What If?

I faced no traumas today, no conflicts with others, no conflicts with myself, just the normal difficulties that come with trying to haul one’s used body around and make it do what one wants it to do. Luckily, this aging body is only used, not used up, so it managed to do what I asked of it. Like get up in the morning. Like strap on the twenty-seven pound pack and walk three and a half miles. Like go on an errand with a friend.

Now, it’s giving out on me. Actually, no — this poor used body is not giving out, it’s the overused mind that does not want to be tethered to words. It wants to roam free, not thinking, just . . . well, just not thinking. But without words, there is not much of a blog.

Oh wait! Photos! I don’t have to write about where my mind is. I can show you.

Less than four weeks until I am on the road again!

I mentioned to my landlord today that I was going to be gone a month and why, and he said, “I hope you’re bringing mace and a firearm.” I just stared at him, wondering if he were making a joke. But no. He was utterly serious. Then I mentioned to a fellow renter about my trip, and she, too, said I needed mace and gun. Huh? Mine is supposed to be a spiritual journey. (First, of course, an escape. Then a spiritual journey.) There is no killing on a spiritual journey. I’ll just have to be extra careful.

“What if a wild animal attacks you?” they asked. “Or a person?” I had no response to that, of course. There never is a response to “what if,” unless it’s: What if an animal doesn’t attack me? What if I have a wonderful time? What if things go well, and I return refreshed?

What if?

***

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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Blogging, Writing, Planning

This doesn’t seem to be a night for writing a blog — I’ve been sitting here playing games for the last hour with a totally blank mind — and yet, I hate to break the habit of daily blogging. It’s one of my few creative disciplines, and generally, if I let myself take a night off, the next thing I know, weeks have gone by without a single post.

To be honest, I already broke the string of daily blogs at about day 101, but since it was a mistake — I thought I posted something but didn’t — it didn’t affect the habit. But I suppose that raises the question — is it better to blog with nothing to say, or is it better to keep my computer closed?

Well, since I’m here, I might as well bring you up to date on the plans for my May trip. So far, I haven’t done much except schedule visits with friends on my way to Seattle. I had planned to camp at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but the roads to campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are not paved, and I’m not sure I want to risk getting caught on muddy roads, especially since I would be there in the middle of the week when there would be no park personnel.

I’m thinking now I’ll drive in to the plain as far as I can on the paved road to see what if anything I can see — last year there was a super bloom of wildflowers, but this year, because of the lack of precipitation, they are not expecting much color at all. (Same with the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, but one can hope! I sure would like to see those orange fields again.)

I might end up spending that first night in a motel, which doesn’t seem very adventurous, but I’m not sure I’d make it all the way up to The Pinnacles National Park, which was to be my next stop. (My map says it’s a national monument; apparently, somewhere along the way, it got a promotion.)

I still have weeks before I go, so I’m not particularly concerned about not having any plans yet. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, just take off and see what happens, but I know what would happen. I would drive until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, get a motel room, then finish the drive the next day. Admittedly, that sort of trip is its own form of adventure, but not the eye-satisfying, spirit-expanding commune with nature that I crave. And anyway, I might have to do that sort of drive on the return trip to get back before the Memorial Day weekend, and I’d prefer not to do it both ways.

Well, what do you know — I wrote a blog tonight after all. Now let’s see if I can manage to do my novel writing stint, too.

***

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.

Continuing to Do What I’ve Been Continuing to Do

I’ve been wondering if my blog posts are getting to be too much the same — so many of them seem to be about things I might do, would like to do, possibly could do — but a blog friend commented that she loved my adventure planning, so if you have been hoping that I would a) stop blogging until I have something to say; b) stop talking about things that have as much chance of happening as snow on Mars; or c) do something worth writing about, you’re out of luck. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been continuing to do.

Mostly what I’ve been doing, more than actually planning or preparing or researching, is continuing to contemplate logistics of long distance backpacking. For example, there are places on most long trails — not just the epic trails like the Pacific Coast Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail, but the shorter long distance trails like the Colorado Trail or the Enchantment Trail — where water is lacking for forty miles or so. Not an insurmountable problem for fast hikers who can cross such barren stretches in two or three days, but for a slow mover like me, it could take eight days, which means I’d have to carry thirty-two pounds of water. Yikes. I can’t carry thirty-two pounds of anything, especially not when added to the other twenty pounds of hiking gear!

Some people solve the problem of dry stretches by stashing bottles of water on the trail, but the way I figure it, if I am going to be hiking far enough into the trail to hide all that water in a waterless section, I’d probably need the water to get there and back without dying of dehydration.

So, forget the long trails. What about doing three or four day hikes on the PCT, for example? Most ingresses to the trail are from roads where the only parking is on the shoulder. Oh, yeah, I want to leave my car on the side of the road for all that time! Often when I’ve done day hikes, I’ve seen vehicles that have been vandalized, and that seems too much of a price to pay for a few days of solitude. I could, of course, leave the car parked where it is now, but then the problem comes in the form of transportation. How do I get to the trail? How do I get back?

So I continue to do what I’ve been continuing to do all along: plan adventures, research, and contemplate hiking the long — and short — trails while I slog through the desert carrying a backpack three days a week.

Luckily, there is dance class today to give me a rest from all this continuing.

***

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.

Fabulous Review!

Anyone who has read the comments on this blog will know the name Rami Ungar. An author and blogger in his own right, he has always been a great supporter of mine, so when he offered me the use of his name for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, I did not hesitate to create a character in his name.

Rami recently read the book and posted reviews all over the internet, which adds an interesting dimension to an already multi-dimensional story. I mean, how many of your characters have ever posted a review of the book they were in?

Rami Ungar wrote:

I wanted to read this book for a number of reasons, including that I know the writer and I’m familiar with her work. I expected a good mystery, and my expectations were not only met, but exceeded.

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare is a true slow-burner mystery, taking its time to build up the characters and the mystery. As you keep reading, you find yourself drawn in, intrigued by these people and how they could be connected to the death in the story.

I also enjoyed the meta-fictional, fourth wall-breaking aspect of the novel. Since the author wrote herself as the protagonist and based parts of the story on her real life, you can get a very insightful look into her life, as well as her views on life itself and on fiction writing. It’s at times funny, at other times sad, but always very poignant.

I can’t really think of anything that works against the story. It’s a good read if you want a mystery that isn’t rushed and full of action, but instead character and story focused. Pick it up, and enjoy a dance of death not usually seen in stories.

Such a wonderful review! And a perfect description of the story within a story. It truly does a writer’s heart good when a reader not only enjoys the story, but gets it.

If you haven’t yet read Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, I hope this review will entice you to take a look. And while you’re at it, check out Rami Ungar’s blog and books.

***

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.

***

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.

2017 Got the Last Laugh

2017 was a year of pain, surgery, healing, doctors, drugs, along with various other maladies and challenges that kept me unwell for more than seven months.

I thought I’d be going into 2018 strong and relatively healthy, but 2017 got the last laugh. Here it is, the final day of the year, and I am sick again, this time with an intestinal bug. So much fun!

And so my prediction in Getting a Head Start on New Years Resolutions came true. Before I even started the year, my resolutions have gone by the wayside. That list has now been downgraded to a “to do list.” (Which, to be honest, was all those resolutions were in the first place.)

Despite that, with this post, as unpleasant as it might be, I have fulfilled my fifty-day blog challenge.

Wishing us all a healthy 2018 and challenges that are as pleasant to fulfill as this challenge was.

***

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.

Author Karma and Paying it Forward

For more than nine years, I have been interviewing authors, publishers, even book characters for my Pat Bertram Introduces . . . blog. I have promoted almost 500 authors and never asked for a single thing in return. I figured (silly me!) that some of the authors would do something for me as a thank you, but only a handful of people ever offered a reciprocal promotion, and in fact, most never even helped promote their own interview, expecting me to do all the work. Periodically, I would stop doing interviews, but whenever I had time, I would continue doing them, because, well, you never know if the right interviewee would come along and help catapult me into, if not big time, then bigger time. Besides, it seemed the right thing to do. And I did have the blog. . . .

For some reason lately, maybe because I’m trying to promote my books and few writers are doing anything to help, not even something simple like sharing a post on Facebook or retweeting a post on Twitter, the whole thing has struck me as terribly wrong.

So I changed my policy. If you want me to interview you, I’m still willing to do it, but I have made it a requirement that you promote my books in return. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, especially since it can be something simple like tweeting my books (tweeting your own interview is not a promotion for me; it is a promotion for you).

Author karma and paying it forward were big concepts back when my books were first published, but come to think of it, that was mostly talk. Even back then, before the plethora of “indie” authors, no one bothered to return my favor. I suppose it’s understandable — most authors seem to think they are special and so deserve special treatment. After all, generally, they are the only author they know.

But still . . . it’s interesting to me that no author ever asked me why I was interviewing them. They all took my promoting them for granted, as if it was their right.

I sound very bah humbugish, don’t I? So not the spirit of Christmas! But too bad. If you want my help, you help me in return. As simple as that.

https://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ As you can see by clicking on the link, I put the announcement that my interviews were no longer a free service in bold letters. Do you think anyone will pay attention? I don’t.

Wishing you a bah humbug sort of day.

***
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.

Dandelion Fluff and Veins of Gold

A friend left this comment on yesterday’s post.  Your blog titled 1000 Days of Grief read: “But now I know freedom was his final gift, though it was as unwanted and as unasked for as the grief. I haven’t learned yet what to do with this freedom. Perhaps if I embrace it as I did my grief, it will also take me where I need to go.” In the grief blogs I have read so far you never apologize for following your grief, actually quite the opposite, you give all of us permission to feel what we feel. I may be wrong but you sound apologetic for your ambiguity now. It strikes me as “OK” you feel two ways, even three, four or more about freedom as you follow it, trusting it will take you where you need to go.

Very astute of her!

A few days ago, I wrote about impossible dreams and how important they might be. I followed up with a post congratulating myself (more or less) on having found a direction to point myself, as if the impossible dream was perhaps not quite so impossible after all. Meantime, in an article about how to get in shape for a backpacking trip, I read that the best way to prepare is to fill your pack with however much weight you were going to carry, add five pounds, then strap a two-and-a-half pound weight to each ankle, and go out and hike five miles.

And so the whole pack of cards came crashing down on me. Not only did I re-realize the impossibility of the impossible dream (with all that weight, I wouldn’t even have been able to stand up, let alone walk a single step) I felt foolish for my on-again/off-again dreaming, as if I were a child pretending to be an adult. And because of my posting all these thoughts, my wishy-washiness was out there for all to see (or at least the “all” who manage to find me in the blogosphere), which seemed . . . well, embarrassing.

It wasn’t until the end of yesterday’s blog (the blog that seemed apologetic) that I connected my ambiguity with grief, because how can any of this have to do with grief? After all, I haven’t had a massive upsurge (or even a mild upsurge) of angst for nine months. It was easy to write unabashedly about grief when I was pouring out my heart along with my sorrow, but it seems less heroic just to . . . waffle. And yet it is all about grief. When you have lost the most important person in your life, no matter what you do, it is always about grief.

And in the world of grief, I am but a child, a child in the eighth year of life.

People talk about grief as if it were merely an emotional aberration and that soon we will be back the way we were. They talk about us going through, moving on, healing, journeying, all different ways of describing the grief process, but the truth is, more than anything else, grief is a matter of being. Of becoming. Of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is roughly translated as “golden joinery” and is the Japanese art of embracing damage, of mending broken pottery with veins of gold, turning what might have once been a simple ceramic piece into a work of art.

And that is exactly what grief is. When you lose the most important person in your life, a person who seems connected to your very soul, you can never be the same. Oh, sure — you look the same, people still treat you the same (or try to), but you know you’re not the same. What you do, however, is embrace all the shards of your shattered life, and one by one you glue each piece back to the whole with veins of gold, and if a piece is missing, you fill in the void with more gold. As time goes on, you turn your life into something new, a work of art that maybe only you can appreciate because only you know the effort it took to put yourself back together again.

So yes, I am ambiguous. I say one thing one day and another thing on a different day. Sometimes I hold on to dreams, and sometimes I blow dreams away as if they were dandelion fluff. Like a child, I pretend I can do anything, pretend that I can be anything (with no regard for reality). And like a Kintsugi artist, I carefully add one vein of gold at a time.

And so I grow.

And there is no need to ever feel apologetic about that.

***
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.

Not a Flowing but a Flowering

If I hadn’t challenged myself to posting a blog every day for fifty days, I wouldn’t be sitting here at the computer trying to write  . . . something. Anything.

Normally, I would have gone to dance class today (ballet and tap, it would have been), which might have given me something to write about, but I woke with a sore throat and didn’t want to push my luck by going anyway — everyone I know caught cold this fall, and some people have had it for months. Not that I want to whine about being under the weather — that gets old. Actually, I don’t want to whine at all. I’ve been feeling good lately — I’ve spent many hours hiking in the desert, and I always feel most myself when I’m walking, especially when I’m walking out in the wild. Perhaps it’s the rhythm of walking that brings me to myself, or maybe it’s the wild inside connecting to the wild outside.

But today is not a day for walking. Or hiking. Or being any kind of wild.

It’s a day for . . . I don’t know. Just being, maybe.

I’ve been scrolling through my archives looking for inspiration for today’s blog post. My challenge was specifically worded so I didn’t have to write something new — I just had to post something. But I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me about me today.

I feel such a slug at times, as if I have always just flowed through my days, accomplishing not much of anything (which, though we seldom admit it, is living just as much as anything else), but I look at those previous posts and see not a flowing but a flowering. Adventures and explorations galore. A multitude of life-changing losses. A few life-changing gains. And yet, oddly, none of those things seem to have anything to do with me.

Each day, it seems, I am born anew, a woman with not much of a past, a woman with an unknown future. I was going to write “a woman with not much of a future,” but who’s to say what will happen? I remember times when nothing seemed to happen, such as the long years when Jeff never seemed to get sicker, never seemed to get better. And then suddenly, he did get sicker, and just as suddenly he died. During all those years when we would talk about his being gone, I could never have imagined what my life would become. And that was a mere seven years ago. Three years ago, my father died, and oddly despite my occasional nomadism, I am mostly living the same life as I did with him, though without responsibilities and in a different house, and I could never have imagined that, either.

The days continue to flow, but to what purpose, I don’t know.

Maybe a new flowering.

***
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.

Silly Season

In November, many fiction writers participate in a project called National Novel Writing Month (though now it seems to be an international thing). Bloggers tapped into that pool of creativity and used to participate in something called National Blog Posting Month where bloggers post something each day in November. Maybe they still do; I don’t know. I do remember that the year I did it, the month was called The Silly Season because bloggers quickly ran out of ideas and so wrote about anything, no matter how silly.

I am in the midst of my own blog challenge, to post something every day until the end of the year, and today is my silly season because all I can think of to write is something totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. (Let’s hope my silly season ends here, but with thirty-four days left of the challenge and not much to say, who knows what I’ll end up posting.)

A couple of years ago, when I went on a buying spree for camping and backpacking supplies, I ended up with a $39.00 dividend from REI. I thought I had until March to use it, but I found out a couple of days ago it would expire shortly. Since I didn’t really need anything, I checked the website to see if I could find some hiking pants in my size because the only ones I have are black, which is too attractive to mosquitoef3a389da-0c18-4277-a25f-7290e42da4a3s. No pants, but I did find a lovely blue fleece jacket in my size. (I knew it was my size because I have a couple of others in different colors.) It was on sale for 40% off, and since it was (accidentally on my part) the weekend after Thanksgiving, I got 25% off the 40% off. Even with shipping and tax, the total bill for the $65.00 fleece came to less than my dividend, so it was free to me!!

The jacket came today, and it’s lovely, and so very warm. It also came with a warning: This innovative product will make you want to go outdoors and stay there.

Maybe. Someday.

For now, though, silly post or not, the jacket will be perfect for my trek into the very cold desert tomorrow.

***
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.