Call to Adventure

As I’m sitting here, mentally sorting through my recent activities to find something at least vaguely interesting to write about, I hear a train whistle as it passes through town. This train whistle has an old-fashioned mournful sound, evocative of summer days and faraway places.

I’m glad the trains that pass by within a few short blocks of where I live use that particular whistle. The last place I lived before I moved here was also close to the tracks. It was actually about a mile away rather than a matter of blocks, but there were no houses between me and the train to absorb some of the sound, so sometimes, the train sounded as if it were racing past my window, a few feet away from where I slept. From what I understand, there is a variety of horn or whistle sounds that can be used when a train goes through a town, and trains in that particular area used a horrendous screeching noise. Sometimes, I’d be awakened by what sounded like banshees shrieking outside my window. At first, it scared me until I realized what it was — no monsters, just a train making a monstrous noise.

I never did understand why those trains shrieked rather than wailed; perhaps the train rushing through a populous area made it imperative. Luckily, that train is a thousand miles away. Even more luckily, at least for now, the trains trundling through this town use the more traditional sound.

It’s too bad the trains just pass through. There is a station here that once was used for passenger traffic, and if it were operational to this day, I could walk a few blocks, get on the train, and head . . . somewhere. As it is, the train stops at a town about twenty-five miles away, which isn’t far but would require a concerted effort and some planning to take a trip rather than the impulse of the moment.

It’s just as well, I suppose. I’m still working, still have a house to take care of, still have a yard to landscape. Besides, there truly isn’t any place I would rather be than where I am at the moment: in my own house, on my own property, listening to the train calling me to adventure.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

The World at Small

When I was young, the cool kids all used VO5 shampoo, which was then a premium brand. I’m not sure why people liked the shampoo; it’s possible the name seemed high-tech for the times, invoking images of race cars. The name in actuality referred to the five vitamins and oils that had been added to the shampoo, which perhaps made it a better shampoo than its competition because back then shampoos were little more than gentle liquid soaps. They might still be, for all I know. It’s been a while since I’ve done any in depth research on such products.

I hadn’t thought of this particular brand since . . . well, never. When I was young, of course, I used whatever shampoo my mother bought. Later, I bought so-called “natural” products from Jeff’s health food store. (That’s where I met him — at his store.)

Still later, I used the shampoos we’d stocked up on before his death. (I can tell you for a fact that old shampoo never loses its luster.) And then, of course, during my months of travel, I used motel and hotel shampoos.

When I moved here, one of the first things I had to do was buy shampoo. I stood at those seemingly endless shelves for a long while, trying to figure out which one to get. I finally purchased a couple of shampoo/conditioner sets that bragged about being natural and having herbs, but they weren’t any different than any other shampoo I’d used in recent memory. So, a week or so ago, when I again found myself in need of shampoo, I stood in that same spot without a clue about which of the hundreds of bottles to pick.

And then I saw them, there on the lowest shelf — bottles of VO5 shampoo. It shocked me, not just that such an old brand was still extant, but that it was priced so cheaply — under a dollar. It seemed much the same as the bottles of high-priced shampoo I’d been looking it, so that’s what I bought.

I seldom talk about the products I use, and almost never mention brands, but this particular incident has stayed with me, probably because of the wider lesson.

I’m sure, to the world at large, my value has been discounted the same as that once prestigious hair product. Luckily for me, I live in the world at small. In my small world, whether my small space online or my small space in my small neighborhood in my small town, my value still holds true. At least, it does to me, to the people I work for, to the people I have befriended.

Luckily, too, there is no price on my value to the world at small. It would be rather disconcerting to find oneself relegated to the bottom shelf while other folks, younger and flashier though perhaps no better, lounged on higher tiers.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Possible Dreams

As I water my various plants, I daydream about what the yard will look like in the coming years, assuming I can keep up with the work. I hadn’t realized I would like lilies, but I find them amusingly cheerful. I looked up my order for the lilies I planted and discovered they are orienpet lilies, a combination of oriental lilies and trumpet lilies. To be honest, I hadn’t remembered planting them. Luckily, they remembered! Apparently, their lying dormant the first year is not unusual. Even better, every year they’re supposed to get bigger than the previous year, and eventually they will grow to be six feet tall. Now I am dreaming of a lily forest. I bet it will be beautiful, especially if I order more lilies to fill in the space around where these lilies are growing. And since I water and weed that area anyway, there won’t be any extra work once the lilies are planted.

Although the lilies are supposed to be strong enough not to need staking, mine are still so young that I need to invest in some garden stakes. Right now I am using wooden stakes leftover from the various concrete jobs around the property, but although functional, they detract too much from the flowers.

Another place I have dreams for is the area in front of the lilacs along the path next to the garage. It seems perfect for tulips. I water there anyway, just like with my future lily forest, so once the bulbs are planted, there won’t any extra work. And it won’t look like a mess once the flowers have faded.

I felt more like playing in my yard today than I have the past couple of weeks, so I harvested hollyhock seeds, which I am willing to share with anyone local who wants some. Just let me know. I also cut down a couple of the spent hollyhock stalks that were unsightly, but that only made the weeds along the fence more apparent. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to extend the slag driveway along the fence line to help with the problem. There will be way too much inside the fence for me to take care of without having to worry about anything outside the fence. I also did a bit of weeding, but wore out quickly. And anyway, I had to put the gardening on hold because I needed to start my car. Even though the brakes aren’t fixed yet (the brakes work, but the brake warning light still comes on), I’ve been doing a bit of driving just to keep the car mobile.

It still amazes me how gardening has gotten into my blood. When I first moved here, all I could think of was putting in some sort of landscaping that would take care of itself, and now I’m dreaming of a mini estate that will take plenty of work.

But we all need dreams, right? And not impossible ones either.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Technological Marvel

Like many people, I am conflicted about the ever-growing incursion of the electronic world into our daily lives. It seems that so much of it is about keeping track of us, one way or another.

For example, one feature that not everyone knows about in some modern cars, is the ability for the car manufacturers, insurance companies, and various legal authorities to track drivers’ movements, not just where the drivers go, but how they get there, how fast they go, how they maneuver through traffic, and whether the driver starts smoothly or indulges in jack-rabbit starts.

I don’t know if all cars come equipped with this technology — some people add it intentionally because it lowers their insurance bill. I do know that there is so much technology in cars — way more than I like — that I restored my old pre-tech car so I wouldn’t have to deal with any of it.

If eyes on our personal space inside our vehicles isn’t bad enough, there are cameras everywhere, including far up in space, that can keep track of our every movement.

The same is true with the internet. Although computer software purveyors pretend they aren’t using our data in any way, to a certain extent, they are more in control of our computers than most of us non-technical folk are.

And then there is the whole black web thing, where all sorts of unsavory things go on.

Like most everything I do, my online life is a cotton candy version of what is out there. I stick with this blog, play a game or two, make use of email, do a bit of research and do even less than a bit of shopping. It’s so ho-hum that I doubt anyone is watching me, though I am always cognizant of that possibility so I protect myself as best as I can. Still, even with a certain level of vigilance, and maybe even because of it, I tend to take technology for granted and forget what a marvel it all is.

Today I got a phone call from a local area code. Most people don’t answer unknown calls in their own area code because that recognition factor is how the scammers try to sucker people into answering the phone, but my area code is from a city I’ve never lived. I don’t even know anyone who lives there. So any call from that area code, I immediately block. But the area code from where I live? Those calls tend to answer because every once in a while, I do get local calls from people I know who aren’t in my contact list.

So I answered the phone, and oh! What a surprise. I am watching a house for a couple of friends who are out of the country, and the husband called me today. At first I thought he was back in town because of visa problems, but no, he’s still out of the country. He just wanted to talk, to tell me how they are doing, to let me say hi to her, and to thank me for taking care of their house.

So how did this marvel happen? Skype. I thought to use Skype, both people had to be signed up, but apparently not. He was able to get a Skype number from the closest city, so now he can call all the way from Bangkok, and it shows up (and is billed) as a local number.

Truly a marvel!

Note to local folks: B & L said to tell you hi. She is doing better, though she’s having trouble walking. They thank you for your prayers. And, of course, they miss all of you and hope you are doing well.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Wasting My Author Mind

I’m reading a book that was published a couple of years before The Bob mess, and it gives me the willies since it could so easily reflect what’s happening today with the vaccine.

In the novel, a super-secret organization that is not government sanctioned but that uses the various alphabet agencies as cover for their dastardly deeds is trying to create a new hierarchy. In an effort to control the population, they are injecting people who rebel against this new hierarchy with nanotech implants that assemble themselves in their bodies and brains and turn the injected people into willing robots who will do anything in response to their handlers, even kill themselves.

Not that I think that’s happening in the real world today, but the point is that it could. As in the novel, some of the major players in The Bob mess are a multi-billionaire software mogul with a god complex, a whole stratum of the population that seems to want to remake the world in a way that is inimical to another swathe of the population, and way too many ways of spying on ordinary citizens (satellites, traffic cameras, phones in everyone’s hands).

What is missing in the fictional story is a pandemic and people who are trying to inoculate the whole world with a dubious vaccine. The vaccine might be dubious only in my own mind, but truly, who among us knows for absolute certain what all is in the injection they are so obviously foisting on us? And why, if they want everyone to get the vaccine, do they show commercials of people having needles stuck in their arms? So not a way to convince the needle-phobic to get the shot! Besides which, although they want us to believe that the vaccine protects us against delta and lambda and any other variation, vaccinated people are still getting sick from those as well as the original organism. Lambda is the scariest since it’s said to be able to work around the vaccine’s antibodies.

But what do I know? None of us know the truth of The Bob, the vaccine, the variants. All we know are what we are told by news organizations and political hacks, which might be the true truth, a semblance of the truth, or a wholly manufactured truth. All any of us can do is pick our truth. Although it might seem like it, in this essay, I’m not trying to peddle any brand of truth. Basically, I’m just playing author, combining the two stories — the novel I am reading and the story we’re being told about The Bob — and extending the scenario beyond the original premises as all good authors do.

There are certainly enough wild surmises out there to add plot twists to the story: The Bob being a result of “gain of function” experimentation gone wrong; the whole mess being instigated by a prominent population-reduction activist; the entire scenario being enacted for the purpose of inoculating the world’s population with some sort of chip or nanoconstruct; a dress rehearsal for some future nefarious plot to see what it takes to get us to do what they want us to do.

Instead of wasting my “author mind” on such far-out scenarios as these, I’d be better off trying to figure out some sort of world or a bunch of characters to play with that would carry me from book to book. Because if I were to write this story that’s currently writing itself in my mind, people would yawn at the very thought and put the book down (assuming they picked it up in the first place) with a “Bo-o-o-o-ring. Been there.”

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Unexpected Treat

I had an unexpected treat today — a couple of guys showed up to work on my yard! One left quite quickly — I got the impression he wasn’t really into shoveling dirt and rocks — but luckily, the person who has been doing most of the work stayed a little longer. He’s really getting into the artistry of the work, which helps keeps his interest.

He mentioned he’d seen a photo online of the flagstone path I put in from the sidewalk to the mailbox, and I felt a moment of panic as I always do when I discover that someone in my offline life read my blog without my being aware of it. It’s not a problem, of course, since that’s the whole point of posting what amounts to a personal diary on the internet. The panic comes from not knowing if I said anything that the person could misconstrue — or even construe, for that matter.

Although I try not to be unkind, sometimes I get frustrated with how slowly the work is going, especially when I can’t keep up with something I shouldn’t have to keep up with. For example, I got overwhelmed trying to clear away a mini forest that grew from the roots and stump of a cut-down tree, and that frustration showed up here on this blog. Luckily, they finally ground out the stump, the mini forest was dug up, and that whole area is now covered with rocks so I will never have to deal with the mess again.

Generally, though, I don’t mind that everything is taking so long because the longer it takes, the more I can enjoy the process. I lead such a quiet life that there is a certain amount of excitement that comes with work being done, and when everything is finally finished, that excitement will be finished, too.

But perhaps not. With a house, there is always something to be done, and this contractor doesn’t seem to mind when I call him with emergencies that are really more in the handyman category than in the construction category.

Speaking of things I can’t keep up with — a few more plants are fading in the heat. I don’t seem to be able to water them deep enough. I’ve been considering putting in a small lawn (about 300 square feet) in a corner of my front yard, but now I’m not sure I’d be able to water it enough to keep it alive, but other people in the neighborhood manage to keep their lawns green, so I suppose I could too.

Not everything is fading, though — another lily showed up today! It’s successes like these — someone coming to work for a few hours or new flowers — that keep me focused on my yard. Though I must admit, I’ve been letting the weeding go lately. It’s too hot for such a thankless job. I’m just grateful the workers who do show up are willing to put in the time despite the heat. I certainly wouldn’t want to do the work!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Lily Selfies

I’ve been disappointed with my garden lately. On second thought — it’s not the garden that’s disappointing me, it’s the lack of photo opportunities. The plants themselves are doing what they are supposed to be doing. For example, the hollyhocks have stopped blooming and are now going to seed, which is great, because I want those seeds, but the plants are not very pretty. The stalks are brown and scraggly, and the leaves have huge holes where the grasshoppers have been feasting.

Today, however, I was surprised by the lilies. I had forgotten I’d ordered and planted the lilies almost two years ago because only one ever poked its way above ground, but this year, several are growing and a couple of them are even blooming. And wow! Those flowers are big!

I had a hard time photographing the flowers, because they are shy things and hang their heads.

Luckily, I remembered that my phone’s camera has selfie capabilities (the function was easy to forget since I never take selfies), so I put the phone in selfie mode and managed to get a good look at the lilies. Lovely! And such dainty colors.

As I was heading into the house, I happened to see a pairing of flowers that looked so beautiful together that I took that picture too.

I enjoy growing things, but photographing the blooms adds to my enjoyment, so much so that sometimes I wonder if that’s why I like gardening — it gives me a reason to use the camera.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Walking to Walk

For the past few days, I’ve been taking walks, and it’s felt strange. I haven’t walked simply to walk in months. Ever since the advent of gardening season, I’ve spent the cooler hours in my yard — digging, planting, weeding, watering, mowing, sometimes for several hours at a time. Supposedly gardening is exercise, and if sweat is a meter to go by, then for certain I was exercising. By the time I finished my gardening chores, it was too hot to walk, so I stopped walking. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve been walking all along, but any walking I did had a purpose — going to the grocery store, stopping by the dollar store, visiting the library, heading to work.

With gardening upkeep at a minimum right now (nothing to plant, whatever grass there was is dead, and the big weeds haven’t grown back) I’ve suddenly had the time and energy and inclination to walk. So I did.

That’s what feels so strange — walking for no other reason than to walk. To be honest, I’m pleased I still have the ability to walk. I think a person ages rapidly once the ability to walk diminishes. Right now, I’m walking less than two miles, which at one time felt like no more than a walk around the block, but now . . . well, come to think of it, it still feels like a walk around the block, but I’m not ready to ramp up my walking to a more challenging distance. I need to ease into it to make sure I don’t overtax my knees.

It’s a shame there’s no open space with trails right around here — the closest place, from what I can gather, is about fifteen miles away, and although it’s a nice place to walk, driving to walk feels even weirder to me than walking to walk.

Once the garden season comes to an end and my flowers start dying, I’ll probably have to do a lot more digging and hoeing to get rid of the old plants and to try to tame the grass and knotweed that creep into my flower beds, but perhaps I can work just a bit at a time so I can keep up with my walking.

But that’s getting too far ahead of myself. I’m just glad to be able to roam around town even if there is no real reason for the walk — other than to walk, that is.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Lackadaisical

Although I enjoy writing this blog, perhaps because nowadays it’s the only writing I do, I somehow end up procrastinating when I open the computer instead of getting right to work. Today’s procrastination activities centered around a search for a cheap but sturdy outdoor dining set for my gazebo. Not that the gazebo is finished — it’s not. It’s still the same bare-wood, roofless crib that has been taunting me for the past year.

When I talked to the contractor a few weeks ago, going over all the work that still needs to be done, he mentioned he’d be coming to finish the gazebo himself rather than sending one of his employees as he has been doing. I’m sure he will eventually do the work, since eventually most things do get finished, and though I have no real expectations of the gazebo being done this summer, suddenly today I decided I needed an outdoor dining set of some sort for when the thing is finished. I found one I like, but it only comes with two chairs, which shouldn’t be a problem considering how seldom I have company, but I have it in my mind that I need four. So far, I haven’t found a four-chair set that I like, but then, I don’t have a finished gazebo either.

It’s kind of funny, but when my new neighbor moved in and saw how seldom the workers came, he thought they were taking advantage of me. I suppose they are, in a way, but mostly, I don’t care because the longer they draw out the work, the longer I’ll have the excitement of work being done. And then, with my car taking forever to get fixed (one weird mechanical malfunction after another that entails weeks of waiting for the parts to come in), he thought the mechanic was taking advantage of me, too, which is possible, but I don’t really need to go anywhere, so it doesn’t really matter. None of that is what’s funny; what I find amusing is that now he has the same issues with people promising to do things and then not showing up. And a vehicle of his has been in the shop for months now, and no sign of it ever being finished.

We’re not the only ones — a woman has been waiting for several months to get a window replaced, a friend can’t find a contractor to do some needed work on her house, and another neighbor has someone sporadically working on his house when the worker feels like it.

We’ve come to the conclusion it’s the area that somehow fosters a lackadaisical attitude. His dog, a rescue animal, was hyper when they first got here, always wanting to be on the go and running away when she didn’t get enough walks in a day. Now she’s so laid back that she sleeps most of the time.

I doubt the dog has become lazy — I’m sure her somnolence has to do with the heat. And when it comes to contractors and mechanics, I’m sure that’s not laziness, either. In fact, so often the problem is these people have too much to do, not enough time to do it, and too few employees who are willing to work, but they do seem to be able to ignore their broken promises and to make changes in their schedule they don’t bother mentioning.

Still, today, I had to go searching for a patio dining set for a gazebo that might not be finished until next year. Or the year after.

I didn’t buy anything, of course. It would have taken too much effort to overcome my own lackadaisical attitude.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Getting Up Early

I’ve always been rather a night owl. Left on my own without needing to get up early to go to a job, my normal hours were midnight to nine a.m. During the first year I lived here, I kept those hours, finding it amusing that anyone would be awake and alert enough to get to the senior center for exercise at eight. It just seemed so dang early, though I did manage to make it a few times. I also needed to know ahead of time when any workers were planning on coming so I could set my alarm and be up before their eight a.m. arrival.

Then suddenly, for no reason, about the time The Bob made itself known in this country, I started waking at first light. I’d blame melatonin, which regulates one’s circadian rhythms, except that I’ve been taking it for decades without any need to wake early. Even when I wear a sleep mask, the dawn manages to find me and wake me despite the darkness I see behind the mask.

Getting up at five and even before seems bizarre to me, though luckily, the sun is sleeping in a bit later these days, so now I can too. It also seems weird to be able to get so much done before my normal waking hours. Generally, by nine o’clock when I used to get up, I’ve made my bed, folded my daily quota of origami cranes, spent time with my tarot cards, done some stretching exercises, watered my various garden spots, weeded a bit. Then, during the time I’d normally be doing those things, I get other things done. For example, today I went to the library, took a drive (even though the brake warning light is coming on, I figure I need to keep the car in shape), staked some of my tomato plants that somehow became unstaked, and played with my new leaf blower. (I hoped the blower would be strong enough to clear the twigs off my landscape rocks, but it’s so powerful that instead it blows the rocks off the twigs.)

Later, I showered, ate, read, played on the computer, and now I am catching up on my blog. When I’m finished, I’ll be going to work.

It seems that the day is so very long when I get up early, but it isn’t, especially since I conk out early. Last night, admittedly, I stayed up late reading as I always used to, probably because I’d napped in the afternoon, and I did sleep in — all the way until 6:30!

That is so not me — these early hours

Except, apparently, now it is.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator