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Another thing that travel writer Catherine Watson share is that we've both visited the Galapagos and were fascinated by the wildlife, like this tortoise I watched on Santa Cruz Island. == Photo by Pat Bean

Another thing that travel writer Catherine Watson and I share is that we’ve both visited the Galapagos and were fascinated by the wildlife, like this tortoise I watched on Santa Cruz Island. == Photo by Pat Bean

            “What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.”—Maya Angelou

The Colors of Fear

            I just read the last chapter in Catherine Watson’s travel book, “Home on the Road.”  I understood the title perfectly as the road is where I, too, feel most at home. Catherine and I are both addicted wanderers. The travel bug bit her when she read the Tarzan books. It hit me when I read Osa Johnson’s “I Married Adventure.” Both of us at the time were still a few years away from being teenagers.  Both of us went on to become journalists – and. being of a similar age, both of us were taught as children how to hide beneath our school desks, cover our heads and close our eyes in case of a nuclear bomb attack by our arch-enemy, Russia.

And visited Ecuador, where I (I don't know where she stayed) stayed at this hotel in Guayaquil. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And we have both visited Ecuador, where I (I don’t know where Catherine  stayed) stayed at this hotel in Guayaquil. — Photo by Pat Bean

The last chapter in “Home on the Road” talks about those Cold War days, and how Catherine’s fears of being nuked negatively impacted her life. Looking back on my own life, I now wonder if that’s when I first begin sticking my head in the sand to block out bad stuff happening around me so I could pretend all was right with my world.

I suspect, having overcome our fears, is why Catherine and I can both fearlessly travel alone to unknown places, and why we’re not obsessively fearful of terrorist alerts, that after 9-11 varied in degree by designated  color – with blue being the lowest danger alert and red being the highest danger.

I can no longer stick my head in the sand and say the danger isn’t real, and even more dangerous than our Cold War fears. But I choose not to live my life in fear.

Catherine’s last story in her travel book related the fears she had as a child to what she was seeing when she took a 1979 Trans-Siberian Railroad trip across the then Soviet Union to get a “first-hand look at the country I’d spent my childhood being afraid of, The truth hit me hardest in Irkutsk…. Half the population was living in log cabins without indoor plumbing…. I watched old people wearing heavy clothes against the cold, carrying buckets and trudging slowly along dirt streets to get to the neighborhood water pipe, and suddenly I was flooded with anger.

“For this? ‘I thought,’ For this I gave up my childhood?”

She went on to say that this time around she refused to be afraid. I guess one time was enough for me, too. But I wonder what negative impacts young children today are suffering because our primary colors have become symbols of danger?

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat:  Bella Remy’s photos  http://tinyurl.com/n4rpcp2  Great photos of a pair of hoodies, also known as hooded mergansers. Looking at them makes up for the fact I was too slow to photograph the gila woodpecker that stood on my balcony rail this morning. Life is good.

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        “It’s always better when you give a damn!” – John D. MacDonald

Kim and I with our Tusker's beer after a long, dusty day.

Kim and I with our Tusker’s beer after a long, dusty day.

Theroux Recaptures an African Night

I’m slowly reading Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux. I emphasize slowly because Theroux’s writing cannot be fully appreciated any other way. In the book, he has just crossed into Kenya from Ethiopia, having been shot at by bandits during his journey as a $3 paying passenger aboard a cattle truck whose normal speed is 10 mph because of the pot-holed, boulder-dotted, deep-rutted road.

Our tent in Pornini Camp in Kenya. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our tent in Pornini Camp in Kenya. — Photo by Pat Bean

When the truck stops for the night in the town of Marsabit, he writes: “I walked around and found a place to stay, the Jey Jey … another three-dollar room. I had a shower in the communal washhouse, then walked to the market, drank a Tusker beer, and talked to some locals, boasting, ‘I got shot at.’ No one was surprised or impressed…”

Reading this flooded my little gray cells with memories. While I wasn’t shot at during my two weeks in Africa, I had experienced Africa’s rough roads (in a Land Rover with English-speaking native guides) and had stayed overnight in Africa (in isolated, but usually luxurious accommodations). But it wasn’t these things that ensnared my brain’s neurons, it was the mention of Tusker Beer.

The sundowner sunset. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The sundowner sunset. — Photo by Pat Bean

After a full day of travel that included crossing the border from Tanzania into Kenya, on roads as rough as Theroux described, I and my traveling companion Kim finally arrived at our tent camp near Amboseli National Park. We were just in time for a Sundowner, a late safari to a scenic spot to watch the sun go down. Still dusty from our day’s drive, we found a spot to park our weary bodies, and were handed a Tusker beer.

It was the perfect ending to an already perfect, if tiring, day. Thanks for the memories Paul. They made thus current non-wandering wanderer smile.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: A Birdy Lunch http://tinyurl.com/n8wmaup This blog makes me want to pack up and head to Costa Rico.

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            “… letting life just happen without control … It’s much less painful than fighting every step of the way … and so much more delightful than trying to arrange life like a table setting, which one can never do anyway. Really, it’s quite exciting to see what will happen along next …” – Dorothy Gilman

In searching for my place in life, I found myself most happy when I was in places where Mother Nature ruled, like this marsh in Maine. -- Photo by Pat Bean

In searching for my place in life, I found myself most happy when I was in places where Mother Nature ruled, like this marsh in Maine. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Wise Words of Dorothy Gilman

            I’m rereading my journal of 1980, a year I spent trying to find out who this woman was that inhabited my body.  It wasn’t a bad year. In fact, it was a really good year after a few bad ones.

However, many of my journal posts saw me whining about not knowing what I wanted – or knowing what I wanted but couldn’t have.  I was yearning at the time for both a soul mate and to discover the place where I fit into life.

... and beneath a tree in which a bird perched and sang. -- Photo by Pat Bean

… and beneath a tree in which a bird perched and sang. — Photo by Pat Bean

I980 was also the year in which I discovered Dorothy Gilman and her Mrs. Polifax mystery series. After discovering The Unexpected Mrs Polifax, published in 1966, I quickly searched out and read The Amazing Mrs.Polifax (1970), The Elusive Mrs. Polifax (1971). A Palm for Mrs. Polifax (1973), and Mrs. Polifax on Safari (1976).

The fictional Mrs. Polifax, a widow in her 60s, was, like me, discovering herself and, also like me, having adventures while doing so. I bonded with Mrs. Polifax as if she were my lifelong friend.

On June 4, 1980, I wrote: Spent the night with Mrs. Polifax, Just the thoughts I needed. Marvelous you are Dorothy Gilman.

I discovered many Polifax/Gilman quotes scattered throughout my 1980 journal. But none has stuck with me more thoroughly than the quote about our not being able to arrange life like a table setting. I could even quote it verbatim because of how many times I thought about it when things didn’t go as planned in my own life.

This wonderful author, Dorothy Gilman, died at the age of 88 in 2012, after writing another nine Mrs. Polifax books between 1983 and 2000. I read every one almost as soon as they came out.

Mrs. Polifax changed over the years, and so did I. I now know my place and “Marvelous” it is.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Rolbos http://tinyurl.com/my4swzd The Extinct Instinct of Trust, a blog that leaves you with much to think about. At least it did me.

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Reading Habits

            “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” – John Locke

I'm currently reading, "We Wanted to be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers' Workshop," -- and loving it. I was fascinated by how many writers also wanted to be artists but chose writing -- which sort of fits me, too. This quick watercolor was part of a sky exercise I did a few years ago.

I’m currently reading, “We Wanted to be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop,” — and loving it. I was fascinated by how many writers also wanted to be artists but chose writing — which sort of fits me, too. This quick watercolor was part of a sky exercise I did a few years ago.

Do Blogs Fit In the Picture?

            When I was young, books were my escape into another world, one far more interesting than the one in which I lived. Since it wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I knew I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t see books much beyond the fantasy lives they offered me.

I especially loved reading travel books, and it was from them that I started my first bucket list.

Another of my watercolor sky exercises. -- Art by Pat Bean

Another of my watercolor sky exercises. — Art by Pat Bean

Then, as a journalist, books became learning tools that helped take me from a wet-behind-the-ears reporter to star reporter at a small newspaper in just four years. I had dropped out of school at 16, but didn’t let my prospective managing editor know that when he hired me as a darkroom flunky when I was 27.

I then worked doubly hard and wormed my way up to being a reporter (the job I wanted but wasn’t hired for) in just five months. I credit all the reading I did after I dropped out of school as being the magic that propelled me forward in my chosen career, including finally getting me into college without a high school diploma.

But it wasn’t until I retired, and my life was less filled with distractions, that I started looking at books from a writer’s point of view – even though I was a writer. .

I began admiring great metaphors, and was inspired to write better ones. I wondered how one author kept me turning pages, while yet another had me stopped reading before I had read a dozen pages. It added a deeper dimension to my reading, especially when I started reading with a notebook and pen by my side.

The latest additions to my reading habits are blogs. I’ve always loved reading people’s journals – and this is exactly what many personal blogs are, and the ones I’m most likely to read. I’ve made friends with some bloggers, ones who make me feel as if I’m not alone in how I think, and others that make me think about things differently. I feel lucky to have such a cache of reading at my computer fingertips. Life is good!

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: I can’t do this until I do that http://tinyurl.com/kfmfnqt This blog was one that reminded me I was not alone.

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“Then I beheld the river … journeying out of the grey past into the green future.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Then I beheld the river … journeying out of the grey past into the green future.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson — Photo by Pat Bean

“Come, let us not be an appendage to Alexander, Charles V., or any of history’s heroes. Dead men all! For me, the earth is new today, and the sun is raining light.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Thoughts from the Past

            I have 50 years of journals stashed away in bins, most of which, once finished, have never been opened again. The early years of my journaling were a haphazard kind of thing, cheap steno pads, sometimes with only a few pages filled and more dates missing than captured.

Sometime in the 1980s, I switched to fancy journals, and filled them more faithfully. By the 1990s, journaling had become almost a daily routine. Recently I decided I should try reading my past thoughts, and so I randomly chose a journal in which to begin.

Me and Peaches on one of many hikes. She loved hiking as much as she loved tennis balls. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Me and Peaches on one of many hikes. She loved hiking as much as she loved tennis balls. — Photo by Kim Perrin

The journal I picked chronicled the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999. It was a time when my canine companion was a golden cocker spaniel named Peaches, who was addicted to tennis balls.

Dec. 19, 1998. It’s snowing outside, steady, tiny flakes that stuck to Peaches fur.… I feel as if I would like to sit here all day, curled up in the comfy, warm quilt Cindi (my daughter-in-law) gave me, and simply watch the snow fall. No such luck. Instead, I’ll read a few pages of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Journal, throw a few tennis balls for Peaches, then go to work.”

In various forms, the above was pretty much the gist of what I wrote again and again for the next few days, always mentioning the tennis ball routine with Peaches, and the snowy weather in Northern Utah.

I also recorded numerous RWE quotes into my journal from his journal. Here are a few:

If Milton, if Burns, if Bryant, is in the world, we have more tolerance, and more love for the changing sky, the mist, the rain, the bleak, overcast day, the indescribable sunrise and the immortal stars. If we believed no poet survived on the planet, nature would be tedious.”

            “There is creative reading as well as creative writing.”

            “My life is a May game. I will live as I like. I defy your strait-laced, weary, social ways and modes. Blue is the sky, green the fields and groves, fresh the springs, glad the rivers, hospitable the splendor of sun and star. I will play my game out.”

            “Some books leave us free and some books make us free.”

            “The gates of thought – how slow and late they discover themselves. Yet when they appear, we see that they were always there, always open.”

I was amazed, reading Emerson, how alike were so many of my own thoughts, especially the one that would find its way onto my resolution list for 1999: “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”

And through all this journaling, Peaches was there with me, sometimes sharing my chair, but mostly standing before me with a tennis ball in her mouth that she wanted me to throw for her to fetch. I am so blessed to have had her in my life, and for Ralph Waldo Emerson, too.

Bean Pat: Express yourself http://tinyurl.com/q93e2pn I like this blog because it encourages me to express myself more with my words. I hope it encourages you to be more expressive in your own way, too.

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             “The best travel is a leap in the dark. If the destination were familiar and friendly, what would be the point of going there?” – Paul Theroux

Recent art: Just as writers see through different eyes, so do artists. I call this recent pieces, with it wrong-way leaning trees, Runoff. The scene reminds me of the mountain backdrop in my former Ogden, Utah, home.

Recent art: Just as writers see through different eyes, so do artists. I call this recent piece, with it wrong-way leaning trees, Runoff. The scene reminds me of the mountain backdrop in my former Ogden, Utah, home.

            “There are still too many places to go, too many people to meet, too many good stories to hear, and they all tug at my imagination. Home and away, I see now, are the yin and yang of travel. Both are part of the same journey.” – Catherine Watson One is Not Like the Other I’m not sure how it came to be, because while I’m always reading five or more books at the same time, only one of them is usually a travel book. However, there are currently two in this genre on my reading table, “Dark Star Safari” by Paul Theroux, and “Home on the Road,” by Catherine Watson. Theroux, whom I once heard speak at a writer’s conference, has written over 35 books, his best known being “The Great Railway Bazaar first published in 1975. It’s about a 1973 four-month journey by train from London through Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and a return trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is considered a classic in the travel-writing genre.

I had this scrap of good art paper, 6X11 inches, and decided to do a quick watercolor of some flowers from a photo I posted a week or so ago.  I added the cat  as s surprise.

I had this scrap of good art paper, 6X11 inches, and decided to do a quick watercolor of some flowers from a photo I posted a week or so ago. I added the cat as s surprise.

“Home on the Road” is just Watson’s second book, her first being ”The Road Less Traveled,” which was first published in 2005 –  during the second of my nine years traveling full-time across country in my RV. I’m not sure where I was when I bought the book, but I did so without a second thought. Its title perfectly matched my goal of traveling only backroads and avoiding interstates and freeways as if their paths were flowing lava. Theroux’s writing constantly sends me to an atlas, a dictionary or Wikipedia. I love it, because I’m always learning something new. But the reading is slow; I’m sure the deliciously exotic “Dark Star Safari” will be stuck on my reading table long after “Home on the Road”  is back on my bookshelf or passed along to another reader. Watson’s writing, meanwhile, has a quite familiar flavor to it. Not only are the author and I of the same gender – there is no doubt in my mind but that men and women see and think differently – we also share journalism backgrounds. We’ve learned to seldom use a word readers don’t understand, and we both have the knack of letting a reader stand beside us and see what we are seeing. It’s easy reading — even when the setting is foreign. Both authors are writing award winners, and reading them together and having a prime opportunity to compare their writing styles, is a fantastic writer’s dinner. Like most things in life, it is not that one writing style, or book, is better than the other, just different. I Bean Pat: Gray plovers and ruddy turnstones http://tinyurl.com/ovtg3m9 This blog and photos remind me of the wonderful walks I take with my son Lewis when I visit the Texas Gulf Coast and we walk out on the Quintana Jetty. It is where I saw my first purple sandpiper, plus lots of ruddy turnstones.

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The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.” – Pablo Neruda

I'm addicted to books like butterflies are addicted to flowers ... -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’m addicted to books like butterflies are addicted to flowers … — Photo by Pat Bean

Books are like a Road Trip for this Non-Wandering Wanderer

            I’m addicted to books. But then you probably already know that if you read my blog even infrequently.  I should have an “I Brake for Bookstores” sticker on my vehicle’s bumper – because I do.

Walking up and down aisles filled with the work of beloved authors, smelling the crispness of paper and ink, and reading first pages of books with exotic titles, gives me a John Denver high without the Rocky Mountains.  My purse is always lighter after such an experience. While I allow myself the luxury of buying one book each time I visit a bookstore, the plan doesn’t always work.

... and lizards are addicted to rocks. -- Photo by Pat Bean

… and lizards are addicted to rocks. — Photo by Pat Bean

On one recent visit, the treasures I couldn’t live without included “The Creative License,” an art instruction book by Danny Greggory that I found on a sale rack; “Living on the Wind,” a book about bird migration by Scott Weidensaul; and a mystery by Sara Peretsky, whose heroine V. I. Warshawski brings Chicago alive to the reader better than most travel writers.

When I later tried to balance my limited budget, I chastised myself and promised I would go to the public Library more. It’s easier to do now that I’m not wandering the countryside in my RV, Gypsy Lee, on a daily basis. But not foolproof, as my Amazon purchases can attest. .

I use Amazon – couldn’t live without my Kindle – for any specific book I simply must have within the next 60 seconds.

A better plan, when I can wait a few days, is to put the book I want on an online Pima County Library request list. My branch library then notifies me when they have the book ready for me to pick up.

It’s a marvelous service.

But I also like to lazily browse the library bookshelves when I have the time, and pick out a few books I wouldn’t otherwise read. I usually always leave with a fantasy, a mystery, a travel book and an art book.

I also like to begin at the first shelf in a library room and peruse it down the line until I come across a book that looks interesting. On the next visit, I pick up where I left off and repeat.

It’s a fascinating trick that helps me learn something new each day.

My library habits, however, pale to those of Ray Bradbury, who spent three days a week for 10 years reading every book in a library. He said it was better than any college education he could have received.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Writers will understand http://tinyurl.com/lusjka6 This blog gave me my first laugh of the day.

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