Such a Great Adventure

Periodically, I write about the frustrations of being a homeowner, but those frustrations are minor, and generally have to do with workers not showing up when they say they are going to. But even that, now, isn’t much of an issue. I’ve simply adjusted my thinking to accepting the vagaries of the repair business. If they come, they come. Either way, being a houseowner is such a great adventure!

For the past few years, I’ve rented rooms in houses in various stages of cleanliness, though I should say in various stages of filth, since most of the places were not at all clean. (My room was always as clean as I could get it, but the ground-in dust made it difficult to get it truly clean.)

The owner of the last place I lived had a maid who came once a week to clean the common areas, such as the kitchen, but an hour after she left, the place reverted to a state of unpleasantness. I could never understand the stickiness of the kitchen floor, the mess in the microwave, the absolutely disgusting sponge scrubber. I couldn’t believe it was that difficult to keep things clean; I even wondered at times if the problem was me, since obviously, I was the common factor in all those places.

But no.

Now that I have a kitchen of my own, I realize the problem wasn’t me. I continue to clean up after myself as I’d done these past years living in other people’s houses, but now the kitchen stays clean. And oh! I find such joy in the spotless microwave, non-sticky floor, pristine scrubber.

I wasn’t always this way, of course. When I was younger, I could barely make it through a day of work, let alone take care of my apartment too, so dishes piled up, clutter seemed to rule the day, and the carpet didn’t get vacuumed nearly enough. (I’ve always disliked vacuuming. Don’t know why, but it just seems too much of an effort to get out the machine, unwind the cord, and push it around. Now, with wooden floors, I don’t have to vacuum. Yay!!)

Somehow, over the years, I’ve developed a sense of order. (Just don’t look at my desk! That is still one place that my natural disorderliness holds sway.) Which makes things so nice in this lovely little house of mine. And makes the adventure of owning a house such a joy.

Shortest Adventure

Yesterday I discovered the shortest highway in Colorado, and one of the shortest in the USA. It runs exactly one mile (1.6 Kilometers).

It seems odd that such a short little country road would be termed a highway, but it leads to a national cemetery and what was once a VA hospital, so apparently, it was an important road, and from what I can gather, is under the jurisdiction of the state rather than the county.

What you see in the above photo is the highway in its entirely. Cool, huh?

It wasn’t much of an adventure, to be sure, but it was short. Nothing actually happened to make it an adventure, other than the thought of such a short highway makes me smile.

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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.

Event Adventure

I attended a community event yesterday geared toward addressing opioid addiction in the area.

The woman I went with has to take opioids for her severe pain, and hasn’t become addicted. Neither did I become addicted when taking opioids after I destroyed my arm. In fact, back then, the doctor told me I wouldn’t get addicted even though I was on super-high dosages. One thing no one has ever explained is why some people get addicted, some don’t, and how to tell the difference. Despite all the hype, opioids aren’t a problem for everyone, and if those opposed to the drugs manage to get them banned, a whole lot of people will be in a whole lot of pain.

But that wasn’t what the event was about. It was more for those who need the services of the community to help with their present addiction. One big focus was the use of Narcan. A couple of local youths put on a brief skit about how to use Narcan and to show that there are no effects for someone who doesn’t need it. One sober youth fell to the ground. The other went to the rescue, opened the Narcan, and squirted the Narcan up his nose.

(My murder-mystery brain went into overdrive, and I immediately imagined they had killed the poor fellow. He was fine, even though he’d accidentally been given a double dose, but in a future book, he won’t be. Poor guy doesn’t even know he’s going to be murdered in absentia. Not by Narcan, of course, but by some drug that had been substituted by nefarious folk.)

After that sixty-second training course, we were given boxes of Narcan to use on all our drug-addicted friends. So, if you come to my house and fall down in a drugged stupor, I’ll be able to revive you — unless I murder you first for bringing drugs (and bad karma) into my house.

Although we were told that Narcan is safe, I can’t imagine there is any drug that is perfectly safe for everyone, so if by chance you did come to my place and collapse from your addiction, and if by chance I allow you to live, I won’t give you the Narcan. I wouldn’t want it to interfere with all the legal drugs the doctors have you taking.

To be honest, I was more interested in the coloring book that was being given out at one of the booths. I remember when coloring books were for children — now they are for adults. Apparently, kids have better things to do than color someone else’s artwork.

Oddly, many years before the adult coloring fad hit, Jeff and I thought coloring might be a soothing activity, so we got coloring books and crayons. Despite the intriguing designs in the books, we were both bored out of our skulls. So, if you do come to visit, and if you don’t expire from drugs (or from me), you can color in what is sure to be a still-pristine coloring book.

By far the most interesting thing about the evening is that while we were standing in line to be served dinner (free to all of us who attended), two different people came and talked to me as if they knew me, though I had never seen either of them before.

One of the people, wearing a shirt saying, “Don’t meth with me,” mentioned he always saw me walking by his house, and another asked about my car. Admittedly, I do sort of stand out, what with my hats and my vintage vehicle; nevertheless, it’s discomfiting to find out that I know fewer people than who know me.

And here I thought that by settling down my adventurous days would be over. Who knew community events in small towns are their own adventure!

***

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.

Happy Twelfth Bloggiversary to Me!

I created this blog exactly twelve years ago today, back when I hadn’t yet become a published author, back when I had just acquired my first computer and didn’t even know what a blog was. I had read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so I decided to “act as if” I were going to be published in the hopes of making it happen. I had nothing to say, no one to say it to, no reason to say anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started blogging on September 24, 2007, and haven’t stopped since, though admittedly, I don’t post as much as I once did.

Did acting as if I were going to get published work? Perhaps, though there is no direct connection that I know of. Still, one and a half years after starting this blog, my first two books were published. I now have eight books available: five suspense novels, one mystery, and two non-fiction books about grief.

Nine and a half years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, and his death catapulted me into a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. This blog sustained me during the years I cared for my father, and it gave me a place to rest after my father died, when I was thrown out into the world, alone and orphaned. And this blog offered me a place to call home when I set out alone on a five-month, 12,000 mile cross-country road trip, gave me a place where I could talk about all the wonders I was seeing. Often on that trip, when I was between visits with online friends, I thought of William Cowper’s words: How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, whom I may whisper, solitude is sweet. And this blog became a place where I could whisper, “Solitude is sweet.”

Currently, as I am settling into a home of my own, it’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges and adventures — and joys — come my way, this blog will be here for me.

Although I’d planned to post every day when I started blogging, during the first four years I only managed to blog three or four times a week, but exactly eight years ago today, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and once that initial commitment was fulfilled, I continued to post every day for four and a half years. I probably would still be blogging every day except I got out of the habit of daily posts while on my great adventure because so often on the road, I had no internet connection, not even with my phone. And now that I am embarking on the new adventure of homeownership, complete with internet, I have few internal (or external) conflicts to give me blog topics.

But still, the blog is here, always welcoming me when I do find something to say, generally once or twice a month, but perhaps, when I get tired of my new offline world, I’ll be back here every day.

During the past twelve years, I have written 2,480 blogs, received 17,489 comments, and garnered 780,711 views. It amazes me that anyone wants to read anything that I write here. This is so much a place for just letting my thoughts roam, for thinking through problems, and (I admit it) for pontificating a bit. It’s been a kick, writing this blog, and I want to thank all of you for indulging my whims and whimsys.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past nine and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

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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.

Tarantula Hunt

Ever since I started researching southeastern Colorado as a place to settle down, I’d come across references to the tarantula migration. I was so excited at the possibility of seeing masses of tarantulas wandering around, that I wrote the dates of the migration on my calendar for if/when I moved to the area.

Well, I did move here (been here six months!) This year’s tarantula migration has passed its peak, and so far I haven’t seen a single one of the creatures.

I’d heard that they were often sighted near the Comanche National Grasslands, so I set off on a quest to hunt for tarantulas. My plan was to go to Vogel Canyon in the grasslands for a hike, even though it’s much further than I would have liked to travel for what was to be a rather short walk. The thought of getting back on a trail, however, as well as the possibility of seeing tarantulas made me discount the distance.

I followed directions, turned off the highway onto the well-marked dirt road for the long drive to the canyon, and stopped. My vintage car runs well, but it is — as much as I hate to admit it — very old, and dirt/gravel roads shake up the poor thing. I always imagine one of those cartoon-like scenarios where I am driving along, and the sides and roof fall off the car. There I would sit in the seat, clutching my steering wheel, with the pieces of my car all around me. I have been assured by mechanics that such a thing would never happen, but I can’t take a chance, especially since I when I am on my own.

Disappointed (this was the third time I went searching for a place to hike only to be stymied by bad roads), I headed back home, keeping a watch for tarantulas. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single one.

As it turns out, “tarantula migration” is a misnomer. Tarantulas don’t migrate. They live in burrows, and when the nights turn cool at the end of summer, the males go in search of mates. The females stay home and hope for visitors. Or maybe they don’t hope. Maybe, like me, they are perfectly content to be alone. In fact, the hairy beasts aren’t even tarantulas. True tarantulas, apparently, are small wolf spiders that live near Taranto in Southern Italy, hence the name. What we call tarantulas are bird-eating spiders or Theraphosids.

Despite the name “tarantula migration” being doubly wrong, my intent was still the same — to see the so-called migration of the so-called tarantula.

Although I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, it wasn’t a wasted trip. It was a beautiful almost-fall day, the drive was pleasant, I saw an area I hadn’t yet visited, and I got a photo of the hills that the canyon hides behind.

Still, as adventures go, this was a rather tepid endeavor.

***

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.

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.