Gardening and Aloneness

A friend called this morning and asked if I was outside taking care of my “baby.” Meaning my yard. I had to laugh because I really was taking care of things in the yard. The only reason I had my phone with me was to get photos of the larkspur and the roses that had begun to bloom prolifically.

Obviously, my focus on the garden and lawn hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, the growing beauty of my yard is rather a conversation piece, something to share with neighbors who get the fun of seeing what’s developing without having to do the work. Until recently, I’d never realized that about gardening — that it wasn’t a lonely project but something to share. In fact, a neighbor a few houses away is going to be sharing her garden with me. Literally sharing. Tomorrow evening, I’ll be heading over there to dig up some of her prolific plants to transplant in my yard. She said, “I love sharing plants. I can’t wait to share some yard pretties with you.”

And I can’t wait to get them.

Although I’m surprised that I’ve taken gardening to heart, since I’ve never really been all that much into gardening, I’m not surprised that I’ve become focused on something outside of myself.

When you live alone, you need something to keep you going, something outside of yourself to expand your reach, something . . . more. I have friends and neighbors, a couple of siblings I am in occasional contact with, and a job that occupies my attention a few hours every week, but the rest of the time, when I am inside and the door is shut, there is only me.

I will eventually get back to fiction writing, but for now blogging is all I can handle. Any long writing project, such as a novel, seems incredibly lonely. I spend too much time in my own mind as it is. Admittedly, when you write a novel, you people your mind with various characters, but that simply masks the truth of being alone.

Since I need something more than just me alone, it might as well be gardening. At worst, babying a yard is a lot of work. At best, it’s a joint creative endeavor between me and nature and a couple of neighbors. And in the middle, between best and worst, is a whole lot of yard pretties!

***

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.

Becoming a Gardener

It rained enough last night to drench the ground, so I was able to miss a day of watering my lawn, bushes, and other plants. Unfortunately, the rain must have been enhanced with weed growth hormones, because the weeds took over. I suppose I should have used the opportunity of a free day (no work today as well as no watering) to pull some of the weeds, but I didn’t want to deal with the mud. This is clay soil; I’m certain you wouldn’t want to deal with the thick, slippery goo either.

Instead, I did an inside chore or two, then hunkered down to assemble some kitchen chairs. A relative wanted to get rid of the chairs, and he sent them to me. I’d planned to put the reassembled chairs in the basement in case I ever have to spend time down there, such as in a tornado emergency, but I had visions of myself falling while trying to descend with those light but awkward chairs, and falling is so not on my to-do list. So I stowed the chairs in my garage until someone younger and more agile shows up, someone I can cajole into doing the deed for me. Actually, the cajoling part is easy — any of the workers who have been here would be more than willing to take the chairs to the basement. It’s getting them here that’s hard. Eventually, though, they’ll stop by to do a bit more work. Meantime, the chairs are doing no harm in the garage. Besides, they’re close at hand if I decide to sit outside.

After I assembled the chairs, I worked on my Three Years in Bloom project. Although I was only recently given the journal, the journal itself starts in January. It seemed as if I had two choices — wait until next January to start or start the journal now and then circle back to next January. Then a third option struck me — I could fill in those first months using bits from my blog. So I did. It was harder than I thought it would be, mostly because there was so little to work with. Apparently, I don’t do any gardening in January when there is snow on the ground. (I’m being facetious here since not many people garden in the snow.) Nor had I done much planning or dreaming about what to plant come spring. I’d purposely not looked at the seed and plant catalogs that piled up — I wanted to wait to see what takes hold this spring before I go looking for other plants. So until mid-March when I planted my greengage plum trees and a couple of crocus bloomed, the only thing I’ve written about that has any possible connection to gardening is the weather. During those winter months, I was able to take a break from watering my grass, so there wasn’t even that to talk about.

Still, I managed to bring myself current on the journal.

Speaking of gardening — I noticed that the rain not only brought out the weeds, it also budded the larkspur. I should be seeing some purple flowers very soon. I also noticed a few alliums. I’d forgotten that before we put the rocks around the house, I’d dug up the allium bulbs that would have been buried, and transplanted them. This forgetfulness seems to indicate the importance of keeping a gardening journal. On the other hand, if the bulbs hadn’t come up this year, it wouldn’t have mattered that I forgot them.

It does amuse me that I am turning into a gardener since I’ve always had a brown thumb. It must be the right time in my life for such a new pursuit. A garden is never truly finished and perfected, but is an ongoing work in progress. So too, it seems, is a gardener.

I started this post talking about weeds, and I will finish the same way. We’re not expecting any more rain for a while (in fact, we’re back to fire weather watch), so tomorrow the ground should be dry enough on the surface to make it a good time to pull weeds. I just hope I don’t pull non-weeds in the process. But if I did, would I even know?

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Passively Active

I was busy doing yardwork before I went to work today, and I will be busy again when I get home, but this close to the 1000th day of daily blogging, I’m not about to fall on my sword and break my streak. (I am less than two months away from meeting my goal.) I was wondering how to accomplish my blogging task for the day, when I remembered I could send in my blog by email.

It has been years since I blogged by email. I think the last time I did so was on my cross-country road trip in 2016, so I hope I am doing it correctly. If not, well, I’ll figure out another way of posting something today.

By the way I talk (or rather, by the way I write) you’d think I lead an active life, when the truth is, most of what I do is passive. Reading is passive. Blogging is passive. Watering is basically passive. I stand with a hose in my hand and let the water pressure do the work, or I set the hose in the front yard, then set the hose in the back, then amble to the front again and move that hose, then back to the back yard. Lots ambling back and forth! Visiting with neighbors is also passive. I stand there watering, and they stop to chat. (A lovely break from listening to my own thoughts, especially when the conversation is accompanied by compliments. One neighbor loves my tulips, another says my grass is looking good, a third said I looked good and wondered if I’d been going to a spa, though I don’t know of any spa around here.) My job is mostly passive, too, except when it’s not.

One of these days, perhaps when the wind dies down (if it ever does), I’ll stop being so passively active and become actively active. Weeds and crabgrass are sprouting up and growing like … well, like weeds. But for now, I’m just glad I am able to keep my grass and other plants alive. A few spindly lilacs didn’t make it through the winter, but most are doing well. Some of the lilacs I transplanted from a neighbor’s yard (with his permission, of course) look as if they might have flowers this year. My newly planted plum trees seem to be leafing out, the larkspur is taking over some garden spots, and a few more bulbs have made an appearance. (If all goes well when I send this post by mail, a photo of my hyacinth should be attached.)

All that growth adds to the illusion of my being active, when in fact I passively wait for the plants to do whatever it is that they do.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Bloggers and Bloviators

A fellow I read about mentioned that he hates “bloggers and bloviators” because he thought they do more to exacerbate problems rather than to help. I didn’t take offense at the “blogger” comment, because although I do have a blog, which technically makes me a blogger, I’m not a capitalized Blogger. (I actually meant I wasn’t a major blogger, a blogger with a capital B, but it is also true that I don’t capitalize on my blog since I don’t make money from it.)

I don’t have much of a following because I tend to write about simple things and stay away from the topics that attract masses of readers: politics, sex, celebrities, clothes, food. The one really important thing I write about — grief for a spouse, life mate, soulmate— is only helpful to a small segment of the population, and certainly isn’t a topic one reads for its entertainment value. And now I seldom write about even that. Mostly I write to write — for the habit of it.

As for bloviators: according to Wikipedia, ‘bloviation is a style of empty, pompous, political speech that originated in Ohio and was used by US President Warren G. Harding, who described it as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing”.’

Admittedly, I often say nothing of any import on this blog since, as I mentioned above, it’s more for the habit of writing than because I have anything significant to impart, but I am definitely not pompously political. Or even non-pompously political.

What I do like is the alliteration of the words “bloggers” and “bloviators,” which, of course, is why I am going through the motions of pretending I have something to say on the subject. And since apparently I don’t have anything to say, I’m going to cut this short lest I run the risk of becoming a bloviator myself.

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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.

Elasticity of Time

The older I grow, the more elastic time seems to get. Whatever needs to be done can barely be fit into the time allotted before and after work. You’d think then, that days like today, when I go in a little later, that I would have an extra couple of hours to get things done, but it doesn’t work that way. Here I am, struggling to get a blog written, a meal fixed and eaten, and myself dressed before work as I always do.

So what happened to those extra two hours? Lost in the elasticity of time, obviously.

I tend to think of elasticity as something that only stretches, such as rubber band, but it seems to be also something that shrinks. Otherwise, I’d have plenty of time to do . . . whatever.

I suppose I should be grateful — and I am — for the discretionary time I do have. Things could be worse (they always can be, even for those of us who like to think things can always be better). Time could simply shrink all the time and never stretch back to what it was. Though some days, it feels like it only shrinks.

As I’m sure you can tell, this is one of those semi-nonsensical fill blogs, where I have nothing to say (and little time to say it), but since I’m on day 932 of a 1,000-day blog challenge, I need to post something. Not that I will stop blogging every day once I meet that goal, you understand, it’s just that having a goal keeps me going. I need the discipline of blogging every day. Just as posts like this are place holders for my more thoughtful essays, the blog itself is a placeholder for my novel writing since the habit writing something every day is good practice for that, too. When I am re-retired, I will get back to writing books, but meantime, here I am, trying to stretch time by cooking and writing at the same time, and not succeeding very well. (Burnt the bacon and splattered myself. Ouch!)

Still, time has stretched enough to get everything done. I might even make it to work on time!

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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.

Decisive Action

I find it interesting how often, when I do a two-card tarot reading, that the keyword in the meaning of first card is repeated in the second card. For example, the first card of today’s reading was the Seven of Sceptres. (In this deck, the Ibis Tarot, the sceptres replace the wands.) The meaning of this card as set out by Josef Machynka (the Austrian artist who designed the Ibis Tarot) is “a victory” brought about by a person with “the necessary discernment and intelligence. Obstacles, arguments, and resistance are overcome by decisive action.”

The meaning of the second card I drew today, The Magician, is “a mature, spiritually developed person with sharp intelligence and great insight” who is “capable of acting decisively and correctly.”

So I acted decisively, and made plans to take a walk. I also took decisive action by calling a friend to see if she wanted to go with me. Later, I took decisive action and determined the route. It was no big deal — we had just naturally continued along the street where we met, and using my sharp intelligence, I noticed that there was a lot of traffic on the road, so I suggested we walk along an adjacent street.

When I returned home, I took more decisive action by fixing myself a meal, and then decisively reading on the couch while I ate. And then I took a nap. There was no decisiveness involved in that particular action, nor was there any intelligence involved. I simply drifted off. I suppose you could say it was the correct thing to do since apparently, I was tired after my time in the sun and wind.

And now here I am, poking around on the keyboard, being neither decisive nor particularly intelligent, though I am managing to do the correct thing and get today’s blog written.

Facetiousness aside, the Ibis Tarot is an interesting deck. It is about the width of a deck of playing cards, but a little longer, which makes an attractive deck, though the size feels awkward. It’s also the remaking of a much older deck, one that has been around since the nineteenth century. The original Ibis Tarot was the creation (or perhaps recreation of an even earlier deck) of Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont. The poor design of those cards kept them from being widely appreciated. Josef Machynka spent years researching ancient Egyptian culture and tarot-related topics so this Tarot is a combination of old Egyptian and modern forms as well as the commonly accepted elements of traditional Tarot.

The Ibis Tarot is certainly visually appealing, and the tiny handbook that comes with the deck is as detailed as the bigger companion books that are often sold with other Tarots. (That sort of book irritates me. They seem as if they should be chock full of interesting information or mystical insights, but mostly they include long descriptions of the cards that anyone can see at a glance, with only a brief guide as to the card’s meaning.)

I still haven’t found “my tarot,” the one that will talk to me and tell me things not included in the handbooks, but this one seems closer than most.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Space Filler

This is one of those write-anything-so-you-can-say-you-wrote-something posts. I had an unexpected day off, so I accompanied a couple of friends who had appointments in a not-so-nearby city (the first time I’ve been in a major city in many years). I didn’t do much but fill space as I sat in the car and stared out the window watching the world go by, but it was nice to spend a day with these people, especially since it might be a year before I see one of them again. (He’s heading back to Thailand to be with his sick wife, and once again I will be looking after his house for him.)

As pleasant as the day was, it didn’t save me much time to write a real blogpost instead of a space filler. In the grand scheme of life, I don’t suppose it matters if I skip a day now and again, but today is the 914th day of a daily blogging streak, and I hate to quit when I am so close to 1,000 days. (Close? Sheesh. I still have almost three months to go!)

The funny thing about this trip is that both my sisters (who live on the west coast) were in that very city just a couple of days ago. I couldn’t get to Denver to visit them — not only was there a major snowstorm moving through Colorado, but my brakes, which have been working fine, decided to go squishy on me. (Because there hasn’t been a problem, I haven’t been reminding the mechanic to order a brake cylinder with the proper clocking to fit my car, so yesterday I stopped by to tell him about the brakes.) Because of The Bob, and because I am not fully vaccinated, my sisters’ immune-compromised friends didn’t want them to visit me, so I wouldn’t have been able to see them even if there weren’t a snowstorm and even if my brakes did work, which is okay. I’ve been leery of being around travelers anyway, because a person is only as healthy as the last person they sat next to.

Tomorrow should be a more leisurely day for writing, so I’ll fill you in on my trip. Meantime, here is a photo of what I saw when I was staring out the window of the moving car.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Time

Yesterday, WordPress notified me that I had just published the 900th post on my current daily blogging streak. That surprised me because I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d started this latest spate of daily blogging. 900 posts in a row means almost two-and-a-half years of finding something to write about every day! That’s a lot. Admittedly, not all of those posts were worth the time they took to write. If I couldn’t think of a topic, I just winged it, writing about anything, no matter how trivial.

Many times during those 900 days, especially on days when I had little time and little in my head, I considered forgoing the day’s blog, but daily blogging is a good habit for a writer. This writer, anyway. So, despite those less than wise and witty and wonderful posts, in the end, it was worth the time. After all, it did force me —- allow me? — to sit and focus on words and writing and thoughts (or no thoughts) for the hour and a half it took to write, edit, add tags, and publish each piece. That in itself was worth the time.

What surprised me more than learning about that 900th post, is learning that daylight savings time starts tomorrow. Huh? How is that possible? Didn’t we just turn back the clocks? I get so confused. I know the clock hands spring forward an hour (spring forward in the spring is how I remember it), but does that mean I lose an hour of sleep in the morning? I think so. If six become 7, that also means according to clock time, I will get to sleep in a bit longer before the rising sun wakes me up. In body time, it comes out to be the same because I’ll be going to bed later, too.

Colorado is attempting to go on permanent daylight savings time, which is weird to me. If the legislators decide not to dicker with time changes anymore, why not just leave it at regular time? Studies have shown that, despite the reason for daylight saving — saving energy — there is little or no effect on energy savings. Still, whichever time they choose, it’s good to stick with it because car accidents and work-related injuries increase the week after the spring and fall changes.

What didn’t surprise me is what a good time I had today. I went with friends on a day-long trek to the big city. I jokingly refer to a nearby town with a Walmart and a Safeway as “the big city,” but today’s excursion really was to a big city. For most people, a metro area with a population of 160,000 isn’t a big city, but compared to where I live, it’s immense with immense stores and more restaurants than a person can visit in two lifetimes. We stopped at a sporting goods store where I bought some shoes, wandered around a bookstore, checked out a discount clothing store and picked up a few groceries. On the way home, we stopped at a new Asian restaurant in a nearby town and had Thai food. In respect for what they thought were my more plebian tastes, they ordered the Thai food without a lot of heat, though I don’t think that was necessary. As long as the hot spices don’t sear my esophagus, I like spicy foods. Still, heat or no, the food was good. Even my friends — an Asian and an American who’s back temporarily from a year-long stay in Bangkok — enjoyed the food.

That’s about all I can think of tonight on the topic of time, which is good because it’s late and I am out of time. Pleasant dreams.

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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.

Sanctioned Con Men

I came across an interesting line in a book so uninteresting I don’t even remember the title or what the story was about. I wouldn’t have remembered the line, either, except that I was so taken with it (and so untaken with the story) that I set the book aside to jot down the words: Beyond the reach of thought police and sanctioned con men . . .

What came after those few words, I don’t remember. And it doesn’t matter. Those last three words explain so much — to me, anyway — about the world we are living in.

Most of us are familiar with the thought police — we encounter it every day in places like Twitter and Facebook, where anything posted that goes beyond their “guidelines” is censored. You can still think whatever you want, but if goes against “groupthink,” then you darn well better keep it to yourself or suffer the consequences. As of right now, the only consequences are being censured by fellow users or by being put in FB jail and banned from posting anything for a certain number of days. (Unless, of course, one of their bots label your blog as spam — which is what happened to me — in which case it is banned for all time with no recourse and no possibility of a review by a real person.)

But “sanctioned con men”? That is a new one on me, though I know exactly what is meant by the term. I feel the effects of their con all the way down to my belly and sometimes back up again. The con is so insidious, few people call it a con, and yet it is. And not just con men, but also con women. I think the women are worse because they are better at portraying not just sincerity but also sympath.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about the news we are fed on television. The sanctioned news. The “legitimate” press as it is called. The non-fake news (which is actually faker than the fakest fake news.) I’m sure it’s the same in the print news, but I haven’t seen a real newspaper in ages, and the only reason I am aware of broadcast news is that the woman I help care for likes to watch it.

Does anyone really believe they are being told the truth when they watch the news? Do they really believe they are being given a glimpse of the truth that lies in the dark underbelly of national or international politics? If so, it’s understandable because it’s hard not to believe that what we are being told is the truth when we see photos of unvaccinated people sick with The Bob; medical personnel sobbing about unnecessary deaths; cities being bombed by evil emperors; pretty and personable people telling us horrific tales with oh, so much compassion.

I’ve spent too many years of my life studying the truth behind the old headlines to believe any headline that I now read or hear. I can’t even begin to guess what is truly going on anywhere in the world, nor do I care to delve as deep as I would need to in order to find out the truth (though a few articles by alternate presses elsewhere in the world paint a different picture from what the sanctioned con men and women are portraying). All I know is that somehow, some way, we are being conned about all sorts of different things, and that current events fit someone’s agenda. Because what I learned during all those decades of study is that history doesn’t just happen. Someone (or a group of someone’s) make it happen.

I have no idea what got me on my soap opera tonight, especially since I realize few people agree with me (the best cons convince people the con is not a con), but I’m going to post this commentary about sanctioned con men anyway (nonspecific though it might be) because I spent so much time writing it that I now have no time to write something different.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

A Small Life

It’s amazing how many hours there are in a day when one gets up early, like way too early, before the sun is even a hint in the sky. Already I’ve read, played on the computer, cleaned house, went for a walk, fixed a meal, and now here I am, trying to put together today’s blog.

For a change, I have plenty of time to write; it’s just a shame I don’t have anything exciting to write about. There’s just me, and that for sure is not exciting. I am not one of those folks who live large. I’m certainly not lavish or extravagant (though I did recently splurge on a winter coat that was marked down for clearance). Nor am I living in what is considered luxury by other people’s standards.

The truth is, I live small. I spend most of my time alone. Even before the whole Bob mess, I stopped going to restaurants or any place groups of people hang out. (Groups were never really my thing, anyway.)

And yet, my life seems luxurious to me. I have a lovely small house and a comfortable home. (Although in today’s world, “house” and “home” are synonymous, I don’t consider them so because you can have a house that’s not a home and a home that’s not a house.) I have a small job so I can afford luxuries like eating. I drive a small car that was paid for decades ago. I have all the books I want to read a small walk away. So, yes, luxurious!

Still, luxury in my eyes is not exciting to others by any means. And even though I mention such things as my house out of gratitude at this still-surprising upturn in my life, I fear sounding braggadocious if I expound too much. But basically, this is my life. A small life.

And yet, I do wish I had something more exciting to write about than me.

Maybe someday . . .

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.