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The Right Words

            “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” – Mark Twain

A peaceful evening at the pond. — Art by Pat Bean

Good Writing is Rewriting

It took me eight years and five complete rewrites before Travels with Maggie was ready to be published, and at the end, I found it hard to let go because I worried about mistakes. But I finally did, and when that 75,000-word book went up on Amazon, I immediately started my next book, which is about my late-blooming birding adventures. I didn’t start seeing all the amazing birds around us until I was 60. This new passion bit into my soul at the perfect time, as my body was beginning to tell me it should take up a less strenuous hobby than backpacking and white-water rafting.

Tri-colored heron along the Texas Gulf Coast’s Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m tentatively titled my new book in progress, Bird Droppings, although one writer friend has suggested the connotation might turn readers off. I thought it might intrigue them. It’s a collection of short essays and anecdotes and my idea is that the title fit these scenarios perfectly. “Just something to think about,” my supportive friend said. “Titles can make or break books.”

What do you think? I would really like to know if you share mine or my friend’s viewpoint.

Meanwhile, when I was 10,000 words into the book, I lost my focus, and for the next few weeks I always had an excuse when it was time to add more words to it. If you’re a writer and haven’t yet faced this setback, please tell me how you avoided it.

Anyway, I finally decided to simply start at the beginning and edit what I had written. Mostly, I decided it wasn’t good.  I had forgotten to leave out the boring parts. That is author Leonard Elmore’s advice to writers.

So, I’m rewriting, because that’s what dozens of quite successful authors say writing is all about. It’s working.  Writing has become exciting and fun once again, and the book is going forward – but this time my focus is more on making each word count, then on the number of words written each day.

Travels with Maggie, meanwhile, has earned good rankings on Amazon from 12 reviewers. Yes, I’m bragging.  If you’ve read the book, perhaps you would like to add a review. If you belong to Kindle Unlimited, you can even download the book for free. Someone said you need at least 89 reviews to get noticed.

Sigh!

I guess Bird Droppings and Travels with Maggie both still have a long way to go.

Bean Pat: My beautiful things  https://mybeautfulthings.com/2018/04/04/scarf-maya-angelou-and-martin-luther-king/ Scarf,, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com.

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An Interesting Day

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.” – James Russell Lowell

I well remember my day on Espanola Island with my new sea lion friends. 

A Journal Page from a Non-Wandering Wanderer

As I’m reading my journal from 2005, when I was more active as a wanderer, I came across an entry of a day I had forgotten. It came at the end of an 11-day trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and while these days of wondrous sights are still etched in my brain, this last day slipped by without leaving much of an imprint.

Here is what I wrote about it in my journal the next day:

And I will never forget the blue-footed boobies. — Photo by Pat Bean

Yesterday was “interesting.” It took us from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make a short flight from San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands to Quito, Ecuador. Our plane was hit by lighting, and when we finally landed, our luggage was placed on the top of the van that drove us to our hotel.

A sudden heavy rain drenched everything in my luggage, and that of the other passengers as well.  Luckily a pair of my clean underwear dried out overnight.

And what a night it was. About 1 a.m. the hotel shook and I was almost tossed out of bed. A 6.1 earthquake had hit near Quito. Then at 4 a.m., without much more sleep, I got up and got dressed for the early morning flight back to Houston.

As I said, and “interesting” day.

I can’t help but wonder if I might have had a bit more to say about that July 13, 2005, day I I wasn’t still enjoying my memories of the Galapagos Islands.

Bean Pat: https://cheerstotraveling.com/2018/03/28/add-westman-islands-to-iceland-itinerary/  More Islands to visit. And Heimeay, too, just to see the colorful puffin statue if for no other reason.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

Leon Dormido, also know as Kicker Rock. — Wikimedia photo

The Galapagos Islands provide a window on time. In a geologic sense, they are young, yet they appear ancient.” – Frans Lanting

Pages From My Travel Journal

Shortly after boarding the Archipell II, a 16- passenger catamaran in which I would spend the next eight days sailing around the Galapagos Islands, we motored around Kicker Rock, which is actually two volcanic rocks split apart.

Pages from my journal.

The English name refers to the rocks’ resemblance to a boot when viewed from one angle. Our guide, Luiz, called it Lion Rock, or Leon Dormido in Spanish, however, because viewed from another angle, the 400-feet tall rock towers look like a sleeping lion.

We had set sail for our adventure from the harbor at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, where sea lions seemed to be everywhere. One group of sea lions had even commandeered a small boat tied to a larger boat, and one, a young juvenile lying near where our group boarded a panga for the ride out to the Archipell, sniffed my leg when I passed it.

Sea Lion in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. — Wikimedia photo

It was a bit chilling, but I was thrilled to have such an experience. My friend, Shirley Lee, who was behind me, was less thrilled. The sea lion nipped her instead of just sniffing. While we had dutifully been instructed not to touch the animals, someone forgot to pass the message on to the islands’ wildlife, which had absolutely no fear of humans.

By the time we got to Kicker Rock, I had seen dozens of birds, many that would go onto my life list, such as great frigatebirds, a striated heron, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and several of what are known as the Darwin finches, a group of about 15 birds studied by Darwin because of diversity in beak form and function.

And this was only day one. What fun it is to relive this great adventure. I’ll write more about it next week.

Bean Pat: Spring Equinox https://marinakanavaki.com/2018/03/20/spring-equinox-2018/?wref=pil An artist’s rendition.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

Art by Pat Bean

“Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” – Paulo Coelho

About My Foibles

            I have a tendency, when given advice, to immediately utter: “Nope, not for me.” It’s a phrase that usually annoys my friend Jean, who often sits with me on my balcony in the evening for a Happy Hour – and is always free with her advice and suggestions.

Jean, who calls me a stubborn old broad, is a year or so younger than my youngest daughter, and last night she said I was the teacher she needed to get through the daily chaos of being a teacher.

“The unteachable teacher mentoring a teacher,” I said, and laughed, a bit embarrassed a bit by her kind words. Then we both laughed.

“It’s good to be able to laugh at our foibles,” she said.

And it was.

The next morning, I wrote about the incident and the comradely laughter in my journal, which got me thinking about how long it took me to accept that I was not ever going to be perfect, and longer still to accept that not being perfect was not only acceptable, but preferable.

Daily writing in my journal helped me come to that conclusion. Writing, which I originally took up as a way to express myself, has also helped me discover myself, a treasure that is as golden as having a good friend who laughs at my foibles.

Bean Pat: Trent’s World https://trentsworldblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/if-we-were-having-coffee-on-the-17th-of-march-2018/?wref=pil Just an ordinary morning, like most of us have, written by a blogger I just started following.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

Birds: Spotted Towhees

Female spotted towhee — Wikimedia photo

“The accent of one’s birthplace remains in the mind and in the heart as in one’s speech.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

A Southern Accent, Perhaps

            Towhee … towhee!

The sound was coming from a bird hidden in a tree about halfway up Negro Bill Canyon near Moab, Utah.

Male spotted towhee

Drink ur tea … drink your tea, a reply echoed from farther up the canyon.

The sounds stopped me in my tracks. I had no intention of hiking on until I had spotted the two birds with my binoculars. I was sure I would see two different species, based on the different bird sounds they were making.

Although tucked among some small branches, I easily spotted the first bird, a male spotted towhee that gets its name from its voice. With a black head and back, rusty sides, and black wings speckled with white spots, it was an easy identification, even without the binoculars. But this basic bird-watching tool let me get a closeup look at the towhee’s bird’s brilliant red eye. Such details always delight me.

After the second bird sang out drink ur tea … drink ur tea a second time, I found it sitting in another tree. Except that its head appeared to be more of a rich brown than black, the two birds were identical. According to my field guide, this was a female spotted towhee.

Towhees, I had read, learn their songs when young, and pick up different inflections, even copy the songs of other species if they hear them frequently.

Perhaps one of these birds had a southern accent, like this native Texan. It was a fanciful thought, but it might even have been true.

Bean Pat: Brevity: Stripper Girl  https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/stripper-girl/  Always one of my favorite blogs, and this one is an example of how the world’s language  changes.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

A flock of roseate spoonbills won the color award of the day when I visited Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. — Wikimedia photo

“I want my children and my grandchildren to live in a world with clean air, pure drinking water, and an abundance of wildlife, so I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to wildlife conservation so I can make the world just a little bit better.” – Bindi Irwin

Cormorants and turtles were also plentiful on the island sanctuary. — Photo by Pat Bean

Favorite Places: Ding Dong, I Thought

The name Ding Darling for a national wildlife refuge fascinated my wandering-wondering brain. So. of course I had to research its origin while visiting Florida’s Sanibel Island sanctuary in 2008.

D’ing Darling in 1918. — Wikimedia photo

The refuge, which is home to a mangrove forest, submerged sea-grass beds and a multitude of birds and other wildlife, was simply named after the island on which it is located when it was created in 1945. It wasn’t until 1987 that the refuge was renamed after Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling, who used a contraction of his last name — D’ing — to sign his work. The name stuck.

D’ing, as everyone called him, got involved with the refuge when he worked to help keep developers from taking over some environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island. He also penned conservation cartoons, initiated the Federal Duck Stamp, which supports wildlife habitation, and designed its first stamp. In addition, he was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation in 1936. Lake Darling, a 9,600-acre lake in the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa is also named in his in honor.

All of which makes me a bit embarrassed that my first thought of the refuge was that it must be a “ding dong” place to visit.

The first Duck Stamp, designed by D’ing Darling.

One had to take a ferry to get to the refuge before a causeway was built to the island in 1963. But that old bridge was replaced in 2007, just a year before I visited, with a flyover span tall enough for sailboats to pass beneath. The scenic view from the top was awesome.

I remember the refuge as a place where I got two birds for my life list, a prairie warbler, and a Bahama mockingbird, which at first, I thought, was simply a familiar northern mockingbird. I could have seen the warbler is many other places in the southeastern United States, but the Bahama mockingbird is a rare vagrant that only occasionally can be seen is southern Florida.

But it was the roseate spoonbill flock that impressed me most. I’m a fan of color.

Bean Pat: Daily Echo https://scvincent.com/2018/03/13/wishes-flashfiction/?wref=pil Flash fiction in 99 words.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

“In my later years, I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.” — Ray Bradbury

The Yellow Flower — Art by Pat Bean

A Little Yellow Flower

I was 25, with five children that ranged in age from a few months to nine years old. Yes, the math is correct. It was just a few days before I turned 17 when my first child was born. It was all legitimate, as I had dropped out of high school and gotten married when I was barely 16. This wasn’t a rare occurrence back in the 1950s.

My life up to this point was one of changing diapers, cleaning house, cooking meals, catering to a demanding husband and going to church. I wasn’t exactly unhappy — that wasn’t in my nature and still isn’t – but I did do a lot of crying and a lot of escaping from daily life in my mind.

That all changed on a day that was a mother’s nightmare. My oldest son had taught his younger brothers how to climb the backyard fence. One of his younger brothers had gotten into the sugar bowl and traipsed the sweet granules all over the house … and that was just the beginning of the children’s shenanigans.

I was close to despair when my middle son, Lewis, presented me with an almost stemless yellow flower, which he had picked from the neighbor’s flowerbed, and which I was sure to hear about. But the sweet smile on his face, and the love that shone in his eyes for me, his mother, made everything I had gone through that day pale in comparison.

I had wanted each of my children, and I loved each of them, even if sometimes they were almost too much for me to handle.  At that day’s end, when all five of the rascally darlings were finally down for the night, I fell into my bed and was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.

But at 2 a.m., I was wide awake and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was impelled to get up, find some paper and a pen. I needed to capture that moment in which I had been presented that yellow flower. I wrote a crude poem about the incident before I was able to go back to bed and fall asleep.

That poem was the first thing I had ever written, except for a school assignment or letters. It changed my entire life. I suddenly knew my future was to be a writer. And I made it happen, beginning with a 37-year newspaper journalism career in which I wrote almost every day.  I’ve been writing, in one form or another, now for over half a century. I suspect the day I stop writing will be the day I die, because not writing is like not breathing to my soul.

Bean Pat: Barbets https://adityasbirdingblog.com/2018/03/01/the-colorful-world-of-barbets-4-blue-throated-barbet-great-barbet/?wref=pil This one’s for the bird lovers.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com