Fishing for Life in Sacramento

I’m going to turn off my computer for the next forty-eight hours and take myself on a fishing trip. Not to fish for fish, of course — such a hobby is only peaceful for the one fishing; the poor fish are scared, hurt, and fighting for their life — but to fish for life. See what happens when I am disconnected from my usual online pursuits. (The last time I took time away from blogging, I was spending all my time with computer tech guy trying to fix a program that hogged my CPUs, so it wasn’t much of a disconnection from my computer.)

I’m planning on selling my books at a conference in Sacramento with an author friend. I’ve known her so long, it’s strange to think I’ve only visited with her once before. (We met online through our mutual publisher.)  Should be fun, just taking off for a couple of days. Seeing what I can see. Feeling what I can feel.

If you want to contact me, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Or whenever.

fishes

***

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.

Grief and a Need for Adventure

For the past few years, I’ve had an overwhelming desire for adventure, especially some grand and epic journey that would change me forever. I’ve noticed this same trait in others of my grief “age group,” those of us who lost our soul mates around the same time. Apparently, our psyches believe that only something great and powerful and life affirming (or death defying) can offset the terrible loss we suffered. This feeling isn’t reserved for just our group of course, but since we’ve suffered a similar loss within a few months of each other, the phases we all go through are more apparent to me.

For some people, the desire for an epic adventure dissipates as their grief dissipates. For example, I have a friend who’s been grieving the end of a love affair for the past couple of years, and although she’s been going through this same need for adventure, she now seems to have reached both an acceptance of her loss and a readiness to resume life on a more prosaic level. She wants to write and do art, which are adventures of their own, but both seem to demand some sort of settled life so the artist can pursue those adventures on art’s own terms.

campingMe? I’m not there yet. Although it seems as if I’m unequipped physically for great feats of endurance, such as an epic walk, I’m not ready to accept the idea of a settled life. In my case, I’m not sure it’s still about a need for adventure so much as a need for a simpler life. What could be simpler than taking a walk? One foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do. At least, that’s the way it appears on the surface. The more I research, the more complicated such a life becomes. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. In desert states, sometimes you have to walk fifty to a hundred miles before coming upon a water source. At a half gallon of water and five to ten miles a day, that means a minimum load of forty pounds just of water. Add to that food, shelter (tent), sleeping system, rain gear, emergency kit, change of clothes. No wonder people who walk across the country push or pull carts so they can haul the necessities. Or they walk with nothing, and trust in the journey to supply what they need. I have no interest in a cart, and no ability to surrender to trust, so here I sit, journeying on my computer, dreaming as yet impossible dreams.

People keep asking me if I had inherited this house if I would continue living here. I always say no just because owning this house was never an option, but the truth is, I probably would stay out of inertia. If you have a place to live, it’s much harder to uproot yourself than if life uproots you. But eventually I’d have to leave because I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up such a house. Nor could I handle the stress of upkeep. Most of my recent stresses and dramas have centered around this house. Alarms chirping, things breaking down, things needing to be fixed, replaced, cleaned, packed. Things. Other stresses and dramas have centered around my computer and car. More things. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a caretaker of things. I want more from life than . . . things. (I’ve considered joining the tiny house movement, but again, although on the surface, owning a tiny house seems simple, in the end it’s as complicated as owning a big house. )

I have dance commitments through the end of May, so whether the house sells or not, I’ll be staying in this area at least that long. (Jazz and belly dance performances in March, Hawaiian and Tahitian performances in May.) And then? More dancing, probably. I still have much to learn that dancing can teach me. I’m considering renting a room in a house, which would give me more unsettledness than an apartment lease. Besides, considering the non-credit I have, never having borrowed money or owned a credit card, it’s almost impossible for me to rent a place.

I have way too many things for a simple life, but to simplify my life, I’ll be putting it all in storage. That way I won’t have to be burdened with those things, but will have them whenever I need them.

I do know I will do something. I’ll have to. My mother died at eighty-five and my father at ninety-seven, though there’s no saying whether I will live as long as either one of them did. (My immediately younger brother died nine years ago from brain cancer.) Still, there is a possibility of my living for decades still. I will have to do something during all those years, and whatever that something might be, I’m sure it will be an adventure because life itself is an adventure.

***

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.

Spending the Night Under the Stars

I spent the night outside last night. The house reeked of carpet and tile cleaning chemicals and both the house and the garaged smelled of the supposedly odor-free pesticide. Although I had an offer of a place to spend the night, I didn’t want to leave and close the place up. I might never have gotten rid of the hodgepodge of odors.

(Had to take a quick detour to look up the etymology of hodgepodge — it comes from a fourteenth century term hotchpot, referring to a stew. Now it means any sort of confused mixture of unrelated items.)

bedAlthough it seemed audacious when I first thought of sleeping outside, the experience turned out to be tame. More of a kid’s adventure than a quest for the wild women within.

First of all, I used the same makeshift bed I slept on the night before in the garage, so I was quite comfortable. Second, I slept on the patio, which sort of defeated the purpose of sleeping under the stars. Third, without my glasses, I couldn’t see the stars anyway, just the twilight haze of the ever-lit city sky.

I suppose it was the matter-of-factness of the experience that made it an adventure of sorts. I don’t remember ever sleeping outside before. I slept in a tent a couple of nights when I was in sixth grade, but that was so long ago I don’t even remember doing so. (Though I do remember a particular winding turn when all I could see out the window was the floor of the canyon far below. I felt sure my father was about to drive us off the cliff).

It wasn’t particularly cold here, but even if it were, I’d have been okay. I used my parent’s duvet so I was warm, even hot.

Apparently, as long as I am comfortable, I can sleep anywhere. At least, I hope so since I haven’t any idea where I will be sleeping once this house is sold.

As for the duvet — Since none of my siblings wanted it, I’d planned to keep it in my car for emergencies. I took off the exceedingly heavy cover, but duvet itself is white, which isn’t exactly practical for outside use — it costs a fortune to clean such a thing. I suppose I could just keep it until it got dirty and then toss it out. Or if it’s still clean when I get a sleeping bag, I could donate the duvet to a thrift store.

I sure will be glad when these silly little decisions have all been made and I am conundrum-free!

At least tonight I don’t have to decide where to sleep. The house seems aired out now, and I can spend the night in my usual bed. The stars will have to fend for themselves.

***

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.

My Great Adventure

Well, it wasn’t much of an adventure, truth be told. Yesterday, the carpets and tile in my father’s house were cleaned, and the chemicals nauseated me and made my sinuses feel as if they were going to explode. I considered going to spend the night on a friend’s couch, but if I left the house, I’d have to close it up, and the chemicals would have no way of dissipating. So I spent the night in the garage.

It seems bizarre, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t  really. After all, my brother camped out in the garage for a year, and besides, almost everything I own is stored in the garage.

I used the cushions from my father’s couch to make myself a pallet, used my lamp. bedside table and extra pillows that were already in the garage to make myself a little nest. It all seemed weirdly normal, except for the expanse of the space. The garage is approximately 900 square feet, more than some of the apartments I’ve rented.

The only real adventure came at 4:30 in the morning when the smoke alarm on the other side of the door started chirping. Since there was no way to escape the sound, I had to get up to replace the battery. Good thing my mother’s step stool is still here, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to reach the alarm. (At least that’s what I thought then. If it hadn’t been 4:30 in the morning, I would have remembered what I’ve done in the past, make my own step stool using three different sizes of stools, but I’m not that swift when I’m half asleep.)

Oddly, I felt good today. Light. Free. I wonder if sleeping where my alcoholic schizophrenic brother did expiated some of the guilt I still feel about the way I treated him. (Not that I treated him badly, but it’s almost impossible to keep one’s equanimity in the face of abusive mental illness, and it bothers me that I couldn’t.) Or perhaps it had to do with lessening the ties to my status quo, on the first step toward a more creative way of living. Or maybe . . . oh, heck. What difference does it make. All I know is I’m smiling as I type this.

I’d planned to sleep in the garage again tonight since the chemicals still seem strong, but the exterminators came and sprayed today. The stuff they use is made from chrysanthemums, which is poisonous to insects but safe for humans. It’s supposed to be odor free, but the whole place smells like funeral flowers — sickeningly cloying.

So, I’ll try to sleep in my room with the windows open, and if there’s still a problem with smell, I’ll go outside and sleep on the patio. Or in my car. Or somewhere.

I hope you know I’m merely chronicling my life and not whining. I am aware of how very lucky I am. Despite the comsmileyplications of getting my father’s house cleared out and cleaned up so it can be put on the market, I still have a comfortable and safe place to stay, and for now I have money enough for my needs and current indulgence (dancing!). I’m mostly healthy with a strong, pain-free back, and have the energy to do what I need/want to do. I have two feet that work just fine except in ballet class. (“Point your toes, Pat!”) I can see perfectly as long as I have the proper eyewear — I can’t see the computer screen with my bifocals but luckily, I have my old reading glasses. Can’t see the television screen with either of those glasses, but luckily I still have my pre-bifocal glasses that seem to be the perfect ones for that activity. Even luckier, I have plenty of movies to watch via VCR so if I need a break from life, I don’t have to watch television programming.

And luckiest of all, although it panics me at times, I have a blank future with no responsibilities and no ties. (Well, no ties except dance class of course. And friends.) Mostly I have possibilities, as yet unknown opportunities, and more “great” adventures.

I actually sound optimistic, don’t I? I told you I felt good today.

***

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.

Different Tomorrows

I’m hunkered down in the carpetless kitchen, waiting for the carpets in the rest of the house to dry. I should open the windows to help the process along, but since the neighbors are outside burning meat, the windows remain shut. (Yeah, I know, they’re having a barbecue, but it smells like all they are doing is burning flesh.)

SunriseNo, I didn’t do the carpets myself. My dad’s “estate” paid to have them done. (Estate sounds so grand, doesn’t it? But it consists of little more than this house.) I didn’t even feel guilty lolling around while they did the work, though I did spend part of the time outside to stay out of their way. I certainly didn’t need to worry about them taking anything — there’s nothing to take. Although I still have some sorting and packing to do — clothes, computer accessories and other things I use every day — almost everything I own is stacked in the garage ready to be moved into a storage unit when the house is sold. And except for furniture, all my father’s things are gone.

I spent most of yesterday and last night getting ready for the carpet cleaners, finishing last minute projects, clearing tables, couches, and buffet to make them easier to move. When I took a break and looked around at my almost empty living room, I felt weird. And sad. And lonely. And a bit scared to realize this is really happening.

Next week the house goes on the market, and I will be one step from . . .

There are those dang ellipses again. I don’t know what I’m one step away from. Well, the future, of course, but I haven’t a clue what is in store for me. None of us do, of course, but we assume that tomorrow will like today, more or less, and for me, one of these tomorrows will be completely different.

I should be used to such different tomorrows by now. Almost forty years ago, I walked into a health food store and my tomorrows were forever changed. When the man I met that day died five years ago, my tomorrows were again forever changed. And now once again I am on the cusp of forever-changed tomorrows.

Sometimes I feel excitement at the thought of starting a whole new life, but more often than I care to admit, I feel the way I did last night. Sad. Lonely. Scared.

So many of my plans for adventure (well, ideas — I never actually got to the planning stage on any of them) have withered unborn. Although generally I am healthy, there are many things I can no longer do and others I never could do, such as walking the Pacific Crest Trail, so I am trying not to plan, but to just keep dealing with each of my todays.

And today is adventure enough for now.

***

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.

The Joys of Packing for Long Term Storage

Packing for long term storage gets complicated, especially when it comes to small items. For example, I have a ball of cord that I use to make i’i for dance class. (I’i are Tahitian hand tassels, sort of like small cheerleaders pom-poms.) So, do I pack the cord with string, or do I pack it with dance costumes? It doesn’t really matter except for when I need it again. I’m not going to like having to unpack two or maybe even three boxes because I couldn’t remember where I put it. Normally, when you pack for a move, you find everything — or almost everything — when you unpack. But what if you aren’t going to unpack? What if you forget what your system for packing was? What if you can’t decipher the inventory notes on the boxes?

boxesThe smart thing to do, of course, would be to throw away the string and buy it when I need it again.

But sometimes the solution isn’t so simple. When I moved from the house I lived for twenty years before coming to take care of my father, I found a couple of buttons in a rummage drawer for a sweater that I’d already packed. I put the buttons where I knew I’d find them, but I didn’t — not for four years, and then by accident as I was again packing up. I wondered where to put those dang buttons so I’d be able to find them again. To show you the level of stress I’ve been under, it took me more than a week before “duh” hit me. Sew them on the dang sweater!

And what about the little tool that pulls snags to the wrong side of knits? For reasons I don’t remember, I’ve been keeping that tool in a bathroom drawer along with stray buttons and safety pins. (I suppose it makes sense. It’s when I’m dressing or standing at the mirror that I discover needed repairs.) I put the gadget with sewing tools because that’s where it belongs, but I know I’ll never think to look for it there.

Although I’ve gotten rid of more than half of what Jeff and I owned jointly, and half of what I owned, I still have an insane number of possessions.

In the coming years, I’ll be working on paring things down even more.

But not now.

Now I have to figure out where to put my small pliers. Where will I think to look for them when I need them? In with the tools? Or in with my craft stuff?

***

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.

Are Online Friendships True Friendships?

A few weeks ago, an offline friend expressed reservations about making friends online because she thought we don’t really get to know people online. An online friend also wondered about the trueness of online friendships, though she admitted she considered me a friend. And another online friend (she’s probably more of a mentor since she offers me more support than I offer her) wrote a blog about the meaning of friendship and how that applies to online friends.

digital lifeSo can you have a true relationship online? Of course, though to be honest, I rarely interact with the vast majority of my online “friends”. At one time, I thought it was important promotionally to have a lot of connections, but that doesn’t seem to hold true. Still, it is possible to make real friends online.  In some respects, these real online friendships are based on something deeper and more meaningful than offline friendships because (sometimes) we can connect directly to the mind, heart, or soul of each other. We are basically electronic beings, masses of focused energy, which is sort of what a computer is. We do have a tendency to show our best side online, but that’s not a bad thing. Besides, through numerous blog comments or facebook discussions, the truth comes out.

I have never met some of my best friends. I hope I will meet them someday, of course. (Although some of my hopes for an epic adventure are fading in light of the realities, taking a trip to meet these friends is still possible.) One drawback to such friendships is that it’s hard to hug an efriend, so such friendships to endure might have to go offline. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to celebrate the wonder of knowing someone who lives on the other side of the country or even the world.

The few times I have met an online friend, there wasn’t a bit of awkwardness. It was as if we’d known each other for a long time, which was no surprise because we had known each other for a long time online.

A few years ago I met one such online friend. She came here for a book showing (I call it a showing instead of a sale because we sold so few books) and we got along well. Not only were our attitudes similar, we even dressed alike. Next weekend I will be returning the favor by going there for a book showing.

Friendships of this online/offline variety are not the neighborly sort where you run next door to borrow a cup of sugar or a pinch of salt, but I’ve never had any friends like that. Nor are they the kind who could visit you in the hospital or take you to the airport (though I’m sure they would if they were in the vicinity.) But they are still real friendships. And they are probably longer lasting than other friendships because if they move or if I move, we are still as close as the internet.

***

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.

Life is a Present

Someone reminded me the other day that life is a gift. Someone else told me that my deceased life mate/soul mate is in a better place. The juxtaposition of these two ideas used to perplex me. If life is a gift, why was it denied him? If he is in a better place, why am I here? I don’t think about this conundrum any more, at least not much. Somewhere along the line I conceded that he might have gotten the better end of the deal. (It was easier to accept his death that way than to think he was missing out.)

gift2Life, with all its pain and trauma, seems a dubious gift at best. It’s more like a present, something that was presented to us whether we wanted it or not. Or like a presence: being present (being here now) in the present (this moment).

Considering all the possible gamete connections, it’s amazing that any of us are here. (Though I suppose it’s like the lottery. Someone will win the lottery even though the possibility of any one person winning it is astronomically small.) Our presence could be deemed a gift, yet there is the matter of pain and trauma, angst and ill health, grief and stress and old age, along with all the trials of everyday life. (There’s no need to mention joy or wealth or friendship or any of the other wonders of life — we know those are gifts without ever having to look for a bright side since they are the bright side.)

Perhaps the gift of life is emotion — joy and sadness, laughter and tears and all of the thousand other emotions that we humans experience, both pleasant and unpleasant.

When my profound grief over the death of my soul mate started to wane, I missed it, as odd as that might seem. There was something so very immense about such grief, as if I were standing on the edge of eternity, one foot poised above the abyss. I also missed the constant life lessons grief taught me about myself, about will and survival, even about the workings of our bodies. Would I choose to feel such grief for the rest of my life? Of course not, though knowing I will always have upsurges of sorrow doesn’t bother me like it used to. Mostly, I am grateful I was able to feel such grief and to honor his life in such a way.

It’s rather a literary cliché, one that most of us have come to believe, that the more intelligent a person or species is, the less emotional. Mr. Spock from Star Trek and Lucy from the recent movie Lucy are two such examples. But what if this belief is not true? What if emotion is a form of intelligence, and the more emotional we are the more intelligent? Are ants emotional? Are cockroaches or rats or cows? I don’t think so. Some animals do feel some sort of emotion, but no other creature can experience the range of feeling we do.

(Even if emotion isn’t a gift, it probably has some sort of survival mechanism because otherwise, why would emotion have developed?)

Not even all humans feel emotion. Sociopaths don’t feel emotions, or if they do, the emotions are very shallow. (There could be 30,000 non-killing sociopaths for every murderous sociopath, so this is a fairly common emotional disorder. See: Your Mother-in-Law, the Sociopath.)

So perhaps life is a gift after all, including all the parts like pain and sorrow that we would just as soon live without.

***

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.

The Family Demon and Other Conundrums

Mercury is retrograde, according to what someone told me today. I don’t know what that means other than what the person said — that the retrograde is the cause of all sorts of things going wrong during the past three weeks. If this is true, things should get better now that the retrograde is over. Since Mercury is a big ball of iron (at least that’s what I read — I’ve never been there and taken a sample, so I don’t know for sure), it affects our electronics, which is why all the gadgets in my vicinity — smoke alarm, computer, phone, burglar alarm — went haywire.

fireIt’s also possible the unusual spate of recent problems in my life could be the family demon unleashing its powers. Not that I believe in demons, family or otherwise, but when my sister first mentioned the possibility of our family being infected by a demon, the stained glass cross hanging on the front door fell and broke.

Coincidence? Of course.

And yet . . .

There are so many things we don’t know — way more than what we do know — especially when it comes to the specifics of how everything is connected. Generally speaking, we are connected to each other and the universe in a thousand different ways because we are all beings of energy, all made of stardust (to put it romantically). I once came upon an intriguing theory that the universe and everything in it is made up a single electron. This speedy little fellow moves so fast and in so many different directions and dimensions, including backward and forward in time, that it gives the illusion of many particles. And if anything happens to one phase of that poor lonesome little electron, then obviously, everything else is affected.

I am learning — finally — that there are things we can never know. Our brains are wired to translate the energy of the universe into sight, taste, sound, smell, feel, so we can never experience life raw, but just whatever our brains present to us as real.

So what does any of this have to do with the way the things in my vicinity are malfunctioning? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.

***

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.

Updates and Update

I came online an hour ago to write a leisurely (or as leisurely as it gets in my newly hectic world) blog when my computer decided to update itself. I have my computer set to where Microsoft doesn’t update automatically, but apparently MS got tired of waiting for me to allow the updates and went ahead and hijacked my computer for a long while. There were a lot of updates because I restored the system during my “troubles” (computer troubles, that is) and so all the updates I’d recently uploaded needed to be reuploaded and applied along with the current ones. And I didn’t take the time to do the updates. Well, now for better or worse, the updates are done. And I still have a few minutes to update you as to my situation.

My life continues to be hectic and frustrating, but I see an end to my current workload. One by one, the items on my to do list are being ticked off (metaphorically, anyway — I never actually made a list. The length of it would probably have scared me into immobility.) And when the list is cleared? Who knows? I am still not making plans. My current philosophy “Either things will work out or they won’t” seems to be working for me at the moment.

Pericecreamhaps I should care about the near future, but I don’t, at least not yet. I suppose it will be a different matter when the house is sold and I have to scramble for a place to live, but that is not a problem for today.

Today I have to . . . well, to be honest, I guess I don’t have to do anything. The chores will wait for me. Maybe I’ll just scrounge a makeshift meal from the almost empty refrigerator. Unluckily (or maybe luckily), the only dessert I will see is the one decorating this blog. Thle refrigerator is so shiningly clean, I’ve been hesitant to fill it, and I don’t have a car to use for grocery shopping anyway.

But there is light even at the end of that particular tunnel. (There, I did it. Used that trite old saying even though I promised myself I wouldn’t.) I took my car to a guy who specializes in air-cooled VW engines, and he promised to try to fix the current problem immediately instead of waiting until the overall checkup in two weeks. He seemed to know what he was doing, so there’s hope. And if not, well, I’ll deal with it at the time.

It’s been nice visiting with you. See you tomorrow. Maybe.

***

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.

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