Dream Come True or Nightmare

Before I bought this house, before I even considered the possibility of buying a house, I’d planned one last epic adventure with what was left of my savings. I was going to go on a year-long road trip, camping out at the various national parks, staying as long as I could at each (two weeks, generally) before moving on to the next one. I’d planned to go south for the winter, north for the summer, and I thought I could stay in motels or with friends when I got tired of being out in the weather.

After my homeless brother died, the idea of having a home of my own grew on me, and when I discovered how inexpensive old houses were in some rural areas, I decided to buy a house instead of taking that trip.

As it turns out, it was an immensely fortunate decision. Not only do I love my house and love owning the house (which surprised me because I never wanted such a responsibility), buying the place saved me from a ghastly experience.

I would have been on the trip this year, dealing not only with some of the worst winter weather in a while, but also park and motel closures, friends in quarantine, and riots. Oh, my! That would have been an epic adventure for sure, though more of a nightmare than a dream come true. I can’t even imagine the horror of such a trip.

Even though the events of this year do impinge on my life somewhat, it’s not really a problem. Oh, I’ve garnered insults and such with some of my writings that attempted to make sense of both The Bob and the riots, and I feel the restlessness of the world (or maybe just my own), but basically, since I’m alone in my snug little house, life has been good.

I’ll probably never be able see those national parks now, especially the iconic ones that everyone should see like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone (the garage ate up any remaining travel funds), but I have the opportunity to make a park of sorts in my own back yard. It might not be as majestic or panoramic or awesome as some of the national parks, but it will be mine. Even if I don’t do anything special with the yard, owning the property and creating a home for myself is an epic adventure of a different kind, more of a dream come true than the nightmare I always thought it would be.

***

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.

Along the Sante Fe Trail

It’s been almost two months since my friend and her sister were here visiting. They came right before all the restrictions, and wow, it seems much longer than that. A lifetime ago. We had a fabulous time exploring the Santa Fe Trail, Bent’s Fort,

and trails along the trail.

I haven’t been on any adventures since then except in books, but today I received a wonderful surprise from my friend, and now I have my own book of adventures to look at when I get tired of the adventures in the Wheel of Time juggernaut.

This friend makes books of all her adventures, so it was a real thrill to get a book of my own highlighting our adventures.

Most of the photos we took were similar, but she took pictures that I didn’t. I knew what the downtown looked liked here, so I didn’t bother with images of the slummy area, but she made the place look quaint and interesting.

We also went on a bit of walking tour in one town and found some interesting stories beyond the Santa Fe Trail mystique.

Her book ended with . . . what else but me and my hat!

I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing parts of her book, but I thought all of us — not just me — needed something fun to think about for a change.

And yes, my friend. Thanks for the memories.

***

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.

 

Wonderful Surprise!

Look!

The workers came to start framing the garage today. Such a treat, having the garage that much closer to being workable, and especially, having something different in my life.

As much of a hermit as I am, it’s still been hard to be so isolated, especially when life has been the same, day after day after day.

But today, things were not the same. Nor are they the same tonight. While three of the men worked on the garage, one worked in the basement, concreting the floor beneath the water heater and fixing a leaking pipe. I was all set to be without water tonight so that the concrete could cure, which I could have handled — sort of like an indoor camping trip — but they managed to seal off the hot water pipes. So I have water! Cold water, but it’s still water.

They’re supposed to be back tomorrow to do more work, which will be great. Not just because of additional progress on the building project, and not just for the entertainment value, but to start using up the materials that have been littering my yard for months. It wasn’t so bad in the winter when I didn’t go out anyway, but now that I have a few plants to take care of, I do have to go out, and it’s rather unsafe trying to meander around equipment and stumbling across uneven ground.

I’m looking forward to having my yard back. Meantime, tomorrow should be another wonderful day filled with joy.

***

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.

An Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue Day

I’m still restless today, desperately in need of something new to do, to think, to see, to say. Just anything new. I’ve never been one to go shopping for shopping’s sake, but I understand the urge for something . . . anything . . . new and different. But shopping, in this time of isolation, isn’t a possibility, and anyway, I don’t need any “thing.” Just a bit excitement, maybe.

Yesterday my bit of excitement was going for a walk, which turned out to be very nice. There also doesn’t seem to be any additional damage to my knee. Actually, the knee seems to be fine; somehow, though, in all that limping the past few weeks, I seem to have pulled a calf muscle. Sheesh. But even that is not bad. I just need to rest the leg today.

So what did I end up doing for excitement today?

I shoveled dirt.

Nope, not with a Cat — that was returned to the rental company a long time ago — but with a plain old shovel.

The ground behind the garage where the last segment of fence was erected was not level, so there are huge gaps between the fence and the ground, which sort of defeats the purpose of a fence since anything could wiggle its way into my yard. So today, I shoveled dirt to try to fill up some of those spaces under the fence.

It might not have been something new since I’ve done a lot of dirt slinging over the years, and it might not have been exciting, but it did need to be done, so it was satisfying in its way.

Hmm. This is beginning to sound like that wedding charm — something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Since the shoveling was both an old and a new experience, and the shovel was borrowed (the workers left it behind when they went off to do another job) so the only thing left is blue. And oh! How blue the skies were!

I also talked to the neighbor across the alley for a few minutes (keeping the requisite six feet apart). And then later my next door neighbor paused while walking her dog to exchange pleasantries, so this turned out to be rather a good old, new, borrowed, and blue 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.

Looking For Excitement

It seems such an affront that not only are we dealing with a virulent disease, lockdowns, and isolation, many of us also have to contend with allergies, various small infirmities . . . and weather.

April snows are not uncommon in Colorado, but still, you’d think we’d be given a pass on inclement weather if nothing else. I know we need the moisture (as long as the cold doesn’t kill my plants) and to be honest, the snow has almost melted, but still, I’m not really in the mood for gloom and doom. I need something exciting to do, though I’m not sure what that “excitement” would look like.

I still have plenty of “emergency” books to read, but the reason they are as yet unread is that I wasn’t all that excited about reading them in the first place. I still have some DVDs I borrowed from a friend months ago, and I suppose I could watch them so I could get them back to her, but the last time I mentioned them, she assured me that she’s not in any hurry for their return.

I could start writing a new book, I suppose, but anything I might write during this time would have a maudlin undertone, and that’s not the sort of attitude I want to perpetuate.

I could bake something, but I certainly don’t want to get started down that road — it’s hard enough to keep from gaining weight because of all the activity without tempting myself to indulge.

So what’s left? Maybe I’ll bundle up, grab my trekking poles, and take a risk with my knee. If that doesn’t calm my restless spirit, any resulting aches in my leg and knee will certainly make me more accepting of my indolence and isolation.

So, that’s what I’ll do. Wish me luck as I head out on my exciting 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.

Trail!

I have missed trails, missed following a path into unknown wonders, so when I found a nature trail at Bent’s Old Fort when my friends and I visited the historic site, I took the opportunity to head out on an adventure. I’d felt as if I had stepped back in time at the fort, and the short hike in the prairie and along the Arkansas River did nothing to dispel that feeling.

I looked back once and saw the fort, but even that sign of civilization soon disappeared from sight,

and all was as it had once been. Prairie, and trees,

and the Arkansas River.

Unless I want to travel a hundred miles or more, or traverse gravelly roads for long distances, this trail seems to be the only trail that is available to me. It’s still further than I want to drive for what is a rather short walk (though with my tweaked knee, that mile and a half seemed like a far piece.) Still, when my garage is done (if it ever is) and I can easily get on my “horse” and head out without having to uncover the vehicle and unlock gates, I’d like to visit the place more frequently. Maybe even find a place where I could take a photo each time I went so I would have a visual presentation of the slow-changing scene.

It could be an interesting project, and even better, would help me overcome my aversion to driving to a place merely to walk.

***

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.

Bent’s Old Fort

In 1833, William and Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on what was then the border of Mexico so they could trade with Plains Indians and trappers. For many years it was the only primarily white settlement on the Santa Fe trail between Missouri and Mexico. The fort was abandoned in 1849 because of disease and disasters. It was resurrected in 1976. The reconstruction was based on archaeological excavations, various drawings and diaries. Supposedly, the original plans for the fort were found in an attic in Germany, though I don’t know it that’s the truth or was merely an interesting story peddled to visitors.

My visiting friends and I went on an excursion to see the fort. I didn’t think it would be much of an adventure since the fort is a reconstruction and not the real thing, but once I stepped inside the gates, I was glad I went.

I felt as if I’d stepped back in time.

The whole place was as authentic as possible, with a general store

And stores

A blacksmith shop, with the huge bellows hanging from the ceiling on the upper right and attached to the adobe stove on the left

The maze of catwalks and ramps leading to the various sections on the second floor

The guard tower from the outside looking in

And the from the inside looking out

The resident peacock

and peahen.

In the summer, there are some encampments where the fort is filled with the various characters, such as the Bent brothers, as well as fur traders, the blacksmith, and the blood-letting doctor rather than the single character who entertained us. Should be fun!

***

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.

Adventure!

A friend is here visiting, taking time from a disappointing road trip from California. Their trip was planned months ago, and they had no idea there would be any but the usual problems of long-distance travel. But we are in the time when things are shutting down to keep people from congregating, so many of the places they’d planned to see were closed. Now, they face additional closures, and are unsure of how and when they will be able to return home.

But in the middle of all that turmoil came their visit here, to southeastern Colorado. Considering the problems they’d encountered elsewhere, their visit here might stand as one of the highlights of their trip.

We didn’t do much, just spent time together and went exploring. One of the places we visited was Fort Lyon — an army fort turned into a naval tuberculosis sanitarium turned into a VA neuropsychiatry hospital turned into a Colorado prison turned into the Fort Lyon Coalition for the homeless. Whew! A lot of history!

One interesting little building on the grounds is the Kit Carson Chapel. Carson didn’t really have anything to do with the chapel, other than his dying in Surgeon General Tilton’s quarters on May 23, 1868. When that particular building started falling apart, the VA made a new building out of the rocks. Originally, the building was a museum, then eventually was designated the Kit Carson Chapel.

When Colorado took over the facility, one of the agreements was that they would move the chapel to a more accessible location by the entrance. The building is available for weddings and funerals. Although it sits in solitary splendor, when one drives from Fort Lyon National Cemetery through a tree-lined road one sees the chapel in an entirely different aspect.

Although the return trip for my friends seems fraught with uncertainly, one thing is certain — we had a good 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.

Talking about Walking

I attended a city council strategy session last night. Part of the discussion was walkability, making the town a safer and easier place to walk. The main thing that I can see is that so many of the sidewalks need to be repaired, but apparently, there is nothing the mayor and council can do about that since it’s up to the property owner to maintain their sidewalks. The council can do something about the crosswalks, specifically the ends of the sidewalk that lead down into the street. So many of those curbs are broken, or too high, or missing. They need to make them accessible.

During the discussion, someone suggested putting bike paths on the wide streets, but oh, my, what a terrible idea! (And unnecessary in many cases because of existing sidewalks and because many of the streets are so lightly traveled they’re already serving as walking/biking paths.) First, dedicated paths would take away street parking, and second, they are dangerous to pedestrians. Since I’ve walked mile upon mile no matter where I’ve been, I have a lot of experience with bike/pedestrian paths, so I know how dangerous they are. Many bike riders do not give the right of way to pedestrians, whizzing past walkers, and often forcing them into car lanes. So . . . no. I sure hope they paid attention to my expert opinion.

People who don’t walk except to and from their cars, don’t know the challenges of walking or finding safe places to walk. After the meeting yesterday, we got to talking about possible places for me to walk in the area, and one suggestion was to walk in the community center. Apparently, the basketball court is open in the morning to give seniors a safe place to walk, but oh, how utterly boring! And how many laps to make three miles? Sixty? Eek.

Another suggestion was to walk around the golf course. Whether he meant walk around the course on the course itself, or walk around the outside of the course, is immaterial because neither is possible. The golf course is surrounded by barbed wire, so even when no one is golfing, the pathways are inaccessible. And to walk around the outside perimeter? Well, there is a little matter of locked gates and no way around them.

They also told me there was a pond out that way, with perhaps a trail around it, but if so, it had to be inside the golf course because there was no road to a pond. Still, it was a bit of an adventure, walking to an area I hadn’t yet explored.

I was told it is also possible to walk along the dikes next to the river, but no one could tell me how to get there without trespassing on private property, and oh, by the way, there are more gates along the dikes.

I’ll keep looking. There has to be a scenic (and relatively safe) place to walk around here.

***

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 Trip of a Lifetime

The trip referred to in the title is not a day trip or road trip or any kind of fun trip. It is a trip, as in . . . splat.

It was a gorgeous day with mostly clear skies, a warm sun, and a caressing breeze. I went for a walk because it seemed the perfect way to participate in such bounty at the very beginning of winter. As I passed the carport on the way out of my yard, I noticed the strap that was still attached to one of the support poles. The strap had been used to secure my just-delivered gates and even though the gates have now been installed for a few weeks, the strap is still there. Why? I don’t know. Haven’t a clue why the workers left it there.

There are a lot of tools and supplies spread out over my yard waiting for the contractor and his employees to return to work. Even more than the rolls of fencing or the bucket of ties, that strap suddenly struck me as hazardous, and I thought I really should do something about it. But I didn’t want to interrupt my walk, so I continued on.

Since I was out, I stopped by the grocery store, and headed home with several pounds of apples, a pound of nuts, a pound of butter, and maybe a pound or two of something else. A lot of pounds, in other words. I wasn’t carrying the groceries in my hand but on my shoulders via a BackTPack, which is supposed to be better for the back than even a properly fitting backpack.

A couple of blocks from the house, I felt a desperate need to relieve my bladder, so I quickened my steps. “Just a few more minutes,” I told myself as I opened the gate into the yard. I hurried, bypassing the zigzagging sidewalk and cutting through the carport and —

Yep. You guessed it.

It was the hardest I had ever fallen, partly from the velocity — I was really hurrying when my foot got caught in the strap — and partly from the weight of the groceries I was carrying. Even when I’d destroyed my arm, I hadn’t fallen as hard. Back then, I landed on my wrist, and bounced onto my arm, pulverizing the wrist, destroying the elbow, and splintering my radius. I had no other injury, not even a bruise, since that arm bore all my weight.

This time, I landed flat, a full-frontal drop onto the bare ground. Luckily, I caught myself before my face hit the concrete sidewalk that I should have been walking on. I lay for a few seconds, shocked and scared and hurting and angry at myself and ruefully aware of the irony of the situation (not just the strap that I hadn’t moved when I should have, but also having mentioned just the other day that the last instructions my orthopedic surgeon gave me before releasing me from his care were that I wasn’t allowed to fall). When I took stock, I realized nothing was broken, nothing was sprained, so I clambered to my feet and hobbled into the house. I divested myself of my groceries and coat, emptied my still-full bladder, got cleaned up, slathered my knees with arnica gel, and dug out my ice pack. (Not peas, but a medley of stir-fry vegetables.)

My left knee hurt the most, so it got the attention. Later, though, other pains started making themselves felt. Since I was so stiff and sore and afraid of my joints stiffening up even further in the night, I took a couple of ibuprofen at bedtime. (Oddly, I never even thought of taking pain pills until a friend mentioned she needed to take some to relieve the pain from her fall, which had happened shortly before mine). I managed to sleep, at least as well as I ever do.

Today, I can feel the rest of my body, not just the knees. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Some of the pains I understand, like that knee (which must have been the first thing to hit), and the side of my foot, which might have been wrenched by the strap. Some pains I don’t understand, such as my very sore triceps. Nor do I understand why my deformed wrist and forearm don’t hurt. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad they don’t — but I distinctly remember landing on that hand, too, and there is a small bruise on my wrist to prove it.

Needless to say, I am taking it easy.

I’m hoping this really is the trip of a lifetime, and that I never fall that hard again. But dare I confess? I have yet to go out and find a way to remove that strap.

***

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.