Fabric Houses

I’ve been researching tents, trying to find one that is livable for more than a night or two. If I ever went on an epic walk, I’d probably have to get something extremely lightweight, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to carry it, but if I went car camping, I’d have many more options.

The simplest tents are little more than a tarp. The most complicated have multiple rooms and even more complicated set-ups, especially if one person has to do it alone. The cheapest tents cost about $40. The most expensive top $4,000. The biggest tents seem to be circus tents, which are not something I have any interest in owning. (That’s just a guess about circus tents being the biggest. For all I know, the military has constructed temporary hangars that would make a circus tent look small.) The most terrifying are the bivy bags — they look like something a vampire would sleep in. I can’t imagine waking up in the middle of the night, still half-asleep from remembered nightmares of being buried alive to find the tent inches from my face. Oh, my. Sounds like heart failure waiting to happen.

Tents as both portable and ptentermanent housing have been around for probably 40,000 years. The list of materials used for making tents throughout the ages reads like a mini history of peoplekind — mammoth hides, deerskin, silk, canvas, nylon, cuben fiber. Colors varied, too, from basic dead animal skin to rainbow hues, to camouflage and other “natural” tones.

When I imagine tent living, I don’t think of modern miracles of lightweight shelters that keep out both bugs and rain (though of course, I would need both such amenities). What I think of are glorious and sumptuous structures right out of Scheherazade or the Arabian Nights or even a fabric representation of Jeannie’s genie bottle — lots of jewel-toned pillows, rugs, silk swaths.

Sounds kind of fun, actually. I doubt I would make such a colorful tent — way too much trouble especially since there are thousands of styles on the market. Besides, I’m more of a practical person, at least on the outside. I can see getting a durable and sensible tent but inside, where it counts, furnish it with simple, colorful, lightweight portable luxuries.

I’m probably being silly since I don’t know what is feasible when it comes to fabric-home living, but I like the idea of decadent luxury coupled with sturdy practicality. Who says I have to get a solo tent? Who says I have to use a boring old sleeping bag? Who says a fabric house can’t feel like a home?

Who says I can live in a tent, even for only a night or two? I certainly don’t know, but as with all the rest of my whimsies, it’s fun thinking about.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Going Along for the Ride

I’m going to be without a car for about three weeks starting on Monday, and when I mentioned this to a woman I dance with, she said, “Maybe you’ll have to ask your friends for help.” She said it sweetly and kindly, but the impression my friend gave me was that I was just too damn independent. Others have come right out and said the words, not meaning them as a compliment, and I suppose it’s the truth. I don’t like to put people out or put them on the spot or make them feel burdened by my requests. Still, people do like to help. So . . .

Maybe it’s time for me to be less stubbornly independent.

Or not. What do I know? Not as much as I once did, that’s for sure.

But my friend is right. If I am without transportation at such a critical time — when I am about to be ejected from the only home I’ve known for the past five years — then I will have to ask for help, even though it’s my decision to be without a vehicle. (I’m going to have my ancient VW bug de-rusted, de-dented and re-painted in celebration of my new start in life. Makes me smile to think of restoring the bug while I am restoring me.)

It’s interesting all the changes — outer and inner — that are coming at the same time as the fifth anniversary of Jeff’s death. (The actual anniversary is this Friday.) I feel like I’m crossing some great divide, though I’m not sure what the divide is dividing. Maybe the last of my old life and the beginning of my new. Coming to my father’s house to take care of him was a transitional stage for me. A place where I could grieve, where I could move away from my old shared life without having to start anew.

And now it’s time to start anew. (We never really do start a new life, of course. Every stage is an extension of our one life, but sometimes it feels like a new start, particularly when so little of the old remains.)

Another friend said about my current situation, “Grief and joy mixed up with movement. That’s a recipe for . . . I don’t know what.” She suggested asking the I Ching. Sounds so exotic! Now I just need to think of the proper question to ask. (Not a yes or no question.)

The oddest thing about this upcoming odyssey is how many friends I have. (It bewilders me at times that so many people seem to like me.) Some friends have said I simply cannot leave the area, that I have to stay here so they can have the benefit of my company. Others say I have to go on an epic journey so they can experience it vicariously.

Me? For now, I’m just going along for the ride. And starting next week, I will literally be going along for the ride. No driver’s seat for me for a while. Should be interesting.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

I Hear Adventure Calling

I went to a backpacking store today. That’s not what the store is called, of course, but I don’t want to give them any publicity since I was underwhelmed by the experience. These people have always been touted as fantastic help, but not so in my case.

I’ve been having problems with slippage on the trails when I go hiking, and I wanted real hiking shoes. I tried on several pairs, but in all cases, the arch support on the right foot ended up beneath my heel. In cheap shoes, I have no objection to ripping out the support, but not if I’m going to pay a small fortune for something that will wear out in a few months anyway. When the salesclerk shrugged off my problem, and didn’t bother to offer any alternatives, I wandered over to look at backpacks.

I have a hard time with backpacks. My core balance is below my waist, so anything high on my back causes an imbalance. I’m also short waisted, which adds to the difficulties of fitting and carrying packs. I found one that fit today — in a gorgeous purple color! It had so many wonderful and mysterious pouches and packs, straps and buckles and zippers, that it seemed as if it would be fun to carry, but the salesclerk told me I couldn’t use it on an extended backpacking trip, that it was for day use only. I put the pack back on the rack. What the heck would I need to carry on a short day hike that would need all that space? Two or three bottles of water, an extra pair of socks, a bit of food, a camera. That’s all I take with me. I certainly don’t need to spend almost $200 to carry so little. I can continue using the kiddie pack that I bought years ago for less than twenty dollars.

trailsThe guy kept asking me what my plans were. He said that I needed to buy a pack that fit with my trip requirements. He didn’t seem to understand that for me, the reverse was true. Once I find a pack that fits, then I will see what the pack can hold, what I can carry, and then decide what my trip requirements will be. Obviously, if I can’t carry enough food and water to last several several days, I will have to make plans accordingly. Makes perfectly good sense to me, but he seemed to think I was being obtuse and contrary and suggested I take a backpacking class.

Someone recently accused me of being contrary when I said I wanted to do things my way, and perhaps I am contrary, but just because everyone does things a particular way does not make them right. Everyone can be wrong. Not that I think I’m always right, it’s just that I believe I have the right to explore alternate ways of doing things based on my needs, not what someone else thinks I need.

That store I visited today was filled with products I don’t need and wouldn’t buy even if my life depended on it. Freeze-dried food that costs more than a restaurant meal. Elaborate tents. Expensive clothes. So not my style! (If I had to define my style, I’d call myself mystical in a down to earth sort of way, as contradictory and contrary as that might sound.)

I do admit I go overboard with a do-it-myself attitude, but what difference does it make? Well, it does make a difference to those who think I disagree for the sake of being contrary, and perhaps it makes a difference to me in that sometimes it takes me a long time to learn on my own what I could pick up in a few minutes from a teacher.

And yet, Taoism 101 says: we are always our own best teacher. Give yourself credit and patience to be such a teacher to your own life.

Little by little, I will teach myself what I need to know for my great adventure. I don’t want to be foolish and do things that would be more dangerous than spiritual, more grueling than fun. If it turns out that a hike would be too much for me, I’ll walk. If a walk would be too much, I’ll drive. If a drive would be too much . . . I’ll think of something.

I hear adventure calling, and someday I will answer that call. I might even get that lovely purple backpack and let its advantages and drawbacks help decide where I will go.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Glad about Grief

Almost five years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, leaving me in a world of pain.

I hesitated about using such a cliché, but the truth is, the world for me was pain. My heart hurt, my lungs hurt, my mind hurt, my soul hurt. I was surrounded by hurt. Everything I saw, smelled, touched brought pain. I couldn’t make sense of what had happened. How could he be dead? How could I not be?

Ferris wheelMost of the pain has been now absorbed, amoeba-like, by the days of my life. During the past five years, I have traveled, taken dance classes, learned new things, made new friends, lost friends, had new experiences, attended festivals and fairs, ridden Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, suffered various ailments, written more than a thousand blogs, walked thousands miles, dreamed impossible dreams as well as merely improbable ones, been hurt, inadvertently hurt others, made plans and abandoned plans, panicked, found peace at times, even found pieces of time.

All of that living has bounded the pain, creating a buffer between me and the rawness of the universe, making it easier to embrace the future, wherever it might take me. (Easier, not easy. There is a contract on my father’s house, which, if accepted, will mean the beginning of the next phase of my life. And since I have no clue where I will go, I have moments of panic because I just am not ready. And yet . . . I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.)

Despite the buffer, the pain does seep into my consciousness at times, stealing my breath, and filling me with sorrow. The difference between now and the beginning (odd that I always call his death “the beginning”) is that where once I railed against the pain, now I welcome it because I am reminded of him, of his life, of our shared life, and that is good. He is no longer the focus of my life, and that also is good since such a one-sided relationship can bring no joy or growth, but he is and will always be a part of my life. He is and always will be a person unto himself, and it’s that person I celebrate with my brief and occasional bouts of tears.

The world is poorer for his absence. And someone, if only me, should acknowledge that. I used to wish grief weren’t so hard. Now I’m glad that it is.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Five Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail

I went for a hike today on the Pacific Crest Trail. It might not have been the sort of epic adventure that thru-hiking the entire trail would have been, but it was a lovely experience nevertheless.

Pacific Crest Trail

Practically each foot of the trail had a uniqueness of its own, whether rock stair steps,


hidden caches of water that I was so very glad I didn’t have to drink even if I had a filter,


tiny baby blue eyes flowers peeking up us from the side of the trail,

baby blue eyes

bush poppies entwined with manzanita berries

bush poppies

vibrant surprises of color painting the path

and stunning panoramic views.

I still dream of traveling long distances by foot, but for now, it felt good to get back to a comfortable house with clean water to drink, a refrigerator full of tasty food, and a cozy bed upon which to collapse.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You

Several months ago, a friend told me about Ho’oponopono, a Hawaiian healing process. I’m not sure I would have paid much attention, but I’ve been learning Hawaiian dance, which is very spiritual, and the idea of Ho’oponopono seemed an extension of that spirituality. I really didn’t have anything to say about this form of healing, so I just filed the note away as a possible topic for a blog post someday. I’d forgotten about Ho’oponopono until this morning when I read a comment a friend left on yesterday’s blog post about The Imponderables of Life. The friend commented: The greatest of all powers, it might be said, is the power of forgiveness.

ILOVEYOUI don’t really understand the mechanics of Ho’oponopono, but it has to do with accepting that we are 100% responsible for everything that happens in the world. So, to affect any healing changes, we first have to heal ourselves. For example, if someone hurts me,  I have to take responsibility for the hurt, and heal myself for hurting me. I also have to forgive myself for the hurt.

It seems like it’s one of those “full circle” things. When we are children, we blame ourselves for everything that happens. If our parents fight, we think it’s our fault, even though it probably has nothing to do with us. Growing up means learning to see beyond ourselves to the truth that we are NOT responsible for everything that happens. That sort of thinking traps us further in the hurt, and besides, we simply are not powerful enough.

And yet, and yet . . .

We are all linked. In some respects, we are all one. We are all made of stardust, all connected by the same waves of energy, all created from the same nothing/everything. According to Dr. Haleakala S. Hew Len, “For the ancient Hawaiians, all problems begin as thought. But having a thought is not the problem. So what’s the problem? The problem is that all our thoughts are imbued with painful memories, memories of persons, places, or things.”

It’s odd to think that all unknowingly, I’ve been practicing Ho’oponopono, or trying to.

I came to take care of my father after the death of my life mate/soul mate because I knew that one day I would be ready to embrace life again, and I didn’t want to be held back by old resentments and unfinished business. I figured that if I could do for my father what he could not do for me — pay attention, listen, nurture — that I could clear some sort of Karmic debt and free myself. And it worked. When my father died, our troubled shared past died with him. My memories are not tinged with bitterness or regret. They hold no pain, carry no baggage.

A few nights ago, another driver made an error that caused us to collide, but I bear her no ill will, feel no anger. (Of course, if I had been hurt or my car totally demolished, I might have felt differently.) Even though I was not legally at fault in any way, I take responsibility because . . . well, because I was there. It seems strange that we hugged before parting that night, but then, wouldn’t suing her be even more peculiar? A lawsuit would have kept the incident in my life for months to come and caused untold frustrations. A hug, and it was done. Over. Ho’oponopono.

Ho’oponopono means “to make right,” or “to rectify an error.” Those who practice Ho’oponopono believe we are here to make amends. Dr. Haleakala S. Hew Len says, “The intellect working alone can’t solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go! When you do Ho’oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don’t purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place or thing. So the first stage of Ho’oponopono is the purification of that energy.”

[In a blog a month or so ago I wrote, “It’s rather a literary cliché, one that most of us have come to believe, that the more intelligent a person or species is, the less emotional. Mr. Spock from Star Trek and Lucy from the recent movie Lucy are two such examples. But what if this belief is not true? What if emotion is a form of intelligence, and the more emotional we are the more intelligent?” If the mind is simply a management tool, then perhaps my surmise is correct.]

So how does one purify the energy? By forgiving. By trying to find the place within ourselves where the hurt resides, and telling it/ourselves/the world, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”

So much to think about and to learn on this strange journey to redemption we call life.

I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

The Imponderables of Life

A friend thinks I need to be empowered. According to this friend, people who are empowered “intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle them.” It sounds great, actually, knowing how to handle baffling situations, but all situations are potentially baffling, at least to me. Up close, things sometimes are clear, but if I step back and look at any situation from a broader angle than my singular point of view, the possibilities, parameters, ponderances are incalculable.

ripplesEach of our lives, each action of our lives, each interface with the world is like a stone thrown into a pond. All the ensuing ripples affect and change the course of all the other ripples. If you look at a single ripple, the situation is apparent. For example, if I were to spend my savings on getting my ancient VW restored, it would feel good for as long as I was concentrating on that ripple. But what if just beyond that single ripple is an accident, a theft, or some other ripple that would negate that hefty purchase? Conversely, I could keep the savings, deciding that it’s silly to waste money I will need for living expenses on such a gesture, yet the next ripple could bring a windfall that would make the savings seem minor.


The car is a silly example, I know, but it’s a situation I am currently dealing with. Oddly, the body shop guy I went to for an estimate was hesitant about my fixing up the car. He was horrified when I told that I wouldn’t have a garage, and he cautioned me about spending much money because the theft factor would be too great.

Whether I fix the body or not isn’t really a major problem, just a fun thing to think about. The car works beautifully, I have new tires, the rust and body damage from years of use are minor. If I decide not to do the body work, I have other options. Painting flowers on it, for example. I could always have it restored afterward. Or I could . . . whatever.

Beyond the triviality of such a situation, there are greater imponderables that totally baffle me. If I step back and look at the effects of even a single thrown stone, there is no way I can make sense of the endless eddying ripples of those imponderables.

Late yesterday afternoon I talked to a friend who had recently been released from the hospital. Her rheumatoid arthritis is destroying her lungs, and she’d been admitted for pneumonia and various other life-threatening complications. She coughed and hacked and gasped during our conversation, trying to breathe and speak through the pain. She is my age, still fairly young, and yet she is dying a painful and protracted death. The situation baffles me completely. How is it possible that she is dealing with such horror? She finds it ironic that she is now suffering the torments her husband had to deal with while he died, torments she blamed herself for, but I find the things life does to us incomprehensible. I have problems, but nothing compared to hers.

Then early last evening, I came across a heartbreaking blog post, I stand quietly about a mother who can only stand and wait while her child deals with the agony and bewilderment of a sensory processing disorder. How is it possible that some mothers have children who don’t have to worry about how their clothes feel against their skin? How is it possible some mothers can’t hug their child because that simple touch makes the child scream in agony?

How is it possible those two ripples touched my life on the same day within a couple of hours of each other?


The other night I was in an accident. A friend thinks I should sue, but I cannot swear I was in no way to blame. I can see my single ripple — I was driving along with my headlights on, noticing my surroundings, noticing the car that idled in the middle of a turn lane off to my left. I did not in any way instigate the woman’s turning abruptly and speeding directly across the road in front of me, as if I weren’t even there. She claims my lights were off, that she didn’t see me. I drive an old car. The headlights don’t wrap around as with modern cars, so maybe she didn’t see me. Maybe I wasn’t even there for that moment — according to the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, until I was observed I didn’t exist. How can I comprehend all the ripples that brought us two women together in such a way? How could I have known before I left the scene, that the two of us would hug on parting? In my debates with myself about whether to get my car restored, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of an accident. Could those thoughts have somehow predestined a collision?

I intuitively made a decision that night. Since she didn’t want to involve insurance companies, I agreed that we would both pay for our own damage and end the matter there. It’s only afterward, when other ripples intruded, when people thought I was nuts for leaving even with the cop’s permission, when people thought I should have gotten her name and phone number and sued her that I became baffled. Not at my actions. I did what I wanted. But baffled at the imponderables. Do I believe that the accident was in no way my fault? Of course — I know it wasn’t. Do I believe that the accident could have in some unknown way been my fault? Of course — I can’t know that it wasn’t.


Still, whatever anyone thinks, I would so much rather be a person who hugs a transgressor than a person who sues. Maybe I do need to be empowered (whatever that means). And maybe, just maybe I’m doing fine on my own.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Strange Twist Of Fate

Yesterday was a strange day. First was all the frustration with the intermittent internet connection and getting that repaired. In the middle of all that, while I had a few minutes of connection, I tried to make sense of Twitter and researched book promo again. (Like my internet connection, my research has been intermittent, searching for answers until I get frustrated then days or weeks or months later, trying again.) And then the strangest of all . . .

I’d gone to the Sierra Club conditioning walk in an effort to walk more. (Ever since I started yammering about an epic walk of some sort, I’ve been walking less, as if talking about it precluded actually putting one foot in front of the other.)

On the way back, I was driving down a mostly empty street. I was on the far left lane, and I could see someone paused in the center turn lane. As I neared that vehicle, it suddenly swung out in the street and crossed directly in front of me. I had no time to put on the brakes, so I veered into the curb, hoping to get away from her. Apparently, she had been trying to get into the driveway, and never did anything to avoid me. Didn’t put on the brakes, didn’t try to get away from me, didn’t do anything, actually. So I ran into her.

It scared the heck out of me, seeing this car perpendicular to mine and not being able to do anything to avoid a collision, and yet, I was able to slow down enough that not much damage was done. A bit of a bent fender on my car, an indented scratch on hers. She jumped out of her gray Hyundai and blamed me for driving with my lights off. Huh? How could I have seen the road if my lights were off? By that time, of course, my lights were off. When I shut off my engine, the headlights go off in a battery-saving effort, and since I had turned off my engine, the headlights were off, too. But she kept on and on about how it was my fault.

The cops showed up, and talked to us separately. One police car had been driving by and might have called for backup, or maybe someone else had called them and he waited until the others came. But two or three vehicles pulled up at once (one could have been an ambulance, I’m not sure. As I recently wrote, I’m not the most observant person in the world.)

From the cops’ point of view, the whole matter was trivial, and so they didn’t write a report. (At least that’s what they said. I’m sure they logged it into their call records or whatever they do to keep track of their activities.) It’s possible the other woman talked them out of filing a report because they told me she agreed to take care of her damage if I took care of mine. Some people think this sounds strange, but I understand. The cops hadn’t seen how close to death I had been. If I’d been second slower or her one second faster, she would have rammed into the side of my car, and who knows how badly I would have been hurt. I was just glad the ending of the story was so felicitous. The tow truck driver they called pulled my fender away from the tire, put on my spare, and that’s all it took. At one point, I told the cop I couldn’t stop shaking. He shrugged and said, “This is all very minor.”

Luckily, I hadn’t yet taken the VW into the body shop to do what restorations they can and I hadn’t yet gotten new tires. (I would have had to get them in a few months, so I’m getting all new tires instead of just the one.)

Oddly, I’ve been extra careful lately when driving, feeling some sort of doom in the air. Even odder, I didn’t really have any reaction to this strange twist of fate except the physical result of adrenaline. No anger, no tears, nothing but confusion about how it could have happened.

I consider myself fortunate. Death was riding on my shoulder (or maybe it was standing on the shoulder of the road waiting), and it decided it had no use for me. At least not yet.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Sitting on the Wall

It’s hard to get anything done when I’ve spent half the day outside sitting on the wall separating my dad’s property from the one next door so that people looking at the house can have privacy, but luckily, I don’t need to get anything done. I can simply sit and enjoy the blossoms dancing in the warm winter air. (80 degrees today. And it’s still technically winter!)

It’s funny that I dreaded this period in my life when the house was on the market making my time not my own, when homelessness (or rather rootlessness) was incipient, when things were about to change in some as yet unfathomable way. But none of this is bothering me at all. In fact, other people are more concerned about what I am going to do than I am.

Either things will work out or they won’t. It’s as simple as that. And if they don’t work out, there is nothing I can do now to make them work out because I don’t know what the conditions will be at that particular time, so there’s no point in worrying about it.

My situation is apparently one that galvanizes imaginations. Each person’s suggestion for what I should do is more a response to their own yearnings and inclinations than to my needs. Buying an RV and living in an RV park was one of today’s suggestions. The woman admitted it is what she would do and thought it was a good idea for me. And yet, if I did get an RV, why would I stay in one place? The whole point of a recreation vehicle is to go recreationing.

But there are dance classes to take into consideration  . . .

I have offers of spare rooms and couches for a few days that I can accept in an emergency. Or I could stay in a motel. Or take off on a road trip. Or any number of things.

People keep telling me I have to make a decision, if not now then soon, and I just shrug off that dictum. Again, this advice is more of a response to their fearful imaginings than my reality. I don’t have to make a decision. I can simply do whatever is I feel like doing when the time comes. Knowing me, I’ll probably cry. Grief seems to rise up during times of change, because I am reminded of why I am so rootless, but even that is okay.

But for now I am enjoying sitting on the wall and letting the future take care of itself.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Most Observant Person in the World

I do not know who the most observant person in the world is, I just know it’s not me.

When I took my car in to a new VW mechanic (new to me), he told me I should be using 91 octane gasoline. That stunned me. I’d never used anything but the cheapest regular gas. In fact, since these old air-cooled engines are not exactly luxury models, I figured they were built to use plain ol’ regular gasoline. When I voiced my surprise, he said that the octane rating was marked inside the gas flap, but that it had probably been worn away.

I had to laugh today when I opened the flap to get gas. There is was. Not even faded after 43 years. I have opened that flap a thousand times or more over the years. I wonder when I stopped noticing the message? Years. Maybe decades.

I must have seen it when the car was new. Odd that it never occurred to me what the words meant even though the notification was in German. Odder still that all the mechanics I’ve had over the years told me plain old regular was okay.

I just checked my manual — I still have that after 43 years, too. Apparently, since I’d been driving VW bugs for years before I got one of my own, I never bothered to read the manual, because the necessary octane was listed there, too. And so was the information I’ve been seeking ever since lead was removed from our gasoline supply — Yes, I can use unleaded gas. VWs were built specifically to use unleaded gas. I had a small stock of lead substitute that I’d been using, and it worried me what I would do when it is gone, because when it is, it is gone permanently. Not available anywhere.

One of these days I should read the whole manual to find out what else I never knew. Or not. The car has managed to survive all these years, and now that I’ve found a real VW mechanic, it runs like it always did.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m not observant, so I try to pay particular attention to things. The bark on a palm tree.

palm tree bark

The tiniest wildflowers,

The prickles on a baby Joshua tree.

joshua tree

If I keep at it, maybe I will become the most observant person in the world, but honestly, I’m fine with just noticing . . . anything.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


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