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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Bogged Down

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis   ” Every day is a good day to be alive.”– Marty Robbins

I think the alligators got me when I tried doing too many things. --Photo by Pat Bean

I think the alligators got me when I tried doing too many things. –Photo by Pat Bean

Time to Simplify I have to admit that the past two weeks have found me doing not much of anything worthwhile. I think it started when I wrote out a complete list of all the things I needed to do, should do, and wanted to do.

Anne Lamott advises writers to take things Bird by Bird in her excellent book. I think I'm going to try and follow that advise from now on. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Anne Lamott advises writers to take things Bird by Bird in her excellent book. I think I’m going to try to follow that advise from now on. — Photo by Pat Bean

After finishing the list, which took up about 50 lines in a notebook, I was suddenly too tired to do anything. For the next several days I played computer games, which prompted me to vow not to play computer games for the next 50 days. Then I watched TV programs on my computer for several days. I’m not sure what finally gave me a clue as to what my problem was, but clearly that impossible to accomplish list had mired me in a muddy pond thick with alligators. So I put the list aside, and went back to simply listing a few prioritized things that needed accomplishing on a daily to do list — and which I could reasonably complete and still have time left over for dawdling, reading and smelling the flowers. As if by magic, I recovered my energy. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think my brain gets a kick out of playing games with me.     

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Wildlife Sighting http://tinyurl.com/q57dgvv Take an armchair trip with this photographer as he watches a cougar drag its dinner up a cliff.

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“Not writing for me would be like not breathing.” – Pat Bean

It's hot in Tucson right now, so I have been doing more inside reading than outside birdwatching, which I love to do as much as I love writing. But I saw this gila woodpecker on a recent early morning walk with Pepper. -- photo by Pat Bean

It’s hot in Tucson right now, so I have been doing more inside reading than outside birdwatching, which I love to do as much as I love writing. But I saw this gila woodpecker on a recent early morning walk with Pepper.  — photo by Pat Bean

And Writers  

            “A writer who hates the actual writing, who gets no joy out of the creation of magic by words, to me is simply not a writer at all … how can you hate the magic which makes a paragraph or sentence or a line of dialogue or a description something in the nature of a new creation? – Raymond Chandler, who liked to think of his words as those that got up and walked.

Chandler introduced his hard-boiled detective, Phillip Marlowe, in The Big Sleep, which was published the year I was born. He decided to become a become a mystery writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Great Depression at the age of 44. The Big Sleep has been named one of the top 100 fiction novels of the century.   

And right beneath the woodpecker, in the same tree, was a white-winged dove. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And right beneath the woodpecker, in the same tree, was a white-winged dove. — Photo by Pat Bean

         “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you have to do every day. There are two reasons for this: Getting the work done, and connecting with your unconscious mind.” – Walter Mosely.

Mosely is Black, Jewish and grew up in poverty. One of his writing teachers told him that these things provided him with riches for the page. Mosley started writing when he was 34, and says he has written every day since, turning out over 40 books in a variety of genres. Perhaps his best known are the Easy Rawlins detective series, which are a favorite of Bill Clinton, and which became more popular when the president said as much.

I remember back when JFK said his favorite author was Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond series. I had already read all of Flemings’ books at the time, but they got more popular after Kennedy said he liked them.

“Writing is really a way of thinking – not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.” –Toni Morrison

Morrison, who has writing awards too numerous to list that include a Pulitzer and a Nobel, takes on epic themes in her books,  the best known of which are Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula and the Song of Solomon.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Laughter Therapy http://tinyurl.com/qxpht3q I’m all about the chocolate – and belly laughing.

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A magical moment at W.F. Jackson Park in Alabama -- at crepuscular.

A magical moment at W.F. Jackson Park in Alabama — at crepuscular. — Photo by Pat Bean

   “Every spring I hear the thrush singing in the glowing woods. He is only passing through. His voice is deep, then he lifts it until it seems to fall from the sky. I am thrilled. I am grateful. Then, by the end of morning, he’s gone, nothing but silence out of the tree where he rested for a night. And this I find acceptable. Not enough is a poor life. But too much is, well, too much. Imagine Verdi or Mahler every day, all day. It would exhaust anyone.” – Mary Oliver

My Curiosity Never Killed a Cat  

            I’m reading Luke Dempsey’s “A Supremely Bad Idea,” which I had checked out from the local Tucson Audubon Library. It’s a book along the lines of Mark Obmascik’s “The Big Year,” which is about three’s men’s obsession to see the most bird species in 1998. Bad Idea is also about three birders chasing birds. .

A tri-colored heron, once known as a Louisiana heron, spotted on the Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A tri-colored heron, once known as a Louisiana heron, spotted on the Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston, Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean

Anyway, Dempsey mentions seeing a Louisiana heron, which sets my mind roiling. I’ve seen every species of herons this country has to offer, and I had never heard of a Louisiana heron. So off I chase to Bing it, which is the same as Googling it, only I use Bing as my internet explorer. In no time at all, my curiosity is slated. A Louisiana heron is what a tri-colored heron was once called.

The discovery left me pleased that I had learned something new. Then Dempsey used the word crepuscular, which sent back to my computer and my online dictionary. Crepuscular, I learned, means twilight, and can refer to animals that come out at twilight, and which are often wrongly referred to as nocturnal.

I don’t know about you, but I love it when writers send me to a dictionary.

Bean’s Pat: Dawn Downey’s Blog http://tinyurl.com/q3l3vvb A blog that will make you thankful for only having to walk to exercise. I also love this author’s book, “Stumbling Toward the Buddha,” which I recently read.

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A Butterfly

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Birdhouse and butterfly atop my bookcase.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Birdhouse and butterfly atop my bookcase. — Photo by Pat Bean

And the Perfect Morning

            As always, the first thing on awakening, I took Pepper for a walk. When we returned from this early morning rejuvenation, I gave her a treat and fixed myself a cup of coffee. This morning, as I waited for the coffee to brew, I looked around for a place to put the butterfly my friend Kim had given me – and suddenly saw it.

Morning cream-laced coffee, with my journal and a book. The perfect start to any day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Morning cream-laced coffee, with my journal and a book. The perfect start to any day. — Photo by Pat Bean

I had recently moved a planter birdhouse that had been hanging on my back balcony to the top of my bookcase. It needed a bit of brightening. By the time my coffee had brewed, the butterfly had a new home, a place where I could daily observe its beauty. I’m fascinated by butterflies, both because of their beauty and because  they represent rebirth.

I then took my coffee out to my bedroom balcony, where I sat down at the patio table set, a recent gift from my youngest daughter. There, with my cream-laced coffee, my journal and a book checked out from the Tucson Audubon’s library, I enjoyed my morning – and reflected on my life – and all the things I hadn’t been doing lately.

Perhaps, I thought, I had just gotten too comfortable. But then, since I had promised to stop beating up on myself for things I hadn’t done, I took a few moments to reflect on the things I had done. One of these, I realized, was making my small apartment a home filled with the love of simple things, like a silk butterfly.

I’m not sure it was the pep talk I needed to attack the chores I had set for myself, the things that give me a sense of accomplishment at the end of a day, but at least I’ve written this blog – and it’s not yet 8 a.m.

Time, I think, for a second cup of coffee and more reflection.

Bean Pat: Dandelions http://tinyurl.com/peocats I saw some sprinkled across the grass this morning, and I, too, wondered why some people abhor them on their lawns.

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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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