Hunting the Wild Moon

Last night I walked a mile out into the desert to watch the moon rise. 7:32 pm — the scheduled time — came around, and no moon. I stood for a few minutes wondering what could have happened to it (a moon is a pretty big thing to lose), but then I saw a hint of light behind a hill. Over the next few minutes, the diffused light grew more pronounce, and several minutes later, a huge orangy-yellow moon with a bright aura climbed over the top of the hill.

moonrise

I watched for a while, then headed back the way I came. Before I got very far, I received a phone call I had to take, and so I stood there, bathed in moonglow for at least thirty minutes. When I told the caller where I was, she got worried. Apparently, this is black widow season — as if Mojave green rattlers weren’t hazardous enough. I tucked my pants into my socks figuring if I stepped in a nest, I’d at least have some protection, and I got back safely. No rattlers. No black widows. Just a very poor picture of that bright harvest super moon.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Sunrise? Sunset?

It rained yesterday, bringing a bit of needed coolness to the desert. Last night for just a few minutes, the clouds lifted long enough to brighten the sky and I was able to take this photo.

moon rise

No, it’s not the setting sun. It’s the rising moon. Truly a super moon!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Most Compelling Images

The most compelling images seem to be those that somehow mirror ourselves, or at least our image of ourselves. At it’s most basic, this mirroring is why humans buy magazines with other humans on the cover, and why the animals we most bond with have the cuteness of a human baby, with wide-set, round eyes, and generally a round face.

I didn’t realize that I was prey to such subconscious mimicry, but of course I should have known since, although I don’t always like to admit it, I am just a human. I was reminded of our subconscious fascination with ourselves when I was gazing at the tarot card I chose during a one-card self-reading, a painting by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. This three of wands card shows a woman standing at the edge of a land bridge, far above a mountainous scene with a river running through it.

I was suddenly struck by the familiarity of the image, and then I remember this photo of me on the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which I used for the cover of Grief: The Great Yearning:

There I am, standing at the edge of the world, though the altar-like rock in front of me masks that reality. If the photo had been taken from the same perspective as that of the tarot card image, you would see I what I am seeing — a mountainous scene with a river running through it.

No wonder the image of the woman standing above it all struck such a familiar chord.  She is I, or maybe I am she.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Finding the Courage to Blog about Personal Matters

People often ask me where I get the courage to blog about the personal aspects of my life — first my grief over the death of my long time life mate/soul mate, then my efforts to deal with my schizoaffective brother, now the problems with my aged father.

To be honest, I do find myself a bit ashamed at having to admit my frustrations with my father. Although he is ambulatory and still strong, he refuses to do much of anything for himself. Even the home health aide from the nursing service that had been temporarily prescribed for him by his doctor has admitted he doesn’t need her. He is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He just doesn’t want to. He claims that doing the least little thing tires him, which I do understand, but so what? Life is exhausting. Being old is exhausting. People in worse shape than he is live alone and have no choice but to do things for themselves.

windNone of this is a problem except that I am generally the one who gets stuck catering to his whims, and it’s especially a problem when he wakes me up in the middle of the night because he is frantic he doesn’t have something close at hand he won’t need until the following afternoon. (As I mentioned yesterday, this sort of behavior is teaching me to stop fretting. To live in the moment. If I don’t have what I might need tomorrow afternoon, then I tell myself to get a good night’s sleep and deal with the matter tomorrow. Although I don’t much like Scarlet O’Hara, she did have a good point in her decisions to worry about things tomorrow. Even better is Rhett Butler’s rejoinder to her, “Frankly, my dear . . . Like Rhett, I just don’t want to give a damn about things that cannot be changed or do not need to be changed at this very minute.)

Other than admitting my frustrations and leaving myself open to accusations of harshness or hardheartedness — particularly since I don’t believe the aged have the right to use their infirmities as a club to control their families — I don’t find that writing about such matters takes much courage. Because I share my stories, others who are in the same dead end situations tell me about their plights, which is encouraging for all of us. Grief for a deceased soul mate, heartbreak of dealing with mentally ill alcoholics, frustrations with taking care of the aged are things so many of us have to deal with. It’s nice to be able to break the ice of aloneness and find encouragement in knowing we are not the only ones with such problems.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Trip to Eternity

Right before I took my brother home to Colorado, I took another trip, one just for me. In its own way, this first trip is as incomprehensible as the second one, and together they comprise a very strange and mystical journey.

I had nowhere in particular to go on my sojourn, so I headed north to visit a friend I’d only met offline once. I had enjoyed our visit so much that I thought I like to take her out to dinner and visit some more. When I realized there was no way I’d get to her place early enough to have dinner with her, I decided to head west toward the ocean. I was experiencing a brief grief upsurge because I’d just talked to my bank about removing Jeff from our joint account, something I’d resisted all these years, and it felt like one more little death.

“What’s it all about, Jeff?” I sobbed. “Have you figured it out yet?”

There was no answer, of course. He has never answered me in any way I could understand. I continued driving west on the same highway, but somewhere along the line the highway must have veered off, and I ended up on a narrow two-lane road that seemed to be going north. The road curved, and vineyards hugged the hillsides. Although Jeff had never visited any vineyards, he had a special affinity for them, and collected any movie he could that featured such terrain, such as A Walk in the Clouds.

vineyard

I stopped at one vineyard where a musical event and barbecue were going on, sat for a while and enjoyed a glass of sangria, good barbecue, and satisfactory (though too loud) music, then I continued my journey.

I ended up at the coast in the dark. I stood at the water’s edge, listening to the surf and watching the tides come in (or out), then I went to find a place to stay for the night.

surf

As you might expect, there was no vacancy anywhere by the beach on that Friday night at the beginning of August. I headed inland, drove for hours on a winding road with no shoulder, no turnoffs, and no other cars, but finally ended up at a motel around midnight. The next morning, I talked to my friend about dinner plans, but she was unavailable, so I headed west again with a full tank of gas. Again I ended up on a winding road with no shoulder, no turnoffs, and only a few other cars. I couldn’t see where I was going or where I had come from since most of the road was lost in the curves. All I had was the moment, and the moment was lovely.

scenery

When I was down to less than a quarter of a tank, I began to wonder if I would find a gas station before I ran out of gas. I didn’t much care, except that there was no place to pull off the road if I did. When I came upon a small market, I stopped and asked the woman at the cash register if there was a nearby gas station.

“Where are you going?” the woman asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She stared at me blankly and asked, “Where did come from?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t even know where I am. I’m just driving.”

She nodded, then admitted there was a gas station up ahead about twenty-five miles on the road to Lake Isobel.

“I know where Lake Isobel is,” I said.

“It’s desert,” she told me. “Not very pretty. Since you’re out for a drive, you should turn left instead of right when you reach the end of this road and go to Ponderosa.”

I bought a peach and chips and thanked her for her help, then continued on my way. The stop at the gas station on the Lake Isobel Road was like a stop in a foreign land. I had no idea what language they spoke, didn’t understand a word they said to me, they didn’t understand a word I said, but after a frustrating half hour I had a full tank of gas.

I turned left, of course. The scenery was remarkably beautiful.

sequoia national forest

I meandered along, stopping occasionally to take photos, and when I came to a parking area, I paid the price and took a break for a walk. “Trail of 100 Giants” proclaimed a sign, and so I found myself walking among the giant sequoias. Oh, my. Such beauty. Even the carnival atmosphere of the other visitors couldn’t mar the cathedral-like air of that awesome place.

redwood

The next day, I found myself within a few miles of California City, a platted area designed to be a megalopolis in the middle of the desert, and since I’d always been fascinated by the idea of the place, I took a quick look. Oddly, the roads and signposts of this city-that-never-was still surround the town.

California City

And finally, on my way back to my father’s house where I am temporarily residing, I took a turnoff to see The Devil’s Punchbowl, something I’d seen from afar, but never up close. The Devil’s Punchbowl is a huge scooped out area in the earth lined with magnificent boulders.

devil's punchbowl

It was while wandering around the punchbowl that I glimpsed the scope of my journey. Though I do not truly believe in signs, it seems to me that the trip to the wine country was a message from Jeff (or from my own inner being speaking in a way I could understand) telling me to pay attention. From the vineyards, I’d gone to the eternal waters, to the eternal trees, to the eternal land, to the eternal rocks.

A trip to eternity.

Even though I know what the trip was, I don’t know what it means. Maybe that we are part of something bigger than we can know. Maybe that our lives mean more (or maybe less) than we think. Maybe that it will all come right in the end. Maybe that we are where we are supposed to be. Maybe that the universe really is unfolding the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe, more specifically, that it doesn’t matter about dropping my brother off in Colorado, that he will be all right.

I do know that when I drove back after leaving my brother in Colorado, the eternal moon stayed by my side all that night while I wept.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Sequoia National Forest

I accidentally ended up at the Sequoia National Forest over the weekend. I was headed . . . well, nowhere in particular, to tell the truth. I was driving on a winding road, unable to see where I’d been, unable to see where I was going. The road seemed never ending. I’d started out with a full tank of gas, and by the time I got down to a quarter of a tank, I began to wonder if I’d ever find a gas station, or any sign of civilization for that matter.

I took a turn around a corner, and there, in a tiny settlement of three or four houses, I saw a run-down market. I stopped to ask if there was a gas station up ahead. The woman asked me where I was going. I said I didn’t know. She gave me a strange look when I admitted I didn’t even know where I was. Finally she said I’d find a gas station at the end of the road to Lake Isobel.

Ah! I knew Lake Isobel from a brief perusal of an online map the night before, and I mentioned that I might be going to the lake. The woman shook her head and said the lake wasn’t that attractive. It was just desert. Then she suggested I turn left instead of right at Lake Isobel and go to Ponderosa.

I thanked her, and since I really didn’t have a destination in mind, I headed for Ponderosa.

Gorgeous scenery!

sequoia national forestFantastic road.

roadAs if that weren’t enough, I stopped at sign for the “Trail of a 100 Giants and found myself among the giant sequoias. Wooo. What a treat. It seemed like a natural cathedral to me, though most people acted as if they were at a carnival.

trail of 100 giants

At the end of a trail was a plaque:

sign

As I stared into the pool at the reflection of the sequoias, I reflected on . . . not much of anything. I was still in awe at what I’d seen and felt.

reflecting pool

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Have You Hugged a Tree Lately?

I did!

redwood

At Sequoia National Forest.

What an amazing trunk!

trunk

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

First the Rainbow, then the Rain

This place where I landed all unwittingly (I came to look after my elderly father) is a strange upside-down and backwards place. The Mojave River, which runs through the town is upside down because the water flows below ground under the sand. (When we walk along the river, all we see is a dry riverbed unless there has been a rare heavy rain.) The river is also backward because instead of flowing to toward the ocean, the river flows inland, terminating in the middle of the desert.

Last night I experienced another example of this backwardness. Usually, rain comes first, and then the rainbow to show. . . whatever it is that rainbows are supposed to show besides a lovely atmospheric condition. But last night, the rainbow came first, a perfect arc that spanned the sky, with a shadow rainbow off to one side.

Hours after the double rainbow had faded, the rains came, soft and refreshing.

A new beginning, perhaps.

Double Rainbow

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Something Fun

Yesterday a fellow author said her muse had deserted her, and she asked for suggestions as to what she could post for her blog. I sent her this list of possible topics:

  1. Something fun — a favorite photo, a special recipe, a secret (and impossible) dream.
  2. Something that makes you smile, that comforts you, that makes you want to dance.
  3. How writing changed your life or how it made no difference at all.
  4. Your muse. Who or what is it normally? Maybe post a photo of your muse. Or write a letter to your muse begging him/her to come back.
  5. The one letter you wish you’d never written, the one letter you didn’t write but wish you had.
  6. Something you should have thrown away a long time ago, but can’t part with.
  7. Your wildest non-erotic fantasy.

She didn’t use any of my suggestions, but ironically, my own muse has deserted my today. Well, not really — I don’t have a muse, but I am sitting here with such a blank mind that a ready list of blog topics is nice to have.

So, something fun . . .

One day when I was out walking in the desert, I saw this television sitting right there on the path as if posed for a photograph, so I took the picture, then I pasted the photo itself onto the television screen because the idea amused me. Hope it amuses you, too.

036 copyb

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Hunting the Wild Poppy

I took myself on a trip to go hunting for wild poppies. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a hunt. I had a location, maps to show me the way, and a whole day to follow wherever the road might lead me. I generally get lost when I’m by myself — a map doesn’t do much good if you’re driving and can’t look at it, and non-existent road signs only exacerbate the problem. (A gps in my phone doesn’t help if the battery goes dead.)  Still, I took only a couple of easily corrected wrong turns. I drove on long stretches of desert highway, and then I saw it . . . a poppy nodding in the wind by the side of the road, and I knew I was on the right track.

Gradually, the poppy blooms increased — lining the roads with streams of color.

Off in the distance, the hills glowed orange, and my heart quickened at the realization I was in for a special treat.

Many people just stopped by the side of the road to take photos of the poppies, but I paid to enter the reserve and walk along the miles of paths. I heeded the rules and did not feed, pet, pick, or trample the wild poppies. The reserve is a natural habitat, with no artificial stimulation, not even any watering. The land is left alone to do with as it wishes. And this year it wished to shower me with color.

Oh, my. I’ve never seen anything like those swaths of poppies — it was as if a sunset had fallen from the sky and lay at my feet.

It truly is good to know that in all the turmoil of the world, in all the fights between industrialists and conservationists, in all the swirl of population growth, in all the land-grabbing and land-grubbing, there exists these pristine spots where we can refresh our souls.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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