At Dress Rehearsal!

(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.”)

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Keep On Keeping On

Oh, my. Two months without a vehicle, and my car still isn’t ready.

I took my ancient VW to a recommended body shop to be restored. He said it would take three weeks and every time I called him after those initial weeks, he’d tell me the car would be done in another ten days or two weeks or “soon”, reminding me every time that old cars take longer than expected because so much of the damage is hidden until the vehicle is taken apart.

I finally got a chance to go see what is going on and found my car the way I left it minus the chrome. That’s all he’d done. Take off the chrome trim. It turns out the car he was talking about with all the hidden damage was another vehicle he was working on, a 1930’s truck.

Oddly, I wasn’t angry. Just devastated. I trusted the guy, and he’d been lying to me. Even worse, I started crying. I didn’t expect that reaction, but I suppose it’s natural. I’ve endured so many losses in recent years, and the car is all that’s left of that earlier life.

The guy’s wife was there, and she hugged me. He said nothing. When I asked why he didn’t tell me that he couldn’t get to it for two months so I could keep driving the car instead of leaving it sitting there, he said that he’d made a mistake.

Normally when such things happen, I get angry, demand my deposit back (and in this case would also have demanded that he put the chrome on immediately), but I walked away. Left my car there. I just couldn’t deal with the situation. I have a lot of things going on this week, such as dress rehearsals and performances, and I don’t want to lose focus on that.

Besides, if I took the car back, it would never be restored. He was the only one who offered an acceptable estimate, and there’s no guarantee that anyone else would treat me better.

So we’ll see. If in another week nothing further has been done, I will negate the deal. Until then, I’ll keep on keeping on.

***

(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.”)

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Taking the First Step into Adventure

During the years of looking after my nonaganarian father, dealing with grief, and surviving my dysfunctional brother, I’ve dreamed of adventure. I’ve yearned go walking and just keep on going and going and going. I’ve toyed with the idea of various themed road trips — visiting all the national parks or searching out haunted places. I’ve considered taking a freighter to New Zealand and Australia. I’ve researched ultra lightweight camping gear in case I got the inclination for some sort of long distance wilderness trek.

And through it all, I’ve wondered if in fact I would do any of it, if perhaps this craving for adventure were a stage of grief I would grow out of. I still don’t know, of course. I am currently town-bound, but I have come too far — in my mind at least — to turn back and accept a settled life. And that is always the first step — making the mental leap.

It’s no longer a matter of if I will buy camping gear, but when and what. I don’t want to get anything online until I can peruse local stores, and I can’t do that until I get my car back. Besides, the first thing I need is shoes, and those I have to buy in person to get a proper fit. Shoes are the foundation for any hike or long distance walk — if you damage your feet, that’s the end of a pain-free adventure. And pain has no part in my plans.

The world is full of wondrous things — unmet friends, lovely places, wildness, moments of bliss, random acts of beauty, interconnectedness. And it’s all waiting for me to reach out and embrace.

Come to think of it, I’ve not only taken the first step, but also the second. I’ve made the mental leap into adventure and I’ve slipped into a life of unsettledness. With no place to call my own, the whole world becomes my home.

And I am so very ready to go home.

***

(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.”)

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Dreaming of Life in the Slow Lane

It seems strange to be alone. Strange to be blogging. Strangest of all to feel as if I belong —- not belonging to anyone or anywhere just . . . belonging. Maybe I’m beginning to feel a connection to the world again. Or it could be my inner sense of irony coming into play since I am at my storage unit sitting among my belongings.

I’ve been staying with friends ever since my father’s house was sold. (I’d been looking after him these past few years, and now he’s gone, as are my mother and life mate/soul mate.) I’m without a car —- the restoration that was supposed to be done in three weeks has now dragged on into two months — but it hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience. At least not to me. My friends might have a different opinion! Besides, I’ve needed to hang around town a bit longer anyway. I’d committed to doing a dance performance at the end of this month, and there have been practices and rehearsals to attend. And dance classes, of course.

I have been researching ultralight camping gear, researching the various trails, following the comments and updates of women hikers in preparation for . . . something. Adventure. Experience. Life in the slow lane.

I still have no idea what I am capable of, what I am willing to risk, what form my adventure will take. All of know is I want that intangible . . . something.

My original idea was to be spontaneous, just follow where the trail of life might lead, and perhaps I will still be able to spontaneous once all the research and preparation has been done. And yet . . . there have been people who set off on foot with no preparation or baggage whatsoever, just a head packed with determination and a heart full of trust. Such a life might come for me eventually, but for now I’m still dreaming. And researching.

I do believe, though, that whatever journey I make, whether strolls around the neighborhood, day hikes, backpacking, or cross-country road trips, I will be starting out alone. A friend had invited me to do the Appalachian Trail with her, but the more we talk, the less it seems to be to my advantage. But who knows what will happen in the next couple of years. I can’t even predict the next couple of weeks!

It’s been nice “talking” to you again. Wishing you fabulous adventures and dreams enough to last a lifetime.

***

(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.”)

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Letting Go

My first out-of-town adventure in this new rootless life of mine was going to be a pilgrimage to dispose of Jeff’s ashes. (For those of you who are new to this blog, Jeff was my life mate/soul mate who died five years ago, catapulting me out of our shared life and into a life of accepting whatever comes my way.) I’d been taking care of my nonagenarian father, but now that he’s gone, too, my stuff is in storage. And, I am appalled to admit, so are Jeff’s ashes.

It’s past time for me to dispose of those cremains (as the funeral industry do quaintly calls them), but I don’t know quite where to release the ashes. Disposing of them is more a matter of myth and ritual than reality. I know he is gone and that they have nothing to do with him or his life, but they are his last earthly remains, the inorganic part of his body that was left behind when he was cremated.

I’d planned to take the ashes to northern California when I went to visit a friend, to scatter them in the ocean near the Redwood Forest because he loved both water and trees, but since neither of us had ever been there, it seems wrong, somehow. Disposing of this last vestige of his life should feel right to me —- I am the one left to deal with his goneness. But I don’t feel right about any of it. I don’t feel right about his being gone, though when I subtract him out of the equation of my life, I’m fine. Happy even. I certainly don’t feel right about keeping his remains in a rented storage unit, but they’ve been there five weeks already, so I don’t suppose it matters if they are there a while longer.

People tell me I will know when the time is right, and this time does feel right. It’s the place that confuses me. Do I take him out to the desert on a windy day and let him go where he wishes? Do I take him back to Colorado, back to the creek where we talked about our future, or maybe back to where we lived? Do I take him to Minocqua where he’d dreamed of opening a mom-and-pop store on the lake? But oh! He’d feel so far away. As if he isn’t already so far from me.

In the days after Jeff’s death, a minister friend advised me to save some of the cremains, which was good advice. I’d never planned to keep them but having them with me brought me comfort. But I don’t feel right about keeping some and getting rid of the rest. It would feel so . . . scattered.

Though I have his ashes with me, it feels as if I left him in Colorado. I left his car there. (I donated it to hospice.) I think I would feel better if his ashes were there, too, for no other reason than that is where I picture him. We never talked about what to do with his ashes, but once when I mentioned I was considering taking them to the North Fork a mile or two from where we lived, his eyes lit up.

It will be a while before I get back to Colorado — I have a dance performance coming up, housesitting jobs, and a New Years resolution to keep. (I promised an online friend — my first and staunchest fan! — that we would meet this year for sure, so with or without Jeff’s ashes, I’ll be heading for northern California first chance I get.)

I never thought it would be hard to scatter his ashes — after all, they are doing no earthly good sitting in a storage unit — and now I realize it’s going to be immensely difficult, that final letting go.

But it has to be done. Doesn’t it?

***

(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.”)

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Pain is No Gain

I’ve joined some women’s hiking groups on Facebook, following their hikes, and gleaning what information I can from their experiences. I have to say that as much as the various trails beckon me, I have no interest in the pain and hardship of a thru-hike. So much of what they talk about is how to deal with leg cramps, shin splints, blisters, tears (the weeping kind), emotional and physical traumas, and an overwhelming desire to quit. In such a situation, I would have no problem just calling an end to that hike. (I don’t particularly like hiking anyway — I much prefer walking.)

For me, life is trial and error. Actually, that’s not true. I believe in trying new things, extending myself, seeing how various aspects of line work out for me, but when things don’t work out the way I envisioned, I don’t consider it an error, just a different kind of learning experience.

I do push myself, or rather nudge myself (pushing sounds like too much effort), so I am always going just a bit beyond what is comfortable. Pain is no gain, as far as I am concerned, and yet I do accomplish much. Dancing. Walking. Embracing uncertainty. But pushing myself beyond my strength seems a blueprint for disaster.

Still, I am planning on walking the Appalachian Trail in a couple of years, but all that means is I will gradually build up my strength and trailability, learning what I need to know, and trying to figure out if it’s possible to do a fairly pain-free hike. (If being pain-free means hiking just a few miles a day, that’s fine with me!) And if what I learn is that hiking long distances is not something I can do . . . well, that’s all part of the adventure.

***

(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.”)

Into the Woods

I’ve watched a couple of Disney fairy tale movies recently, and both brought me reminders of how I want to — need to — live my life.

In Cinderella, the dying mother tells Ella to have courage and to always be kind. Good reminders! ( Similar to the admonition Swayze gave his bouncers in the adult fairy tale Roadhouse. Be nice . . . until it’s time not to be nice.)

In Into the Woods, the witch tells Rapunzel that she is safer in the tower, that yes, charming princes are out there in the woods, but so are bad things, such as wolves. It seemed reflection of my current state of affairs, where people remind me of the dangers of a woman traveling alone, and either urge me to settle down and if l still insist on traveling, then bring a companion. And yet, despute their concern and possibly good advice, I still wish to go into the woods alone.

Having a companion would be very nice at times during my travels, but being alone would also nice, especially for an introvert. (An introvert is not always a timid loner as we often imagine. An introvert is simply someone who gains strength, energy, and renewal by being alone. Extroverts gain the same advantages by being around people.) And, considering the purpose of my journey — to embrace life; to interact with the world in a more basic way; to find new ways of being me — alone time is a must.

So into the woods . . .

At least, that’s the plan. I’m still city-bound, still vehicleless, still living on the mercy of friends still dreaming of adventure. But one day soon, my real journey will begin. Or maybe it already has. It becomes more impossible every day to imagine myself in an apartment or rented room, and more possible to imagine myself going into the woods. Alone.

***

(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.”)

Being

I don’t know if you will find this as amusing as I do, but I’m sitting in my storage unit, taking a break from digging out stuff I need for the coming week, and rearranging boxes to make needful things more accessible. I feel perfectly comfortable here, as if I’ve always been unanchored without my possessions a constant presence in my life. Maybe I’m finally learning to be at home wherever I am, unanchored or not.

I called myself unanchored because although I don’t have a place of residence at the moment beyond the grace of my friends’ hospitality, calling myself homeless doesn’t fit with the current meaning of the word, or at least the current implications of the word. I am not destitute, not dysfunctional, not addicted to anything. I am merely in a state of transition, learning to go with the flow of life, experiencing whatever comes my way. And apparently what has come my way is my sitting in a storage unit, smiling at the ridiculousness of the situation.

(Actually, now that I think about it, it’s not so silly. The photo at the bottom of this post is what I am seeing. Is your view as lovely?)

When I left the house today, I made plans to meet up with my friend in four hours. She seemed concerned about what I would do with all that time. I suppose what I am currently doing is simply being. Not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Hope your day is as being-ful as mine.

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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.”)

The Medium is the Message. And the Massage.

(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.”)

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It seems strange to have no time to think, no time to write. It’s not that I’m particularly busy, it’s just that I’m so seldom alone. I was afraid of settling into my same old routine of blogging, spending way too much time playing computer solitaire, watching old movies I have seen too many times before. And thinking, thinking, thinking.

But life has different plans for me. I’m staying with friends until my car is finished being prettified, and so I live on the edge of their life. I end up watching television programs I’ve heard about but never seen, such as People’s Court and programs I haven’t watched in years, such as the news. (I don’t suppose it will come as a shock if I tell you I almost never watch television.)

The thing that seems strangest to me about the television medium is how often newscasters and other folk mention social media. When did what folks are saying facebook and what they are twittering become news? To me, so called ‘social media’ isn’t really ‘media’, but then, considering my lack of television watching and radio listening, I don’t much consider the traditional forms of media ‘media’, either.

I suppose Marshall McLuhan would understand why social media has become a message for the media. He coined the phrase ‘The media is the message’ long before computers and the internet ever entered mainstream living.

I always liked the alternative saying: ‘The media is the massage.’ All media — social and otherwise — is a massage for us masses. (Apparently this variation of his saying is also attributed to McLuhan. When a book came out illustrating with weird typesetting McLuhan’s point — The Medium is the Message — the cover typesetter made the mistake of using ‘massage’ instead of ‘message’ and McLuhan insisted they keep the typo.)

The Wild phenomenon is an example of how the media and the message distort non-media life. The droves of new and inexperienced hikers on the trail is changing it forever. Already special regulations are in effect, requiring new permits that allow only fifty people a day to begin through hiking. From what I have read, the Appalachian Trail is already nearing capacity for through hikers, and this is even before a new movie based on the book A Walk in the Woods, about a through hiker, is released.

The message to me is do my own hike wherever and however long it might be. Meantime, I’m taking life a day at a time, and looking forward to whatever strangeness comes my way.

I hope this blog doesn’t sound as rambling to you as it does to me. I’m writing this on my phone, and apparently the media with which I write helps create my message, whatever that might be.

The Transition Between Today and Tomorrow

(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.”)

***

I’m still camping out on the couch in a friend’s house. I’ve been without a car for more than five weeks, without a house for two, but my friends have been kind to me, not just giving me a place to stay but ferrying me to dance class.

I seem to be always in transition. At my father’s house, I was in transition between my shared life with Jeff and my solitary future, between grief and renewal. Now I’m in transition between . . . I’m not sure exactly. Maybe between a settled life and an unsettled one. Or maybe just between today and all my tomorrows.

The strangest feeling about my life right now is that I’m not blogging every day. Blogging was a daily exercise for almost four years, but now I’m back to the way I started, just posting as time, inspiration, and need permits. For years I needed to write in order to make sense of all the trauma going on in my life, but at the moment I’m just flowing with the stream of chance and change.

Big changes will be coming, but for now life is uncomplicated. There are no decisions to be made because I couldn’t follow through anyway since I have obligations for the next month.

I’m still dreaming of an epic walk, though, and the reality is coming clearer. A friend who has been urging me to thru-hike so she could experience it vicariously has made the commitment to do a thru-hike herself. In 2017, she will be hiking the Appalachian Trail, and she invited me to join her group. I said yes, of course, though it’s so far in the future, there’s no way of knowing if any of us will be around to do it.

(She chose the Appalachian Trail instead of the Pacific Crest Trail because of the availability of water and the marginally easier terrain.)

I hope you are doing well in your own transition between today and tomorrow.

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