add voice, which I had omitted because I was trying to hide the fact I was an old-broad. The Mayborn critiques, all of them, said this was the book’s one major fault – and I knew immediately they were right.

The third rewrite was mostly a polishing of my writing, as was the fourth. The fifth was

Mostly a typo-catching read-through. And there will be a sixth proofing yet to come. This is a 75,000-word manuscript so each of these steps took some time.

My dream of writing just such a book is over a half-century old, during which time the whole world of publishing changed. I was reluctant to let go of the traditional world, but finally decided I didn’t have the time to wait around any longer. In the traditional world, the publisher would have done the marketing for the book. In today’s world, most writers are now having to accomplish this step themselves.

It’s what I am going to have to do – and telling my blog readers about my book is a first step toward that goal. Whew! I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders for writing this. I’ll now let you follow each step of getting Travels with Maggie out there with me. Maybe you’ll even buy my book when it’s finally out to the public.

Bean Pat: Citizen Sketcher http://tinyurl.com/k9xrpq4 I love the watercolors on this blog, and the artist’s celebration of them. Reminds me of my current celebration.

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“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion in Athens. Wikimedia photo

A New Word for my Vocabulary

I love analogies, especially ones that are as fresh as the smell of baby powder, as bright as the shine on a new car in a showroom, and as unused as a heavy wool court on a summer day in the desert.

Austrian Parliament Building. … Encyclopedia Britannica.

A writer can say a lot with a few words and a good analogy. But I recently came across one that left me puzzled because it contained a word that wasn’t yet in my vocabulary. The phrase that threw me was: “as straight-backed as a caryatid,” which was part of a sentence in Rosemary Mahoney’s Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff.

What in the heck is a caryatid, I wondered, then copied the word down in the notebook that is always beside me when I read.

Usually I can guess what a word means because of how it is used by the

Intricate hairstyle of Caryatid, displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens. — Wikimedia photo

writer, and I usually discover I’ve pretty much hit the mark when I finally look the word up in a dictionary, but caryatid had me fully stumped. I used to actually have a dictionary by my reading chair, but these days, having kept up with the computer age, I use an online version.

When I finally got on my computer, I learned, according to Wikipedia, that a caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support that takes the place of a column or a pillar, and that the karyatides is a Greek term that means “maidens of Karyai.”

Who are the maidens of Karvai, and who are what is Karvai? This wondering mind of mine never seems to stop.

Karvai was an ancient Peloponnese village with a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, where maidens held dances in which they carried baskets of live reeds on their heads, as if they were dancing plants.

But, as a good journalist always does, I went to a second source. And the answers here were a bit different. According to the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica:

A Caryatid, in classical architecture, is a draped female figure used instead of a column. They first as appeared in pairs in three small buildings at Delphi  (550–530 bc), and their origin can be traced back to mirror handles of nude figures carved from ivory in Phoenicia, and draped figures cast from bronze in archaic  Greece. According to a story related by the 1st-century-bc Roman architectural writer Vitruvius, caryatids represented the women of Caryae, who were doomed to hard labor because the town sided with the Persians in 480 bc during their second invasion of Greece.

And so went my morning of research instead of writing. But I did add a new word to my vocabulary.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Something to Think About http://tinyurl.com/lmab4qh And do — in a world gone mightily mad.

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“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  — Stephen King

A good writer will let you see beyond the picture and hear the water gurgling. — Photo by Pat Bean in Smoky Mountain National Park.

Five Books at a Time

My reading table always contains five books. In addition, there are books scattered all around my house – many waiting to become one of the five that are currently being read. I usually read the selected five one chapter at a time, rotating between them in order.

Well that’s what I do until one of the five demands I continue reading until I finish it without stopping, which I have to admit, is not a rare occurrence. And if that happens, nothing else gets done until the book is finished – and I love it when this happens.

I started my unusual reading habit for two reasons. The first is that there are books that I knew I wanted to read, but couldn’t seem to get into them. If I recall correctly, the first time that happened was with a James Michener novel, The Source. So I began reading just a few pages in it every night, and then I would pick up a book that held my attention better, At some point in Michener’s book, my interest took hold and I finished it quickly.

A good writer can place you in this forest and let you see the colors. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m not a speed reader, but I can read fast when my attention is harnessed. On average, I read two complete books in a week. Reading too fast, however, was my second reason for reading several books at a time. Once a book takes hold of me, especially if I want to know what is going to happen next, I find myself reading so fast I don’t digest what I’m reading,

By reading several books at a time, I find myself better able to remember what I’ve read, maybe because I have to recall what went before when I return to the book. It works for me is all I can say.

Another habit I have is reading with both my journal and my daily to-do list nearby. In the journal, I write down quotes from the books, and my own thoughts about things I read. On my to-do list, I often jot down names of places that are mentioned, which I will later locate on a map or read more about. I also write down any words I do not know the meaning of, and will later look them up in a dictionary. This habit means nary a day goes by that I don’ learn something new.

Meanwhile, this slow-down ritual of reading that I’ve developed is also a tool for studying good writing, a habit that hundreds of authors have suggested makes for good writing. And good writing is definitely something I’ve come to love and appreciate. It was actually a piece of good writing that inspired this blog. After copying the paragraph down in my journal, I was inspired to share it.

I came across the paragraph in an essay by Eric Hansen that was included in his book, The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters with Strangers.

It is the story of an elderly Russian woman who narrowly escaped with her life during World War II, and who now lives in a rent-controlled apartment in one of New York City’s worst sections of town. The woman, known as Madame Zova, warns Eric not to visit at night because it is too dangerous. He admits he is afraid to visit in the day, too, But he does. Later, when Eric has moved to California, he talks to Zoey, as he came to call her, on the phone, and asks if she is afraid to live alone. It is her reply, which Eric recalls in a marvelous piece of writing, that moves me intensely.

“No,” she said. “I am not afraid because I know what it means to love life and survive. People with no belief and no faith and no hope are like empty box. They have nothing. Miracles happen every day. You think red tulip growing from black soil is not a miracle?”

So what good books are you reading?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The Day After http://tinyurl.com/htebvmj As a person with wanderlust in my soul, these photos made me want to take a walk. Perhaps they will affect you the same way.

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“A newspaper is lumber made malleable. It is ink made into words and pictures. It is conceived, born, grows up and dies of old age in a day.” — Jim Bishop

Newspaper Rock, Utah. I don't want to go back in time, I just want truth to once again become possible.

Newspaper Rock, Utah. I don’t want to go back in time, I just want truth to once again become possible.

          “A newspaper is a circulating library with high blood pressure.” — Arthur Baer

My Heart is Breaking

It was my usual morning. I walked Pepper, came back and fixed myself a cup of cream-lace coffee, and settled down with a book to read while I drank. And suddenly there were tears in my eyes, tears that are still falling, which is why I am writing this blog.

I need to tell someone, besides Pepper, why my face is wet.

The book I’m reading is a simple book by Ari L. Goldman called The Late Starters Orchestra. It’s about the author’s efforts to play the cello. Ari is a former New York Times reporter, and now a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Toward the end of his book Ari achieves his goal of playing in public at his 60th birthday party.

He then writes “…I would die a happy man. I was a musician. Maybe that wouldn’t be the first thing that the newspapers would write in my obituary (if there are still newspapers) … “It was those last five words that opened the floodgates in my eyes.

I was a journalist for 37 years. I worked for honorable newspapers that did not slant the news, which was most of them during my career era. I tried, as did my reporter colleagues, to give the people what they needed to know in as objective a manner as possible. One of the newspapers I worked for has folded. The others are dying, or hollow publications of what they once were.

As a city editor at a 65,000 circulation daily, I had 21 reporters covering local beats. The last time I visited the paper, the city editor had seven reporters covering the same beats.

In the past few days, I’ve been reading stories, proudly told, about how fake online news impacted the recent election. And I’ve heard newspapers referred to as archaic. Shouldn’t we all be crying?

I love the Internet, the connection it gives me to loved ones, and the ease it gives me to have the answer to almost every question I have at my fingertips. But I also know not to believe everything I read. That has always been true, even when newspapers were in their prime. But it is especially true these days when anyone can write anything they want without regard to truth.

You can’t be a journalist and not believe in, and support, freedom of speech. And I do.

So where do we go from here? I don’t know. And that’s another reason my heart is breaking.

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