When a Rhinestone Becomes a Diamond

Let’s say you owned a faded rhinestone necklace, a piece of junk jewelry that you wore everywhere, to get groceries, do other errands, even clean the house or garden. Sometimes you left it out in the sun or rain, and it didn’t matter, because after all, it was just a cheap necklace. Then one day you took it to be cleaned, and when you got it back, it had miraculously become a diamond necklace. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you still wear it everywhere, even to go grocery shopping? Would you still feel comfortable leaving it out in the sun or rain? Would you feel differently about the jewelry? Would you feel differently about yourself?

This is what I am dealing with now that my car has been restored. I really just wanted a cheap paint job, but no one would paint it with the rust. And as it happened, the guy I took it to was a perfectionist, and so now my faded rhinestone car has turned into a diamond, and I don’t know how to react.

I never was one of those folks who loved her car. Never talked to it or gave it human characteristics. Never called it he or she. It was a tool. A sometimes frustrating tool, and sometimes a pleasing tool, but basically, just a thing. And now that thing has become something else.

I was awed when I saw the finished car, and am awed again every time I see it. It truly is a work of art, looking as if it just crept out of a time machine from the 1970s, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me. More like an icon that I have been given permission to drive. But I don’t. Drive it, I mean. At least not yet. It’s sitting in the garage of the house where I am presently residing. I open the garage door periodically and look at it. Fiddle with a few things. (The guy who did the upholstery was not a perfectionist, and the seatbelt is all twisted. To untwist it, the window has to be taken out, which is not easy because the new stripping is so tight, the seller had to go to the auto body shop and install it. Then the new headliner has to be rolled back to get to the bolts. So I’m dealing with the twisted seatbelt as best as I can.)

After I look at the car, I shut the door, leaving the bug to its own devices, and I go walking. I don’t know what to think of the vehicle. Don’t know what to think of me. How will it change me? Will it change me? I don’t know.

I like how the vehicle gleams, and I know the first time I drive it in the fierce desert winds, leave it out in the intense sun, or let it get rained on, that gleam will dull a bit. (The paint isn’t baked like a car fresh from the factory, and though it should hold up for many years, it will lose its diamond-like luster, especially if it’s sandblasted by the winds or water-stained from the rain.) Also, as people keep telling me, it’s at risk for theft or being keyed by someone who is jealous of the perfection. The only way to keep that from happening is to keep it in the garage, and the use of the garage is only temporary. When my friends get back, I’ll move on, and the poor car, like me, will be at the mercy of whatever comes its way.

I’m planning on driving today, even leaving the bug in a parking lot for a couple of hours while I go to dance class, but I am keeping an eye on the increasing clouds. If it looks like rain (and rain is forecast) I might change my mind about driving.

Still, no matter how the bug gleams, it is just a car, a tool.

But somehow, I no longer believe 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.”)

The Great Reveal!!

I had nightmares last night. In my dreams, I drove helplessly around, got lost, couldn’t see where I was going, which makes sense since my six month hiatus from driving was about to end.

Yep. The VW restoration is complete!

Oddly, I didn’t think I’d feel anything for the finished car — I mean, it is just a car — but when I went to pick it up today, I felt awed and overwhelmed at my first glimpse of the restored bug sitting in front of the auto body shop. I knew Pedro did good work, but it’s one thing seeing other old cars looking new, and something else seeing your own. He truly went over and above what he said he would, partly because he is an artist, and partly he felt bad about how long it took.

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The thing shines! He polished the windows, headlights, hubcaps. Replaced all rubber parts and weatherstipping. This in addition to hundreds of hours of bodywork. No bondo for him! Sheet metal and welds all the way. And he did all the things he said he would such as replace the brake and fuel lines that I’d paid someone else to fix. (He tells me God loves me because I could have been killed in that car. Not only did the cheat not replace the brake lines he was supposed to replace, he cut the rear brake line and plugged the hole for the rear brakes on the brake cylinder. Eek.)

And his upholstery guy did a good job on the interior — new padding and slipcovers on the seats, new headliner, new carpeting throughout.

It’s still an old car, of course, with old car crotchets, but not as many as you would think. The last time I drove the car, it was a rattletrap, a junker. It didn’t really matter what happened to it since it seemed to be on its last legs . . . er, wheels. And now, it’s a near classic, a vintage car of some value. That will take getting used to!

I was worried the car wouldn’t start after not being driven for so long, but it started right up. I was worried about forgetting how to drive, but that wasn’t a problem, either. I drove for a couple of hours today to work out any kinks, but the mechanic who did the repair work seven months ago did a wonderful job. There were no mechanical problems, and the car sounds like new. (Like a new old-style-beetle, that is. Not like a new modern day vehicle.)

I’ve often wondered at my folly for going along with such a protracted and rather costly restoration. (I didn’t envision a restoration — I just wanted to get rid of enough rust so it could be painted.) After all, as people keep reminding me, it’s still an old car, and as such doesn’t have the safety features of the new cars. On the other hand, it also doesn’t have a gazillion electronic parts except for the electronic ignition I had put in. It’s mechanical all the way.

Now I’m glad I went ahead with the restoration. It’s past time for a bit of folly, and besides, it’s nice seeing the old bug looking so good.

Restored 72 VW


(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.”)

Keep On Trekking On

I’ve been following a few women’s hiking groups on Facebook, one each for the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the John Muir Trail. I joined these groups when I thought there was a chance I would be thru-hiking one of the trails, but I really don’t think I have the strength, stamina, or will to attempt such a massive project. (The food planning alone is staggering, considering that you have to plan for six months, and in some cases, have to send the food on ahead and hope you get to it before desperation sets in.)

WANDERLUSTThough I’ve set my sights on a smorgasbord of shorter trails, working up to multi-day backpacking trips, I’ve kept up with the groups, because you never know where life might take you. (At least I don’t where life is taking me. You might have a better concept of your path than I do of mine.)

I’ve paid particular attention to discussions about gear. The trouble is, the advice is so conflicting, it’s almost impossible to sort out what would be best for me as opposed to what is suitable for younger, fitter, thinner women. Most of the gear I have purchased I found on my own, though I still don’t know if it will work for me. The tent I got is a backpacker’s dream, lightweight and easy to set up, but a bit claustrophobic for general use, so now I’m looking for something a bit larger for car camping, where perhaps I would have room for some sort of folding lounge chair. Conversely, since the sleeping pad I got is a bit heavy for backpacking, (though that’s what it was intended for), I’m looking for a lighter pad. And a warmer sleep system.

Recently I’ve been researching trekking poles since I need new ones. (I only have one that’s about worn out, and my hikes in the Redwood Forest proved the necessity for two). I’d just about decided to get a couple of the one I am now using when I noticed a brief mention of Pacerpoles in one of the groups. I immediately went to the Pacerpole site, watched the videos, read the theory, and was sold. Oh, my. These poles are completely different from regular hiking poles — they work to keep you upright, better balanced, and better posture, as well as allowing for a normal arm swing. Although the poles are not ultralight, apparently, the way they work, they don’t demand extra strength or energy. But they are only available from Britain.

No problem. They ship anywhere, and shipping costs are included in the price. And PayPal so kindly sent the euros to the Pacerpole folk so I didn’t have to worry about currency exchange. A few minutes ago, the Pacerpole folk emailed me. The poles are coming via Royal Mail. How cool! My first international mail! Well, my first overseas mail — I have had Christmas cards from a friend in Canada.

What cracked me up is the Pacerpole people sent me homework to do while I’m waiting. Videos to watch, information to read, proper body form to practice. Now I just have to wait a couple of weeks until they get here.

Meantime, I’m preparing for my road trip across the southernmost part of the country. I’d hoped to be more spontaneous, just stopping upon whim, but I know me — if I didn’t make plans to stop, I’d get into the car and drive until the car needed to be filled with fuel and my bladder needed to be unfilled. And then I’d just keep driving to the next pitstop. Since that is not what I want on this trip, I am researching various National Parks and Monuments with campgrounds and hiking trails along the way. I might not visit any of those places, but at least I’d have shorter driving goals, with a hike to look forward to if whim doesn’t stop me anywhere else along the way. (For those of you who like to plan, you’d be so proud of me — I have a notebook with maps, camping information, hiking trails, and any other information that would be helpful, such as food storage tips to keep from attracting mountain lions. Eek.)

I’m hoping by the end of the trip, I’ll be a seasoned camper, maybe even backpacker, and then . . . who knows. Probably back to dance class for a while to unkink and restore myself, while I replenish my supplies and get my car tuned up for whatever comes next.


(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.”)

A Venue of Vultures

I had the special privilege of seeing one wave of the turkey vulture migration yesterday. The birds kept coming out of a small corner of the northern desert sky, and they continued on toward the south along the Mojave River corridor. Venues (as flocks of turkey vultures are called) gathered overhead, spiraling upward to catch the thermal drafts or perhaps waiting for stragglers to catch up, then that “kettle” would disappear into the glare of the sun. (Apparently these uprising groups are called kettles because they agitate like a boiling kettle.) Then another batch of birds would glide into place, wait for others to show up before they to headed south to catch up to their brethren on their way to San Diego or Mexico or Arizona to spend the winter.

In flight, the buzzards looked lovTurkey vulture migrationely, soaring and gliding like hawks, riding the air currents, then speeding along with just a few slow brushes of their wings (a six-foot span). Since they are also non-aggressive, unable to kill prey, the Hitchcock-like scene was completely misleading. (I never did understand why carrion birds are considered lesser birds, as if their inability to kill makes them evil.)

A flock of smaller birds scurried out of their path (perhaps scurry is not a word that can be applied to birds, but in this case their rapid movements and darting flight made it seem as if they were scurrying).

I must have seen hundreds, maybe even thousands of birds within thirty minutes, but I was so enthralled, I only remembered to takes photos when most of the birds had passed directly over my head, so these photos are pretty lame, though you get an idea of their numbers and the path of their flight.

I smiled all day yesterday. It was nice to be taken out of myself, to replace my funk with something so regal and awe-inspiring as the vulture migration.

Turkey vulture migration


(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.”)

Blog Stagnation

I seem to have fallen into a period of blog stagnation. Nothing to say, no noteworthy thoughts, no insights, no adventures. Every day I come here meaning to write something, and every day I end up doing other things. Playing solitaire, researching camping equipment, helping a friend set up the social networking sites for his business, sometimes even typing a bit of the book I started writing. (Just typing, you understand. Not writing anything new.)

I don’t seem to find myself smiling very often, either, and yet just a few weeks ago, I could feel the smile on my face whenever I set out into the woods. There was something so basic about walking among the trees that it felt mystical. Now? Not much of anything going on. It’s too hot to do much walking around here, and anyway, there’s no place interesting within walking distance. (It was less than a mile to the desert from my father’s house, which is why I became so familiar with the desert. If I had to drive, I’d never have bothered. And even if I wanted to drive somewhere interesting, I am still minus a car.) Even dance classes don’t fill me the way they used to, maybe because when the rest of my life was a mess, they provided an escape, and now that I don’t need that escape, well, let’s just say the not-always-pleasant interactions with others are harder to deal with.

(Yep, just got tired of sitting here trying to think of something to say, so I opened a spider solitaire game. I’m hopeless.)

I have a hunch malaise has settled on me because my whole life right now feels as if it’s at the mercy of other people. I can’t just work on those business sites and get the job done, I have to wait for him and the others involved to respond to my requests for the information I need. I can’t just drive to the store to get what I need because my car is still not finished. I could walk, of course, but there is the matter of heat.

Enough whining. I’ll get back to you when I have something more interesting to say.


(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.”)

A Lifetime of Adventures

I spend a lot of time looking at maps — world maps, US maps, state maps, road maps, national park maps, national trail maps, short-trail maps, loop trail maps. Maps.

trailsI’ve never been much of a traveler — I always get sick whenever I’ve taken more than an hour airplane trip. Nor have I ever wanted to travel outside the United States. There is more here than I can ever see in a lifetime, especially since I prefer to see things on foot. I’ve mostly given up any idea of walking across the country or thru hiking one of the national trails, but there are hundreds, maybe thousands of trails in this country all for the taking. (And I can always walk pieces of the long trails. Have already hiked short sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, the California Coastal Trail, and the Oregon Coastal Trail.)

One trip I would like to make someday is a trip to Australia and New Zealand. Not only do close friends live there (friends I have yet to meet in person, but close for all that), but oh, the adventure of it! Going walkabout. Hiking some of the best trails in the world. Coastlines.

And another good friend who I plan to finally meet in person in a few months, has recently told me she is hypnotizing me by osmosis so I will join her on her overseas trip to Baku, Azerbiajan next year. It must be working. I’m looking at maps again. And one thing I noticed is that Baku is about a third of a way around the world. So are Australia and New Zealand.

I’ve been playing around with a trip planner site, one that helps plan complicated world trips. I started out with the US – Baku – Sydney – Dunedin – US. The trip planner kept telling me I could add certain other cities for the same cost. So now it reads: US – London – Oslo – Moscow – Baku – Bangkok – Sydney – Dunedin – US. (I don’t know where my Australian friend lives, maybe not Sydney, but I don’t need to know yet because this is all just a game.)

Would I ever do such a thing? I don’t know. I still like the idea of a freighter to New Zealand and Australia, and I hate the idea of all that air travel, to say nothing of being sick for months at a time while doing it, but to travel around the globe? What a romantic idea!

Meantime, I’m back to taking dance classes and planning a southern trip for this winter. Or rather, letting my friends plan it for me. It does my heart good to know that people are so excited to meet me, they are planning all sorts of delights to entice me. Camping trips. Night sky viewings (I am truly enamored of the idea of dark sky parks, where light pollution is at a minimum and the stars don’t have to compete with ambient light from distant cities). Canoing. Feasts. Friends.

If you live anywhere along Interstate 10 or within a hundred miles or so (since it will be winter, I don’t want to go very far north this trip) let me know, and I will add you to my itinerary.

People have called my redwood coastal trip an adventure of a lifetime, and it was, up to now. But there are other trips, other adventures — a lifetime of them.

And in between, there will be dance classes to bring balance to my 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.”)

Mood, Persona, Mindset, and Personality

Moods and personalities are supposedly two different, intertwined things. Mood is considered a fleeting emotion, where personalities are static, but this distinction might not be true. I once read a theory that there is no such thing as a mood, that moods are actually different personalities. According to this theory (which I cannot find online, so I can’t cite my long-forgotten source), we all have multiple personalities, though most of us don’t have a multiple personality disorder. I suppose what we have is a “multiple personality order” since we know who all our personas are.

massesIt seems a silly idea, and yet, we’ve all experienced that shift in personality. For example, you’re feeling sorry for yourself because your husband is neglecting you, and then you see the exhaustion in his face, and as if your brain toggled a switch, you stop feeling sorry for yourself, and see he has problems that leave little room for you. It doesn’t make his neglect right, but it does make it understandable. And what about the inner child that has become so clichéd? That inner child is real, not just a mood but a personality.

I suppose this all makes sense to me because I have long been aware of my different personas, have often felt that toggle switch from one point of view to another. (It’s possible these are simply different mindsets rather than personalities, but what is a personality if not a mindset?)

I did a temp job a long time ago, where I was supposed to be a shill for some guy who was trying to get VW bug owners to rent space on their auto bodies. I was my normal reserved, almost-shy self before the show, which made the guy very nervous. He needed vivacious, outgoing women to help. Well, once the thing started, that’s who I was. Radiant, charming, “on.” It’s the same with dancing. People tell me that when I don my wig and costume, I have a different personality. Which, perhaps, is closer to the truth than they realize.

Once someone asked me a question that I couldn’t answer. I had too many conflicting ideas and feelings about the subject, each of my personas wanting something different. In the end, I sent a response, telling this friend what each of my personalities wants. (Following is a generic list, rather the specific answers to the conundrum my friend posed.)

The student wants to learn the truth.

The logician wants to make sense of it all.

The mystic thinks that truth makes sense of itself.

The sensualist wonders what things feel like.

The artist wonders what others think things feel like.

The seer sees, understands, and never judges.

The giver says, “Anything for you.”

The selfish one says, “All for me!”

The waif (the sad little girl who never had a childhood) just wants to learn to play.

The naif doesn’t know enough to know what she wants.

Wonderkrone knows too much to know what she wants.

The bookworm says, “Where can I read about it?”

The adventurer says, “Hell, yes, I’ll do it!”

I was again made aware of these different personas after my northern adventure, where I hiked for many miles by myself in the redwood forests and along deserted ocean shores. After each hike, I could barely remember what it felt like — the awe, the utter aloneness, the frustration, the joy seemed to have happened to someone else. Each time I went back to hike, however, those memories and feelings were immediately available, adding enrichment to the experience, as if I’d always been there, while my other life receded into the background as if it were a distant memory.

Now that I am back in the heat of the desert, I can barely remember my cool northern adventure. I see the photos, remember how wonderful my hosts were, still feel close to my friend, and yet . . . it’s all so distant, as if it happened to someone else. I also feel different. Timid, almost. The woman who so gladly embraced her wildness is now taking tentative steps, aware of everyday dangers. (Still, I’m planning my next trip, a southern adventure, just haven’t yet decided if I want to go by train or to drive. Driving puts things more in my own hands, giving me the ability to visit parks and people along the way. The train gives me the opportunity to see the country, like a long slow video playing outside the window.)

Perhaps the point of all these personalities (yep, the logician always needs to get to the point after letting the mystic ramble), and the point of us, is to create and develop as many personalities as possible, and to finally integrate all the personalities into a whole. Or maybe it’s enough to just go with the flow of the different mindsets, experiencing life from myriad points of view, because some of the personalities are too opposite to be integrated. Can you be a timid bookish person sitting at home reading and at the same time be an adventurer out in the wilds? Can a woman be quietly reserved and vivaciously outgoing at the exact same time?

Whatever the truth of mood, persona, mindset, and personality, I’m looking forward to the next person I create. Because yes, I do believe we create different personalities when we step out of our personal status quo. The woman I created all unknowingly when I fell in love with Jeff, the previously unloved woman who learned to love with all of her being, the independent soul who could give herself over to a shared life, died when he did. (Or perhaps she was simply subsumed into the whole of me.) The grieving woman, the woman who gave herself over to the profound powers of grief in the hopes it would teach her how to live again is also being subsumed into the whole.

One personality I still have a hard time creating is the joyful humorist, the one who finds joy and humor in every permutation of life, in every setback and loss, in every idea no matter how seemingly foolish. This personality has eluded me all my life, but someday, I know, I will finally create her (or she will create me). For real.

And maybe someday, I will learn to go beyond mood, persona, mindset, personality, and experience life raw as I did in the wilds. No point of view — just being.


(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.”)

Life All Awhirl

I think my computer has the soul of an old cat. It’s been in storage for two months, alone and neglected, and when I rescued it today from its storage unit kennel, it decided to neglect me in return. I suppose that passes for fairness in the purr-fect cyber world, but it sure was irksome! Poor old thing, the battery was almost dead, so dead I didn’t think it had enough juice to resuscitate itself, but luckily, it did finally begin recharging. It took several hours for the beast to decide to share its CPUs — I have no idea what it was doing other than its svchost.exe thing. It didn’t seem to be chasing anything dangerous like bugs or viruses, so I let it play.

I’m getting my metaphors twisted here, but the thing really did seem to be punishing me for my neglect. We’ve made up, though, and its decided to let me have my say.

To be honest, I have nothing much to impart, so you won’t hurt my feelings if you leave. Mostly, the past couple of days have left my mind in a whirl, and I’m using this bloggerie to unwhirl my life, and bring me back to a semblance of equanimity.

The bus/train return trip was an interesting experience. I made friends with a self-named “new generation hippie” or “traveler.” She said she got tired of the scene, because although the kids were into various spiritual things, they were mostly into drugs, and she wasn’t. These travelers slept in fragile eco systems, without a care for the damage they did, just because. I might not have paid attention to the account of their shenanigans, except so much of the research I am doing about hiking and backpacking is based on protecting the land while making it available to as many people as possible. The various trails in California, as well as the Appalachian Trail are particularly at risk. (For example, lot of people are reporting used toilet paper “flowers” along the trails. Some parts of the trails are littered with trash and broken gear.) I can’t do anything about them. I’m just glad I walked softly on the trails provided and left no trace. (Though they left a trace on me! Mosquito bites and bruises. Eek.)

Since I’ve been back, I’ve spent a lot of time at my storage unit, trying to find what I need for the next month or so. (For the past eight weeks, I’ve lived with less than 53 litres of possessions — that’s how much fit in my backpack.) And now I find I need a whole carload of stuff. (Computer, dance clothes, printer, nutritional supplements.)

I checked on my car yesterday and today. Poor old beetle still isn’t finished being restored, but even though the body shop guy is only working on it when he has nothing more lucrative to do, I am grateful for the care he is taking. He keeps finding things that were supposed to have been fixed, but weren’t. I’d paid a supposedly reputable VW repair business to replace rusty brake lines and leaky fuel lines, and even though they took the money, they didn’t do the work. Even worse, when I went back because the problems didn’t seem to be fixed, they swore they double checked the work and everything was fine. I can sort of understand cheating with parts like a muffler (they did that, too, took my money for a new muffler, and neglected to put it in) but brakes? Fuel lines that are prone to catching fire? Cripes. They tried to murder me for a few dollars. Oddly, the reason I went to them in the first place, is for them to fix something a previous mechanic had screwed up. And now they’ve been put out of business by myriad lawsuits.

Luckily, I have a new mechanic and now a body shop guy. Between the two of them, my car should run as well as any ancient car can, and look a whole lot better than most old vehicles.

Meantime, I’m back at dance class. It’s been a long time since dancing made me smile — too many personalities and too much drama overloaded my system and took away the joy, but now I feel renewed. At least for a while. It helps that I have another trip planned. And it also helps that I’m literarily causing havoc for my dance mates.

I started writing my novel about the dance class when I was up north. I even know who committed the murder and why, just don’t know all the particulars, but I don’t need to know those details until I write myself into a corner and need a twist to get me out. I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue writing the book now that I am back in class. I have a hunch it will be hard to keep my mind in the story when every day I see the characters in real life doing the opposite of what I’d written. Sort of kills the imaginative aspect, I suppose, but maybe not. The characters are already evolving away from their real life counterparts, and since I couldn’t have a whole bunch of supporting characters muddying my figurative waters, I combined the women into composite characters, which makes it easier to be truthful. (As the wolf told Red Riding Hood, “the better to destroy you with, my dear.” Or some such.) Besides, if anyone annoys me, I can get my revenge on them in the story.

It’s hot here in the desert, close to 100° and so humid I am drenched even so late in the evening. Such a vast difference between here and the northern part of California! Oddly, the skies seem higher in the desert. The light is different here, so glaringly yellow, that I’m sure it causes some sort of optical illusion. And oh, does that sun burn! In all the hiking discussions I have read, all the experts have iterated not to wear cotton when hiking, but that can’t possible refer to the desert. Wearing synthetics would be like sitting on a vinyl seat in a car that has been baking in triple digit temperatures. Ouch. But I’ll check out Merino wool — supposed to feel like silk.

And anyway, I’ve put away my hiking persona for now, and donned my dancing diva.

Thanks for helping me unwhirl. I feel so much better now!

Here is a song someone sent me. Sounds like my life. https://youtu.be/6BvPMbJZfLw Hope you enjoy 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.”)

Lure of the Trail

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here in this idyllic place of vast trees and vaster water bodies for eight weeks. Harder to believe my summer adventure is coming to an end, but it is — I’ve already purchased my ticket back to the treeless, waterless desert.

Hardest of all to fathom what I experienced.

I have seen ponds, lakes, lagoons, bays, brooks, creeks, rivers, and especially the ocean. I have seen tiny Douglas fir seedlings and gargantuan coastal redwoods. I have tramped more than a hundred miles through various forest terrains, and almost as many miles along the ocean shores.

I’ve meandered through some of the creepiest places on earth — dark forests with gargoyle-like tree trunks, mouldering stumps of long-dead trees, and moss hanging from blackened branches like the wispy green ghosts reaching out from the centuries.

I’ve wandered through cathedral-like groves of redwoods, the sun shining through the canopy like stained glass.

I’ve traversed ghost highways and long-forgotten logging roads, and though these were not “est” trails — not the longest, shortest, showiest, hardest, or easiest and the trees weren’t the tallest, oldest, biggest — these were some of my favorite hikes. Just pleasant strolls in the woods.

And through it all — dog bite, spained calf muscle, bruises, aching feet, sore muscles, and mosquito bites galore — I never lost the lure of the trail.

This summer adventure might be over, but there are other days, other places, other trails.

And so the adventure continues.


(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 heart is a shell fragment I found on the beach yesterday. Maybe the ocean was telling me it hearts me.)

I Hiked in the Woods

My summer adventure is nearing an end. Just a few more days of ocean and trees before I return to the desert. Since yesterday’s forest hike has to last me for a while, I stayed out most of the day, following one trail after another until I reached the site of my very first hike up here. It was an odd sensation, coming out of the forest to that very spot, as if I’d spent all these weeks wandering in the trees without a break. It certainly felt like weeks, though it was only six hours uphill, downhill, along rivers and creeks, picking my way on gnarly trails, tripping over roots, feeding myriad mosquitoes. (Apparently the mosquito-repellant bracelet I wore was effective only in areas without mosquitoes.

I didn’t make it to the touristy Stout Grove as I intended — the bridge across the creek came down on the 1st of September — nor did I find the trail to a secret grove where some of the forest’s biggest and oldest trees hold court, but I did find one lovely grove of giants among giants. I would have taken a photo, but those trees were so large, all that showed up in the viewfinder was a part of the trunk.

And that grove was only one of the wonders of this final redwood journey. The trail went through a tree trunk (the photo looks like light passing between two trunks since I couldn’t step back far enough to get a photo of the single tree). The trail went under a floating forest (all sorts of trees and plants grow on fallen tree trunks, and this fallen tree never had reached the ground). It passed through a bizarrely awesome tunnel with a fallen redwood creating a 300-foot wall on one side of the trail and deciduous trees on the other side forming a canopy over head.

I saw the green of the Smith River far beneath me, and when I came out of the forest onto the riverbank, I took a photo of the forest from which I had emerged, and I find it impossible to imagine myself hiking in there, a speck compared to those gargantuan specimens. Apparently, although my mind registered what I saw, it cannot acknowledge that I was physically present.

And it is hard to acknowledge. In my mind, I am the eternal bookworm, sitting comfortably and safely, reading about other people’s adventures. In one place, the trail was nearly vertical for two or three yards, and though I know I scrambled up that bank, I don’t exactly know how I did it. Such a strange activity for a bookish woman.

All these experiences seem as hard to believe as my years of profound grief. I sometimes wonder if that woman was really me, that woman who loved a man so deeply that his death all but shattered her. Now I wonder if this intrepid woman is really me. Since neither of these traits — deeply emotional, ardently adventurous — fit with my view of my prosaic self, I suppose it’s time to reevalute my view of myself. Or not. Perhaps I really am just lounging on some cosmic couch, comfortably and safely imagining this life.

But such a vivid imagination is not something I credit myself with, either, which then means I am imagining myself imagining myself . . .

Still, however it happened, whether I believe it or find it impossible to fathom, I hiked in the woods, and I have the photos to prove 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.”)



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