Supernal Silence and Unfathomable Peace

My friend dropped me off at a road in the Redwood Forest that led down to Smith River. It turned out to be a popular spot for both tourists and locals, so when I saw a narrow trail that veered off from the road, I took it, hoping to find a place to walk far from the madding crowd. At first it was an easy trail, but then it ascended into hills that had been hidden in the immensely tall redwoods. (It’s hard to describe these massive trees without reverting to the trite adjective “towering”, but they did tower. In many cases they were so tall and the woods so thick it was impossible to stand back far enough to see their tops.)

The trail grew more difficult and I was grateful for my trekking pole — it aided with both balance and sure-footedness. Even though the cars and people were not far away, the trees absorbed the sound, leaving nothing for me to hear but the sound of my stepping feet, the zip of a passing insect, the thud of a falling leaf.

I moved slowly, not just for safety but to experience fully this confluence of the forest and me. It seemed strange to think that hundreds — thousands? — of years ago, the first seed took root. And that single seed contained an entire universe of forest, events, beings, birth and death, that ultimately drew me in.

A bench in a small clearing caught my attention. A plaque on the backrest said, “…seated here in contemplation lost, my thought discovers vaster space beyond. Supernal silence and unfathomable peace.”

Of course I sat. Contemplated. Listened to the silence. Felt at peace. Wondered what I would learn and experience if I could sit there for hours. I know what I would feel if I sat there in stillness too long — stiff — so after a half hour, I answered the siren call of the trail.

Later, I saw another bench. This one exhorted me to “Rest and be grateful.” I rested, pulled out my small hunk of cheese, and thought of all I had to be grateful for. The bench. The cheese I savored. The trees. The path that afforded me relative safety in my adventure. My walking stick. Knees that still worked. Feet that took me where I needed to go. Friends who brought richness to my life. The supernal silence. The unfathomable peace.

When I finished the snack and litany of gratitude, I continued my journey.

Shrieks of playing children broke the silence. As I waded past one group, a boy shouted hello. I was so deep in my silence, I couldn’t return the greeting. The woman said, “It was nice of you to say hello.” That brought me to a stop. I turned, and with a finger to my lips, responded to her rebuke with a whispered, “one does not say hello in church.”

In the resulting silence, I headed down the path. It seemed strange that a mystical place for me was simply a playground for others. Most people I’d seen had driven a bit, got out of their cars to take pictures of each other against the backdrop of trees, then drove a bit further, stopped, and took more photos. Others had boats, rafts, and swimwear, headed for watery play.

As I picked my way down the trail, setting my feet carefully and leaning on my pole in the steep post, I had to smile at my pretensions. Wasn’t I playing too? Playing at mysticism? Playing at adventure?

At that very moment, a woman came up the trail with her three noisy unleashed dogs. The dogs surrounded me, barking and snarling, nipping at my pants. The woman screamed at me to stand still, that I was scaring them. And then one of them bit me. Not a bad bite, just a small break in the skin and a bruise, but huh? That was the third time I’d been menaced by dogs since I’ve been here. Don’t people up here train their dogs to obey?

So much for safe adventures. So much for peace.

Despite the ignominious end to my adventure, somewhere inside me and forever a part of me, is the stillness I’d found sitting on the bench, my back pressed against the words “…seated here in contemplation lost, my thought discovers vaster space beyond. Supernal silence and unfathomable peace.”

***

(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.”)

***

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?

***

(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.”)

***

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.”)

***

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.”)

***

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?

***

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.”)

***

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.

***

(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.

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