Upsizing

I’m sitting here at an open window — my window — enjoying the pleasant breeze. Later, I’m sure, it will be hot, but for now, it’s perfect weather. (Meaning I am neither huddled in layers of clothes nor dripping with sweat.)

It’s odd to think that I own a window. Actually, seventeen windows. (Eighteen if you count the board on the garage I painted to look like a window.)

It’s odd, too, to think I own a floor.

I haven’t become entirely used to thought of owning a whole house, but the idea is growing on me. Still, when I was admiring my freshly mopped floor the other day, it struck me that the floor belonged to me. I’ve always rented or lived with someone else, and I assumed I’d always live in a house or room someone else owned. I’ve also always been a minimalist since possessions tend to weigh me down, but here I am, upsizing when so many others are downsizing.

So now I own windows, floors, ceilings, walls, roof. And furniture!!

I also own a town. Well, I don’t own it in that I don’t have a deed to the town, but I own it by dint of walking the streets, buying at the stores, volunteering for various events, talking to people I meet.

All this ownership has masked one lack — there is nowhere close by to hike. I could drive long distances to go to the mountains, and someday I might, but for now, I stay close to home.

I did find a nice loop walk, though. It takes me along the edge of town and out to the country. The views are simple — I live too far east of the mountains to catch even a glimpse of a peak.

I’ve almost always lived within view of the mountains, so this viewlessness is rather a change, but (juggling hands, here) my own house . . . or . . . mountain view. Not a hard choice!

***

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.

Being Found

During all the years of feeling lost after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I wondered how one restarted a life. I knew I couldn’t continue being a virtual nomad, knew I needed to go somewhere, but where? When you can go anywhere, how do you choose? And once you’re there, how do you start over?

Well, here I am, in the midst of my new life, and to be honest, I still don’t know the answer to my quandary. It’s as if I was lifted out of one life and plopped down in the middle of another, with no real transitional period.

Within just a few days of being in my new home, I made friends. Although many of the people I’ve met have lived in this area their entire life, they are not at all cliquish, but have welcomed me into their midst. And each acquaintance, each friend, has introduced me to others, so that I am building a strong base. It doesn’t seem as if I’ve been here less than four months. I’m right smack dab in the middle of . . . well, a life.

Recently, I ended up going on a train ride through the Royal Gorge sponsored by a senior group. The only way to see the gorge from below is by that train — the walls of the gorge are too steep to hike down, and at the bottom, there are only the engorged Arkansas River and the thin line of tracks.

As I was sitting on the train, staring out the window, I had a hard time making the mental adjustment from the desert to the river. It didn’t seem real. How did it happen, that such a short time ago, I was a somewhere else, and now I was here?

Mostly I don’t think about such things. I just go with the flow, though occasionally the miracle, the blessing of my current life — like the Royal Gorge — strikes me as being so very immense.

I once was lost, and now I have found myself living a life I could never have imagined. I always aspired to a simple life. Owning not much of anything.

I suppose in some ways I pictured my life as that Royal Gorge trip — traveling light, going with the flow, seeing what there is to see.

But the train stopped.

And now, when my peers are downsizing, I am upsizing. I never wanted to own a house — way too much responsibility! I never even wanted to own any furniture, and yet here I am, with a house full of furniture.

It makes me wonder how else the years of grief have changed me.

For the better, I would hope.

***

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.

Revenge of the Roses

I’ve been having a different sort of adventure lately — gardening. Or I should say, trying to garden. My next-door neighbor let me transplant a few of his lovely purple spikes. He couldn’t remember the name, just that he had some seeds he’d tossed about his yard a few years ago. Such a hardy plant!

I also transplanted some vinca that I found in my yard. They were growing near the driveway, and I didn’t want them buried under a layer of gravel, so I moved them to a safer area.

Both plants are doing well, or as well as can be expected after being operated on by an unskilled practitioner.

The roses, however, are a different story.

A large patch of roses is growing next to my garage. Technically, they are on my neighbor’s property, but he said I could remove them if necessary to paint the garage. I took him at his word, and spent an hour or so attacking those well-entrenched roses.

And they attacked back.

They caught my foot in a tendril lying along the ground, and the next thing I knew, I was lying in a bed of thorns.

Ouch.

Despite the vindictiveness of these roses, they are lovely, so I transplanted them. I’m hoping they will forgive me the clumsiness of the operation and take well to their new location. As far as I know, roses don’t hold a grudge. But we’ll see.

Tomorrow I will weed an area of the yard where a couple of honey locusts planted themselves. It’s a perfect spot for them, so hopefully they will appreciate my efforts.

Meantime, it’s time for a cup of tea, a good book (or any book for that matter) and a rest for my weary bones, sore muscles, and thorn-pricked skin.

Wishing you a flower-full day.

***

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.

Ghost Adventure

I try to drive once a week to keep my car running and to prevent today’s low quality gas from rotting the fuel lines. Mostly on my driving day, I’ve been heading to the bigger town to get items I can’t get around here, and to pick up the groceries too heavy or bulky to carry when I’m on foot, but today, I didn’t need enough to warrant an errand trip. So I went adventuring.

I’ve been wanting to go hiking in the the state wildlife area that’s just a few miles from here, but when I finally found the area, I was only able to drive about a quarter of a mile on those washboard roads before I gave up. Such roads rattle my poor old car, and I always worry I will end up like one of those jalopies in comic strips, where the hero hits a bump, and that old car falls to pieces.

I drove very carefully back out to the paved road, and headed toward a nearby historic area with a ghost town. Many of the buildings had been washed away in a long ago flood, but the ones that remain are in good shape and house  a museum of sorts.

This ghost town is on the Santa Fe trail — a ghost trail for real. Those travelers who didn’t die on the trail have been settled in graveyards for a century or more.

After walking the few feet of trail that’s in the historic region, I moseyed along the ghost river. This river bed was once a raging river, though in it’s current incarnation, it’s a placid creek about a half mile away from this river bed. (Though when the rains come, it reverts back to it’s wild youth, or so I’ve been told.)

It was a gorgeous day, perfect for taking photos and wandering the grassy trails. The only downside of the trip (well, besides not getting to hike in the state wildlife area) was plaque honoring the women who’d once lived there. Not that I object to the mention of the women. It was the story attached to one Indian woman that haunts me. She was married to a white man, and the lands she got as reparation for the Sand Creek Massacre helped build his empire. It just struck me as so wrong that the same sort of folks who destroyed the native peoples were in any way allowed to benefit. The cynic in me wonders how many men, married to Indian women, were instrumental in getting the reparations.

But they, too, are ghosts now — the man and his property-bearing wife. And anyway, my own ancestors were starving in a country far away across the ocean when all this happened, so it’s not as if I bear any personal responsibility. I will let it go and just remember the gorgeous day and my ghost walk under the lovely blue Colorado skies.

***

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.

Life on the Trail

I haven’t yet taken up my perennial pastime of long rambling walks, though on one lovely spring day I did follow a road out of town to see where it went. I didn’t go far, only a mile and a half or so, and what I saw was . . . a whole lot of things or a whole lot of nothings depending on your point of view. Mostly, there was the road bounded on both sides by brown-grass fields, an occasional field overrun with purple mustard (which smells like sour milk to me and melted crayons to other people).

A few creatures stopped to nod at me and welcome me to the neighborhood.

And at the beginning — and end — of my journey was the courthouse.

I am living on the Santa Fe Trail, though in this particular political climate, I’m not sure what to think about that. Is it something to brag about, be ashamed of, or ignored altogether? Whatever the truth, it’s hard to ignore the trail since some of the roads around here follow the trail, and there are reminders everywhere. (It’s odd to think how often I thought of living — backpacking — on a long trail, and here I am. Life seems to be something of a punster.)

I used to love history, no matter whose history it was, because it seemed to me past events and other cultures were an indication of who we are as a species, but nowadays, with accusations of “cultural appropriation” heaped even on youngsters decked out in tribal wear for Halloween, I’m not sure it’s wise to see myself other than what I am today. (Whatever that may be.)

It’s amazing to think I haven’t even been here a month. I’ve made friends. (Meet Butters, who loves my little awning.)

I’ve joined the art guild, made plans to go to a dinner theater put on by a local church, am getting to know a couple of street people, and frequently visit the library.

Next week, workers are supposed to come to do some repairs around the house, and I’m hoping that this time, next week will actually come. (He’s been promising “next week” for weeks now.) It would be nice to finish unpacking, though I am getting used to making my way around the maze of my belongings.

As for today, well . . . when I finish here, I’ll fix asparagus in my new asparagus steamer (a housewarming gift) in my new kitchen and read a new book from the library.

Life on the Trail is good.

***

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.

The Dark Underbelly of Home Ownership

Although I was hesitant to post a photo of my creepy basement, enough people wanted to see it that I figured I should go ahead and post the image.

I don’t suppose it’s really all that creepy, just . . . old. The little room off to the left is the old coal bin back when coal used to be the most up-to-date heating system. What doesn’t show in this photo is the crawl space that surrounds this dug out part of the basement. The walls are only about shoulder height — the rest is a wasteland of dirt, junk, cables and conduits.

It seems the perfect setting for a murder mystery, or rather it did until I realized how trite the setting would be.

One day, though, when the  contractor has time to redo the floors and walls, I have no idea what (or who) we might find buried behind those cracking walls.

And so the adventure continues . . .

***

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.

My New House!

People worried about my buying a house I’d only seen in photos, but I knew immediately it was my house, and so it is.

Some things need to be fixed such as the enclosed porch foundation (which I knew about) and the crumbling crypt that passes for a basement, but I have been assured by two different inspectors that the house is solid. Other than that, the house is perfect for me.

I am especially enjoying the antique touches from the 1920s when the house was built — original hardwood floors, glass doorknobs, and the pull down seat in the now-modern bathroom.

Even more, I love the new kitchen And the walk-in shower. And … well, all of it!

I haven’t done much exploring yet, except for the house itself, but I did go and get a library card. The library is only about four blocks away, so it reminds me of when I was a kid and walked to the library every day in the summer.

The weather has been great, and I have a hunch it will continue being great because I need a storm. The contractor who is going to fix my porch and basement is so backed up with outside work, that he can only make time to do this inside work when the weather is too harsh for his other jobs.

But it will all work out. Meantime, I will enjoy the rest of my house.

My home!

***

(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.”)

Good Madness and Magic and Dreams and Surprising Myself

Good madness and magic and dreams and surprising myself are all pinkie promises I made to a friend on New Year’s Day. My newest adventure (buying a house — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town to be sure, but still a house) fulfills all those promises.

Did I surprise myself? Oh, yes! I don’t particularly like owning things — they weigh heavy on my soul — and I especially never wanted to own a house (so many possible problems and such a responsibility), but after the death of my homeless brother this past summer, the idea got planted in my head, and I let it blossom. In a way, it’s his final gift to me.

This latest adventure, while potentially life-transforming, has been relatively sedate so far. Mostly, I’ve just been e-signing documents, figuring out the logistics of a move, and packing.

It should be interesting, after all these years of feeling lost, of not knowing where to go — of not knowing how to even figure out where to go — to see what happens now that I’ve made my decision. What will I do with the empty space in my head? The space all that thinking —and rethinking and re-rethinking — has taken up.

So many possibilities!

Some people think it’s weird that I am buying a house I have never seen, but I have seen photos and had two different inspections, so I’m not exactly walking into the situation blindfolded. I don’t know how I will feel when I walk into the door and see the house in person for the first time, but I expect to be excited, to feel trepidation, maybe even to . . . fall in love with the place.

I’ll have to wait until I get there to post photos. I don’t want to post the link to the house because I don’t like the idea of the whole world knowing exactly where I will be living, but soon we will all see it!

Closing is in six days. I won’t be there for the closing, but I will be there a few days afterward.

And then my grand adventure of good madness and magic and dreams and surprising myself will really begin.

***

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.

Adventurous Spirit

A legacy of my grief for my life mate/soul mate is a sense of adventure. During the worst of my grief, this adventuresomeness was more of a need than a sense. I don’t know if the extra effort adventure took helped balance the pain, if doing something epic helped make me feel alive, or if I simply wanted to keep from drowning in loneliness, but for whatever reason, I sought adventure.

Now, after more than eight years, I don’t crave adventure in the same way but a sense of adventure has become part of me.

I’m on a road trip, and because of an unexpected snowstorm road trip, I had to stay an extra night at a motel rather than heading on down the road, which tickled me. And when the motel lost power for a few hours, I couldn’t help smiling. It all just seemed so . . . adventurous.

I can live with that.

***

(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.”)

Driving Through New Mexico

Of all the parks and monuments I’ve visited during the past couple of years, the strangest has to be Petroglyph National Monument. Oh, the park itself is lovely, and there were plenty of side trails so that I managed to avoid most of the other visitors and have a peaceful commune with nature. The oddity is that the only way to get from the visitor’s center to the various trails is to leave the park and meander for miles through city streets. And the trail I hiked abuts a suburb. Signs of an ancient civilization on one side of the trail, and signs of a current civilization on the other side — such an incongruity!

But then, I find all of New Mexico incongruous, especially in a time where people are over-sensitive to cultural appropriation. I mean, an entire city filled with modern buildings built to look like the original adobe houses? To the best of my knowledge, I doubt any of those old adobes came equipped with two and three car garages, and yet the new copies have them. Yep. Inconcongrous.

Can a people appropriate their own culture? There are hideously garish buildings owned by indiginous folks filled with “Native American” artifacts made in China for sale to people of other cultures.

Incongruous.

Oh, and of course, tribal casinos galore.

Can you tell I’ve had too much time to think? Although all this over-thinking might make me sound curmudgeonly, the truth is, I greatly enjoyed my drive (and hike!) in New Mexico.

I suppose that, too, seems incongruous.

***

(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.”)