It’s amazing the convoluted paths one’s brain takes when one needs to start building a new life.
Technically, I suppose, it’s never possible to start anew since we always drag ourselves and our experiences with us, but still, for me and others I have recently met, our old life has expired, become unworkable, or no longer exists. In my case, my shared life with my life mate/soul mate no longer exists. He no longer exists, at least not here on earth. I still have many of our shared belongings, but even if I wanted to, there is no way to retrace my steps. Not only that, my current life has expired. When my old life ceased to exist, I filled an interim niche looking after my nonagenarian father. And now he, too, is gone. Even if by some stroke of good luck (or bad) and I were allowed to stay here in my father’s house, it would not be workable because I simply would not have the resources to keep up such a huge place.
And so I am trying to imagine a new life.
I often think of living on foot, at least for a while. Although it seems physically impossible for me, I can’t get the idea out of my head. Could I? Would I? Should I? It’s possible that life itself would dictate my taking the massive first step. For example if my ancient VW were to break down in the middle of nowhere, I would need to start walking. And perhaps I would simply keep on walking.
Or, my latest harebrained idea — a friend has broached the subject of my visiting Florida. A long shot, and only in the first stages of consideration, but my thoughts immediately glommed onto the idea of walking back across the USA if the trip came to fruition. Supposedly, if one is going to make a cross-country trip on foot, east to west is best — probably because there are more resources in the east, such as close-flung towns and more water sources than in the dry west.
I would like to visit a friend in Louisiana, a very dear friend I have yet to meet. Could I walk to her house from deep in the Florida panhandle? There are roads, of course, mainly highways, but then I checked the national trails map, and oh, my. There is a Florida National Scenic Trail for hikers. (Click on the map, and then click again to zoom out if you’d like to see a higher resolution image.) The Florida National Scenic Trail is not finished, but there are connecting spurs via rail-to-trail paths and other such footpaths from completed section to completed section. (Rail-to-trail is a system of abandoned railroad tracks and rail beds that have been converted to various trails.) And so my mind spins wonderful possibilities as well as even more wonderful impossibilities.
I have been thinking about some sort of trek for so long, some day I will have to attempt . . . something. Even if I manage a single day and night, that would still be an adventure.
Meantime, I’m also considering the possibility of some sort of van conversion for an extended road trip. Should I buy something already outfitted like a mini camper? Should I get something inexpensive in case I end up hating the idea? (I’ve been researching renting such a camper van, and the cost for a year is more than the purchase price of a decent used model.) Or should I buy something that would also serve as a city vehicle, and just a throw a mattress in the back to start? Would I want to live in a van for any length of time? (That old Saturday Night Live sketch about living in a van down by the river comes to mind.) And if so, would I want to design and build my own interior as a couple of people have suggested?
I like the idea of living large in small spaces — there seem to be a growing trend to miniscule homes, 300 square feet or less. I considered such a house, even went so far as to check out the feasibility of building one myself, but to tow the finished product would require a stronger vehicle than I have or would want to have. Still, the idea of designing my own place based on my basic needs is an interesting concept. What do I need? A bed, of course. A computer and electricity to run it. Some sort of potty. Maybe cooking facilities, maybe not. Maybe a lovely and lovingly furnished interior, maybe not. Maybe a shower, maybe not. (Yeah, I know, “maybe” includes “maybe not” but I liked the alliteration and the emphasis.)
Some people who have chosen such a lifestyle have omitted bathing facilities from their tiny space, instead opting for a membership at a national health club where hot showers would be available. An interesting solution.
People caution me about planning too much. They keep telling me I have no idea what might happen, and that is true, so I am simply playing with these ideas. Maybe, contrary to my gut feeling, my father’s house won’t sell right away. Maybe someone will offer a suggestion that I fall in love with for my next step, something I didn’t imagine. Maybe . . . well, I did say I have no idea what might happen so it’s foolish to continue listing maybes.
But I will continue to wonder what it is I need from life, what it is I need for life.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.