Odds and Ends

Yesterday I got the courage to get down on the floor to do some stretching exercises. Ever since I damaged my left knee, I haven’t ventured to floor in case I couldn’t get back up. Although I am right-handed, I am left-legged, and I didn’t want to stress the knee. It was a bit iffy, but I managed to get back on my feet. Oddly, it was harder getting down than up. I’m not going to try it again for a while. I’ll continue to do other knee exercises, as well as walking. I walked a mile today — walked, not trudged! The muscles around the knee are a bit sore, but I hope that they will soon get back in shape.

Do you care? Probably not. I don’t blame you. Other people’s ills get to be a bore.

I’m sure my talk of the tarot is every bit as boring. The only interesting thing (to me, anyway) is that except for an occasional card warning me not to take things for granted, to accept what comes, to live each day to the fullest, and to make good choices when it comes to opportunity, most of the cards speak of harmony, of peace, of good fortune, of being in the right place. It’s possible I’d read these things into any card because that’s my current situation. Also, if I don’t like the first interpretation I find, I search around for another interpretation. (For example, the ten of swords is a card of death and misfortune, but since I refused to accept such a meaning, I delved deeper and found that the card could also mean a renewal or even simply accepting your present circumstances.)

I mentioned yesterday I’ve been reading a series of spy/adventure novels. I remember back in the days of Glasnost thinking that a whole genre of cold war spy novels, Russia vs the USA, had suddenly become defunct, and that sure seemed to be true. In the following years, spy novels centered more on the Mideast, which killed any interest I had in the genre. But now, all these years later, those old Russia vs. USA novels are current again. And the mention in one of these book about the Chinese and their bioweapons program sure struck a chord.

Come to think of it, at the beginning of The Bob, people talked about the Chinese being held accountable, and then suddenly, that whole topic of news disappeared. I wonder what that’s about? I could create all sorts of scenarios based on these old spy books, but to be honest, it doesn’t really matter where it came from. It’s here, it’s killing people as well as destroying a way of life and the world economy, and no reparations can ever make up for all the problems it caused. (Hmm. I didn’t realize I’d adopted such a laissez faire attitude. Maybe it’s because I’m abstaining from the nastiness of Facebook.)

For some reason, the sun yesterday was exceptionally hot. It seared my skin and desiccated the plants that had been watered the day before. All summer, watering every other day was fine, and yesterday? Not the hottest day of the year, but it sure seemed like it!

Today is supposed to be a bit cooler, though I’m glad I got my walking in early. And my blogging. Now I can sit back and read for the rest of the 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

Skullduggery

I’ve been reading a series of spy/crime/adventure thrillers. Many of the novels revolve around a race for finding treasure, and all of them incorporate plot devices such as torture, murder, and theft on a grand scale.

While reading this latest book that involves discovery and theft of Incan artifacts going back to Francis Drake days, it suddenly dawned on me that I can’t relate to these folks at all. It might make me seem incredibly naïve, but I simply don’t understand them and their need — their greed — to take things for themselves that belong to others. To steal from a museum so that only they can see the priceless artifact. To kill people if necessary, in order to possess something no one can ever know they own.

I realize there are such people in the so-called real world. In fact, most of the great fortunes were founded by those who became known as “robber barons,” emphasis on “robber.” Even today, no one can make a huge fortune without some sort of skullduggery that skirts legality. Lesser fortunes also often come from some sort of crime before the owners of the fortune go legitimate. It must take an incredibly narcissistic person, as well a sociopathic personality to see nothing, to feel nothing but one’s own desires.

I truly cannot relate to such self-absorption and criminal tendencies, though without ever condoning the crimes, I can sort of understand those who steal on a very small scale.

Supposedly there have been several break-ins and some theft a few blocks from here. The discussion of these break-ins revolves around the myriad pot shops in town (some people say the shops contribute to crime, others say they don’t, though I have a hunch what side of the issue a person is on depends on whether or not the person partakes of the product.) Other people blame the nearby coalition for the homeless where people from all over the state (and even other parts of the country) come to get off whatever substance they are on and find a way back to the homed population. This facility has a distinct effect on the town because people who can’t or don’t want to stick with the program wander away and instead of going back where they come from, they hang around here and add to the problems of this already beleaguered town. Not only do they contribute to the crime rate, but they are also a drag on the city’s limited resources.

These people are desperate for food or a fix, and they are looking for something to sell to sate their elemental needs. Although I’ve never been in that situation, I can understand. Sort of.

I don’t understand, can’t understand, using force to take what one wants, on any sort of scale, especially when it comes to being held up at gunpoint, as happened to me once.

People always say that our differences are what make life interesting, but I don’t agree when those differences revolve around criminal behavior. I think life would be plenty interesting without greed and murder and theft and even unkindness, though I suppose, for most readers, thrillers would be a lot less interesting without skullduggery.

***

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

Big Excitement for the Day

I’m reading a book about a consortium that is about to release a virus that kills with acute respiratory distress. The victims gush blood and die. I was thinking about this book in relation to what is going on today, but it sounds a lot like my own novel, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, which was published the year before this one.

In my book, the disease is full-blown, and Colorado — where the disease originated — is quarantined to keep the pandemic in check. In the book I’m reading, there have only been a few test cases, and the consortium has yet to unleash the virus on the world. They’ve been working for the past ten years on a cure, and after releasing the virus into the general population, they are planning on holding the cure hostage until their demands are met. Or maybe they’ll just spring into action with a cure, which would then afford them millions in sales and stock. Either way, it’s a planned pandemic for money.

A couple things about the book interest me more than the possibility of that scenario being played out in the world today. One, the book is a Robert Ludlum book, which is why I started reading it. Not that I like his books. The truth is, I’ve never been able to get past the first chapter or two of any of his books, but I figured this was a good time to struggle through one of his books since I have nothing better to read. Only it’s not a Robert Ludlum book. Oh, it has his name on the cover, but it was written eight or nine years after his death. A true ghost writer!

The other thing that interests me is the hero took a transport from Andrews Air Force Base that landed in the Southern California Logistical Airport near Victorville before taking a helicopter to Ft. Irwin.

So many books, movies, television shows take place in Southern California or touch on the area in some way, and now, having lived there for so many years, I know what these places are. I remember watching a CSI show many years ago, and somehow the Las Vegas crew ended up in Victorville. I’d never heard of the town, hadn’t a clue where it was, and then, in a strange twist of fate, there I was. Well, not Victorville itself, but the Victor Valley area.

And several times I happened to drive the Air Expressway that took me past the turn-off to the Southern California Logistical Airport.

Not that it matters — I have read thousands upon thousands of novels where I couldn’t correctly place the story (and didn’t care) but still, it’s fun to know where places are. And for some reason, Victorville shows up a lot in stories — perhaps because of the nearness to the desert wilderness where bodies can disappear forever. But then, how to explain Bear Lake? That’s another place that often shows up in books. In fact, it was mentioned in the book I just finished, whatever that was. (Obviously, the story was utterly unmemorable. See why I was willing to take a chance on a Ludlum book?)

So, that’s the big excitement for the day — coming across “Southern California Logistical Airport” in a terrible book by a writer who is published under the name of a dead author I never liked.

***

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

Maybe Rereading “Dune”

I’m rereading Dune. At least, I think I’m rereading it. I’m beginning to wonder if I ever read it at all until now.

I remember thinking I liking the book when I was young, and several times over the intervening years I’d end up with a copy and try to reread it, but I could never get into the story again. Admittedly, when I was young, I had a lot more patience for books that were mostly descriptions of day-to-day living, whether on this planet or another (the first 150 pages of Dune seem more like setting the scene than the beginning of a book) and I lost that patience in later years. It’s also harder to keep whole books in my head now, so that adds to my impatience with dragginess.

It’s possible the book gets better (I’m not even halfway through), and it’s possible it has a great ending that would make me feel good about the book. And it’s possible that something in the latter half will strike a chord of memory, but so far, there isn’t so much as a ding. Even if I can’t remember books I read decades ago, if they impressed me in some way, I have some sort of lingering impression of them. Most books, of course, leave no impression — there is simply no “there” there. I’m not sure where Dune would fit in the book spectrum because it is different enough that I should remember something or hear a faint echo of recognition in the back of my mind. But nope. Nothing. I can’t even figure out why I would have read it. I have never liked authors who have to create incomprehensible names for people, things, and places. The strange spellings seem to take up space in my brain that would normally be used for following the story.

Even more confusing, I see the cover in my mind’s eye — a reddish cover with a fellow trudging across a wide expanse of dunes. I spent some time looking at Dune covers today, and there is not a single one of them that looks familiar. (Except for the one I bought at a library book sale a while back and redonated unread.)

It makes me wonder what book I did read. It’s possible I read some other book and misremembered it as Dune. It’s possible I misremembered the cover. (If there even was a cover image. It could have been a rebound book from the library.) And I could have found the book completely unmemorable.

Too bad there’s no way to rewind a memory to see the truth of it.

What I am seeing is a lot of similarity to The Wheel of Time series, at least in small things — the witches, the truthsayers, the uncanny powers, the manipulation of people and events. Of course, these are all fairly common archetypes and scenarios for the hero/savior story, but people often compare The Wheel of Time world to The Lord of the Rings, and I don’t see it at all. (But then, that’s another iconic series I haven’t been able to slog through, so I could have missed any similarity.)

One thing that amused me — in a book that uses so many strange-sounding names and words, at one point, Frank Herbert describes someone as having olive skin. Couldn’t he have come up with a more interesting word? I have always hated “olive” applied to skin because it takes me out of the story and makes me wonder what color the character is. I still remember the first time I came across that descriptive word. I couldn’t figure out if the character had green skin or black. It took years before I realized the word referred to the color of the inside of a black olive.

So, I can remember being puzzled by olive skin, but I can’t remember anything about a book I thought I read and thought I liked.

The life of a reader does get bizarre at times.

***

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 Reveries of a Solitary Walker

I’m reading The Reveries of a Solitary Walker, written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau between the years 1776 and 1778 when he was in exile. He had been considered a great thinker in his time, and had won a prize and much acclaim for his writing, but after the publication of what he considered to be his greatest work, Èmile, a novelized philosophy about education, he was condemned and his book burned because it was proclaimed to be destructive of the Christian religion and all government everywhere. He slipped out of Paris before he could be arrested, was ousted from Switzerland and other countries where he found asylum for a time, denounced from pulpits (which turned the common folk against him), and scorned by even his friends.

He was understandably bewildered by all this because he could see no great difference in his ideas that raised him to literary heights and those that buried him in contempt. And so he became a solitary walker as well as a solitary thinker, saving his “charming periods of contemplation” for himself alone. The essays in this book were written for himself, not for publication, and seem like the sort of thing one would write when one was trying to account for the vicissitudes of one’s life.

Although he came to accept his shunning, and perhaps even welcome the solitude, he never understood the forces that shaped his life. Or perhaps he did, and I have not yet gotten that far in the book. I’m still trying to come to terms with the horror of warrants being issued for his arrest because people didn’t like his book.

Sheesh, I get upset when people leave even mildly bad reviews or somewhat condemning remarks online. I can’t imagine having to deal with true condemnation, and not just from a few people, but from one’s whole world. I can’t even imagine writing anything that would garner a fraction of that reaction.

It’s strange to think that here I am, almost 250 years later, reading Rousseau’s anguished words. Who of us today will still be read 250 years from now? None of us, I would imagine. Words come too cheaply now. More than that, though, I doubt many people today would recognize a deep and abiding thought. We live in a world of opinion — untried opinion, often garnered not from considered thought and research but from an emotional response to the news and issues of the day. When everyone has an opinion, opinions have no value for anyone else except to affirm what one thinks one knows. True, people are being hushed if they don’t conform to the “right” opinions, so maybe things aren’t that much different today than they were in Rousseau’s time. The difference being, the “wrong” opinions (even if they are really right) don’t often get published, at least not in any epochal way.

It’s also strange to think that, divided by the centuries, Rousseau and I share a proclivity for solitary walking, as well as thinking and writing. For all the customs and costumes that have changed, some things abide.

***

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

Puzzling out the Tarot

Although I see myself as a bit of a mystic, I’ve never been into tarot, or any sort of divination for that matter. I always figured if we can change the future, then it doesn’t matter what the predicted future is, and if we can’t change it, then the prediction especially doesn’t matter.

If ever a thought of the tarot crossed my mind, it would have been in the same mental classification as astrology, Ouija boards, and fortune cookies. I used a Ouija board once when I was kid, know my astrology sign and will read my horoscope when it’s in front of me (though the horoscope never seemed to have any relation to anything going on in my life), and enjoy fortune cookies, but that was the extent of my interest. Oh, I did read up on the occult since I have always been one to try to get a peek into the secrets of the universe, but charlatans so often dominated the field, that I stuck with more scientific gateways, like particle physics and quantum mechanics. (Yep, I was one of those who read such books for fun.)

I’m still not sure there is anything for me in the tarot, but considering that it is supposed to be a way to get insights into one’s inner being, it’s worth studying for now. And besides, it seems a message from my brother. Admittedly, this collection of tarot cards hadn’t been specifically earmarked for me, but that mass of decks sure struck a chord with me, so it felt as if he meant me to have them.

So here I am, trying to make sense of a massive amount of contradictory information. For example, the card I picked this morning to answer my question of what I needed to know today, was the nine of swords. Swords are supposed to be a bad luck sort of card, without a lot of happiness attached, and the nine of swords especially so. One interpretation talks about fears, vulnerability and inner turmoil and suggests that I learn what the source of those fears are. Another interpretation talks of depression and suffering, scandal and loss.

But swords relate to consciousness at a mental level, and reflect an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, and overall attitude. They also point to fears and worries, but don’t necessarily put a whole lot of weight on those fears, because the sword is two-edged, which connotes a balancing act to stay positive.

And nines are about nearing completion, maybe about reaching a plateau, because what looked like the end hasn’t quite arrived.

All that seems positive to me, so instead of the nine of swords telling me I’m depressed and fearful and need to figure out what my trouble is so I can get into a more benign state, my own take on the matter is I’m already there. Or almost. That I’m doing well balancing my fears and staying positive, even though I can do better.

See what I mean about contradictory information?

And this isn’t even taking into consideration the whole ancient elements matter — water, fire, air, earth. According to the most common tarot tradition, swords mean air, but some decks and some scholars indicate that swords are fire. (As you can see, in my own interpretation, I left off any mention of air or fire because the element question muddles an already muddled situation.)

On a different note completely, as I was reading about the elements, I happened to open the book to another page that was defining the “fool” card, and I had to laugh. Apparently, in Italy and Austria, The Fool goes by the name “Mat,” which is an Arabic word meaning “a dead person.” In The Wheel of Time, one of the major characters is a fellow everyone thinks is a fool. I thought he was simply an archetype, but he is definitely one of the major arcana characters from the tarot. Not only is his name “Mat,” but as he says, “I’m usually pretty good at staying alive. I only failed one time that I remember.”

Now I’m going to have to re-reread The Wheel of Time again to look for additional tarot references. As well as to continue puzzling out the tarot itself.

***

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 Tarot and The Wheel of Time

A hot lazy day, today. With nothing better to do, I unpacked my tarot cards and sorted out my tarot books. Some of the books match a specific deck, and I like to keep the matched sets together. Other books seem more generic, or it could be I simply don’t have the decks the books mention. I also set aside the duplicates, the unopened packs, and those that might be collector’s items, such as the Dali tarot. I’ve never opened either the Salvador Dali tarot (supposedly a deck he was creating for the James Bond movie Live or Let Die), or the Tarocco di Sissi (from artist Amerigo Folchi and based on the life of Austrian Empress Elisabeth) thinking these might have more value still in their factory seal, but things only have monetary worth according to what people will pay, and I don’t know how to find people who want such things. I could keep them as part of my collection, of course, but when one has more than three dozen decks (and doesn’t use any of them), another one or two, especially one by an artist you don’t admire or one about a person you don’t know, doesn’t seem that important.

Just for an experiment, I attempted a one-card tarot reading for a friend who is trying to figure out whether to move or not, and I drew the King of Wands. To be honest, I have no idea how this card answers the question (apparently, it’s best to do a spread and see how the cards relate to one another, but maybe he can figure out if the card means anything to him), but I was struck by a coincidence having to do with The Wheel of Time. Coincidence? Considering the ten years that Robert Jordon put into researching, constructing his world, and developing the story before he started writing, I would have to say that it’s a good bet there’s no coincidence here.

In the book The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, the King of Wands is described as “a red-haired man with blue eyes riding upon a fiery black stallion. The horse and rider both seem wild and warlike, but this is due to raw, unleashed power. The overall feeling that the card gives is one of great uncontrollable energy which erupts with volcanic force.” Another passage says “He is extremely dynamic. He is the Fire of Fire, the volatile igniting spark of the Father Force.”

In the Sadowscapes Companion, the King of Wands strides forward and “The trees part before him, lifting their branches to make way for his passage. The environment shifts to his will and obeys his unspoken desires and commands.” Also, he is charismatic, and is “a source of inspiration and bears his mantle of authority with ease as if he were born to it.”

If you know anything about The Wheel of Time, you will recognize The Dragon Reborn. Although sometimes his eyes are described as gray rather than blue, this is the savior character in the series, a clueless country boy who attempts to control the raw power of the universe at his command. Eventually he controls the power and develops into a fire-wielding king who rides a black horse. He becomes a charismatic leader who changes the very lives of those he meets, who molds the world around him however he wills. Also, the salamanders in the red tarot card are more like the dragons in the book than what we consider to be dragons.

At one time I thought it would be interesting to use the tarot to create a story, basing the story on cards chosen at random, as well as by a spread, but apparently, Robert Jordan has already done it.

Many of characters in The Wheel of Time are typical archetypes, such as the trickster, nurse, queen, shapeshifter, but now I suspect there’s a completely different element to the book, a tarot element, for me to deconstruct.

***

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.

Saving the World

I finished rereading The Wheel of Time, and since the library isn’t open yet, I’ve begun re-rereading the series. It’s not that it’s such great writing — with over four million words spread out over fifteen books, there really should have been a huge amount of culling to make it less of a sprawl. Some of the meanderings off the main track are unimportant and inane and downright aggravating — a reader does not need to see every savage side of the lesser antagonists to get the point that they have sold their souls to The Dark One. Nor does a reader need to see certain characters doing the same thing over and over and over again. Nor does a reader need to see author mistakes, such as his forgetting what his characters are like and have them acting brainless for no reason whatsoever.

The series was originally proposed as a trilogy, though the scope of the story demands more than that. TOR Books, knowing how wordy Robert Jordan was, turned it into a six-book deal, which they should have enforced. The Wheel of Time is a perfect example of an author falling in love with his creation. He spent ten years planning the work, doing research, and taking copious notes before he started writing, and apparently, he couldn’t bear to give up any bit of his creation even if it would have made a much stronger story to do so. As to why his publisher didn’t rein him in — there is a whole lot more money to be made by fifteen bestselling books (fourteen plus a prequel) than six. Since the fantasy market is predominately younger folk, I guess they figured they had a non-critical readership, and every time a new book came out, a new crop of readers came of age, which prompted sales of the earlier books in the series.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to skip over the many sidetracks and dead ends to keep to the essence of the work, though that doesn’t help dealing with the parts of the story that aren’t there. Jordan delighted in writing ad nauseum about trivial matters but mentioned important points almost as an aside and brought in mysterious characters for cameo spots without any elucidation of who they were or why they were important. Despite myriad interviews, he refused to explain some of his seemingly pointless points, saying he wanted people to think about them. A bit of a god complex, there, but then, I guess that’s understandable when one has created such a massive world to play with.

There is also too much war for my taste, but after all, Jordan is a military historian, and ultimately, this series is about the battle between the forces of light and dark, so all the military hoopla has a place.

Despite the many drawbacks of the series, it’s compelling because of the eternal themes of honor and duty, loyalty and integrity, steadfastness and kindness and friendship, doing what’s right no matter the cost, standing by one’s word, rising above the baseness of one’s life to grasp nobility, accepting one’s fate and becoming a hero. Those are the nuggets of purity that drive the (sometimes appalling) story. And it’s those same nuggets that perhaps make the work worth reading and even rereading.

It’s funny — each time I reread the series, I tell myself that this time I will read every word, and each time I get bored by the trivial chapters and inane characters and become aghast (re-aghast?) at the sadism, and end up skipping vast sections to get to better parts. Some of the horror is necessary, of course, to help forge the rather ordinary characters into the heroes (reluctant or not) they will become. I mean, you don’t simply wake up one morning with the power and resolve and ability to fight the overwhelming darkness that might be threatening to consume us all.

Jordon has created an incredibly complex kaleidoscope of a world, taking all the bits and pieces of our cultures, customs, costumes, mythologies, legends, religions, histories, and shaken them up and spread them out in a new and vibrant pattern. One of the fun things about rereading the book is picking up elements that one missed the first time through. (Despite that, there are whole storylines that add nothing to the whole — the Seanchans, Slayer, Perrin and Faile to name just a few.)

Since this is the quintessential hero’s journey, with each character on his or her own path to greatness, there is homage to the legend of King Arthur as well as to lesser known legends.

There are the archetypal characters, such as shapeshifters and tricksters, mentors and allies. And underlying it all is the savior tale, both the Christian story and the pre-Christian ones.

What would you do if you’re going about your ordinary life, doing what you’ve always done, and then discover you’ve been chosen to save mankind, chosen to give up your life to save the world?

I wonder — as I sit in safe isolation while many folks around the world are dying of a novel virus — if I would have the courage, the stamina, the will, to undertake such a task. In my heart of hearts, though I would wish I did have such a heroic character, I know I would not be able to do it. Could not do it — I’m too old, too tired, too powerless. But when I immerse myself in this legendary world, I think . . . maybe.

Just maybe . . .

***

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.

Not Cowering, Not Courageous

What if there were hundreds of thousands of people dying in Colorado alone, not just the 987 who have died so far? Would you have the courage to live, to fall in love, to open your home to those less fortunate, to try to find out who unleashed the microscopic beast as my characters in A Spark of Heavenly Fire did?

Apparently, I wouldn’t. I’m following orders and staying home. Alone. Not much courage in that. No spark of heavenly fire, either, that’s beaming up and blazing in this dark hour of adversity.

I’m not exactly cowering, but I am paying attention to the stay-at-home order even though most people in my age group aren’t. Little by little they are claiming their lives, going out and doing non-essential things, getting together in small groups. If my knee were healed, I might join some of them, especially those who meet outside, but my knee makes me feel vulnerable. I’ve also spent so much time alone that I fear my immune system isn’t exactly in tip-top shape, so I’d be especially susceptible to any small illness that comes along.

So, not cowering, not courageous. Just pragmatic.

I do worry, though. I have spent so much time in the years since Jeff died trying to be sociable despite my inclination to not go out, that I fear this time of being forced into staying home will make it all but impossible for me to gain the energy to overcome my natural hermit tendencies. I used to say “yes” to all invitations because that forced me out of my nest, but now I find myself saying “no.” Eventually, people will stop asking.

Although I do believe that The Bob was never severe enough to merit the measures that were taken to keep us home and to “flatten the curve” to keep the ill from overwhelming hospitals (the projection of deaths was built on a flawed model that was discredited months ago), I would probably have stayed home anyway. I tend to catch things easily and be sick longer than most people — and did so even when I was younger — that I have learned to take extra precautions, though I admit, those precautions probably would not have been as strict as the stay-at-home orders.

Luckily, I have the choice. Luckily, I have a lovely house in which to stay home.

And luckily for you, for the next month, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available as a free download from Smashwords in all ebook formats. You can find the book here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

I figure that by the time the world gets back to normal — or as normal as it will ever get — people will be sick of the very word “quarantine,” and won’t want to have anything to do with novel diseases or diseases in a novel, which is why I giving it away now. I hope I’m wrong about people not wanting to read about devastating diseases after this is all through because A Spark of Heavenly Fire is more than a story about a pandemic — it’s the story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

It certainly is not about a woman who stayed home. Where’s the story in that?

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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.

The Wheel of Time

Since I finished reading all my emergency books, I’m reduced to reading the books in my Nook, books I’ve already read. Although I don’t generally like rereading books, Robert Jordan’s massive Wheel of Time series seems to be the perfect place to go to hide from The Bob.

The books in the series are not stand alone books — you cannot understand one book without the previous books — which means that in effect the WOT series is single novel of over four million words broken up into fifteen parts. In fact, the series itself is not stand alone — there are all sorts of books, blogs, discussion forums comprising billions of words where readers try to figure out the truth of the story.

Not only is the scope of WOT almost impossible to fathom, but Jordan had a bad habit of putting in bits of deus ex machina that he refused to elucidate in the work itself, companion books, or even interviews. Perhaps he himself did not know what those bits meant or maybe he simply wanted to be mysterious for mysterious’s sake, to create a legacy of people debating worthless points. Which they do. Ad infinitum. Jordan also refused to explain what to him were obvious story points, such as who killed a certain bad-guy-turned-maybe-good-guy, but again, dozens of forums present various theories because that obvious point was obvious only to he who created it. At least in this particular case, the murderer was revealed in an appendix several books after the fact. Jordan also spent thousands upon thousands of words on red herrings and subplots that go nowhere, but sometimes used a single sentence buried in huge blocks of description to bring out a major point. Yikes.

And wow, is there description. Tons of description. Whenever food is mentioned, I find myself skipping a paragraph or two. When clothes are mentioned, I skip a couple of pages. And sometimes, when there is zero action or character development, such as in a few very clean bathing scenes, I skip the whole dang chapter.

I also tend to skip over some of the women’s parts. Although Jordan mostly develops his three main male characters into individual heroes, each with his own mythic journey, he turns his three main women characters into insufferable caricatures, indistinguishable from one another except for a few annoying character tics. At first I thought he had a problem with women, but his secondary and tertiary female characters are often well-defined or at least not brats and prigs who believe, without giving a single shred of thought to the forces the other characters face, that they know the best for everyone.

Even after investing so much time in reading and rereading the books, I’m still not sure I like the series — although the theme seems to be about the importance of having choices, most of the characters, both good and evil, go out of their way to force others to their will. Too much torture and punishment for my taste. It seems to me that in a world where everyone is free to choose (or at least what the pattern created by the wheel of time allows them to choose), it’s just as easy to find someone to willingly do your bidding as to waste the effort forcing someone to do it. (Oddly, the three main males do turn others to their will, but without wanting to or without even trying.)

But despite my ambivalence, I keep rereading. The scope of the story is utterly astounding. In the story, during the so-called age of legends, people wielding the power that turns the wheel of time, broke the world. Mountains grew where no mountains had been, waters flooded lands, green spaces became deserts. And humans started over. Again.

Interestingly, breaking the world is exactly what Robert Jordon did when he wrote his series — he smashed our world into bits, mixed it all up — legends and traditions; countries and races, clothes and customs; myths and mysteries, religions and philosophies — and put it all back together into his own creation.

I wonder what it would be like to create such a massive fiction world, a world that reflects our world but not. A world that reflects our values but not. A world that exists only in our minds but not. Or, rather, maybe not. If it exists in our minds, it’s possible Jordan’s world exists for real, sort of dream world we all created together, just as philosophers and physicists say we do with the real world.

Assuming there is a real world.

Maybe we’re all writing the story of our world as we live it, creating with our hive mind the very fact of our existence. If we all stopped believing in it, would it disappear as if we were closing the cover of a novel? Would we disappear if we stopped believing all the things we see and hear except with our own eyes or ears? Would we be different if we simply refused to accept the role that has been forced on us?

Maybe, as I study Jordan’s world, I’ll learn how to help build a better version of our own — how to write it or right it, either one.

Meanwhile, the wheels of time keeps turning . . .

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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.