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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

“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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The Passing Years

“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is the work of art.” – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Chicago, from the top of the Hancock Building. Jan Morris wrote about the city, as have I.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Chicago, from the top of the Hancock Building. Jan Morris wrote about the city, as have I. — Photo by Pat Bean

Through the Eyes of Jan Morris

I picked up The World, a travel book by Jan Morris, at the library last week and am fascinated by it.  The book contains a collection of the writer’s work, beginning with the story of the 1953 summiting of Everest for the first time, and ending with an article on Britain’s relinquishment of Hong Kong in 1997.

Jan Morris, who is now 88 to my 76. -- Wikimedia photo

Jan Morris, who is now 88 to my 76. — Wikimedia photo

I was 14 years old in 1953, seeing world happenings through my own eyes – well at least when I was aware of what going on around me – and thus, as I said, fascinated by seeing events and places a second time through both mine and Morris’ eyes and thoughts, veiled in the gauzy haze of half a century.

I had, over the years, read many magazine travel articles by Morris, but none of the writer’s many books, of which the most noted is his history of the British Empire trilogy, Pax Britannica. I knew little, however, about Morris’ personal life. And for some strange reason, or so I thought, I truly didn’t know if the writer was male or female, perhaps because. I knew people of both sexes called Jan.

I laughed when I discovered the answer in The World’s prologue written by Morris. Jan began life as James, completing an eight-year sex transition in 1972. So he wrote over time as both genders.  I guess my instincts were right on target.

Meanwhile, I’m simply enjoying his writing, and traveling back in time to the many eras Jan and this old wondering-wanderer broad have lived through. Morris, in his prologue, could have been speaking for me, when he sums up his feelings about the world over the years.

“I was twenty-four years old at the start of the 1950s, seventy-four at the end of the 1990s, so the passage of the globe described in this book is the passage of a life, too, from the twilight of adolescent to the dawn of senility, all its judgments, unreliable in any case, are colored by the grand change of life from youth to old age … Few of us are consistent in our opinions and values for fifty years, and we are affected not only by experience and maturation, but by moods, fickle tastes, boredom and personal circumstance.”

            Ain’t it the truth!

Bean Pat Morning song http://tinyurl.com/pzn3qla If you love to be woken by bird twitter, you’ll like this house wren’s salute to the day.

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Names

“You’ve got to invest in the world, you’ve got to read, you’ve got to go to art galleries, you’ve to find out the names of plants. You’ve got to start to love the world and know about the whole genius of the human race. We’re amazing people.” — Vivienne Westwood.

The name of this butterfly is  orange sulfur alfalfa, and while I know that the flower (I don't like to think of them as weeds), I have no idea which of the 150 varieties of dandelions this is. Do you? -- Photo by Pat Bean

The name of this butterfly is orange sulfur alfalfa, and while I know that the flower is a dandelion (I don’t like to think of them as weeds), I have no idea which of the 150 varieties of dandelions this is. Do you? — Photo by Pat Bean

Mine Fits
One of  the traits of a good writer is that he or she quickly learns that a tree is not a tree. It’s a cypress or a live oak, and a bird is not a bird, it’s a red-tailed hawk or a black-capped chickadee. Such proper names paint clearer images for readers to add pictures to your go with your words.
I thought about this when the recent writing prompt for my Story Circle Network online writing group was to explain the meaning of our names.  I wondered if  my name explains me.  I think it does. This is what I wrote:
And this mountain, the tallest in North America, has two names: Denali and Mount McKinley.-- Wikimedia photo

And this mountain, the tallest in North America, has two names: Denali and Mount McKinley.– Wikimedia photo

I was named Patricia Lee Joseph, the last name being a gift from my great- great-grandfather, who was a Portuguese sailor who jumped ship in Connecticut. The choice of Patricia  was because it was the name my mother had randomly punched out on a once-popular raffle board. She paid a quarter for the punch in hopes of winning a small cedar box.

My mother, who was pregnant with me at the time, said if she won she would name me Patricia. She won, and that box was part of her possessions for as long as I knew her. My middle name is my mother’s maiden name. She used to say it was quite appropriate because I had inherited  my wanderlust from her father, and my grandfather, Charles Forest Lee.

I have never been called Patricia, however. Well, except for the few times my mother was extremely angry at me and yelled: Patricia Lee Joseph!!!

Growing up, I was called the very southern Patsy Lee, which was OK until my first-grade valentine day when someone wrote Pasty instead of Patsy on my card.  One kid noticed, and for the rest of the week, I was taunted by kids calling me Pasty. Usually they called me Cootie Brain.

I realize now how well that unkindly moniker fit. I was like Hermione in Harry Potter, the girl who was a know-it-all who constantly waved her hand in the air to answer every question posed by a teacher. And my hair was always tangled with knots in it that could easily have hidden cooties.

I laugh at the image these days, but back then the nickname was the source of daily tears.

I always wanted to be called Pat in school, but a popular classmate already had claimed that name. I wasn’t called Pat until the sixth grade, when my family moved and I attended another school. From that time forward, I’ve always been Pat — and I never uttered Cootie Brain again until I was almost 40 and the hurt of my younger years had vanished.

By the time I divorced my wrong choice of a mate, when I also was almost 40,  I was already published as Pat Bean, and I chose to keep Bean instead of reverting back to my maiden name. I think Pat Bean makes a great byline, and it feels like me.

Bean Pat: Brevity http://tinyurl.com/ot64fuz One of my very favorite writing blogs

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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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Six-Word Story

            Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again.”  — Alex Tam

There's something about the dawn of a new day that gives my glasses a rose-colored hue. -- Photo by Pat Bean

There’s something about the dawn of a new day that gives my glasses a rose-colored hue. — Photo by Pat Bean

Sometimes I Cry Myself to Sleep

I used to do just that. But not in a long, long time.  My life these days is just too damn good.

And before you know it, the world is filled with light once again. -- photo by Pat Bean

And before you know it, the world is filled with light once again. — photo by Pat Bean

Even back then, when a crisis, unmet desire or problems were almost routine in my life,  my days weren’t all that bad. But there were many nights, from my teens into my 40s, when I curled up in a fetal ball at the midnight hour and cried until I had filled a bucket with tears.

The funny thing was that after the tears were shed, my whole body felt wonderful. There’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. While I don’t quite understand it, I do know that the world always seemed more promising and my blessings more abundant after a midnight sob session.

While I’m certainly not sorry I have little to cry about these days, except perhaps the loss of a long-time friend, I kind of miss the tears. Perhaps that’s why I do enjoy a book or movie that touches my soul and turns on the waterworks.

But what’s best of all is writing that makes me both laugh and cry.

So what’s your six-word story?

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The day after:  http://tinyurl.com/l3e9e2f  This was the blog that got me thinking about my own tears. I love the brightness of her words about the morning sun making all things better. I totally agree.

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A Dead Mouse in the House

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Remember this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”  — Walt Disney

Just playing around with color. -- By Pat Bean

Just playing around with color. — By Pat Bean

A Mind-Boggling Journey

I’ve been house-sitting my daughter’s home and five pets (two dogs, two cats and a horse) this past week. It’s a large house with TVs in almost every room, including a large flat screen in a family room that my entire apartment would almost fit into.

My daughter's West Tucson backyard is full of cactus, but this sketch of saguaros was made from a view of the Catalina Mountains closer to  my East Tucson nest.

My daughter’s West Tucson backyard is full of cactus, but this sketch of saguaros was made from a view of the Catalina Mountains closer to my East Tucson nest.

It was a whole different environment from my own little nest, which has no TV. I decided to just go with the flow, especially after I discovered an NCIS marathon on the boob tube. After all, I was only going to be here for three days.

But then my daughter’s family decided to expand their spring break for a day because everyone was having so much fun. Then it got expanded for them for another day because Dad got vertigo and couldn’t travel for 24 hours.

When I got that news, I decided perhaps I should get my butt out of the comfortable recliner that sat in front of the TV and catch up on e-mail, my writing, do a little art, and post a blog. That’s when I discovered the dead mouse.

But it wasn’t an eek moment. It was a time for a visit to the computer store. Suddenly I felt the whole world had changed while I had my back turned doing something else. I had gone from a childhood, in which my geometry teacher told me man would never get to the moon – and relying on my cat to catch the mouse that had invaded my bedroom – to being annoyed that my access to the whole Web World was hindered because of a dead mouse.

I was awed just thinking about it.

Bean Pat: Birding in Cape Town http://tinyurl.com/nny3ucq A delightful armchair journey.

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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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