Journey to the Center of the Universe

Yontocket is the center of the universe, according to the Tolowa Dee-ni’ people, the place where the Master of the Universe created the first people. This area is now the Tolowa Dunes State Park, a place of dunes, forest, and sea.

Invasive beach grasses were planted by settlers to keep the shifting sands at a standstill. Those grasses crowded out native vegetation, so much of the area no longer looks the way it did when Yontocket existed, but the forest and ocean seem timeless, as if they haven’t changed during the centuries.

I walked through the forest to the sea, and then along the edge of the world — the land-based world anyway. (The imaginary pathway alongside the water is part of the California Coastal Trail, so completely different from the wooded section of the trail I’d experienced.)

Having lived a land-locked life, it seemed odd and awesome to be walking miles beside the ocean, as if it weren’t me out there alone on the beach, but if it weren’t me, who else could it be?

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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.”)

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Coastal Trail Adventure

Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail, there is not a unified Pacific Coast Trail. There is the Washington Coast Trail, the Oregon Coast Trail, and the California Coastal Trail, all in various stages of completion. But I don’t need the entire trail — a few miles here and there are sufficient to get a taste, and oh, what a taste!

Some of the existing trail isn’t really a trail — just a walk on the beach — but I was given the opportunity to hike a bit of the mountainous, non-beach part of the trail. And it was a hike — every step had to be carefully scouted and placed, and it would have been nigh impossible without a trekking pole. Though in most places the trail was easy to see, long grasses grasped my ankles, tree roots snaked across the path, and moss-covered planks bridged small chasms. In one steep case, I even had to walk down timber stairs.

I only caught a few glimpses of the ocean, but always the sound of the surf kept me company on my solitary hike. I started high at a popular lookout point with a fantastic view of the ocean. Everyone else turned left and took the short, sidewalk-wide path down to the beach. I, of course, turned right. The long trail I took was definitely less traveled, not a journey for the faint of heart. Parts of the trail were eerily gothic, other parts primordial. If Bigfoot were nearby, quietly munching wild blackberries, I would never have seen him/her.

When I finally made it down to the beach, I shot a photo of the densely forested hills I’d just hiked, and tried to imagine myself alone in that distant wildness. My imagination couldn’t stretch that far — it seems impossible I’d been wandering in that mass of trees, unseen, for all those hours. Well, two hours.

I’d never meant to write a travelogue, but so far, I haven’t really learned anything from my awesome but rather tame adventures. Haven’t had any grand insights. Haven’t made any self-discoveries. I certainly haven’t managed to pull back the veneer of life to see what if anything lies beyond the natural beauty. Still, beauty exists in and of itself. Beauty is its own reason for being, and I’ve been privileged to bask in beauty’s aura.

***

(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.”)

***

Today I Am the Ocean

Yesterday I wrote about the wonder of Wonder Stump Road, and how for a moment I were the trees. Today, I am the ocean. To be more specific, I am a rock by the ocean.

I sat on the rock, feeling the scene. The waves creeping up to my feet, then scurrying away as if they had done something daring. The ocean breezes playing with my hair. The surf demanding to be heard. The only creatures — if you don’t count me, and how can you since I was a rock — were the seals, pelicans, gulls, and cormorants sunning themselves on a bit of land. (The things that look like sandbags on the edge of the island are seals. The birds in the air are pelicans.)

I’d spent an hour or so walking along a road aptly named Oceanview Road, but though the walk was pleasant, it was still a suburban street made spectacular by the heavy vegetation interspersed with occasional views of the ocean.

I’d planned to walk to the end of the road, but when I got tired, there was no place to stop to eat my little snack. So I headed down a side street, and ended up on a slice of heaven. It’s amazing to me that it’s possible to find waysides by the ocean with no human creature to disturb my rockishness.

So there I sat, sometimes me, sometimes something other, something endless — a rock, a feeling, a being.

Today I am the ocean. Tomorrow I will be . . . whatever the day brings.

***

(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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Wonder Stump Road

I was standing at a crossroads yesterday, checking Maps on my phone to see where an alleyway snaking beneath a canopy of trees ended up, when a woman stopped and said a few teasing words. I turned around. She did a double take, then apologized, saying I look exactly like her friend Sue. She told me her name was Maggie, I told her my name, then she asked where I was going. “Somewhere,” I replied. “Anywhere.”

She pointed to a street behind us and asked if I’d ever been down Wonder Stump Road. When I said no, she suggested I go that way, adding that part of Return of the Jedi had been filmed there. She drove off, and I headed up Wonder Stump Road. Not that I cared where the movie was filmed, but when the universe (or Maggie) gives you a gift, you take it.

And oh, what a gift!

The tree-lined road started out pleasant enough. Quiet, with lots to see, such as the wonderful stump of a long dead redwood. And then the road became spectacular. A natural cathedral of timeless towering trees. I felt awed that I was even there, on that otherworldly road so far from home, so far from . . . me. It’s as if I didn’t have a separate existence, but was merely the awareness of the moment.

If, as I someimes believe, that we are how the universe experiences itself, then I returned its gift tenfold.

***

(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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Upsurge of Unbelonging

Still feeling the effects of yesterday’s upsurge of unbelonging. This living at the mercy of others has made me realize how alone I am in a coupled world. I’d pretty much come to terms with my situation, but that acceptance has deserted me momentarily. Exacerbating the situation, I’ve been researching various possibilities of non-automobile trips to take if I don’t have my car back in two weeks, and all of a sudden, the thought of taking a train to Seattle and then an Alaska cruise sounded wonderful. (Anything to escape this intense heat.) And then came the reality — cruises are based on double occupancy. Couples.

WANDERLUSTIt astonishes me the breadth and depth of grief. Whenever I think I’m done with it, there comes I day when I didn’t sleep well, didn’t eat well, and the sorrow settles over me again. I thought I was okay being around couples — after all, this is a coupled world — but these days of vulnerability show me . . . well, they show me I’m still vulnerable.

I hope I don’t sound as self-pitying as I feel. There’s no real reason for feeling sorry for myself. I’m reasonably healthy, still have friends who welcome me into their homes, have dancing and blogging, and perhaps one day soon, I’ll have my car back. I bet seeing that rejuvenated VW bug will make me feel rejuvenated, and if not it will certainly make me feel free.

But free to do what? That still is the question, isn’t it?

I have lost the habit I once had of telling myself, “I am where I am supposed to be.” Perhaps it’s time to start reminding myself again of that simple truth (or hope?). Maybe I am where I am supposed to be. Maybe the unsettledness and unbelonging I feel are symptoms of letting go. I’ve had to let go of so much over the past few years. My life mate/soul mate. Our home. My brother. My parents. My parent’s house where I found refuge in my grief. I’ve even had to let go of my grief. It’s in the letting go that we make room for what is to come, so I can see that my current state is necessary but oh, why does everything have to be so hard?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

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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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 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.

The Strangeness of Friends

(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.”)

***

One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.” ~ Sidney Howard (1891-1939) American playwright and screenwriter, best known the screenplay of Gone with the Wind.

I’m not exactly sure what I want. Adventure, of course. Experiencing life in a way I never have before, for sure. Becoming more deeply connected to the world, if possible. But those are all just nebulous ideas. I have no specific idea of how to achieve that or what I will be doing except going with the flow.

I expected to be heading towards even more of a solitary existence, but oddly, what I am giving up, at least for now, is time alone, and that is fine. People are treating me well, insisting I have not outstayed my welcome, but I don’t seem to be able to find long empty stretches to keep up with this blog. That too is fine. I have no new insights, no incredibly awesome or incredibly awful experiences to talk about. Just an unsettled life that is rapidly beginning to feel normal.

I imagine that when I finally set off for points unknown, that too will feel normal. The changes are happening now while I am so uncharacteristically depending on the friendliness of strangers. Or should I say the strangeness of friends? It does seem strange that these people are being so kind to someone who appeared in their lives such a short time ago, but I am so very grateful for their kindness.

And grateful for these unexpected few minutes alone.

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