Having a Human Experience

I did a Bollywood dance performance eight nights ago, and a few minutes later, I was lying in the parking lot outside the theater screaming in agony. Apparently, as I crossed the parking lot to my car, I tripped over a free-standing cement parking curb. Shattered my left wrist. I drove myself to the hospital (I didn’t want to leave my car in the lot, and somehow, fueled by adrenaline and unreasoning pain, it seemed the most expedient solution for getting to the emergency room.)

After a night in the ER, I was admitted to the hospital until they could do the surgery a couple of days later. When they got me on the cart to wheel me to the operating room, they told me the only panties I could wear were the mesh hospital panties, and since I was already wearing those, I didn’t think anything of it. Then, before they wheeled me away, the nurse came and pulled off the panties under the mistaken assumption they were not allowed. And I started crying. Up until then, I’d accepted the pain, the emergency room, the drugs, the hospital stay and everything else that happened to me with equanamity (or the numbness of shock?) but the removal of the panties did me in. I felt unutterably vulnerable and alone.

I still do.

I’m out of the hospital, dealing as best as I can with drug-fuddled mind and only one usable hand/arm. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself, and mostly succeeding, but this is the culmination of a very traumatic ten years. It started with the death of the brother closest to me in age nine years and eleven months ago. Since then, I have had to deal with my mother’s illness and death, my life mate/soul mate’s long dying and subsequent death, my elderly father’s care and his death. Also, I broke an ankle, scalped myself, lost a tooth, and now have multiple fractures in my wrist/arm.

Lots of life — and death — going on.

But for now, what’s important is the current injury.

People ask me how I am interpreting this particular experience and what the message is. I am trying not to find messages. Trying to see the fall as simply an accident because anything else, such as the possibility that internal conflicts could manifest themselves physically, is simply too frightening.

Although I don’t believe in rites, such as funerals, I went to my mother’s funeral to see everyone in my family one more time. But shortly after I got there, I broke my ankle. Spend the viewing at the ER and the funeral at the bone specialist’s office.

And now, once again, I’d been faced with doing something I didn’t want to do — that dance performance. I really, really didn’t want to be part of a multi-day show and even told my class if they badgered me into it, something bad would happen. Somewhere along the line, I stopped saying no and ended up being understudy for that one particular show because they truly did need me. I enjoyed the performance, did it perfectly. And then, a few minutes afterward, I lay screaming in the parking lot.

If there is a message, it’s for me to stop doing things I don’t want to do. Or more accurately, to stay away from internal conflict. (There are actually two internal conflicts at play here — the dance recital and the book I am writing. I don’t want to write it, but I want to finish it, and now I am forced to take a hiatus.) But the truth is, I don’t want to believe that there is any correlation between internal conflict and broken bones. Way too frightening!

It’s better if I think of this latest trauma, as with all my traumas, as my being a human person having a human experience.

If I say it enough, I might actually come to believe it.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Grief, the Internet, and Other Unpolitic Matters

It seems funny to me that I managed to write a blog post every day for more than four years, and now I can’t come up with four posts a month. There is so much I don’t want to talk about. Or rather, that I do want to talk about but don’t think it . . . politic. (Weird, isn’t it, that talking of politics is no longer politic? Not that I particularly want to talk about what’s going on in the world, but it’s hard not to want to have my say.)

During all my years online, I’ve heard people say that the internet is a harsh place because people hide behind their online personas and spew filth, but until this past week, I’ve never encountered such hatred and anger. Online, people are screeching about racists and xenophobes and misogynists and bigots, but offline, people are respectfully and calmly talking about why they voted the way they did, and not one of them voted for racism. Except that in today’s world, if you disagree with standard group-think for any reason, the first word that comes up in retaliation is “racist.” Or “anti-feminist.” As if the only reason to vote for a Broken heartwoman is that she’s a woman like you. (Apparently, women are not allowed to look beyond gender to the issues dear to their heart.)

None of this has anything to do with me, really, but I see the hurt caused by such divisiveness. I have never lost so much respect for so many people so fast as I did this past week. The election results didn’t upset me. I know that historically any Republican president brings out the activists, which mitigates the power. But the hatred and lies and name calling is something I can do without. Not only am I a person who wants everyone to get along, but such contention exacerbates my ongoing sadness.

When I was writing my dance class book, I was in a good place mentally. But now . . . not so much. I’m not experiencing grief; really, it’s more that all the vehement rhetoric makes me miss the one person I knew who could look rationally and historically beyond the hype on both sides to the truth, who understood my feelings, who knew my thoughts and agreed with them because they were his thoughts too. I realize having such a person in my life was a blessing, but sometimes it’s hard to still count that particular blessing because it ended so very long ago. In a few months, it will be seven years since he’s been gone. Long enough to forget occasionally that I had him in my life, but not long enough to completely fill the hole he left behind.

Working on my current book, a novel I started six years ago about a woman who lost her husband to death, is resurrecting the sadness, which shows me grief is still there, buried under my renewed equanimity. (I never used to be an emotional person, but his death slammed me way off course.) I periodically think about scrapping the book. I don’t know if anyone will ever read it. A grieving woman is not the sort of heroine that people seem to admire. A person experiencing grief is at the mercy of her hormones and brain chemistry, her emotional and spiritual tornadoes, the sheer debilitating exhaustion of the process. No amount of determination, no power-woman tactics can get you through it. Only going through it can get you through it.

Such a character and her manifest weakness, no matter how temporary, is not exactly something most people find inspiring. And yet, that’s the whole point of the book. To show the truth of grief. I got so sick of books where the woman lost her husband, cried herself to sleep, and woke up the next morning thinking, “Okay, that’s done with.” Or as one author wrote, “She went through all five stages of grief.” Yeah. That’s deep.

There is a reason why books featuring fictional widows and widowers generally start three to five years after the spouse’s death — those first years are not pretty.

And my poor heroine’s story is the first two months after her husband’s death. Oh, my. What have I gotten myself into!

But, despite my misgivings, I keep plugging along with the book and my life. And maybe someday both will find an acceptable resolution.

As for the world outside my own little world? Nope. Not a hope. People have become too addicted to their own opinions to ever see the truth in the opposition. The situation would break my heart if it weren’t already broken.

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

My First and Only Sort-of Political Post

I’m smiling today, not in celebration of a Trump victory or a Clinton loss, but because, well . . . because it’s a new day. The sun is shining, I have nothing to do but write, and history has been made.

This 2016 political campaign was set up to be an historical election from the beginning — the total political insider vs. the total outsider. Not racists and misogynists vs. liberals. Not good vs. bad (because all voters did the best they could with a bizarre candidacy). Not urban vs. rural, though that’s the way it turned out to be. Not rich politician vs. poor politician because both runners had more money at their disposal than most cities do. Not hate vs. . . . well, not love, that’s for sure because from what I could see, Hillary lovers/Donald haters have nothing but hate — or at least contempt — for the folk who elected him. It wasn’t even intelligence vs. ignorance, because a huge portion of The Donald voters approached the election with intelligence while many of the Hillary folk came from a position of ignorance with no clue why people would vote for such a buffoon.

Hillary was slated to be the first woman president. What we got instead was the first non-politician/non war hero president. History.

Though it seems like this was a male vs. female race, it was all about the insider vs. the outsider. The Clintons did not spring up out of the pack, being chosen by “we the people” for their stellar qualities. They were chosen in college and have been groomed for their leadership positions their entire lives because of their charisma and their ability to talk a whole bunch of people into doing what the power elite want. (Ever wonder what all those standardized tests were for? Well, now you know one reason — to give the power elite a clear vision of who we are and how they can use us.)

[As an aside: Nixon was found and groomed by Prescott Bush, the daddy of the first Bush president, after Nixon answered a classified ad. Remember when Nixon said “they” wouldn’t have him to push around any more? It wasn’t you and me he was talking to. It was his handlers. The power elite.]

Yep. The power elite. Do you really think a president has all that much power? Take comfort in knowing that while the US president is powerful, there are other forces, such as the puppetmasters, that are way more powerful. These international power brokers don’t care who wins because they win either way.

(You didn’t know I was of a conspiratorial bent? That I am against government of all kinds? That while I know of the power elite, there is no way I approve of such a shadow force? Then you haven’t read my books. In More Deaths Than One, I tell of the mind control experiments the government has perpetrated on unsuspecting citizens. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I talk about biological warfare, again, some of which was done on US citizens. In Light Bringer, I pull from Sumerian cosmology by way of Zecharia Sitchen showing the possibility that this movement toward a one-world government is more than 7,000 years old; also William Bramley, author of The Gods of Eden had some influence on my novel.)

Have you ever wondered why Donald chose to run? Did he wake up one morning and think, “Geez, I think I’ll run for president”? I do. I wonder who contacted him. Or who he contacted.

The Electoral College was set up to keep out those not qualified to be president because it was believed that the people weren’t intelligent enough to vote for the right candidate. (Also to give the states themselves a voice because after all, we are a nation of states. If it weren’t for the states’ rights, we’d have a couple of urban areas control of the entire country.) I figured that if Donald got the majority vote, the Electoral College would give it to Hillary, and they still might. The Electoral College, which votes on December 19, does not have to follow the votes for their state — they can vote for whomever they wish.

December 19 is the real election, the one that will determine who is president.

Hillary got the popular vote, but Donald won the electoral votes, so it’s vaguely possible she will still get the presidency if enough republicans decide to protest Donald’s election. If Donald’s election is upheld, it will make me wonder why he was chosen, by whom he was chosen, and ultimately, for whom he will be working. (Have you ever wondered why so many new presidents age rapidly their first year in office? They find out the truth. Some say that’s why JFK was assassinated — he was insistent on being a real president, not just another figurehead.)

Although I am basically apolitical, I am aware that historically more good is done when a Republican is president, not because of him (or, one day, her) but because when a Republican is president, a whole slew of sleeping grass roots organizations come out of hibernation and provide a foil for his policies. When a democrat is president, these organizations go to sleep because they think all is well with the world. Is it any wonder that all of the major U.S. wars in the 20th century—World War I, II, Korea and Vietnam—were entered by Democratic administrations? Harry Truman, a Democrat, is still the only world leader to use a nuclear bomb on a population. So, something to think about. Donald being president for “all the people” as he claimed might actually come true, because one way or another, whether for him or against him, people will work for the greater good. (I already see signs of those grass roots growing. Lists of pro-women, pro-lgbt, pro-abortion, pro-imigrant and anti-bigotry organizations are being shared on FB.) And, power elite or not, true power — the power of numbers — is in our hands if we work together.

Campaign rhetoric is just that — rhetoric meant to get the votes. Nothing new there. If you were to read Lincoln’s campaign speeches, you’d see that sometimes he said he’d abolish slavery, sometimes he said he wouldn’t, depending on the beliefs of people he was talking to. The truth will out in the coming years, but I do not think this election has set us back a hundred years. It’s always about today, this very moment, and today is the same as yesterday. All else is speculation.

I have removed a whole slew of FB friends not because of their political beliefs but because of their nastiness. Cripes, get a grip, folks. I realize a lot of people are angry, many are scared (including some who voted for Donald), others are grieving. But this win isn’t the end of the country. The president, whoever it might be, isn’t the United States. The USA is you and me, our neighbors and friends, our church members, classmates, and fellow workers.

I hear democrats screaming about the idiots who voted for racism and misogyny, but those histrionics are just that. Histrionics. Although I know a lot of people who voted for Donald, not one of those friends voted for racism or misogyny. These people (with misgivings for the man they voted for) generally voted against something — against late term abortion, against the status quo, against illegal immigration (because, duh, it’s illegal), against the New World Order, against Hillary herself. A few people I know were gung-ho Trump supporters, but they came to their position with a wide view of the world. Still, whatever the reasoning behind the votes, these people are United States citizens. The neo-liberals are not the only people in the country. This nation is made up of all kinds, and all deserve a voice.

So please, stop the nastiness. Be kind. This is a new day. The sun is shining — or not. And we are alive.

Peace to all. And to all, a good day.

Light Bringer

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Thousands of bloggers from all over the globe are Blogging for Peace today.

One subject. One voice. One day.

Words are powerful . . . this matters.

peace blog

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

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.”)