What Pain Are You Willing to Embrace?

When I was young, I thought it unfair that those who liked physical activity, who preferred sports and exercise and dancing to all other activity, should reap the rewards of beautiful bodies and glowing health. We bookworms might have reaped the rewards of a deeper empathy, but who cared about that? Though we had sluggish bodies with low energy reserves that were easily depleted, we were always urged into doing what didn’t come naturally, as if the athletic folk were somehow superior. And maybe they were, but they were only doing what came naturally, as did those of us who read.

wantIt still don’t think it fair that both groups do what comes naturally, but if we in the non-athletic group want to achieve better health or better muscle tone, we have to put ourselves through a regimen that is not only beyond our meager physical resources, but sometimes downright painful. I don’t believe the good things in life should be accompanied by pain, especially because if it’s a pain we cannot like, we will soon give up.

For a long time, I followed groups of women on Facebook who thru-hiked (or attempted to thru-hike) the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, and so often it seemed that those who finished the hikes were those who loved the challenge of the trail and who enjoyed even the pain of it. (And apparently, there is a lot of pain to work through, which is why thru-hiking is as much a mental challenge as it is physical.)

This is National Novel Writing Month, where perhaps millions of “book athletes” are running their own sort of marathon, attempting to write 50,000 thousand words in a single month. Oddly, though I am a writer, such an effort is beyond my imaginational resources, and is even painful. There is no way I can dredge that many cohesive words out of the depths of my mind and there is no way I can focus on the story for so long. My untrained mind begins to wander. And so does my untrained body.

I recently read an article that claimed it is the pain we are willing to sustain, the pain we want in our life that determines our happiness. Those who love working out in the gym or running marathons or dancing until their feet bleed, will be rewarded with gorgeous bodies, good health, and grace. Those who love writing for hours on end will be rewarded with a finished book at the end of a month.

Me? I never liked pain of any kind, though I am willing to make an effort. I enjoy physical activity, such as dancing and walking, but when it gets to the point of pain, I lose interest. (Which is probably a good thing since so often pain means damage and sustained pain means irreparable damage.) I do write, but only what I like and when I like. (Even though I know the sort of books that would catapult me to the level of being able to support myself through writing, I can’t sustain the emptiness and pain that kind of writing would bring me. The people who get the rewards from writing those books are the ones who love it.) I had considered doing NaNoWriMo, but here it is, the second half of the month, and I pretty much forgot to do it. (That’s my problem. I forget. Once upon a time, I ran a mile every day, but then life took a different turn, and I simply forgot to get out in the morning and run. It took me years before I remembered, and by then it was too late.)

Luckily, with both walking and dancing, many of the rewards come from effort and dedication and concentration rather than sustained pain.

Still, I do accomplish some things while avoiding pain. I have written hundreds of thousands of words and walked thousands of miles. I’ve learned dances and even danced on stage.

My life is not pain free, of course. No matter how much I have tried to avoid pain and embrace comfort, pain came anyway. (After a certain age, aches are a given.) Oddly, because of it, I am now more wiling to do things that might be painful than I once was, but even so, pain is not something I value.

And anyway, maybe the point is not pain so much as energy, not what pain we are willing to sustain, but what sort of energy we have to spend. Some people simply do not have the energy resources for a physical life. Some simply do not have the energy resources for a mental life.

But somehow, we all muddle through, doing the best we can, doing what comes naturally, even doing a bit that doesn’t come naturally.


(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.”)

Anti-Loneliness Plan

I went walking in the desert yesterday, the first time since I left my father’s house. It was easy to get to the open space when I lived within walking distance, but now that I am ten miles away, it’s harder to find the motivation to drive to “my” part of the desert. I always thought it silly to drive to a place of exercise, but in this case, it’s not exercise I needed. Well, I did need it. Let’s just say I needed more than exercise, like a feeling of connection to the world.

I’ve been feeling my aloneness lately, more so than usual, been feeling disconnected, and I simply cannot let my gloom (as one friend called it) continue past the point where I can handle it. So I worked on my book a bit in the morning to get my mind off myself, which was sort of a silly plan because the book is mostly about me. (Apparently, I am becoming the main character since my character is the only one who is connected to all the other characters.) But writing did help. And it helped give me the energy I needed to get in the car and drive to the desert.

The desert worked its magic. (Well, except for the part where my knees were scraped from a slide down a loose gravelly slope and my shoulders ached from the use of the Pacerpoles. The poles help take the weight off the lower joints, but the weight has to go somewhere.) As I picked my way along the rocky trail, stopping periodically to feast my eyes on the hills, I realized what the problem has been. It’s been a year since my father died, and such anniversaries are always difficult. From the beginning I’ve had a harder time dealing with his death than I expected because we weren’t particularly close, but we did live together in relative peace for almost five years. And his death, like the death of my life mate/soul mate, catapulted me out of my status quo and into a different life.

That I am in a different life has been masked by various circumstances. I spent the first six month in his house, cleaning out his things and getting the house ready for sale. Three of the next months were spent with friends and three were spent housesitting, so now is the first time I am truly feeling the effects of my aloneness.

Oddly, this sort of profound aloneness is what I expected to feel on my trip, especially if/when I am camping by myself, but since I seldom can guess how I will feel ahead of time, I have a hunch the trip will make me feel connected. But what do I know? I’m just a woman tossed on the grief heap and left to make my way however I can.

A further complication leading to a feeling of disconnect is that I’m currently rationed when it comes to the internet (which has always been a place of refuge for me) because all I have is the data on my phone to get me through the lonely times. Consequently, those times seem to loom greater than they normally would. There is enough data for me to post to my blog, so maybe I should try to go back to blogging every day despite not having anything to say. When did having nothing to say ever stop me before? (Be forewarned!)

I also had another rather mundane revelation while out walking — I leave on my extended trip in just a month, so I better start figuring out what sort of food to bring! I’ll be staying with various people along the way, so I’m sure I won’t starve, but I also need to take the time to visit national parks and forests, to hike in various locales, to camp when I can or must, so having supplies will be important. Because I’ll be in my car, canned goods won’t be a problem, and I will have my backpacking stove if I need to cook something, so I’ll be able to bring anything, even a bit of fresh food. Might be an interesting experience. I’ve never bought food for a camping trip before.

So, here’s the plan — walk more, write, blog, stockpile food, and stop reading as much. (Yep, reading is something else that makes me feel disconnected, though reading was the only way I managed to get through my lonely childhood. Now, for some reason, reading depresses me, maybe because the characters get together, which makes me feel sad for myself, or they don’t get together, which makes me feel sad for them.)

None of this will erase the fact of my aloneness, but it will help me forget it.

I’ll let you know what happens.


(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.”)

So, What Am I Doing?

What I am doing? I don’t really have an answer to that. At least, not an interesting one. I’m still researching the gear and clothing I will need for my road/camping/hiking trip, though I’m a bit sick of the whole thing. Too much thinking about silly stuff, such as the efficacy of base layer fabrics and waterproof outer layers, what type of potty — if any — to get, what sort of first aid and emergency products I would need. Admittedly, this research will not seem so silly when I am trying to stay warm and dry in an El Nino deluge. But for now, it seems like . . . oh, horrors . . . shopping. (I’d be one of those people who still wore the same clothes they’ve had since high school except that I outgrew them many pounds ago.)

jugglingI’ve been doing some volunteer work, helping a new company develop its social networking sites. Been reading unnoteworthy books for the simple reason they are close at hand. Been destroying my teeth. (Well, one tooth. Apparently, sitting for hours at the computer, elbow propped on the desk, chin in hand is like gritting one’s teeth, only worse.) I’ve been playing an insane number of solitaire/spider solitaire/free cell games, and, of course, I’ve been taking dance classes. (We’re learning Italian dances to perform at a spaghetti dinner next Saturday, which is perhaps the only new thing I’ve been doing.)

For the most part, I’m just living. I haven’t been hiking much, or even walking more than a few miles a week. It was easy to roam the desert when I lived just a few blocks away, easy to hike up in the Redwoods and on the beach when I had someone to ferry me to the starting point and pick me up at the end, but somehow, the mere act of driving anywhere puts me out of the mood for walking.

I’ve been trying to find my next temporary place of lodging, and even though it will be for only six weeks, no place seems to fit my requirements. Too restrictive, unfriendly dogs, no internet, bad parking, shared bathroom, all things I’d just as soon not have to deal with even for so short a time. So I’ve been going around and around in my head, trying to weigh drawbacks against positive points. I finally had to laugh at myself. It’s this sort of roundaboutation that inspired my desire for a long trip in the first place. Just to go and to let go. To have nothing to think but the moment.

And then there is the added frustration of my publisher going out of business with one publishing company and starting another separate company. I don’t know the reasons for the change, but if I want my books to be published (and not by me), I pretty much have to go along with the deal. So here I am, with internet an iffy proposition, and my needing to change all the buy links on my website, blogs, and social networking sites. Eek. I’m wondering if I can just remove the links and not worry about fixing them, but still, one way or another, there are a lot of links to attend to. More mental activity going nowhere.

See? Lots of living, none of it interesting.


(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.”)

Adding “Script” to “Nondescript”

I just read a description of a character as “nondescript,” which made my hackles rise. “Nondescript” is a way of saying someone is so ordinary that no one would notice the character and be able to describe him later, but for an author to use the word “nondescript” is a cheat. As an author, you have the ability (and responsibility) to describe your characters, no matter how nondescript. As readers, we need a bit of “script” to put the character in mind. It doesn’t take much, perhaps something like, “there was nothing remarkable about the fellow — not his lusterless brown hair, his round face, or even his well-worn jeans.” See? A description!

The thing that made the non-description of this nondescript character so heinous was a later description of the character as wearing an ill-fitting wig. Huh? An ill-fitting wig is certainly a description, and takes a character out of the nondescript category.

eyeThere is no such thing as nondescript anyway. I was sitting here trying to imagine a character so bland as to truly be nondescript, but everything I could think of tended to be a “script.” Most people have moles, so the mention of a mole, while ordinary, would be a bit of description. Everyone has a nose — big, small, ski slope, well-proportioned, hooked, babyish — though generally we only remark on those that fall beyond what is considered “normal.” But still, the mention of a nose gives some description. And lips — size and color varies. Eyes vary also — size, spacing, color. (I always tell people I have eye-color eyes since the color doesn’t really exist anywhere that I have seen. I used to call my eyes gray, though they are more of a dark blue gray with a brownish halo around the iris than a true gray. Now I call them hazel, though generally, hazel is considered a greenish brown.)

But back to non-descript. Try to think of a description of a nondescript fellow, and I guarantee you will come up with a description that will make him unique. Admittedly, any description will give readers the idea that the particular body part mentioned was important, even if it’s not, such as the mention of a mole. As I said, most of us have moles, so there is no reason to mention them, and yet, there they are. (In grade school, one of the boys in my class used to count the moles on my face. So embarrassing! And yet, I was one of those mostly unnoticed children.)

Apparently, nondescript is a recurring issue with me because I found another blog post I wrote about the same topic: Describing the Nondescript. In that post, I confessed my own use of “nondescript” in my books, but I guarantee, I will never use the word again. I hope you can say the same.


(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.”)

Building a New World for Myself

When a writer builds a world for her novel, she can either begin with the known earthly world and add details to make it her own, or she can create a world from scratch, building the world from the outside in. First, the broad view of how the world looks, smells, feels. Second how the inhabitants make this world their own with cities, farms, and designated wild areas. Third, the infrastructure of this world — the basic divisions of society including cultural, racial and governmental . Fourth, the creatures of the world and how they relate to their environment and each other. Finally, the minutiae of life in this special world — how and what the inhabitants eat and drink; how they deal with bodily waste, move around, survive, find comfort.

heavenI  frequently think about a writer’s need for worldbuilding now that I am carving my own world out of the known world. I’ll be leaving in a couple of months for a road/camping/hiking trip, and though the first three steps of worldbuilding are already in place (I am going adventuring to see what is there, not creating the environment itself), I hope to find new ways of relating to the world and its creatures. To this end, all the minutia of life in this new world has to be thought out.

For example, when some people take off on such a trip, they acquire a recreational vehicle, a home away from home that is larger and more luxurious than the places most of the world’s population live. Other people go minimal — taking just what they can carry on their backs.

Me? I’m far from wanting the conspicuous consumption of the monster RVs, or even the convenience/inconvenience of a camper, but I’m also not yet ready for a minimalist adventure. I will have a car (though my automobile is rather minimalist, now that I think about it. An ancient VW Beetle is about as minimal as you can get and still be driving an enclosed vehicle). I will stay with friends occasionally or in motels when inclement weather so dictates. But for the rest of it, I have to create my own world. What sort of shelter will I use? How will I stay warm? What will I sleep on? How will I deal with body functions in the middle of a frigid night? What will I wear? What will I eat? How will I cook? How can I create a modicum of comfort?

So many details!

I’m not going off on an expedition to a remote corner of the galaxy, where I need to bring everything for survival. I probably will never be more than an hour or two drive from civilization, where I can rectify any oversight or under buying, but still, the point is to be as self-sufficient as possible. Or maybe not. Maybe the point is to prepare as best as I can and see happens.

One of the things I want to seek on this expedition is darkness, places that are far from the light pollution of cities, where stars are so numerous you feel as if you are falling up into the sky. Last night I had a vision of myself in a lounge chair, lying under the stars, and letting myself fall into the infinite sky. Romantic, I know. The truth is probably more dangerous and uncomfortable — frigid temperatures, no protection from the small creatures of the night, and none from the large bidepal ones. But still, I’ve been searching for a strong and comfortable folding lounge chair to make my vision a reality.

Other details I still haven’t worked out, such as disposal of body waste. I had planned on getting a portable camp toilet since I’m not sure I have the muscle tone to squat for as long as I would need to do to my “duty,”  but so far I haven’t found one I like. Maybe plastic bags and kitty litter would work. And maybe I am stronger than I think.

Some people find my preparations amusing, and to be honest, sometimes I do too. But I also find the mental exercise a challenge — rethinking every part of life to see what the alternatives are.

In this, too, my preparations reflect the way a writer builds her world, because isn’t writing about rethinking life as we know it to see what the alternatives are?


(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.”)


I’ve been managing a blog for an online company on a voluntary basis, and all of a sudden today, things erupted in a mess. One person posted a bloggerie with a bit of eroticism that offended another blogger. Eroticism is inappropriate in a g-rated blog, but somehow, before I ever got wind of the contretemps to fix matters, the whole thing was blown out of proportion, and one of the parties involved quit. Now I feel heartsick and wonder what the heck I’m doing getting involved in such a situation.

Even before this happened, I’d grown tired of the online world and wanted a break from the internet, so I was going to accept the offer of a place to stay next month where there is no internet. As it turns out, before I could accept, I was disinvited. It was a strange deal — the rainwoman needed someone to fix meals for her for six weeks, look after her dog two or three weekends, and drive her when necessary. All in return for a small wireless-less room. That would have been okay, but she wanted me to sign a contract saying, I think, that I would work so many hours and then be out of her house by a certain date. (Apparently, she was afraid I wouldn’t leave, though she should have been more worried I wouldn’t stay in such cramped quarters.) Since I wouldn’t sign a contract (it seemed as if I were doing more of a favor for her considering what she wanted me to do in exchange for a place to stay and I don’t think favors should be contracted) she disinvited me.

Not a problem. Now that I have my car back, I can stay at a motel if I can’t find a room to rent, but my willingness to be without the internet did point out to me how disenchanted I am (at the moment, anyway) with online life.

To tell the truth, I’m disenchanted with offline life, too. Not sure why. Just going through a phase, I guess.

I do know I need an adventure, something fun, but for now, the rains are mostly keeping me inside. Roads out of the high desert were closed for a while due to cars trapped in mudslides, and that has made me wonder about the wisdom of my winter trip. Admittedly, I will be hanging south, away from the worst of winter’s work, but the forecasts are for cold and copious precipitation even in normally moderate climates. Still, I am planning the trip, planning to camp even in inclement weather (making sure to bring enough food, water, warm clothing and quilts for any emergency), though who knows if the weather will permit such an excursion. Adventure is one thing, foolishness another.

Meanwhile . . .

One day at a time.


(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.”)

A Different Sort of Adventure

What is the difference between today and last Thursday? I’d really like to know, but I have a hunch it’s a rhetorical question. Last Thursday, I went to Kellogg Beach, and walked for six hours along Pelican Bay without seeing a single creature except for gulls. Today, there were gulls, but also dogs, horses, fisherfolk, old couples, young couples, and a couple of individuals cloud bathing. (At least I’m assuming they were cloud bathing. They were sprawled on towels on the beach, and there wasn’t a single bit of blue or spark of a sun ray in the sky.) I set out on my solitary walk anyway, but people had driven out onto the sand, so were spread out all along the beach.

No one else was walking, so I still managed to find peace and renewal by the bay, but all the activity made me wonder what brought so many people out to play in the clouds. Maybe it was simply a lemming-type day. People woke up, and en masse, decided to head for that particular piece of oceanside land.

Even the worst day at the beach is pretty spectacular, but nothing happened to make it an adventure. Still, I’ve been having an adventure of a different kind. A literary kind. After years of having no inclinination to write, this weekend, I dug out my moribund dance studio mystery and started working on it. Have the first three chapters written. Amazing!

It helps that the friend I’m staying with is not only my first true fan, but a writer herself. (We met online in a writer’s group seven years ago. It took us all this time to finally meet, and it’s as if we’re old friends. Which, of course, we are.) She’s been encouraging, mostly because she wants to read the book, so I’ve been letting her read my work as it progresses. So far, so good.

(I also told her the story of my grieving woman book I began as a NaNoWriMo project five years ago, and her wide eyed-eagerness to read that finished book made me think it’s time to finish that book along with my other started projects.)

I’ve considered trying to find a writer’s colony or a writer’s retreat to help me refocus on what I want from my literary life, and apparently, I got my wish.

I’d planned to go back to the high desert this week, but I’m staying awhile longer. There are still places around here I haven’t yet seen, parts of the beach I haven’t explored, trails I haven’t hiked. And there are words to write.

Adventure, indeed.


(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.”)


Adventure Indeed!

I’m twenty minutes into my trip. Taking the Amtrak bus to catch the train in Bakersfield. And there is already an emergency. A peacock collided with the windshield. Glass everywhere. We’re pulled to the side of the road waiting for a replacement bus. Apparently we could be here for hours, so I doubt I will get to Eureka today.

Although I feel bad for the bird and for the driver (he seems a bit flummoxed), I find myself smiling. As my Aunt Mil always said, “If things go as planned, it’s an excursion. When they don’t, it’s an adventure.”

I am officially on an adventure!


(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.”)

Settling Into Unsettledness

For the past ten weeks, ever since I left my father’s house to the new owners, I’ve been living off the kindness of friends. My homelessness wouldn’t have been a problem except that my car is at the auto body shop being restored. (I’ve had the thing for 43 years, and apparently I’m not yet ready to give up on the old bug.) The job that was supposed to take three weeks has now taken three months and it’s still not done. (Maybe by the end of this month I’ll have it back. Maybe.) A car would have given me more options, including, of course, taking off on an adventure. Even knowing the truth about how long the restoration was going to take would have given me options. I could have taken a freighter to New Zealand and Australia without having to worry about where to store my car in my absence since it would have been with the auto body guy.

ripplesAt first, it was fun living a borrowed life, sometimes as a guest, sometimes as a housesitter, but all of a sudden, it’s become . . . well, dangerous. Not physically dangerous. Mentally dangerous. Although I have been welcomed wherever I have stayed, and although people are glad to do what they can for me, it’s apparent I add complications to their lives. Even more, I’m beginning to feel as if I don’t belong here. Not just “here” meaning where I am staying, but here on Earth. As if I’m superfluous. Nobody is making me feel this way, you understand. It’s something in me making me feel this way. (That everyone I have stayed with is married and very settled makes my unsettledness feel even more unsettling by comparison.)

It’s strange (or perhaps not so strange) that I never felt as if I didn’t belong when Jeff was alive, though I often felt that way before we met. And now . . . well, the feeling is something I am struggling with, one of the last lingering effects of my grief. (Wanting to go home to him is still prevalent, but that is an adjunct to the whole “not belonging” thing.) Needing to feel as if I belong is one of the main reasons I wanted to take an epic walk — I hoped it would help me feel connected to the earth in a more fundamental way.

When the last of my housesitting ventures is finished, if my car is still out of commission, I’m going to . . . do something. Take a bus trip, maybe — go to the bus station and board the first bus going anywhere. Or perhaps by then I’ll have found a room to use as a hub for my adventures. Or I could start writing another book. (People keep telling me I need to write, and I suppose that’s true. Although being just another author among millions makes me feel as superfluous as everything else, at least when I’m writing I don’t think about it.)

Meantime, I’ll just settle back into my unsettledness, and keep finding the fun in this unsettling transitional period.

(I sound ungrateful, don’t I? But I’m not. I’m truly grateful for my friends and their kindnesses.)


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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