Solivagant

So many cool words to describe wanderers and travelers!

Wanderlust, of course, means a strong desire to travel, and though I never had any particular inclination for traveling before Jeff died, now I feel the need (or anyway, a periodic need) to keep on the go. Maybe I’m running away. Maybe I’m running to, but all I know is that wanderlust fills a bit of the void in my soul that his death created.

Wayfarer describes a person with wanderlust who generally travels by foot, which is my preferred method of wandering.

Resfeber is the mingled excitement and dread a traveler feels just before the journey begins. This is a Swedish word, and though I only heard of it recently, the feeling itself is very familiar! A couple of years ago, I stayed with a friend who would drop me off at the beginning of a trail and pick me up hours later on the other end. The moment before that first step, I always succumbed to that heart-racing feeling of anticipation and anxiety, but it never lasted more that that brief moment. As soon as I took the first step, I was fine.

Coddiwomple, meaning to travel purposefully to a vague destination is a great word I talked about yesterday.

Sauntering, with its connotation of a spiritual ramble, is also a word I’ve already discussed.

And today, I discovered another perfect word: solivagant, which means to wander alone. Not much to discuss here! Wandering alone. Yep. That’s me.

Who knew there were so many ways to describe my sojourn through life?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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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Coddiwompling

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Coddiwompling. Even the definition sounds wonderful. Coddiwompling means to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

Doesn’t that sound like me and my desire to walk the Pacific Crest Trail? (Or any long distance trail, actually. I just want to take a very, very, very long walk.) I don’t really have a need to walk one place or another, just to walk purposefully toward some vague destination. Though, if I ever get to the point of actually going on a backpacking trip, that destination will probably not be vague — I will, of course, need to know where the trail is going and have an approximate idea of how long it will take me to get there.

So maybe coddiwompling isn’t the right word for my aspirations, though my true destination is more spiritual, and that certainly is vague. How does one know what sort of spiritual destination one is heading toward, or what one will gain from a vision quest? That part, for sure, is about traveling purposefully toward a vague destination.

And this whole impetus to saunter the world, for all its purposeful preparation, is vague. I will be doing a solo backpacking trip while in Washington State this May, probably just for a few days, to dip my toes into the backpacking pool (figuratively speaking, of course — I truly do not like crossing water on foot, not even creeks or rivulets, and I truly do not like hiking in wet socks and shoes! So not fun). Then, a longer backpacking trail in the fall.

And then? Who knows. Either I will have had my fill of adventure, or I will be so addicted that I continue to coddiwomple.

I once read an article that claimed it is the pain we are willing to sustain, the pain we want in our life that determines our happiness. I don’t like pain of any kind, but so far, whatever pain has come from coddiwompling in the desert, is pain I am willing to embrace for my greater good. Luckily, many of the rewards of walking come from effort and dedication and concentration rather than sustained pain. (Though carrying a twenty-two-pound pack for five miles last weekend certainly brought its share of soreness!)

It seems weird to still be talking about aspirations, about things I am going to do rather than what I have already done, and yet, what I have already done is . . . done. It’s the traveling purposefully toward a vague and unknown destination that I find so compelling.

So, coddiwomple on!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Review: ‘Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare’

Great review from Malcolm R. Campbell, author, blogger, and reviewer extraordinaire.

Malcolm's Round Table

If you’re taking a dance class and its members find out you’re a writer and ask you to write a murder mystery about the class, what will you do? I happen to know author Pat Bertram has been taking a dance class or two or three and that her friends thought such a novel would be a real hoot.

That said, I’m surprised that Pat’s publisher didn’t put a disclaimer at the beginning of the novel that claimed “No dance class members were killed during the writing of this book.” But, Pat and her publisher Indigo Sea Press threw caution to the winds, so one wonders where the fiction begins and the truth ends–and vice versa.

The result is a very readable hoot.

When the students at a small town’s studio class find out that one of them is an author, they think it would be fun for her to…

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The Gift is in the Preparation

I woke this morning to the sound of wind squeaking through my ill-fitted bedroom window.

(Hmm. Wind. Window. Is there a relationship here? Be right back; I need to check the etymology of window. Yep. They’re related. Window comes from Old Norse words vindr meaning wind and auga meaning eye. So a window is a wind eye, or a wind hole. The earliest mention of window came early in the 13th century, and it meant an unglazed hole in the roof. So originally a window let in the wind and now it keeps it out?)

But back to the matter at hand . . .

I snuggled under the covers, thinking that I’d take a zero day today. (A zero day in backpacking terms is a day when no miles are gained.) Then I remembered my weekends are supposed to mimic a backpacking trip, and if I were really out in the wilds, I’d have to keep on the move. (Or not. There is that zero day thing.)

I remembered also that I only have these three days each week to condition myself to carrying a pack, since I have dance class the other four days. (I still hope for grace and balance from dance. It could happen.) And I need all three backpacking days to get used to carrying extra weight.

So, I got dressed, shrugged on the pack and headed into the wind. Yikes. Cold! And gusty. Some of those gusts were so strong they almost blew me over. But I did it — trudged four miles, teetering in the wind, with twenty-two pounds on my back — and I realized that though the goal might be to backpack on the Pacific Crest Trail, the gift is in the doing. It was hard going today, but what a thrill to be on my feet, moving through the blustery air, racking up the miles. Admittedly, four miles isn’t exactly “racking up the miles,” but still, to be able to walk any distance is a true wonder.

It seems funny that I’ve been thinking, writing, talking about the Pacific Crest Trail for so many years — four-and-a-half years since my first mention of the PCT, four years since my first hike on the trail — but until this very year, I never actually strapped on a backpack to try to train myself for such an epic hike.

I still don’t know if I can do any long distance sauntering, but as I discovered today, the PCT is the goal. The gift is in the preparation. And that, for sure, I can do — even on a windy day.

I still remember seeing this sign and taking the photo when I was on a different outing (to find the San Andreas Fault). I was so excited to see evidence of this mythical trail that I walked up the path a bit, but then I had to turn around because neither of my companions had any interest in the trail at all. I’ve done many day hikes since then, but still no overnights. That fearful joy is still to come.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Waiting to See What I Will See

I strapped on my backpack today and went out walking in the desert again. I’m surprised that the twenty-one pound pack doesn’t bother me all that much, though by the end of four miles, I did get a little wobbly. The cold wind today didn’t help, especially when it blew my hat down so I could only see a few feet of the ground ahead of me. So for all I know, this is what the desert looked like today.

Yeah, right. I would guess, no matter how little of the scenery I saw today, it was nowhere near as beautiful as the photo, which I took during my cross country trip on the Overlook Azalea Trail in Georgia’s Calloway Gardens. The Azalea Trail has understandably been called the most beautiful place on earth, though the California Poppy Preserve in Antelope Valley is a close contender.

But, even if today I didn’t see such vibrant April color (both photos were taken in April, though two years and a continent apart), I also didn’t see a skull in a bucket, like a friend of mine did. The skull incident happened several years ago so, although the bucket was found on a trail I have been walking, I am not in any danger of my skull ending up in such a place (so not an item on my bucket list!)

Although I’ve been feeling as if I Want to Run Away, the truth is, I also want to run toward. There is so much of this country I haven’t seen, so many fabulously beautiful places that are waiting to delight my eyes (and yours!). Fall in Virginia. Summer in Glacier Park. Lovely lakes hidden in the back country. Wildflower meadows beyond the bend. Peaks and valleys, creeks and twisty trails.

Luckily, I will be getting a peek at the wider world when I take a trip to the Pacific Northwest this May. I can hardly wait to see what I will see.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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 Moment the Future Begins

In a little over two months, it will be eight years since Jeff died. It seems unfathomable to me that he’s gone. Seems unfathomable that it’s been so long. Seems unfathomable that it’s been such a short time.

Sometimes my shared life feels like it happened to someone else, and in many respects, it did happen to someone else. I’m not that same person. I don’t know what happened to her, don’t know exactly what (or who) has replaced her.

At other times, although I am no longer caught up in the breath-stealing agony of new loss, I feel as if my life stopped when grief began, and in a way, that is also true. I cannot live in the past. Although I am way too introspective for my own good, I never, ever, think about what my life would be like if he hadn’t gotten sick. If he hadn’t died. There is too much pain in that thought, too much negation of the reality of our lives.

At the same time, I cannot live in the future. We can never know what the future holds, can’t guess the traumas, such as my horrendous fall, can’t even guess what good might happen.

So, like this heron sculpture I photographed in the botanical gardens in Wichita, Kansas, I am forever poised in the moment with the past gone and the future not begun.

It seems odd to feel in any way that my life stopped when Jeff died since I truly have had an incredible number of experiences and adventures in the past years, experiences I would not have had if Jeff were still alive. I sometimes wonder what he would think of what I have done, what I have yet to become.

But that thought brings pain, too.

I used to think living in the moment was living on a knife’s edge, but now I prefer to think of it as living in the very instant before I take flight. It seems a bit more hopeful, as if I will eventually soar, but for now, all I have is that frozen flight.

I was going to add that I wish I knew that my life would work out (rather than the dread I have of being lonely and broke and old) but I really don’t want to know. If wonders are in store, then they will be a joyful surprise. And if not? Well, I’ll deal with that dreaded future when it happens.

So here I am — as we all are — poised forever at the very moment the future begins.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Wanting to Run Away

Lately I’ve had the feeling I want to run away. I’m not sure if I’ve been around people too much, especially those I don’t care for, or if I haven’t been around people enough, including those I don’t care for. Either way, especially today, I feel the need for something else, though I don’t know what.

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Originally, my May trip was supposed to be the beginning of a year-long road trip (partly because I do not want to spend another summer in debilitating heat) but I backed off because I need to give my arm more time to recover. And give me more time, too — after all, I spent six months juggling between narcotics and pain, in addition to being injected several times with the soup of drugs they use for anesthesia (some of which no one understands why they have the effect they do).

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But today I again wonder if it’s time for . . .

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I don’t know. More adventure?

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But May will be coming soon, and that should give me a taste of being out and about and help me decide when/if to continue my great adventure.

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After tomorrow, where I will have to deal with someone I would prefer not to deal with, I will have three days of adventuring in the desert. Maybe that will be enough to get me through another week without running away.

Or not.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Making and Breaking Habits

I’ve often come across the idea that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit, but in my experience, it takes way longer than that, fifty days at least, which is why I resolved to blog every day for the last fifty days of 2017. And here I am, sixteen days into 2018, and still posting a blog every day. I’m to the point where, if I don’t feel like writing something, I would have to make a special mental leap not to do it.

Of course, daily blogging takes its own mental leap to continue the habit because often there simply is nothing to say. But here I sit anyway.

(Wait a minute! Back up a bit. What was that? Only sixteen days into the new year? Really? It feels like months.)

I’ve also read that it’s supposed to take twenty-one days to break a habit, though from the struggles people have with trying to give up smoking, it seems as if it could take anywhere from twenty-one days to infinity to stop. But when it comes to breaking a good habit, such as daily blogging (assuming that blogging is a good habit), it would take a single day. If I made that leap to not blog today, then it would be easy to make the same leap tomorrow, eroding the impetus, and so the habit would disappear.

Oddly, when it comes to my not eating wheat and sugar, I am already at the “mental leap” stage where I have to stop and think if I feel like a treat, though it has been but twenty days. Not that the habit is engrained enough to truly be a habit. It will take at least thirty more days for that, and even so, it will take a single day for the habit to disappear. And it will disappear when I take my Pacific coast trip — I already know that. After all, the initial idea for the trip was to make chocolate turtles in honor of my mother. And after the habit is broken, who knows how long before I will be able to cultivate the no-sugar habit again.

But that’s a problem for another day.

Oftentimes it’s impossible for me to cultivate a habit because something interferes before the habit is established. For example, I’d planned to try to lift light weights every day to strengthen my upper body and especially my wonky arm for when I go on that brief backpacking trip this May, but the thing that interferes is . . . me. I simply don’t feel like pushing myself, especially on the days I have hand pain. But we’ll see. Maybe after the fifty days of no sugar and wheat are up and they’ve become an engrained habit, I’ll look to establish the lifting-weights habit.

Or not. Sometimes I think being disciplined is highly overrated.

But for now, I’m sort of enjoying the game.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

My Faux Backpacking Trip

Dance class was cancelled today, so I was going to take a “zero” day — in backpacking parlance, that means no miles — but since I had nothing better to do, I eventually shrugged on the pack and headed up the road. I figured, in a real backpacking situation, for example one in which I was running out of food, being lazy wouldn’t get me out of the predicament, and the saunters this weekend were supposed to — sort of — mimic a backpacking trip.

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Sixteen miles in four days carrying twenty pounds sounds like a lot (and feels like even more!) but for a real backpacker, that would be a day’s hike with a light pack.

But then, I’m not a real backpacker, and have no real aspirations to be. What I’m aiming for is time in the wilderness rather than monster miles through the wilderness, but one doesn’t get to remote areas without some effort, so that’s what I’m doing. Putting in the effort.

As of right now, I figure I’m carrying the basic pack, or rather the weight of a basic pack, which would include the pack itself, a tent, sleep system (a total of ten pounds for those three basic items), and perhaps another ten pounds of emergency supplies and tools and extra clothes. What’s missing? Yep — food and water.

I could, of course, get rid of some of the emergency items and tools, such as the external battery for my phone and the Solo camp stove, to make room for food, but an even better plan would be to get strong enough to carry more weight.

I’m doing well for just having started my conditioning for a backpacking trip. I’ve also stuck to most of my non-resolutions, such as no sugar, no wheat, almost no dairy, but the not-eating-after-6:00-pm has been a problem. Still, it’s on the list, and one day, perhaps, I can adhere to that item, too. I do other things on the list, such as stretching and lifting weights (very light weights because of my arm) most days, which hopefully will also help get me in shape for the trip. Oddly, dance classes have become something of a respite from the trail conditioning because even grand plies are easier than trudging around with twenty extra pounds piled on my body.

Best of all, by being disciplined and going out for a trudge, I got to enjoy the lovely day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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 Truth About My Desert

I always try to take the most dramatic photos when I am out hiking in “my” desert, which makes it seem as if the place is wonderfully remote and serene.

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Despite what the above photo shows, the truth is that folks in the nearby neighborhoods use the place as a dump. There are piles of junk everywhere, but instead of railing against what I consider a desecration, they become part of the mythology of the place and help keep me on track. For example, I know that to return to the city, I need to turn right at the pile of trash spilled from a black trash bag. At the top of that hill, to show me I am on track, is an entire suite of broken-down living room furniture. And on a more distant pathway in a more distant time, is this television.

One of my favorites was this lovely bear I found during my early days of grief. He always made me smile, reminding me that even on my darkest days, the desert, at least, loved me. After weeks of seeing the little fellow, I decided I should rescue him, but he’d disappeared. I never knew if someone else had taken him or if the strong winds had blown him to another sad woman who needed his message.

Mostly, of course, I see such things as discarded condoms, empty beer bottles, and ragged clothing, but sometimes a bit of color catches my eye, such as this toy I saw today, which shows there is beauty in unlovely things:

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Or this one yesterday that seemed to be urging me down a different path than I had planned:

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All in a day’s walk. All part of the truth of my desert.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.