Gorgeous Autumn Day

I’ll bet you can’t guess what I did today! Aww, you guessed it. Where else would I be on such on gorgeous autumn day but out working in my yard? Of course, if you guessed blogging or being on the internet, that would have been a sure bet, too, because here I am. Or if you guessed reading, that too would have been a win because that’s how I will spend the rest of the day.

Hmm. Sounds as if I live too narrow a life. I might have to do something about that eventually to keep from the dreaded stagnation (dreaded by me, that is), but for now, there’s a lot of work to do, not just the usual maintenance, such as watering and mowing the grass and digging weeds, but also getting ready for late fall planting (lilies and wildflowers) and preparing for winter.

It seems as if summer was never-ending, but then, in just a snap of the fingers, it was over. I know it was a long, hot four months, but in retrospect, the whole summer was truncated. Except for the work I did, though, there wasn’t much to distinguish the days from one another. There seemed to be few summer flowers, and those that did come up, like the lilies and day lilies were swamped in wildflowers or weeds. Now, though, there is plenty of color! Zinnias. Amaranth. Chrysanthemums. New England Asters. Marigolds.

In another snap of the fingers, winter will be here, but I’m not going to think of that — I’ll just enjoy the lovely fall weather as long as it lasts. (Warm days, cool nights — what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure whether I should use the term “autumn” or “fall” for this post. I recently came across one of those USA-bashing comments intimating that the sophisticated British use the term autumn but the uncouth and simple Americans use “fall” (named because of the falling leaves). I certainly didn’t want to bring ridicule down on my head for using the wrong word, so I looked up the origin of both terms. It turns out that “fall” is not something you can lay at our American feet. Both words originated in Britain. Autumn was first used in the 1300s. Fall was first used in the 1500s. But the correct term for this season is (or at least it was before 1300) “harvest.”

Still, whatever the name for this season — fall or autumn or harvest — it certainly has been a pleasant and colorful (and exhausting) one for me.

***

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.

A Burden I Didn’t Know I Was Carrying

A few days ago, I wrote about rethinking this whole blogging thing. Since I had nothing else to write about, I’d been writing about the one thing I know — me — and I’d come to the conclusion it wasn’t healthy or smart to put so much of myself out there.

I thought it would be difficult to break the daily blogging habit of almost three years, but in the end, it was simple. I did what I felt like doing, which was keep my thoughts to myself. Actually, it wasn’t that I wanted to keep my thoughts to myself, but that I didn’t want to have any thoughts in the first place. It’s hard, of course, not to think, but it’s one thing to let one’s thoughts slide into the mind and then slide right out again, and another thing to try to sift through all those fleeting thoughts, capture one, and then expand on it for a blog topic.

What a relief to just let the thoughts go.

And I was right — the world did not come to an end when I stopped blogging every day.

What I found interesting is how this new non-daily blog habit has made itself felt. It gives me two or three extra hours every day. I imagine my breezy writing style makes it seem as if I jot a few words and then simply publish what I write, but it takes a lot of work to make something seem light and easy — writing, editing, re-editing, re-re-editing, adding tags to the blog so it will show up in search results, preparing a photo, publishing the blog, republishing to another blog, posting the reblogged link on Facebook. Even better, because I’m not blogging, I have no need to check Facebook and the blogsite and my email because there are no comments to respond to. So yes, a lot of free time!

Without having to think about what I am thinking, and without having to examine my days for a topic, I have a lot of free mental time, too. And I know that Socrates is wrong: the unexamined life is worth living. In fact, it might even be worth more than an examined life.

And then there’s the whole compassion fatigue situation. Because I am not a therapist or a grief counselor, I never would have thought such a state would apply to me, but over the past twelve and a half years I have mentored (for lack of a better word) hundreds of people through the worst of their grief, and I am truly fatigued. I have always felt powerless in the face of other people’s grief, but knowing at least to an extent what they are going through, I tried my best to listen and be kind, but now I am having a hard time summoning up any compassion or patience. I understand that to them, grief is new and ever-present, but to me . . . not so much. My life with Jeff is now far in the past and so is my grief for him. In fact, I barely remember what I went through unless I am reminded by people who want to talk about their grief. So, without having to deal with other people’s grief, I have a lot of free emotional time, too.

I don’t regret my work on behalf of grievers, in fact, I’m glad I could help, but now it’s time for me to let that part of my life go. So for those of you who need help with your grief or who simply want to talk about what you are going through, please check out the various grief forums and online grief support groups. I know a lot of people who found them helpful and comforting, and I am sure you will, too. (I will, of course, continue to respond to comments left on my blog.)

So, what am I doing with all this free time? Not thinking, that’s for sure. Not feeling much, either, except lightness at having shrugged off a burden I didn’t know I was carrying.

***

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.

Daily Blogging

I’m starting to rethink this whole blogging thing, especially daily blogging, and that’s not a bad thing. Next week will be the fifteenth anniversary of when I started this blog. I’d read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so even though I had no idea what a blog was, wasn’t yet published, had nothing to say, I jumped right in. I didn’t blog every day at the beginning, though during the years, I had several stretches where I did blog every day. Out of the 5,480 days from the beginning until today, I’ve blogged 3,565 times.

I started out writing about writing and books, then after Jeff died, I let my grief spill over onto this blog. When I set out on my 12,500 mile, 5-month cross-country trip, the focus of my blog changed again. And then it changed again when I became a houseowner with a yard to landscape.

Now? I’m still involved with gardening, but I don’t want to turn this into a gardening blog. Nor am I especially interesting in continuing to chronicle my daily life, my ups and downs, my moods, my periodic loneliness, and my infrequent bouts of missing Jeff. I don’t think it’s healthy or smart to put so much of myself out there. It was one thing when I was frantic with grief and needed an outlet, but I certainly don’t need an outlet when I am merely feeling melancholy or even just blah. Nor do I want to put emphasis on such times by writing about them.

Even worse than writing about those moods is trying to put a good slant on them. Sometimes it’s important to just be. Don’t name what the feeling is. Don’t write about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t try to be grateful or see the bright side. Just be.

I’ll probably continue daily blogging for a while longer because it’s the only writing I do, and it is a good discipline, but to be honest, it would be just as good a discipline if I forgot blogging and started a new book. (Not that I have any plans to write another book, I’m just giving an example.)

Also, after my current streak of 1,089 days of daily blogging, not blogging every day is too big a decision to make lightly. Or maybe it isn’t a big decision — all I’d have to do is skip a few days and see what happens.

The world wouldn’t come to an end, that I know.

***

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.

Uneasy

I wasn’t sure I wanted to post a blog today — I’m feeling uneasy and didn’t really want talk about it lest it seem as if I were complaining, though that wouldn’t have been my intention. Then I decided that this disinclination to “share” anything today wasn’t worth breaking a 1,087 daily blog streak, and anyway, I’ve often spoken of things that didn’t exactly show me in a good light.

(“Share” is in quotation marks because I have come to hate that word — it’s such a social networking cliché, but it’s the only one I’ve found that works in this particular context.)

To be honest, this uneasiness is not that big of a deal — I’m just feeling out of sorts and didn’t want to seem self-indulgent by writing about it. Since I couldn’t think of another topic that I haven’t done to death (I mean really, how many times can I write about grass?), and since I didn’t want to use such a feeble excuse as uneasiness to quit the daily blog routine, and since I’ve confessed to worse things, here I am.

Yesterday I went to a meeting of a guild I belong to, and maybe three times as many people showed up compared to what I’m used to. I was fine while I was there, but when I got home, I felt . . . not sad exactly, but definitely not happy. Just uneasy. I have never done well in groups, and this was the biggest group I’ve been in for more than two years, and apparently, it was more than I could handle.

I woke this morning in that same uneasy state, but since I didn’t have to work today, I went outside to continue digging up weedy grass. (Oops. I there is that “G” word, after all.) I had nothing else to do, and I figured the physical activity would help get me back to my normal stoic self. It didn’t. In fact, it made me wonder what the heck I’m doing all that work for. It seems silly, really — all that work and worry just for a bit of a lawn and a few flowers. But then I reminded myself I need a focus. It doesn’t matter how silly the focus is — it’s important to have something to concentrate on outside of myself to keep me from looking too deeply into myself or looking too closely at my life.

I’m okay living alone (and considering my reaction to yesterday’s meeting, I’m apparently more okay being alone than being around a lot of people), but if I look at the realities — growing old alone, having no one to do nothing with, having to rely so much on myself — it just seems too dang sad. So I try to focus on other things, no matter how silly they might seem. Like working in the yard.

This uneasiness will pass as moods generally do. If not, well, I’ll be back at my care-giving job tomorrow, and that for sure will make me think of something — or rather someone — besides myself.

***

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.

Today’s Tarot Reading

Although I continue to do a brief tarot reading every morning for practice, the cards still don’t tell me much of anything. In fact, they generally seem too disjointed to tell any sort of story, whether mine or anyone else’s. Nor do I see a metaphor for my life in the cards, which is what some people believe a tarot reading is — a metaphor for the querant’s life. The querant, for those who don’t know anything about the tarot, is the person seeking answers. In my case, I am both the reader and the querant, so perhaps I’m too close to the querant’s situation to make sense of the cards.

Unlike most people, I don’t ask the cards specific questions; I stick with a generic, “What do I need to know today?”

Apparently, since I don’t glean anything more specific than bad things happened or will happen, or good things happened or will happen, I don’t need to know anything else. But then, that’s pretty much life, isn’t it? Those good and bad things that happened or will happen don’t need to be anything earthshaking because except for a few truly earthshaking moments — births, love, death — most of life is about small happenings.

I suppose I could change my question to see if I get any other sort of result with a different query, but the truth is, I don’t really need the cards for answers to life’s questions. I don’t seek insights into the past because the past is done with. I don’t care to know what will happen in the future because if I live long enough — a day, week, year, whatever — I will experience the future firsthand. I don’t need a metaphor for my life because I am living my life, metaphor or no. I certainly don’t rely on the cards to give me investment advice or anything like that because . . . well, for one thing, I have no funds to invest, and for another, if I have to rely on myself to interpret the cards, I might as well rely on myself to interpret the various investment possibilities.

Still, it’s possible that someday a certain tarot deck, the preponderance of my readings, a greater understanding will all click, and then I will know . . . something.

Meantime, there is my daily practice.

Despite my earlier declaration that the cards generally don’t tell a story, today’s three-card reading did, at least to an extent. The first card, the four of swords tells what happened in the past. (After facing multiple crises, you needed time for solitude and getting ready to face new challenges). The second card, the ten of swords, hints at the results of that past. (Pain, loss, desolation, but in that darkness are the seeds of hope.) The third card, the four of wands, suggests what will happen next or what actions will need to be taken. (Country life, work/life balance, peace, a sense that our projects are a wider expression of who we are.)

Did this reading change anything about my life or tell me anything I didn’t know? Well, no, but it did give me a blog topic, and that’s not a small thing.

***

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.

Ice Cold Blog

On hot days, an “ice cold” anything sounds good, so how about an ice-cold blog? Not that this blog itself will be ice cold, because the blog can only be as cool as the running temperature of whatever device you are using to read this, but the topic is, for certain, “ice cold.”

In a book I skimmed through, the woman character ordered an ice-cold beer, which always seemed silly to me. Wouldn’t an ice-cold beer be a frozen one? As I found out, after wasting way too much time googling various “ice cold” themes, beer can be ice cold without being frozen.

The temperature of ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Water freezes at thirty-two degrees, but the temperature of the ice cools to the ambient temperature of wherever it is stored, so it can get down to 0 degrees or minus twenty, or whatever temperature at which the freezer is set.

Beer, on the other hand, freezes at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so technically, you can have an ice-cold beer at 32 degrees, but why would you want to? If you like beer, that is. The colder the temperature, the less the flavor — good or bad — of beer is discerned, which is why it is suggested that lite beers be served ice cold. The optimum temperature for good beers to be poured at a bar or restaurant is 38 degrees, so that when it gets to the imbiber’s table, it will have reached its optimum drinking temperature of 48 degrees — cold enough to be refreshing, warm enough so that all the flavor (and the odor, which is a part of what we discern as flavor) is apparent.

After the woman in the book drank her ice-cold beer, she went home to her ice-cold apartment, because supposedly, that was the temperature that her ancient dog preferred. Really? That old dog who was near to dying preferred the house temperature to be set at 32 degrees? I think not. The ideal inside summer temperature for dogs is between 75 and 78 degrees, but for small dogs (as the story dog was) such a temperature is too cold, so for them, between 78 and 80 degrees is a better temperature. A comfortable winter temperature for most dogs is 68 to 72 degrees. So that gives us a comfort range for dogs from 68 to 80 degrees. That is a far cry from an ice-cold 32 degrees.

Such ridiculousness from authors who should know better leaves me cold (though not ice cold), so I skimmed through the rest book to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and tossed it aside.

I did learn something, though it wasn’t from the book but from my research into optimum temperatures. Unlike what I used to believe, it is possible to drink an ice-cold beer, and has been possible as long as ice has been a commercial product. In fact, the term “ice-cold beer” has been around since 1887 when the Wild White Elephant Saloon in Fort Worth apparently coined the phrase.

So now, after reading this ice-cold blog, do you feel a bit cooler?

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Big Sibling

Detectives and other operatives in current mysteries and thrillers look to the internet and the sites where people hang out for clues, so much so that when an author fails to mention those social sites, the absence is glaring. Just as when they don’t mention cell phones. Because cell phones make our lives so much easier and make it harder to be out of touch, the cliché is that the character forgot to charge the phone or is out of range or some such excuse to put the character further into jeopardy.

Which reminds me of Judge Judy and how when defendants talk about a text conversation, and Judy wants to see the message, the defendants always say that it was on a different phone that got broken, and now they have a new one. It happens so often that it’s rather a running joke. But as amusing (or not) as that may be, this post isn’t about cell phones but the social sites.

Have you ever noticed I cannot bring myself to call it “social media”? The closest I come is “social networking sites,” which is what they were known as when I first got online. The “media” part, I suppose, is to make us think these sites have some sort of credence, which they don’t. Not only is the news (on any side of any matter) suspect, so are the lives people portray. As if they are better — or badder — than they are in real life.

In fiction, the lives portrayed online are counted as evidence, especially if someone tells a detective they hadn’t seen the victim in several months, and an online photo shows them together. Or if they say they have never been to a certain place, and a post says otherwise.

Since this happens in real life too, I have never been so naïve as to think that anything I post online is private. I have assumed from the first day that “Big Sibling” is watching me. (Trying to be gender neutral here.) To that end, I have never posted anything I wanted to keep private. In fact, I want people to see my posts and to get to know me in the hope that they will buy my books. Still, I do wonder what I am inadvertently giving away. Anyone can do a bit of detective work and find out where I live, but any official would already know that. Anyone can put the clues together and come up with my age. A few people know when I was born, but generally online I use a pseudonymous birthday. And anyway, that information is available in any official data bank, and especially is available to anyone who has access to my driver’s license, so it’s not much of a secret.

Those officials could comb Facebook for my friends, but then, they would probably already know who they were. And Twitter and LinkedIn? I have no idea who most of my connections are, and I have no interaction with them. In fact, my profiles on both sites are more or less moribund, though the link to my daily blog is posted on both sites. Or at least it’s supposed to be. I haven’t checked recently to see if that is currently the case.

I don’t post photos directly to Facebook, though I suppose they are stored on their servers anyway because of the link to the link to my blog that I post on the site. But that’s okay. Lately all I’ve been posting are images of flowers, not me and whatever victim I might be accused of victimizing. (Though my life is so boring, I’m sure if any official were to check with my neighbors, all they would have to say about me is, “Yes, I know her. Yes, I saw her. I don’t remember what day, but it doesn’t matter. I see her out in her yard every day.)

I am so used to telling the details of my small life that if I did have a secret, I probably wouldn’t have one. I would have blabbed it here, and a blabbed secret is no longer a secret. Though come to think of it, it’s possible they would think that anyone so bland would have to be hiding something (something other than blandness, that is).

Too bad. It would be fun to have a secret. Or maybe not, if fiction is anything to go by. People with secrets are often victims. Since that brings us back to the beginning of this post about officials who come to social sites looking for clues as to who might have wanted to erase the secret by erasing the victim, I’ve apparently come to the end of what I wanted to say.

I hope you have a very nice (and very private) day.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Procrastination

I’ve been procrastinating, not having anything in particular to write about. I don’t want to bore people with talk of my yard and garden, and I certainly do not want to continue crying about the brown sections of my lawn that are not improving but instead are getting worse. It’s not as if it’s a major catastrophe, not when people in devastated areas are losing not only their lawns, but their homes and even their lives. Still, I do find it depressing, seeing all that brown when just a couple of months ago those same spots were such a vibrant green. And, of course, the death of anything is hard for me to take. (I’m one of those who truly will not kill a fly.) The unsightly patches wouldn’t be so hard to take, I think, if I could immediately address what worries me, as I always like to do, but it will be a month or even more before I can start reseeding.

So when a friend stopped by to see if I wanted to go on a trip with her, I was glad of an excuse to continue procrastinating. Unfortunately, I had to turn down her invitation since she was leaving tonight and I wasn’t at all prepared to be gone for several days, but it was nice chatting with her.

Then I roamed around the internet for a while and stumbled upon an interesting interactive site: https://dinosaurpictures.org/ancient-earth#0. You can put in the name of your city, and it will show you what that bit of Earth looked like at various times over the past 750 million years. Now that certainly put my concerns into perspective!

And anyway, there is still much for me to enjoy in my yard. In fact, today when I was clearing out weeds, I saw what I thought was a rock, but when I picked it up, I discovered it was a cucumber. Most of the cucumbers on the vine are tiny, no more than an inch or two, so I have no idea how that one grew so fast.

And there are always a few flowers to cheer me up.

Well, what do you know — I just noticed that even with all the procrastination, I’ve managed to write enough to fill a blog post! Yay!

***

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.

Imagine a Rainy Climate

I spent several hours this morning clearing out weeds and weedy grasses. I didn’t even make a dent — the growth (except for some things I want to grow) is overwhelming. I can’t imagine living in a climate where it rains all the time, though this past week where it’s rained so much (and yes, it did finally rain last night about 1:30 AM), I’ve had a glimmer of what it would be like. There would be a lot of good things about it — no time spent watering, no coaxing plants to grow in the arid climate, no dealing with plants dying because of a single day’s neglect. And it would be a lot cooler. Maybe. But keeping on top of weeds and such? Yikes.

My current plan is to do what I can, and when the annuals start dying off this fall, dig up the whole area where the weeds are now too deep seated for me pull easily, and replace them with a different sort of plant. I’m finding that I prefer clumps of flowers, like echinacea, New England asters, and four o’clocks, to single flowers because they are easier to weed. They also tend not to be as weedy, so that helps.

The wild four o’clock is blooming, mostly when I’m not around, but I did capture a couple of the flowers late yesterday afternoon. They are pretty, and when blooming in masses, must be awesome.

I hadn’t planned to write another gardening post so soon, and I certainly didn’t want to bore people with talk of the weather, but this morning’s exertions wore me out, and so there’s not much else in my head to blog about.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have some wisdom to impart.

Or not . . .

***

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.

Reflection of What Goes on in My Life

When I blog every day, as I have for the past 1000 days, it’s hard to come up with blog topics, so if I think of something I might want to write about, I jot it down. One such topic on my very short list is “metaverse.” Apparently, the metaverse is like a three-dimensional internet experience where you can go into the virtual world and do things you do in the real world, like go to school or work, browse store shelves and shop, play games as if you were really there, and all sorts of other real life and virtual life experiences. There’s no such thing as a metaverse yet — so far, it only exists in science fiction movies — but all the big internet and computer and game moguls are working on it. (Which is why Facebook changed its name to Meta — it wanted a head start on the whole metaverse thing.)

I’m not really interested in such a concept. I have a hard enough time with the physical universe (to the extent that it’s physical, that is), and my internet usage is basic — blogging, researching, ordering things I need — so I doubt I’d ever be interested, especially if Facebook/Meta is involved. There are still blocking my blog, so I have to reblog it onto another blog and then post that link, but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be doing that. Although I have a lot of friends on Facebook, I really do not like that FB is trying to control the narrative of our lives and our world and now, apparently, the universe.

Another item on my blog topic list was a quote from Thomas Browne: Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible sun within us. I like the quote but never quite figured out how to use it as a blog topic.

The last item was something I just added recently “Reflection of what goes on in my life.” Huh? What the heck was I referring to? I doubt it was the tarot because it certainly doesn’t reflect what goes on in my life. The refection of what goes on in my life doesn’t refer to the books I’m reading, filled as they are with violence, murder, mysterious happenings, weird phenomenon, and sometimes a bit of romance. Considering that my yard, lawn, and garden are what I am currently focusing on, I suppose I could have meant those, especially my lawn, but I have no idea why I thought any of those things reflected my life. If I remember what I meant, I’ll be sure to mention it, but since there’s nothing else on my blog topic list, I’m tossing out the list, so chances are I won’t even remember that I wanted to write about something that’s a reflection of what goes on in my life.

***

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.