Ever since I made the commitment to do a solo backpacking trip in May, I’ve had a strange feeling, one to which I am so unaccustomed that it’s taking a while for me to recognize the emotion. Maybe excitement. Perhaps anticipation. Or could it be . . . happiness?
It’s hard to tell. I haven’t felt lighthearted since Jeff fell ill decades ago. Watching him waste away destroyed my happiness, and the long years of grief after his death certainly didn’t do anything to remind me what happiness felt like. And even though dancing has been good for me, brought me back to life after Jeff died, it hasn’t been a consistently lighthearted endeavor. Sometimes it’s frustrating learning a new dance. Sometimes it’s hard making my body do what it’s supposed to do. (Yeah, point those toes!) And then there always seems to be one individual I have a hard time dealing with. (For me, dancing is about paying attention, everyone doing what they are supposed to, all moving as one — the zen of it. And some people insist on doing their own thing, no matter what the teacher says. I try not to let it bother me, but the truth is, their improvisations destroy the energy, pain amelioration, mental stimulation, and the joy that synchronized dancing brings.)
Still, it could be that this feeling has to do at least partly with dance classes. We are learning fabulous dances in both Hawaiian class and Belly dance, as well as reclaiming a great tap dance I sort of learned at the very beginning that got lost from disuse. And Hawaiian class was great this past week, going through all our old routines, which truly gave me the zen of dance feeling.
But that can’t be all of it, because there have been many such dances and days over the years. Mostly, I think, the lightheartedness has to have come from the idea of the backpacking trip.
A long time ago I read an article about dreams. If, for example, your dream is to visit Paris, and you are unable to go there for whatever reason, the suggestion was to figure out exactly what you want from the visit and what would give you the feeling you craved. Do you want the joy of sitting in an outdoor café eating brioche and sipping Café au Lait? Eating delicious French food in a fancy French restaurant? Visiting art galleries? Then try to find a substitute for whatever it is that you want. If you can’t go to a French café in France, find one near you. If you can’t afford an expensive French restaurant, save up your money and treat yourself — though it might be outside your budget, it would be a heck of a lot cheaper than airfare to France, and might give you a taste of the dream. And if art galleries are what you most desire, then visit those you can in this country. Or look for traveling exhibits from the Louvre.
What I’m getting at here is that whatever it is that I want from a remote backpacking trip, I am apparently getting at least a part of it now, though I have no idea what it might be. It’s possible that roaming the desert with a twenty-pound pack makes me feel as if I am already on that mythical trip. It could be the thought of walking around with my house (a tent, a sleeping system, and a camping stove qualifies as a house, right?) on my back like a turtle amuses me, even though at the moment, the turtle effect is only in my mind since the pack is filled with water bottles. (Each .5 ml bottle weighs approximately a pound, which makes it easy to add weight and calculate the total.) It could be that I like the challenge of training. It could be a lot of things, but I don’t suppose the reason matters.
All I know is that I woke this morning with a lilt in my heart that even the soreness of today’s saunter couldn’t dissipate.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.