Leaving the Nest

The papers for the sale of my father’s house will be signed next Wednesday. The buyers came for one last walk-through yesterday, and as I sat outside on the small wall separating this property from the neighbor’s, I marveled at how little time these people had spent inside the house. Twenty minutes the first time they came to look. Ten minutes today. I suppose with all the information and photos posted online, it doesn’t take more than that to decide you like a house, but it seemed so little. I mean, I spend more time test walking a new pair of hiking shoes before I decide to buy.

But I have heard that buying a house is an emotional experience, not necessarily a logical one, and besides, there are appraisers and inspectors for the more practical side.

bowl of lightsThey still like the house and still intend to buy it, so there will be no last minute reprieve for me. Just as well. It’s time for me to leave the nest. Literally, the nest. I built a small nest of pillows and comforters in one corner of one room, and that’s where I’m staying. The rest of the house is empty.

It’s nice and nicely symbolic to have these few days in the empty house. No furniture, no clutter, not even many necessities except for my nest, a few personal items, and my computer. And my bowls of light. (Hey! I bet that’s why the house sold so fast! The magic of light!)

When the couple and the realtor finished visiting the house, I gave the new owner a small gift, hugged her and wished her much happiness in this house. That hug, too, was symbolic. A passing of the torch. And a more binding contract than the one they will sign next week.

***

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.

A Memorial to Dakota

On April 25th I will be walking with a team for March of Dimes. On April 17, 2007, the daughter of a good friend gave birth to a stillborn baby she named Dakota. As a memorial to Dakota, and as a way of making his absence count, his mother has become an indomitable fundraiser for the March of Dimes. She is also venturing into her own non-profit organization, to support and offer resources to those who suffered pregnancy losses.

I’m doing this three-mile walk as a way of giving thanks that I was born, and born healthy. And for the tacos my friend bribed me with. (Though I would have done it even without the bribe.)

If you wish to support the cause, let me know and I’ll email my paypal address to you for your contribution. If you happen to be in Riverside, California on April 25 and wish to join us, you can find out more about the walk here: Team Dakota.

If nothing else, pause to give thanks for all life has given you and spare a thought to what you can do to make a difference. Little Dakota never had a chance to draw even a single breath, and oh, what a difference he has made to so many people’s lives.

Team Dakota

***

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 Last Few Days of a Settled Life

Such a strange transitional state, these last few days of a settled life. I’m at my computer, perched on a stool at the kitchen counter, which is the only table-like surface in this empty house. (I’ve never quite got the laptop aspect of a laptop computer. Too much heat on my legs, and too hard to type.) Because of the uncomfortable stool, I have to get up every few minutes to stretch, which makes it hard to think. It’s a good thing, then, that I have nothing to think at the moment.

I had lunch with a friend this afternoon, who half-jokingly told me I could stay at her house when she took a trip, and as soon as I accepted, the joking tone disappeared. She’s delighted to have someone stay there when she’s gone. An empty house is an unstable house. What if a pipe breaks? What if the plants die? Well now she doesn’t have to worry. (Unless, of course, the plants commit hari-kari to get away from my black thumb and what they might see as a tortured death.) The dates are unspecified as of yet, but it will be good to have a plaangelce to alight for a couple of weeks.

Someone else told me about a “trail angel” job opening up. The usual trail angel (someone who helps those who walk the long-distance national trails) can’t do it this year, and he is looking for an angel to fill in. I don’t suppose I could be called an angel under any circumstances, but what an interesting experience for a writer — a completely different point of view about thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I can’t commit to the whole time (because of the afore-mentioned house-sitting situation) but maybe he’d be willing to let me do just a few weeks.

A nomadic life, at least for now, seems way more exciting than simply renting a room or even an apartment. Every week or two, circumstances would change, and perhaps new choices and challenges would present themselves, including teaching myself the rudiments of camping and backpacking. (There are all sorts of programs and books available, but only I know the circumstances of my needs, and in the end, everyone has to hike their own hike.)

The same friend (the one I had lunch with today) told me I was so very brave to go camping by myself, and I had to remind her that I am still all talk. I have yet to step into a tent or climb into a hammock, though I did sleep on the floor last night because I felt too lazy to drag the old mattress from the garage (where it had been stored) to the bedroom. Besides, sleeping on the ground will be good practice, though the half-dozen or so pillows I used to prop myself up probably defeated the purpose. Maybe a hammock would be better than a tent, but how does one hang a hammock in the Redwood Forest?

So many things to learn! So many places to go, trails to walk, parks to visit. And dances to dance. (The good thing about housesitting for my friend is that I would be able to take classes again!)

All of those things are still just words on paper, but someday . . . someday . . . the tug of adventure will call me beyond words to the reality.

***

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.

Nothing to Do

It seems strange to have nothing to do. The house is empty except for small pockets of the clothes and accoutrements of my life. The furniture is gone and my possessions are stored, which means no movies to watch, no books to read. Just my computer to use. Normally having only a computer wouldn’t be a problem since I frequently spend most of the evening online, but the only seat left in the house is a kitchen stool that is not kind to my tailbone. I could go for a walk, but after two hours and forty-five minutes of dance classes today in addition to the mile walk there and back, I’m ready to relax. But there’s nothing to relax with.

miningWhen I first mentioned my idea of an epic walk, a friend asked what I would do with all that time. I had no answer but it’s a valid question. What does one do with time? We fill our time with the chores and piddling tasks of tasks of living, and the time that’s left over, we fill with movies, television, books, magazines, lunches and dinners out with friends. But what does one do if one can’t do any of these things? Since I can’t walk for more than two hours a day especially if I am carrying a pack, there will be a lot of empty time. I could write, of course, but it’s hard to write with an increasingly untamed mind. (Many authors can sit down and watch the story unfold before their eyes, but I have to excavate every idea, every word from the morass at the bottom of my mind, and at the moment, I seem to have misplaced my mining equipment.) Would I be bored? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s just as possible that time will do what it always does, expands or shrinks to fit the available tasks. (The less you have to do, the less time you have to do it in.)

Tonight is easy. I’ll finish this blog, sign a friend up for a March of Dimes walk, download and install the available computer updates for my machine, play a few games of solitaire, and then suddenly, the evening will be gone. But what if I were out by myself somewhere, sitting in a tent, doing . . .

I don’t know. What do you do when you have nothing to do, nothing you can do? If I’m lucky (or unlucky?) someday I’ll find out. Meantime, I hear a game of Spider Solitaire calling my name.

***

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.

Wanderlust and Wonderlust

I can already feel the wanderlust taking over, which is not altogether a good thing. I said I was going to leave my fate up to the fates, but this wanderlust is starting to dictate my future. For example, I talked to a woman today who is looking for someone to rent a room from her elderly mother, so that her mother will have companionship, and I’m hesitating. For one, I don’t want to be a companion — I need time to write and do other solitary activities when I am not walking or dancing. For another, the rent she is asking is too high since they want more from me than simply money. And finally, the place is far from the dance studio, she has a rambunctious dog, and has no internet service.

old woman

Do you see the old woman? Do you see the young woman?

And yet, at one time, it would have seemed a good deal to me. The silly thing is the woman’s age. The daughter went on and on about all the things her mother is still capable of doing, such as driving short distances and doing a bit of grocery shopping. Then she listed the things her mother was not capable of doing, such as yard work, getting herself to doctors’ appointments, and picking up a week’s worth of groceries.

I envisioned someone decrepit, and there is no way I want to deal with another old, sick, or dying person, so I asked the mother’s age. I had to have her repeat the number three times because I could not believe it. This elderly woman is my age.

Huh? I’m not elderly. Not even close! I’m not sure what the beginning date for “elderly” is, but I’m not there yet. In fact, according to the US Census, I’m still middle aged. Rapidly sliding down the banister to old age, as are we all, but I am not elderly. And certainly not suited for being a “companion.”

Still, I’ll have lunch with the woman and her daughter next week. Can’t hurt, and for all I know, we could hit it off. I do understand the mother somewhat, even unseen and unmet. The poor woman lost her husband five years ago and her brother (who lived with her) a few months ago. So much sadness and sorrow is enough to throw anyone off kilter.

Meantime, I’m savoring every minute of dance class, and dreaming of the wonders that await me when I begin my wanders.

***

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.

Dipping My Toe Into Wanderlust

Some of you have requested that I not leave you behind when I go adventuring. Of course I’m not leaving you behind when I take off on my travels! I seem to have adopted the philosophy that an unblogged life is not worth living, so I will be keeping up with this web log as data plans, phone signals, and wifi spots permit. Besides, blogging is how I make sense of what I experience — so much of my life seems to take place beneath the surface, and writing is how I connect with my own subterranean world.

My first foray into a life of travel will probably have to be more planned than I intended. I will be heading north to visit a friend, and on the way I will camp out on at least one couch that I know of, so I’ll need to coordinate dates with both friends if nothing else. But it’s not just that. The truth is, I really know very little about the world. In some respects, being in a closely-connected and highly intellectual relationship was like living in a cloister or an ivory tower, and now I need to learn how to do things, and how to do things on my own.

Choices are endless in this electronic world. Motels. Couchsurfing sites. Car camping. Tents. Hammocks. Free campsite sites. Primitive campsites. Expensive campsites geared for RVs. I spend hours every day researching equipment, places to stay, sights to see and sites to experience. As someone who walks a lot, I know that around every bend, up ahead a few feet, and off to the side is an ever-changing feast of life. Multiply those few square miles by the vastness of the earth, and there is no way anyone can experience it all.

I know I don’t have to be some place pretty to succumb to awe, but I do have to be some place. I have to sleep somewhere. I have to be warm and dry and safe (or as safe as possible. I might be listening to the call of adventure, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be reckless). Hence all the research.

I learn best by trial and error. I’ll probably need to buy my camping gear at one of those places that let’s you try things out and exchange what doesn’t suit. It’s the only way I will know what I need. But still, I’ll have to have an idea of what to buy, and that takes research.

I’m getting an inkling that this first trip will be a case of dipping my toe into wanderlust — not the start of adventure, but the start of preparing for adventure. I can sense I am headed somewhere — maybe on that epic walk I can’t get out of my head — and all this is but prologue. So much to learn. So much to become — better, stronger, wiser.

At the beginning, I’ll probably be coming back here to this desert town quite frequently to recoup. Get my vehicle checked over by the mechanic. Take dance classes to rejuvenate my spirit. Replenish my supplies. And then, the world again.

And through it all, I’ll be taking you with me.

Should be a wondrous adventure!

WANDERLUST

***

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.

Empty Rooms

I seem to be doing a lot of sitting and staring out windows lately. Could be physical exhaustion. Could be mental overload. Could be spring fever for all I know. But here I sit in an empty room — no furniture, no decoration, no ghosts except for my own.

I am haunted by my unknown future, by leftover sadness, by thoughts of what and whom I will be leaving behind if I follow the call to adventure, especially my dance teacher/mentor/friend. She more than anyone brought me back to life when it seemed as if I’d never be happy again, and I will miss learning, dancing, lunching with her on a regular basis.

I want to stay. I need to go.

014b

Sounds like that old Jimmy Durante song, doesn’t it?

“Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go,
But still had the feeling that you wanted to stay,
You knew it was right, wasn’t wrong.
Still you knew you wouldn’t be very long.
Go or stay, stay or go,
Start to go again and change your mind again.
It’s hard to have the feeling that you wanted to go,
But still have the feeling that you wanted to stay.

015b

In my case, though, I’m not changing my mind since I haven’t actually decided anything. I’m leaving it up to the fates. I am planning on heading up north in June to meet a friend, and for all I know, I could be coming back in a couple of weeks. But no matter what happens to me — go, stay, return — I won’t be coming back here to my father’s house.

It’s been alternately stressful and interesting being chatelaine of such a large, lovely residence. It’s been a challenge to get my stuff packed and in storage, to dispose of my parent’s belongings, to find homes for their furnishings. Most of the furniture was taken out of the house this weekend. There is still one pick up tomorrow, and another on Wednesday, then the house really will be empty except for my clothes, computer, and one old mattress to sleep on.

I won’t have long to live in these empty rooms. In nine days, this phase of my life will be over, and once again, I will be driving away from a houseful of empty rooms.

It seems odd to me that after all this time — five years since the death of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate — I still don’t know how to go about rebuilding my life. Still, this should be an exciting time for me, with an unknown and possibly exciting future ahead of me, but these empty rooms are taking me back to the empty rooms I left behind when I drove away from the house Jeff and I shared, and along with the memories, comes sadness.

I know endings are the beginning of beginnings, but tonight I can’t summon up any enthusiasm for starting over. So I sit and stare out the window of this empty room, and try not to remember the other empty rooms I left behind.

016b

***

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.

Letting Myself Begin Anew

“Let yourself begin anew. Pack your bags. Choose carefully what you will bring, because packing is an important ritual. Take along some humility and the lessons of the past. Toss in some curiosity and excitement about what you haven’t yet learned. Say your goodbyes to those you are leaving behind. Don’t worry about who you will meet or where you will go. The way has been prepared. The people you are to meet will be expecting you. A new journey has begun. Let it be magical.” –Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul

SunriseA friend sent me the above quote today. So very apropos! My brother and his wife came to help me move my stuff into the storage unit. It seems ridiculous to own so much stuff, but most of it is household goods and inventory from various businesses I’ve done over the years and may do again sometime.

It truly was a magical day, a day of synchronicity. A friend drove me to get the truck and sign the papers for my storage unit. When I returned, before I could even turn off the engine, my brother drove up. When we finished loading the truck, my father’s caregiver came to pick up some of the furniture (I know my father would be delighted that she wanted it), and so we loaded up her truck. Adding more magic — the weather is perfect.

Now I am keyed up and not ready to settle down into this almost empty house (Nothing to do anyway, my movies and books are packed away, and it’s hard to perch on a kitchen stool for very long to play games on the computer.) But a friend from across the city is conducting business only a few blocks away, so we’ll go out to dinner together.

Magic. Synchronicity.

I’m trying to believe in the magic of my life’s journey, too. I’d like to believe there is no need to worry, that the way has been prepared, that people will be expecting me, even if we don’t yet know each other. I’d like to believe I have a magical life ahead of me, a life of wondrous adventures, lovely people, new friends and favorite places.

I have ten days left in this house, and afterward, a couple of places I can stay in an emergency. I always thought when the house was sold, I’d take off, but I have people in my life, dance classes, and a performance at the end of May. And then . . .

My journey is taking shape. I am going to fulfill my New Year’s resolution to visit a friend up near the Oregon coast. I have a lunch date in Ohio with a friend who is also in a state of transition. And I am being offered an opportunity to go to the Amrit Yoga Institute in Florida and write a series of articles about my experiences.

In between, of course, I’d like to come back here to continue taking dance classes, but I’m leaving my life up to the magic and synchronicity of the journey, and let myself begin anew.

***

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.

Where Am I Going?

I’m sitting here staring out the window, no will to do anything. I had a brief spurt of activity a couple of hours ago — packing my assortment of wide-brimmed hats and a few other last-minute, hard-to-pack items in preparation for moving most of my stuff into a storage unit tomorrow. But all of a sudden the idea I was working so hard for . . . well, for basically nothing . . . brought me to a halt.

A.A. Milne’s poem “Spring Morning” keeps churning around in my head:

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

sunflowerOddly, the words I hear are spoken in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice — or perhaps not so oddly. I think the only time I ever heard the poem was when he read it to the children in the movie Kindergarten Cop.

What does it matter where people go? Or more specifically, what does it matter where I go? Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

I still have approximately ten days in this house, though every day it becomes emptier and emptier. The furniture people have spoken for is gradually being picked up, and my last week here I’ll be sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

And then? I still don’t know. I’ve been looking for places to stay, calling folks who put ads in the paper, mentioning my predicament to everyone I talk to. Others are doing the same on my behalf. I promised to stay until June, and it’s a promise I intend to keep, not just because I like to keep my promises, but because I need those two months of dance classes. The studio has added balletrobics to the roster, and the intense workout will be good for me. I need to get in shape for . . . well, for wherever life takes me.

I’ve been researching various shelters for on the go, such as vans, tents, hammocks, and I’ve become quite intrigued with the idea of such a primitive/advanced sleep system as the hammock. (These are not those rope hammocks with the crossbars that eject you from your place whenever you move, but are made of parachute nylon, which makes them more transportable and comfortable, and come with mosquito net enclosures and tarps to protect from the rain.)

I have to laugh at my pretensions sometimes. Me on an epic walk? Me on a solo camping trip? Me living loose and carefree out in the world? So absurd! Maybe even foolish.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
“We do have beautiful things to do.”

***

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.

You Are the Universe . . .

This quote expresses my current philosophy of life, though that philosophy is subject to change without warning at any moment.

quotescover-JPG-10 copy

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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.

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