Joys of the Writing Life

I am still writing!!! I have always been a slow writer, but my current work is just flying along. It helps that I know the characters. The main character is me so there is no reason to create artificial conflicts, weakness, or strengths. They are all there is living color. (To be exact, they are there in black and white since the page is white and the words are black.) I would have thought using a real person as a character would make the writing harder because I can’t create the character to fit the plot. In many ways, the character herself is creating the plot — what she thinks, what she does, what she fears, what she grieves.

The other characters, at least some of them, are based on the women in my dance class, which makes things easy. If I need to describe something or someone, I can describe what I know. Unfortunately, I am having a hard time making them come alive. I am hesitant to attribute bad qualities to them, real or imagined, and I don’t want to create havoc in their lives by giving them secrets, such as a secret lover. Can’t you just hear it?book

Husband: Character B is you, right?
Character B: Yes. Isn’t this great?
Husband: And it’s based on your life.
Character B: Yes, but it’s fictionalized
Husband: So who is this guy you’re having an affair wth?
Character B: I’m not having an affair.
Husband: You said Character B is you.
Character B: A fictionalized me.
Husband: And Character B is having an affair.
Character B: Yes, in the book I am having an affair.
Husband: So who is he? Do you want a divorce? Is that what you’re saying?
Character B: No. I’m saying I’m character B.
Husband: Do you want to leave or do you want me to leave?

It’s a big enough responsibility shaping one’s character’s lives, to have the real person influence the character. Having the character influence the real person is more responsibility — and guilt — than I can handle.

So, these characters so far are just walla-wallas. (In old time court room dramas, when the trial watchers were supposed to murmur to show excitement at a revelation or verdict, they said, “Walla, walla. Walla walla.”)

To help the story along, I combined several women into a few fictional ones, which gives me the benefit of being able to have them do what I want without worrying about ruining their lives. And I can go back and change these characters as necessary to fit the story.

Other things that are making this story run smooth: 1) It’s rather stream-of-consciousness — not too much, I hope — and stream of consciousness is easy for me. Just tell what I know and show what I feel. 2) I’ve been mulling over this idea for two years, so much of the story is already in my head. 3) Since this is a mystery that takes place at a dance studio, and since I am taking lessons, every day offers inspiration. 4) I am typing the story instead of writing longhand. I wrote my other books longhand because I feel it gives me a better finger/mind connection — and I didn’t have a typewriter or computer — but I can’t hold a pen for long periods of time anymore, and I can’t read my writing afterward. 5) Mostly, I’m putting myself in a position to write. I joined a 250-word-a-day club, and when I am too tired to think, I tell myself “just do your 250 words and then you can stop”. But by then, I’m into the story, and I need to finish the current scene before I forget it.

It’s not much of an exciting life. Nothing to discuss, no adventures to talk about, no conflicts or great emotions to try to work out. Just me in my fake/real world. One thing that is notable: I forget sometimes and call the real people by their fake names. And sometimes I refer to an episode in the book as having really happened. Ah, the joys of a writing life!

***

(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 Beauty and Amusement of Writing

Madame ZeeZee's NightmareI have been enjoying being a character in my book, enjoying even more finding inspiration in the small matters of my life. For example, yesterday I wrote in a blog post:

I tend to believe my memory. Whenever I have gotten into a he said/she said or she said/she said argument, I can often find some sort of corroboration for my side, such as in a text or an email, which adds credence to my belief. Also, in dance class, I often remember steps when others don’t.However, there are a few steps from a dance we performed eighteen months ago that are completely gone from memory. Erased. I watched a video of that performance to see what the steps in question were, and even though I could see myself doing the steps, I have no memory of them.

It seemed such an interesting lapse, that I used the episode, which for some reason I found amusing, as a jumping off place for this rather chilling scene in the book:

I prided myself on having a good memory, and I believed everything it fed me. Whenever I’ve become party to a he said/she said or she said/she said argument about something that had happened, I could often find some sort of corroboration for my side, such as in a text or an email, which added credence to my belief. Also, in dance class, I often remember steps when others don’t.

Madame ZeeZee watched us practice a dance we should have known well because we had performed it a year previously in a concert at the local college.

We’d been working on new dances recently and hadn’t practiced that particular dance in several months, but we did okay without either Grace or Madame ZeeZee dancing in front of us. Until the final verse. In Hawaiian, each verse is repeated twice in exactly the same way, but in this particular dance—“Green Rose”—when the last verse repeated, we did different steps than we had the first time the verse played. Deb did something I knew was wrong for that last verse and the rest of us foundered. I stood there while the music died out, trying to recall the right steps, but I had absolutely no memory of that final sequence.

We danced “Green Rose” a second time, with Madame ZeeZee leading us. I did the dance perfectly, but only because I watched her. I didn’t remember ever having done those final steps before. It was as if the memory had been completely erased.

Walking home after class, I pondered the mystery of my missing memory. Could this be the beginning of Alzheimer’s? Or could I always have had blank spots in my memory? If so, how would I know? I only knew what I remembered.

I did remember telling Jackie once that I was an unreliable narrator, but I’d been talking about my lack of attention to details, not my memory. But now I wondered about Grace’s death.

Could I have done something besides play her mystery game that got her killed? Did Deb know what I had done, and that’s why she claimed the death was all my fault? I refused to believe the ghastly thought. Erasing a few steps of a dance was one thing, but losing the memory of a murder was something completely different.

Still, I hardly slept at all that night, and when I did, I dreamed of shadowy beings I should have remembered, but didn’t.

Ah, the beauty and amusement of writing!

***

(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.”)

Raining Ashes

We are having a cloudy and rainy day today in the midst of a heat wave, but that is not as pleasant as it sounds. The clouds are huge billows of smoke that blot out the sun, and the rain is not water but ash falling from those murky skies. Not many ashes, not yet, but the current brush fire, which blocks a major north-south highway is just a few hours old,.

fireMy sinuses finally cleared up after the last horrific smoke cloud that settled over town, and already, I can feel the pressure building. I can’t even imagine the pressure the firefighters are feeling, especially since two of them have succumbed to smoke inhalation. Luckily, I don’t have to drive the highway, but thousands do, and they are currently stranded.

California is burning. Louisiana is flooding. It seems weird that two such opposite hells can exist at the same time, not even two thousand miles apart.

Having driven that distance, I know how far it is, but on my map, it is but a scant few inches. Shouldn’t there be a way of sluicing all the excess water to places that need it? In my mind, I fold the map so that Louisiana lays on top of California, letting the flood waters drain to better use. But as miraculous and powerful as thoughts might be, this image changes nothing.

My feet hurt from doing too many échappés in ballet class, but that is a good feeling compared to the suffering so many others are experiencing today. Which makes me wonder: Is it wrong to give thanks for one’s own safety when so many others have lost everything?

Safe passages to all of you.

***

(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.”)

Heavy Heart

My heart is heavy today for my friend in Louisiana. We have been sisters in sorrow for many years, shadow mirrors of grief, since so many of our devastating losses occurred about the same time. My brother, her brother. Her mother, my father. My soul mate, her soul mate. One of the highlights of my recent cross country trip was finally getting to hug her for real after all the virtual hugs and tears we have shared. (This photo of azaleas was taken from her backyard.)

Now she is going through a time of hell that I can’t even imagine. Although her house is still dry, she is trapped because the roads all around are flooded, and if there were a problem, she has nowhere to go. Oddly, I am probably as close to a recent forest fire as she is close to the flooding, but except for smoke inhalation, no one I know was hurt in the fire. And almost everyone she knows has been horrendously affected by the floods.

One of her relatives died from a heart attack while being evacuated. Others have been flooded out. One friend lost everything — the water rushed in so fast, they had no time to grab anything. A niece was rescued by boat from her house, but the flooding has unmoored her modular home, and they are waiting for it to collapse. In certain areas, everyone she knows has suffered damage to their houses, in other areas, they have all lost their houses. One of her friends was stuck on an interstate overpass for nine hours after the road was closed on both ends because of flooding, and she had no way to get off because the exits were flooded, too. (She was finally airlifted out.) Caskets are popping up out of the ground in the cemetery where her loved ones are buried because of flooding, adding a surreal twist to the horror that is southern Louisiana.

Lives lost. Houses lost. Cars lost.

Who knew — hell is not fire. Or not just fire. It is water, too

In a recent post, I talked about the stomach-turning villains of a best-selling author. I have no interest in man-made evildoers created by a disturbed mind (because how can anyone who is well-adjusted come up with and embrace such ghastly characters and deeds). Nope. For me, sweet old Mother Nature, whose virtues people extol, is the worst fiend of all. No villain to pit one’s wits against, no one to capture or kill, simply a mindless force. Implacable. Unyielding. Deadly.

And still more rain predicted? Oh, my.

***

(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.”)

From Bruising to Blessing

This has been a strange week. It started with a bruising and ended with a blessing.

Now that I think about it, the week actually started with the Pilot Fire, a nearby forest fire that completely burned the area on the Pacific Crest Trail I hiked not so long ago. Gone, just like that. (The photos accompanying this blog were probably the last ever taken of that particular spot.) Smoke has hung over the city for the better part of a week, burning my throat and filling my sinuses to a painful degree.

It was during this time of smoke that I went to a dance class that bruised me. Before the class began, they talked about a woman who had broken up with her demanding boyfriend. They all mentioned how lucky they were they had husbands and no longer had to deal with such matters. All are married, set for life financially, and it seemed to me they were smug in their belief that things would always be as they are. I stood there, off to the side, with nothing to say. I have no husband. My life isn’t settled. I don’t expect people to be aware of me, but still, their unconscious reminder that I am alone, living a rather precarious existence, bruised me.

During class, they rehearsed for a show I won’t be doing (costumes and accessories are way beyond my current budget) and that, too, made me feel out of place. Recently, one of the women had chastised me, telling me that when one joins a performance group, one does what one is told and I was feeling rebellious. (To be honest, I didn’t realize I’d joined a performance group. I thought I was just taking more advanced classes.) So for the first time ever, I left a class before time. They thought I was angry, but I wasn’t. I just needed to get out of there.

On my way out the door, I wondered if I needed to find other people, widows, perhaps, where I didn’t feel so alien.

As fate would have it, the very next night, we did a luau for a bereavement group, and talking with those women — some frantically determined to stop grieving after the first year, others well into the second-year grief resurgence — I realized I didn’t belong with them, either. My pain was too old, too dimmed, and though I understood what they were going through, I was beyond such raw pain. And, selfishly, I don’t want to revisit those days through other people’s grief.

I never was one for groups, but after Jeff died, I made a concerted effort to be sociable. So now? I don’t know. I consider myself lucky to have a couple of good friends who understand (mostly) what I am going through, and I am lucky to have found a place to live this month where I could set up my exercise mat and weight bench. I have also been making an effort to live in the moment, to give up worrying about the future, to think new thoughts when the old ones get too oppressive. (Though, honestly, it is hard to think new thoughts. All I have done my whole life is think, so all different kinds of thoughts have already passed through my mind, but I suppose looking for a new thought to think helps get me past the disappointing times.)

And then, yesterday came. The fire was mostly out, only a faint smokiness still hanging in the air. I had beginning ballet and beginning tap, which I love — no straining to work beyond my capabilities. No rehearsing. Just working on technique, steps and combinations. (And only a couple people in the class showed up, which made things even easier — no feeling of being overwhelmed.) And miraculously, I felt blessed all day. Oddly, a friend invited me to a movie last night, Miracles from Heaven, which seemed to compound the miraculousness.

I still feel blessed today, though nothing special has happened. I worked a bit on my novel, trying to figure out what characters I need and where to go from here. I read a couple of Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael mysteries. And I played a dozen games of computer solitaire while I let my mind wander. And I am blogging!!!

Truly blessed.

***

(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.”)

No More Bad Roads

I moved out of the room at the end of the bad road. I was too afraid for my car. I kept envisioning a sort of cartoonish mishap, where I would be sitting on the seat holding the steering wheel, with the rest of the car in pieces on the ground surrounding me. Maybe the title of this blog is an omen — no more bad roads in life as well as driving. At least, I’d like to think so, and dare the future to prove me wrong.

I spent the day nesting — moving into a new room, fixing it up with curtains and pillows, my weight bench, computer and printer, a teddy bear that I had rescued on my trip (it was in a dumpster at the apartment I visited in Steven’s Point, resting on top of a whole bed of newly discarded teddy bears; I couldn’t pass up the grin, sewn on though it may be), and various other things to make my new abode feel more like home. It’s a large room with not much furniture, which is how I like it. Maybe the empty space will invite me to do my morning exercises again. And hopefully, the trouble getting the weight bench in and out of my little car will make me want to use it so I don’t waste all that effort.

Although the fellow I am renting from promised that this is a quiet house, so far, I haven’t discovered it be silent at all. My room is next to the noisy bathroom, which I share with another renter. Also the main water pipe runs right under my room, and the sound of rushing water is magnified and echoes as if in a cavern.

My room is clean — what wasn’t clean before I moved in, I cleaned myself. I’m still not sure how I will deal with sharing a bathroom with a guy I don’t know, but I

I’m supposed to have use of the refrigerator, but until he gets a new one, all I could do was clear off and clean part of a shelf for a couple of perishables.

The garage that was supposed to have been cleared out for me still hasn’t been made available. So, I’ve paid for the use of a garage, the reason I rented this room, and no garage. He says to give him a couple of days. So I’ll wait and see what happens.

We are a mixed bag. The guy that owns the house is from Papua New Guinea, and the other fellow seems to be some sort of American/Asian mix. At least, I think he is from overhearing a phone conversation. (I am rather embarrassed not to be able to distinguish Japanese from Chinese, Taiwanese from Korean, but I have so seldom heard any of those languages, it’s understandable why I don’t know one from another.)

I don’t have much of a muse any more, but I can imagine a dead body being found in these bachelor digs,  perhaps in the cavern under my room, but I don’t know who would be the murderer, my Papua New Guinea landlord or the fellow sharing my bathroom. Or perhaps a previous renter.

As iffy as this arrangement is, it’s saving me from having to drive the absolute worst road I have ever seen. (Actually, not the worst. The worst one I ever saw was in Arizona. A friend of mine drove that road, amazingly, managing to cross cavernous ruts that would have swallowed my car.)

I’m renting this room on a month-to-month basis, so if it doesn’t work out, it will still work out since it will get me through August. Next month when it is cooler and kids are back in school, I will have more options. A camping trip if nothing else. Meantime, it will be interesting to see if the muse sticks with me, and what gruesome story ideas she/he/it will insert into my dreams.

Note: the photo of my rescue bear was taken at the Blue Belle Inn in St. Ansgar. I didn’t do that much nesting and decorating.

***

(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.”)

There is Magic

When I was younger, I always wanted to have a special gift — ESP, maybe, or an ability to see ghosts. Or perhaps to have a touch of magic at my fingertips.

Now I am just as glad not to be special, glad to be mostly down-to-earth and pragmatic. I prefer to see the truth in the everyday world, though that never stops me from trying to become more than I currently am — to see further, to know more, to understand deeper.

magicWould I want to know what the future holds? Only if that future revolves around winning lottery numbers. I would love to win the lottery, to buy houses all over the country for the women I know who need a place to live, who want a bit of adventure but not much, so they could stay in whatever house they wanted for as long as they wanted before moving to another. Other than that, I don’t particularly care to know what will happen. I do know there will be good and bad. (Except that I don’t really believe in good and bad. It’s all life. All experience. All opportunity for growth.) Besides, I know what the future holds in the end, the same as it holds for all of us. Death. The getting there is the fun, or the not-fun. Either way, it should be interesting. (Grief wasn’t fun at all, but it sure was all-consuming, the most intense and life-changing emotional experience I’ve had besides falling in love.)

I certainly wouldn’t want the responsibility of seeing other people’s futures. What if I saw that something bad would happen? Would I be obligated to try to stop it? And if so, would it be the right thing to do? Maybe the bad thing would turn out to be good, and my interpretation of it was bad. And even if I saw it correctly, maybe changing the bad thing would create a vacuum for a worse thing to happen. Who needs that sort of pressure? Not me!

Would I want a touch of magic? Only if I could magic my books to bestsellerdom. Other than that, I wouldn’t know what to do with magic. To give myself what I want, first I need to know what I want, and that has been my problem for the past few years. I haven’t a clue what I want, don’t have any idea how I would like to shape my life. And anyway, I’m tired of trying to figure out what I want. It’s making me question everything I do, and that makes it harder to like anything.

Magic realism author Malcolm R. Campbell (who gave me the idea for this post) suggested I could use magic to wish for happiness and contentment, but I wouldn’t waste magic on such a paltry wish. I never thought happiness was all that important (other things are more important to me such as truth, experiencing, learning.) Even if I were so inclined to happiness, finding happiness and contentment on my own would make it all the sweeter. And anyway, today I am happy and content. I get to start a new life tomorrow. Technically, it’s just a new place to stay awhile, but who knows? Anything can happen. And there is magic in that.

***

(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.”)

Women Adrift

I hadn’t been posting my blogs about my internal journey lately. For the first time, I’ve actually deleted a post or two without publishing it, not wanting to look as if I were unbearably pathetic. Although it might seem like it, I am not really unhappy. (I’d be a lot happier if it weren’t so hot and I could walk off my melancholy, but I am not so foolish as to go hiking in the desert in 105+ weather.) I have, however, been going through a small grief upsurge lately, nothing much, just riding the waves of emotion. This particular time of sadness hasn’t been so much about the loss of my life mate/soul mate, though that particular trauma has colored my whole life and probably will color it for the rest of my days.

Part of this particular upsurge has come about because now that I am back at dance class, I’ve been spending too much time with a group of married women, mostly older women who are still married to their high school or college sweethearts though there are a couple who are divorced and remarried. While I have been struggling to deal with one loss after another, their lives have mostly continued on the same track. As I listen to their chatter about their houses, travel plans, the care and feeding of their men. I feel . . . unbelonged. I don’t know how to deal with this particular issue. Maybe skip class occasionally when I get too overwhelmed? Mostly, I handle the situation by concentrating on the steps and trying to ignore the rest of what is going on, but the constant reminder that I am alone still gets to me.

It wasn’t until today, though, speaking to a woman my age who is dealing with some of what I have been going through, that I realized the greater problem, a problem I haven’t yet figured out how to resolve.

This other woman came to the high desert about the same time I did. Like me, she gave up her life in a cooler climate and moved here to take care of an aged parent. Like me, she is now lost. She has been here too long to go back and pick up the life she was living. After all these years, she has too much to lose by leaving, but she doesn’t have enough to keep her here, not enough to make this place (especially in the 105 degree heat) feel like home.

Where do you go when you have no real ties anymore?

I met a few other such women on my trip, women tent campers who had nothing but a restlessness born of unbelonging. They too had left what they had known and moved in with an aged parent to care for that parent until that parent’s death. The fact that we designated daughters were not married, were widowed, or otherwise lived alone, and so it fell upon us to make the move, does not mitigate the circumstances. We were uprooted when we went to be a caregiver, and uprooted again when the caregiving came to an end.

And so we drift.

This particular facet of my life has been mostly subsumed into the whole grief spectrum, but it is something separate from all the other losses, something I haven’t had to face it until now. After my dad’s death, I stayed at his house until it was sold, did some housesitting, visited friends, and then rented a room until it was time to take my cross-country trip. Now that the trip is ended, at least until the end of the summer, I have to face the truth. I have too much to lose by leaving, but it’s not enough to hold me here.

And so I drift.

***

(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 Miracle of Grief

Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of a dear friend’s life mate/soul mate, and I keep thinking of her and the sorrow this day is bringing her. Not that keeping her in my thoughts will help her get through the day — or maybe it will. Sometimes it’s enough to know that another person understands the significance of the day, shares the tears, feels the jolt of realization at how long the loved one has been gone.

Because of this virtual vigil, I am abnormally attuned to literary death references.

In one novel I read in the last couple of days, the widow of less than a year admitted she still sometimes cried in the night, and her clueless friend said, “that’s okay. It won’t be okay a year from now, but for now, it’s still okay.” That sure gave me pause. Why wouldn’t it be okay? Crying in the night isn’t the same thing as hiding oneself away in the dark, refusing to face life. And it isn’t the same thing as having a screaming fit in the middle of a grocery store. It’s a realistic response to the death of a great love two or three or six years later.

Then today, I read a book where the man was still devastated by the loss of his wife after eight years. And it struck me how very odd it is that grief diminishes with time, rather than grows. Every year of that fellow’s bereft life stretched out like the desert he lived in, every year taking him further away from her, every year an eternity of aloneness. As the years slog on, one after the other, shouldn’t the pain of the loss grow, like layers of water color washed one on top the other until the shape of the missing part of one’s life is darkly hued?

And yet, the opposite is true. The shock, the PTSD, the hormonal and chemical changes that grief induces, the inability to breathe easily, the need to scream, the sheer immensity of the goneness all do recede. We find new ways of living, new ways of filling the emptiness (or trying to fill it), and we get on with our lives. And yet, the dead are still dead. And every year of our life is one more year they are dead.

Whether the dead are gone forever, gone back to the seed of energy from which they emerged, or still live in some otherworldly form, they are still gone from this life. Gone from our lives.

Eventually, we will be gone too, but meantime, that loss is always there.

Some people who remarry have to squelch any remaining feeling of loss because their new spouses don’t understand the shadow place the dead still hold in our lives. Others are lucky enough to marry those who understand. But whether or not there is a new love, it does not diminish the old one.

And yet, through some miracle of grief, our pain does not increase through the years, but instead, the water colors lay softly on our lives, reminding us of what we had, reminding us of the love we still feel.

***

(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.”)

Refreshment

I had a great day yesterday, but then, I always have an especially good time when hiking. Hiking is my therapy, my peace, my freedom. And when I have the perfect companion, hiking is bliss, even when the temperature hits a hundred or more.

Although my cross-country road trip was supposed to include a lot of hiking, I wrenched my hip at ballet class shortly before I left. And driving — all that sitting — only exacerbated the matter. I still managed a few good hikes along the way, but often the pain kept me from long treks. It was only after I figured out that the pain came not from the sciatic nerve but the accompanying piriformis muscle that I was able to find the proper stretches to help heal the muscle. And now, finally, I can hike again.

When a neighbor invited me to go on a hike with her on the nearby Pacific Crest Trail, I jumped at the chance. And oh, how sublime! The part of the trail we walked was fairly easy with no severe elevation changes and only a couple of treacherous spots where the trail had degraded. We ended up at a lovely tree-shaded spot by the golden Deep Creek where we lazed so long, I missed my dance class. But a hike, a new friend, easy conversation, and a creekside idyll were things not to be missed.

The hike back seemed even easier because we were prepared for the bad spots.

Although it can be dangerous hiking in the desert heat, which is why I always carry plenty of water, there is one factor besides the obvious joy of being out in nature that comes from such a trek — the feeling of deep and abiding inside-out cleanliness and freshness that results when one finally gets a chance to shower away the sweat.

Refreshment. Means a whole lot more than just the simple snack we enjoyed beneath the trees by the side of the creek.

***

(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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