Category Archives: Pat Bean

December 25 – A Christmas Story

by Pat Bean

christmas_tree_decorations_200943

The year was 1979. I was recently divorced, four of my five children had left the nest, and I had just moved to a new town where I and my youngest teenage daughter knew no one. After school let out for the holidays, my daughter went to visit friends 50 miles away for a few days.

After she left, I thoughtfully looked at our Christmas tree. It was large, and generously decorated with the ornaments I had collected over the years, including the bright red plastic poinsettia flowers that had been the only decorations I could afford for my first Christmas tree.

So why did it look so sad?

In years past, with my large family still intact, the floor beneath the tree had always been stacked high with wrapped presents, as everyone bought gifts for everyone. But all that was under the tree on this day were the two gifts I had bought my daughter, and the one she had bought for me.

This wouldn’t do, I decided. While money was tight, and I couldn’t afford big gifts, I did have enough for a lot of small items, whose presence beneath the tree would go a long way to cheer it up before my daughter returned home.

Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had come to the same conclusion about our tree. And when she returned, it was with a lot of small gifts that she had bought for me with the small amount of money she had with her.

Our tree no longer looked sad–and when I think of Christmases past, this is always the one I remember first.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who spent nine years traveling in a small RV with her canine companion, Maggie. She now writes from Tucson, Arizona. She is passionate about books, writing, art, birds, nature, and at 77 still has a zest for life.

August 12 – A Three Hummingbird Morning

by Pat Bean

Last night, at around 9 o’clock, I sat on my bedroom’s third-floor balcony and watched lightning flash across the sky like fireworks. Sometimes a deep rumbling followed, but mostly it was a silent event, until I moved to the living room balcony where the rumbling was more consistent. The air smelled musty with the rain that never fell, and I was awed by the deep magenta hue of the sky, wondering how that was possible.

The show was long, and so I fixed myself a Jack and Coke and settled into a patio chair to watch in leisure, afterwards falling into a relaxed sleep that held me until a sliver of light seeped through my bedroom shutters.

The morning was muggy, but still cool enough here in Tucson for me to sit again on my balcony and sky watch, this time with my morning ritual of cream-laced coffee and my journal. As I watched, through my usually handy binoculars, a broad-billed hummingbird landed on a nearby tree then zoomed straight to my nectar feeder that sat above my head. Seeing me, it zoomed away, but soon returned, and after deciding I was harmless, fed.

Then there were two hummingbirds flitting about in competition for the feeder. The second one was a black-chinned hummingbird, the species I see most often. After they had left, a third hummingbird appeared and drank. It was an Anna’s, although because it was a female, it took me a while to identify. The males, with their spectacular pinkish-purplish heads are an identification no-brainer.

Seeing these three hummingbird species took me back to the morning I awoke to find three hummingbirds flitting in my ten. It happened in 1991, during a rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon–before I became addicted to bird watching. I had no idea what species of hummingbirds they were at that time. I’m not sure I even knew then that hummingbirds came in different races.

While seeing those three hummingbirds flitting above my head in the tent 25 years ago thrilled me, seeing the trio this morning, and being able to identify each of them, was just as thrilling.

Life is good. And I am blessed.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist and late-blooming birder who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Pepper, and writes an blogs at http://patbean.wordpress.com.

February 20 – A Big Red Bird is all that Remains of My Past

by Pat Bean

“It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.” — Barbara Kingsolver

grandmothers-red-bird

Today, I hung all memories from the past on my wall.

The year was 1978 when I found myself single with two of my five children still left to support. It wasn’t an easy time, especially that first month when I had to borrow money to pay rent. Although there have been many difficult times since that day, as there are for all who occupy this planet, my life from this point forward only got better and better.

I spent the next 26 years finishing up a 37-year career in journalism, following it–and twice where my heart led me to go.

My career took me to the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, for three years, then to Ogden, Utah, as features editor for the Standard-Examiner. I stayed for three years here before love took me to Las Vegas for eight months that included a stint working for the Las Vegas Sun.

When love betrayed me, I took myself away from the neon lights to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I stayed for two years as regional editor for the Times-News. It was then back to Ogden, where my former newspaper offered me a job as assistant city editor.

In 1987, I answered my heart once again and moved to Erda, Utah, and undertook a daily 56-mile commute to my job in Ogden. But in 1989, I moved back to Ogden alone, and happily stayed there until 2004, at which time I sold my home and bought my RV, Gypsy Lee.

With few exceptions, everything I owned was either packed into my 22-foot home on the road, sold or given away. The exceptions, mostly books, were eventually stored at my youngest daughter’s home here in Tucson, where I recently moved into a small apartment after almost nine years spent living on the road exploring America from sea to shining sea.

Sunday, my daughter brought me a few of those bins. And this morning, I hung the only remaining possession that remained from 1978 on the wall of my apartment.

As I stood back and looked at this simple sketch of a cardinal, which belonged to my grandmother, whom I adored and whom died when I was only ten years old, tears came into my eyes

The colored-pencil drawing, which even for a while accompanied me in my RV travels, held a lifetime of memories. It is the only thing I own that connects me to my past. As a person who prefers to look forward not backward, I have no regrets that there is nothing else.

But my heart tells me that this red bird may be the most precious thing I own today.

Pat Bean, who thinks of herself as a wondering-wanderer, is a former journalist who lived in an RV for almost nine years and recently moved into a third-floor apartment in Tucson. Her passions are writing, reading, hiking, birds, art, family and her canine companion, Pepper.

January 27 – The Fork in the Road


by Pat Bean

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”–Neale Donald Walsch

It was a sunny day in 2004, just three weeks before I would retire from a 37-year career as a journalist, when I drove a brand new RV off an Ogden, Utah, sales lot. It felt like the butterflies in my stomach had developed thorns on their fragile wings.

Everything that had been a part of my past life was about to change. I had just blocked off all chances of remaining rooted in my small, but cozy home that sat in the shadows of the Wasatch Mountains I loved. There simply was not enough money in my future to both fulfill my lifelong dream of living and traveling on the road while maintaining fixed roots within a circle of friends that had taken over 20 years to acquire.

This day I had not only chosen the unknown road that lay ahead, but had wrapped my choice in cement. I had even traded in my Honda Odyssey as part payment for the undersized, 22-foot RV that was now my only form of transportation, and soon would be my only home.


By the time all the paper work giving me title to the 2004 Volkswagen Vista/Winnebago had been scrutinized, signed and finalized, it was early evening. I was too unsettled to take my purchase for a check-out spin. So, feeling tall and strange sitting behind the wheel with my new living, dining, sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities behind me, I drove home. Emotional turmoil, good or bad, always sapped my energy.

On carefully pulling into my driveway, testing the wideness needed to turn my new RV, I heard frenzied barking from inside the house. It was how my dog, Maggie, reacted to the sound of strange vehicles invading her territory. She never barked when I returned home, nor did she at any of my frequent visitors. But she did not recognize this new vehicle.


When I opened the door, Maggie gave me a quizzical look of surprise. Then, realizing in a split second that something new was parked in the driveway, she dashed between my legs and ran out to explore.

I opened the RV’s side door and she eagerly hopped in. She slowly sniffed every surface she could get at, then finally hopped up onto the couch and gave me a look that I easily interpreted as: So where are we going? To explore America, the beautiful, I reply. I always answer my dog’s inquiring looks. .

And that’s how my my travels with Maggie began. It’s been a journey that’s now heading into its eighth year. And I still have nary a regret.

Pat Bean is a wandering/wondering old broad who is beginning her eighth year of full-time RV-ing with her canine traveling companion, Maggie. She is passionate about writing, nature, books and birds and writes a daily blog.

December 20 – The Long Green Thing Surprise

by Pat Bean

“Hey Mom, I brought back a surprise for you from Afghanistan,” was the message I got from my oldest son, D.C. I was in Idaho at the time, and the only thing I wanted from Afghanistan was my son, home, safely.

Later, I wondered what the surprise could be.

“It’s a long green thing,” my daughter-in-law, Cindi, hinted.

It took a few minutes, but then I burst out laughing.

“Oh, you mean his Christmas stocking,” I said.

This is a thing that goes back many, many years, back to the time when my son was a pre-teenager. It was a time when money was in extremely short supply in our family, and so our Christmas stockings were just that–everyone’s own clean sock. And the kids always found the biggest ones they owned to hang up.

Now D.C. always was an ingenious kid. He chose his long Boy Scout knee sock, but decided it still wasn’t big enough. So he cut the foot off one of the socks and sewed the rest of the stocking to the top of the other one. It was such a brilliant idea that he didn’t even get punished for the deed. I think I filled it up with oranges that first Christmas.

In the meantime, as kids do, D.C. grew up, joined the Army, married, had kids of his own and made the military his career for the next 35 years. It was during one of his three tours in Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot that I came upon that long-forgotten green stocking.

As a joke, I filled it up with goodies like smoked oysters, canned chili, Vienna sausage, nuts, toy cars, hand warmers, a Pez dispenser and a heck of a lot of other stuff and sent it to him that year for Christmas.

He’s made sure the stocking was returned to me every year since.

I guess in thankfulness for my son’s safe return from the war zone, his upcoming retirement and all the laughter that stocking has provided the family over the years, I’ll have to fill it up yet one more time.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives and travels the country in a small RV with her canine companion, Maggie. She is passionate about writing, birds, books, nature and travel.

August 27–Lions, Elephants, Giraffes and the Aha Moment

by Pat Bean

Before this country went to war against Iraq, and while I was still a journalist, I wrote four editorials against such an invasion. As we all know, my efforts were for naught. In 2003, America attacked. It was an action that was not seen kindly by much of the rest of the world.

Four years later, on August 27, 2007, I found myself bouncing across a savannah in Tanzania  in a Land Rover, looking for lions and giraffes and elephants and ostriches, with my friend, Kim. Our driver and safari guide was Bilal, a native African who spoke English. We three had been together for five days, and so had  come to know a little bit about each other.

He worried about us two ladies, and asked who was going to take care of us when we were old. I guess he didn’t notice that I already was, although he did call me “Mama” as a sign of respect. Kim, who is quite a bit younger than me, didn’t get the same honorific.

Bilal, whom we finally figured out was divorced, said it was the duty of his oldest son to take of him when he was old. But we noted that it was his daughter he called on his radio at every opportunity, always asking if his grandson was being a good boy.

This particular day, for the first time, the subject of politics was raised. So why,” he asked, “does America fight in other countries?”

My outspoken friend was first to point out that not every American had been in favor of attacking Iraq. I added that as a journalist I had even publicly written newspaper columns against the invasion.

The three words that Bilal spoke next shocked me. “Who hid you?” He asked.

This was the day I realized how blessed I was to be an American woman.

Pat Bean was a newspaper journalist for 37 years. Today she lives and travels full time in a small RV with her dog, Maggie. Her passions are writing, travel, birds, nature, hiking and books.  Accompany her on her sojourns at Pat Bean’s Blog: Traveling with Maggie.

March 25 – A Morning Walk With Maggie


by Pat Bean

There have been many thrilling days in my life. When I was young, I watched my babies breathe in and out as they lay asleep, and felt the grasp of their tiny hands around my fingers. Each of their achievements–from taking their first steps to bringing home their first paycheck–made my heart sing with joy. After my babies had flown the coop, I was free to chase other thrills, like rafting the Grand Canyon and jumping out of an airplane. It would not be unfair to say that I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie.

But when I took my dog, Maggie, on her walk this morning, I felt more alive than I think I have ever felt before.

The sky was full of puffy rose and lavender tinted clouds that let me know the sun had risen even if it wasn’t visible this overcast day. A cool breeze stirred the hair on my bare arms, but I wasn’t cold. The caress on my skin felt like a gentle lover’s touch, one I never wanted to stop.

I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of the moment. The coolness gave Maggie, now 13, a briskness to her steps that, like mine, have begun to slow. She walked with ears flapping in the wind, and her short cocker-spaniel tail, straight up, a signal to the world that she’s in charge.

I was vividly aware of everything around me, the cedar waxwings crowding the leafless branches of an oak tree, the straining purple buds on a huge cactus in a mailbox planter, the eyes of a deer staring at me as I approached, and dandelions invading lawns to announce that spring was coming.

In my younger days, I would have probably only seen the deer, and even then would not have taken the time to look into its eyes and make the connection I did this day.

You won’t hear me join those who bemoan the wrinkles time has put on their faces, or what the years have taken from them. No. I have nary a complaint.

With age has come acceptance of myself, deeper understanding of how the world works, and the wisdom to know that the little things in life can be as thrilling as getting to the top of the mountain.

This morning’s simple walk left me with an inner peace greater than I’ve ever felt before, making today one of the best days of my life. I noted exactly that in my journal.

Pat Bean is a former journalist who has been traveling the country in an RV with her canine companion, Maggie, for seven years now. She is writing a travel book, and blogs daily about her travel adventures.