Desert Procrastinations

I have about 12 hours of work I have to do this weekend, so like any well-disciplined person, I got up early, went right to work . . . and checked out Facebook and emails on my computer. Then, because apparently I hadn’t procrastinated enough, I spent a couple of hours resurrecting old email addresses. They hadn’t been used in so long, I had to go through a lot of rigmarole to prove I was human and that these near-defunct emails were mine. (Tell me honestly — can you remember the exact day you opened your email account? And if you have one that’s been inactive for a long time, can you remember the exact day you last used it? Well, gmail expected me to remember. Sheesh.)

Actually, a couple of the email addresses were not strictly mine — they were emails I set up for Jeff. (I don’t have any idea why I decided to keep them alive. But they are available if he ever decides to contact me.) A couple of other addresses were emails I had set up years ago when I was playing around with downloading music. In one case, I used the email a single time before it became flooded with so much spam, it became unusable. (It’s not often you can tell exactly where the spam originated, but since that was the only thing I had done with that email, it was obvious.)

Realizing this online activity wouldn’t get my work finished (or even started), I turned off the computer and went for a walk. A long, long walk. It felt good to stretch out. Felt good to visit the desert again. (Felt even better not doing my work!)

desert knolls

I had a few pangs of nostalgia thinking that in a couple of weeks this near-private patch of desert will no longer be mine. I’ve grown fond of the stark landscape, the tans and taupes,

the rare but brilliant spots of color.

poppy

Still, the thought of all the new places I might walk offset the wistfulness.

When I returned from my walk, I got right to work . . . on this blog.

I just can’t seem to force myself to get the 12-hour task done. The job is tedious and almost anything would be more fun. Watching water boil, for example, would be more fun. Or watching rocks race each other across the desert floor.

Maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow. Start working before I know what I’m doing.

Yep. That’s what I’ll do.

For sure.

***

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,

013cb

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

032b

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.

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.

A Life That Ambles

I haven’t been walking in the desert lately. I’ve been mostly wearing myself out packing, and when I do walk, I’m going to or from dance class on city streets.

daffodils

Cities have their advantages.

Where I used to live in rural Colorado, there wasn’t much in the way of amenities, except things for cattle and horses, like alfalfa fields.

alfalfa

So I enjoy the lovely and whimsical sights that cities offer.

20150311_141025bd

Class was cancelled today, and since there is little heavy work to be done to sap my strength, I took myself out to the desert.

desert

Walking in those barren, path-strewn hills, I was reminded of my life — lots of paths going nowhere, somewhere, anywhere. The straight path to . . .  wherever . . . is there, but it eludes me. I am left to clamber around the expanse, not knowing if there is a pattern to my life, not knowing if I am going anywhere in particular, not knowing much at all, if the truth be known.

And yet, hidden in the barren expanse are magical vistas,

desert

colorful gems,

cactus flower

and lovely surprises.

natural rock garden

There is a lot to be said for a life that ambles — literally and metaphorically — without a set destination. Such a life might not afford the luxuries that money provides, but oh, the benefits to such a life are beauty and joy.

***

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.

Bowls of Light

When I was sorting through some of my things in preparation to packing them and putting them in storage, I found a whole slew of Christmas lights. It seems ridiculous to store the lights considering how cheap they are, wasteful to throw them away, and silly to drag them to a thrift shop, so I decided to use them up. I put bowls full of lights all over the house, and oh! What a festive air!

bowl of lights

bowl of lights

bowl of lights

cookie jar of lights

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter 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.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Who knew that snow is a tourist treat? I sure didn’t! I have mostly lived in a cold climate where snow happens wherever you are, but in the desert, where I have temporarily found myself, snow is so rare that people will drive many miles to see it.

And that is exactly what a friend and I did yesterday — drove almost a hundred miles round trip just to see the whiteness and throw a snowball or two. A lovely sight!

Snow

Below is a photo of the Pacific Crest Trail. Now you can see why people are concerned about beating winter when they through hike — it’s too easy to lose the trail under all that snow, and besides, it’s cold!

PCT

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter 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.

Searching for the Wild Snow

I’m getting ready to head out and go searching for the wild snow.

Once upon a time, perhaps thirty years ago, more than two feet of snow fell in the desert, but I’ve only seen flurries a couple of times since I’ve been here, and whatever stuck to the ground disappeared as soon as the sun came out. So, when a friend invited me to go snow hunting, I gladly accepted. Snow!! Out here, where it seldom even rains, snow seems a mythical phenomenon. Dare I believe?

Desert Snow

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter 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.

An Easy Hike

I haven’t been on any hikes recently. I’ve been taking a couple of extra dance classes and also preparing for a show (my class will be doing two numbers at a dance performance put on by the local college next weekend), and I wanted to make sure I didn’t jeopardize that privilege by overdoing it. My body is used to the extra classes now, so when a friend invited me to go on an easy group hike with her this morning, I accepted. It didn’t seem like it would be a very scenic hike — it was more to explore a water system from the 1800s than to enjoy the scenery — but I’ve been trying to walk more in preparation for . . . I still don’t know what. Some sort of long, long, long walk perhaps. And this seemed a perfect opportunity to stretch myself a bit.

We met at a nearby dam and signed in. Since the Sierra Club sponsored the hike, we had to sign a waiver. I didn’t think anything of it — after all, I’d done Sierra Club hikes before, and anyway, it was an easy hike, only three miles, according to the English chap who led the group.

The scenery at our meeting place wasn’t very inspiring — just a lot of dirt bike trails carved haphazardly out of the desert floor by bikers — but after we climbed through the gate meant to keep out cars, and walked leisurely across the top of the dam, there were some pretty sights, including this rare example of fall colors in the desert.

desert fall

We took a break so everyone could catch up to the leader, and then we continued up the path. The operative word here is “up.” The path started with a gentle incline that got steeper and steeper as we climbed. At one point, the only way I could make it up a sharper than 45-degree angle was on hands and knees. Embarrassing, but effective.

Our leader promised us that was the hardest part of the hike, but then we started our even steeper descent on sand and scree. (I had to pause here and reflect. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “scree” in my entire life, never had reason to. Amazingly, I was able to dredge the correct word out of my magpie brain.) I wish I could announce that I descended that hill gracefully, but once (okay, I admit it — twice) my feet slid out from beneath me and I ended up “bum sledding” as the English chap called it.

“It’s easy from here,” the chap said when we all made it (one way or another) to the bottom of the path. “Easy from here?” I responded. “Wasn’t the whole hike supposed to be easy?” He said, “When we get back, it always seems to have been so easy.”

But we weren’t yet back. There was still a rusted and rotted water pipe to hike along for several yards (someone suggested that I use my trekking pole as a balancing pole, and it worked! Or maybe it’s all those relevés I’ve been doing in ballet class.) After the water pipe episode, we had to wade through a sand field where my legs sunk halfway up to my knees, ford a river, and climb one last 45-degree hill.

We returned to the cars three and a half hours after we started. Allowing a generous hour for breaks and a snack, we’d been hiking for at least two and a half grueling hours. Even at my slowest uphill pace, I walk a mile in thirty minutes, so I have no idea how long the hike really was. At least four, but probably closer to five miles.

We gathered around for a brief post-hike retrospective. The English chap asked if anyone was hurt. We all took stock and admitted we were fine.

He beamed at me and said, “See? An easy hike.”

***

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

Throwing Paint at Life

Life is a great big canvas

I try to throw as much paint as I can on my life, but sometimes all I manage is to dab a bit of color onto the canvas. Today was a dab day (well, except for dance class — that always adds a spash of brightness to my life), so I thought I’d repost this photo as a reminder for me to be bright and bold, and not sit around letting my recent losses narrow my life.

Wishing you a big, bright, bold day!

(The flowers are a photo of paradise poinciana that I shot and turned into my version of impressionist art.)

***

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

 

The Perfect Viewing

I hadn’t planned to go to my father’s viewing tonight, but when my plans for a private memorial with my father’s long time health aid didn’t work out, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to drive the two hours to where my family was gathered. In the end, though, I couldn’t force myself go to the viewing. I’d said my goodbyes during the hours before he died and then during the hours afterward while we waited for all the end of life tasks to be completed (pronouncing him dead, arranging for the mortuary to come get him, etc.), and anything else would seem like voyeurism.

When everyone took off for the mortuary, I headed down to the beach, watched the eternal tides washing up on shore, watched the sun set. As I stood there, I could feel the cycle of life, could see that all things end, not just the day, and so after all, it turned out to be the perfect viewing.

sunset

***

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,040 other followers