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.

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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.

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.”)

Memorial Trip

I recently returned from an adventure that can only be called a memorial trip. On my way to my brother’s memorial, I stopped in Nephi, Utah for the night. That truck stop has always seemed a place out of time to me because during a period of turmoil in our lives, Jeff and I spent a very relaxing and pleasant night there. And so it was again, though a bit sad since his presence was only in my memory.

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The next day I stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. I had to smile at the legend of the Indian Maiden who’d leapt to her death after the supposed demise of her lover, and how Mother Nature, to memorialize the depth of her love, created a bridal veil for her. Really? A bridal veil? For a Native American? Still, the falls were lovely.

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The main purpose of the trip was to attend the memorial for my brother and to thank the people who’d looked out for him. It wasn’t so much a service as a pot luck dinner for people who had known, cared about, and cared for my brother. I was a bit nervous about meeting those people because I was the one who’d dumped him on the streets for them to deal with, but they were all very nice. Understood my tears. Hugged me. Beneath their frustration with my brother and their inability at times to deal with his nastiness, I sensed true affection for him. They were  pleased to hear stories of his younger days from me and my siblings and to see photos of him when his future shown brightly, because all they knew of him was the end of his story. I doubt any of us will ever be able to make sense of his life, but then, we’re not really supposed to. It was his life, however tragic it might seem to us. To me.

Clearing out my brother’s stuff (my stuff actually, since he’d given me everything a few years ago) was another sort of memorial. One of the oddest and most enigmatic things I found was a collection of Tarot cards. Although we shared an interest in truth, whether the truth of history, of life, of mysticism, and had often talked for hours in our younger days about such matters, he had never once mentioned the tarot. Nor was the tarot a part of my life at all except for a one-card reading I’d done for myself a while back. And yet, there were all those decks of cards and stacks of books about the tarot. (When I got back, I laid out the decks and contemplated the meaning of the collection as if it were a tarot card reading, but I found no answers.)

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On the return trip, I stopped at a mountain park that had once been a place of refuge for me. I almost never saw anyone back when I used to visit the place; in fact, there hadn’t even been much of a parking lot then. But now, there is no peace. Two parking lots filled with cars, paths filled with loudly chatting folks and screaming kids. A far cry from what used to be my private place.

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Still, the clear air was scented with pine, and between the hordes was a lovely view or two.

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Next, I drove past the road to Lost Park, a place my brother often visited when he was a young and carefree spirit. My siblings and I had planned to take my brother’s ashes there, but the plan didn’t work out. And I’m just as glad. The park is at the end of a 20 miles long, rutted, dirt road. We would have had to leave the ashes somewhere along the road since my car would never have made the journey into the far hills, and that would not have been the same thing at all.

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I spent the night in a mountain town, and outside my motel window was . . .

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Snow!

That small patch was the only snow I saw the entire trip — the weather had been  warm and sunny with a stray sprinkle or two — and that patch was sort of a memorial in itself since I haven’t seen snow in quite a while.

I took a favorite low road through the mountains, eschewing the high passes, then drove through Utah. I stopped at a viewpoint called Black Dragon, though I could see no dragon. Just bright red hills shining in the noonday sun. Weirdly, when I looked at the photo I took, there was the dragon.

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It was a strange journey, with strange portents. For example, on the first day, somehow one of my shoelaces got tangled around the clutch pedal. (I still can’t figure that one out!) And the next day, my new starter stopped starting, but a mobile mechanic took care of that. Later, a pin fell out of the carburetor about a mile from a VW repair place, so it was easy enough to get the problem fixed.

I don’t know what to make of any of this memorial trip, but it certainly was an adventure.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Wander Woman

When I was on my recent overnight hike (I can’t really call it a backpacking trip, though technically I suppose it was since I did carry a backpack, and I did spend the night in the wilderness), I got so absolutely wiped out I could not take another step.

Although I’d planned to spend three nights on the trail, I managed only one night. I can’t feel bad about that — I did get to sleep alone far from civilization, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. And though I gave up, I didn’t give up. I mean I did halt my trek, but not because I couldn’t handle it mentally or emotionally. My body simply stopped working, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

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Because of this experience, I figured the impossible truly is impossible, and I was too tired when I returned to care other than feeling a brief sadness for the death of a dream. The dream originally was to hike the whole Pacific Crest Trail, but I’ve been whittling away at the dream, downsizing it to fit new realities as I discovered them (or as they discovered me). So, if the dream came down to that one night on the trail, well, that’s better than no night.

But here I am, already planning the next backpacking venture, trying to utilize what I learned on this first trek to make a second overnight trip feasible.

The section I want to do is only about eleven or twelve miles long, which just a couple of weeks ago I laughingly thought was too short, but it turns out that the last eight or more miles have to be done in one day because no dispersed camping is allowed in that area, and considering that I can only do about three miles a day, it’s just too much for me. But . . . I can do the first few miles, and if I turn around and head back the way I came, it would make for a respectable overnight trek.

I’ve done most of this section as a day hike, and don’t remember it being particularly difficult despite its uphill nature, but then, I wasn’t carrying much of anything except a small bottle of water and a few nuts for a snack.

(I bought a guide book to the Southern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail, and it’s been fun going through the book and piecing together all the day hikes I’ve done. At the time of the hikes, we carpooled and I never had any idea where I was. Carrying a heavy pack must make a vast difference. Those four miles on my overnight trek were almost impossible, and yet the day hikes I did were all about three or four miles, and I don’t remember any of them being inordinately difficult or exhausting.

One impetus to do this particular hike is that a massive development (16,000 houses, ten schools, two major shopping centers) will soon be built on an erstwhile ranch within sight of the Pacific Crest Trail. Not only will the site be an unsightly sight for hikers, but its 48,000 residents will certainly have an impact on the trail.

For sure, though, I will have to do a lot more backpacking practice to get strong enough. When you are walking on the side of a mountain, with slopes above and below, there are few places to stop and relax, so there really is not much to do on the trail except walk, pause to take in the views, and walk some more. And then there is the problem of carrying all that water, but since the section of the trail I want to do is easily accessible, I might be able to stash some water ahead of time so I don’t have to carry it all.

I also have to figure out what to do about food. I brought plenty, but although I did snack along the way, I could not force myself to eat more than a few bites at the end of the day. Part of the problem, I think, was no place and no way to sit except cross-legged, and that’s hard to do for any length of time. I’ve been researching backpacking chairs, but I’m not sure they are worth their weight, especially since weight is such an issue with me.

And I need to find a way to keep insects from me. I’d sprayed my pants with the insect repellent permethrin, but I still got a couple of sharp stings — from wasps, I think. And nothing kept away the gnats.

So, lots to think about (and do!) if I want to continue being a wander woman.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.