Attracting Flowers

I recently read a book claiming that the secret of the universe, the power of the universe, is attraction, so you’re supposed to think positive thoughts because what you think about is what you attract.

I don’t believe that is true. The way I understand it, the power of the universe (if there is such a thing) comes not from attraction but from the energy created between attraction and aversion, push and pull, yin and yang.

Nor do I believe in the power of positive thinking because of its corollary — that if bad things happen to you, it’s your fault because you attracted them. The truth is, sometimes bad things happen for no reason. Besides, in the push/pull of the universe, “positive” and “negative” don’t mean good and bad. They seem to be arbitrary names attached to the way ions are charged. And in the real universe, not the universe of positive thinkers, two like charges repel, two unlike charges attract.

Sometimes, of course, in our own lives, what we think about is what we attract. Look at me, for example. What I’ve been thinking about lately, almost to the exclusion of anything else, is my garden and plants and flowers. And guess what? Today I attracted an abundance of flowers! The power of positive thinking? Perhaps, but the truth is, I went out and bought the plant starters, though that makes them no less mine than those that are already growing in my garden. (Which raises the issue of whether, in fact, the flowers that grow in my yard belong to me. They could just as well belong to themselves, or to the universe, or anyone who stops by to look at my yard.)

The purple and pink petunias will be going in various containers. Despite their less-than-optimal appearance, they should grow up to be beautiful.

The marigolds will be planted with the cherry tomatoes (when I figure out where to plant the tomatoes.)

And the assortment of purple flowers is a hanging basket. Because of the wind that’s coming tonight and the possibility of a storm tomorrow, the basket is temporarily an on-the-ground basket.

It’s too hot to plant today — 95 degrees Fahrenheit! Tomorrow will be a bit cooler, and I won’t spend the morning coolness buying more flowers, so I’m hoping to be able to get these flowers planted so that they can attract more flowers.

***

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.

Do the Job in Front of You

I’m reading a science fiction book about people being able to step from this Earth into multiple other Earths, as if all possible Earths were stacked together like a deck of cards, and people could go from one to another.

At first, it was kids who found a way to step, and suddenly, kids all over the world were disappearing. The cops didn’t know what was going on. Terrorists? Aliens? One young cop asked the sergeant-in-charge what he was supposed to do, and the sergeant relied, “Do the job in front of you.”

It’s funny how in a story about strangeness, such an innocuous remark should have caught my attention, but it seems to be good advice no matter what. For example, landscaping a yard and creating garden spots in that yard can be rather overwhelming. It’s not something that can be done in a season or even two or three. I’m starting my fourth season, if I counted accurately, and despite how nice some parts of the yard are, other parts are still quite wild and weed-infested.

I’ve never had much patience for such long projects — I’m more of a do-it-and-get-it-done sort of person. Or at least I was. Apparently, I am now someone who can embark on a project that will never be finished. Almost by definition, a garden is always in progress. Volunteer plants show up. Long-standing plants die. Weeds take over certain areas. The only way to deal with such a long-term, unending project, is to do the job in front of you.

This change in me, from wanting things to be done to being able to deal with things that never are done, is a holdover from grief. Grief is one of those things that are never finished, though oddly, grief comes about because a loved one is finished — finished with their life here on Earth. But for those left behind, it’s never finished. At the beginning, especially, it seems impossible. Not only are you going through the most horrendous pain and most confusing time of your life, you are faced with a never-ending list of end-of-life chores. A person who dies doesn’t just disappear. The body has to be dealt with. Their things have to be dealt with. The government has to be informed and dealt with. Banks have to be dealt with. The only way to get through all that is to do the job in front of you.

It’s the same way with writing a book — during the course of the months and sometimes years that it takes to complete a novel, there are thousands of decisions to be made. Some people can sit down and simply write, without a plan, without agonizing over every detail, but for others, writing is the details. And the way to write for those people is to do the job in front of them, whether a paragraph, a page, a chapter.

I suppose life is the same way. I tend to try to look into my future, to see what I can do now to prevent some possible effects of old age, but in the end, no amount of projection will protect me (or anyone) from the vagaries of life. All any of us can do is the job in front of us, and the job — the life job — is to live the best we can today.

Luckily, we are all (or at least I think we all are) dealing with a single Earth, which makes things just a bit easier to do the job in front of us.

***

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 Day is What the Day Is

I’ve finally become acclimated to the clock change we had to make because of daylight savings time, and the disorientation I felt because of the change has abated. Unfortunately, I’m dealing with disorientation again, though this time it’s confusion not about hours but about days.

My work schedule was abruptly changed this week after almost two years on basically the same schedule. Now, I work one day that I always did, one day that I sometimes did, and sometimes one day that I never did. (Did that confuse you? Now you know how I feel!) In addition to all that, my “weekend” was changed to the middle of the week.

I’m not complaining. It’s actually a good schedule for me, with more free days than working days, so I’m sure it will be easy to get used to the new routine. But until then, I am rather lost in time, never quite sure what day it is or what I am supposed to be doing on that day.

Even though I had to work today, I still managed to water my grass. Tomorrow, I will water the bushes and trees. So that’s good. It’s easy to know where I stand when it comes to my yard — if I watered the grass yesterday, then I don’t need to do it today Same with the bushes. (If that sounds like a lot of watering for this time of year, we’re going through a hot spell — 97 degrees Fahrenheit today — so I am on a summer watering schedule.)

Unfortunately, the rest of my life isn’t as easy to figure out. If I worked yesterday, does that mean I have today off? If I have today off, does that mean I work tomorrow? Eek.

Luckily, I have calendars, both paper and electronic, to help keep me oriented. Mostly, though, I only need to keep track of what calendar day it is so I know whether to go to work, whether the library is open, whether . . . You get the idea. In the long run — or the short run — it doesn’t matter if today feels like Saturday or Sunday or Monday. The day is what the day is. And today is the day the first larkspur decided to bloom!

***

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.

Red-Letter Day

The term “red letter day” refers to the practice, dating back to the Roman Empire, of using red calendar numbers to signify important days. Although this was (and still is) a common practice for perhaps a couple of thousand years, the actual term “red-letter day” wasn’t used in print until 1663. Unlike so many words and terms that have begun to mean the opposite of their original meanings (bully originally meant a darling; harlot originally meant a goofy fellow; naughty originally meant having naught; nice originally meant silly; silly originally meant blessed), the meaning of “red-letter day” seems to have remained unchanged for centuries.

Despite this discussion of “red-letter days,” today is more of a “white blossom day” than a “red-letter day” because the blossoms are what make this such a momentous day. “What blossoms?” you might ask.

The blossoms on the greengage plum tree I planted last year. Those blossoms. And oh! They are so pretty, and such a sign of hope.

Flowers of all kinds seem to symbolize hope, of course, but fruit blossoms bring with them the added hope of someday having fruit. There might be too few blossoms to merit even a single plum this year, but still, it’s nice seeing the flowers.

Today is also a “black hat day.” My use of the phrase “black hat” isn’t used idiomatically to mean a villain, but is used literally. A neighbor gifted me with a beautiful black hat! A wonderful side effect of being known as “Pat in the Hat,” is that if anyone has a hat to donate, I am the first one to come to mind.

It’s also a grey cloud day, and a pink tulip day, and probably all sorts of other “days,” but all these important days can be found under the single umbrella of “red-letter day.”

I hope you’re having a red-letter day, too.

***

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.

Too Much Television

I watch too much television

Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write since I don’t have television and only watch an hour or so with my client when I’m at work. It comes out to be four to six hours of television a week, and that, truly, is too much! I end up with jingles going through my head, as well as names of drugs.

Someone, somewhere, has done research on how to create the most memorable names for drugs, and it works, because those names get stuck in my head. Almost all of the names are three syllables, almost all contain q, x, or z, and none of them have any recognizable meaning. Nonsense, in its literal meaning.

Considering the cost of television commercials, it’s no wonder the most prevalent ads are for personal injury attorneys, window and gutter installers, vehicles, and of course, drugs. None of these commercials mean anything to me, especially not the drugs considering the long list of potentially lethal side effects. What gets me is that despite that shopping list of side effects, people still ask their doctors about those drugs. You’d think that listing the dangers of the drugs would make people stay away from them, but since they show happy families and now-healthy folks doing fun things while the horrors are being recounted, it’s no wonder ill people embrace these drugs. And anyway, most people believe that bad things happen to others, not them.

But that’s not what prompted this rather mild diatribe. What really stands out are the vaccine ads.

In the midst of all the pharmaceutical commercials with their long lists of side effects, there are the vaccine commercials. They don’t show happy people. They show determined people getting a shot. But what’s even more obviously missing is the recounting of side effects. Instead, they have representatives of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals saying, “Trust me.”

Huh? That’s it? Just, “trust me”? That’s the extent of the information they’re giving us?

It makes sense when you consider that vaccines are immune from product liability lawsuits. It doesn’t matter what the side effects are (and yes, there are possible side effects no matter what they want you to believe) because you have no recourse. The whole purpose of listing side effects is to limit the company’s liability because if they can prove a person knew ahead of time about potential lethality, then the person can be considered complicit. But that’s not the case with vaccines. So a simple “trust me” is all they need to encourage people to get the shot.

What makes me even more leery about the whole thing is that they now have a drug that supposedly knocks out The Bob if you take it in the first five days, so you’d think it would make the vaccine less important. But miss out on all that non-litigable money? No way!

Not that any of this makes any difference. It’s just that I’ve been watching so much television lately that I am familiar with what is standard in a drug commercial. And what is not.

***

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.

Accidentally Noticeable

When I was outside today, checking on the weather, someone walking by stopped and commented my yard, saying I have the greenest grass in town. (Not surprising since most grass around here hasn’t started greening up yet.)

It seems odd to me how often people stop to look at my yard, or comment on my hat or my car, as if I’m so very different from everyone else, and perhaps I am, though I never planned to be so noticeable. Each one of the elements of my persona (for lack of a better word) started almost by accident.

The first thing that catches people’s eye are my hats. The sun tends not to agree with me and sometimes even causes small hives on any skin left bare, so I always cover myself on sunny days. Long sleeves are a must, as are wide-brimmed hats. I used to just wear a plain straw gardening hat because it was cheap. When that disintegrated in the sun (better the hat than my head!) I started using a straw cowboy hat that Jeff had bought and never used, and then as that hat wore out, and as I found new ones, I started stocking up. People seem to have such a distaste for “hat hair” that hats have so fallen out of favor they tend to be hard to find. The decorations on my hats were also . . . not exactly accidental, but not planned, either. Several years ago, I set my then current hat next to an ornate bow I’d taken off a gift from my sister that was too pretty to dismantle. The juxtaposition seemed serendipitous, so I slipped the ribbon over the crown of the hat and oh, was it pretty! And thus “Pat in the Hat” was born.

My distinctive car is also something that happened by accident. Back when I bought my Beetle, it was the same as half the cars on the road. Nothing special. What is special is that years after the majority of those VWs disappeared, I still have mine. Over the decades, it became rather a mess, and I wasn’t sure it was worth keeping. A few car guys salivated over my bug, telling me that if I bought a new car, in five years, I’d have a piece of junk, but if I restored the bug, in five years, I’d have a little gem. In the end, it was the potentially huge automobile insurance bill that would accompany a new car that made me decide to keep — and restore — my bug. As it turned out, it was a good thing (at least until recently and the problem of getting the right part to fix the brakes). It certainly made my cross-country trip memorable because of all the people who sought me out to talk about my car and to tell me their VW Beetle stories.

The most recent thing that has set me apart is my lawn, which truly was accidental, and the attention truly surprising. I mean, it’s just grass.

But apparently not. As the passerby today said, no one in town has grass as green as mine. It’s so emerald-bright, that it’s hard to miss. The funny thing is, I had no idea what type of grass I was getting. My contractor had told a landscaper that I was interested in sodding a corner of my yard; not long afterward, the landscaper contacted him and said he had a couple of pallets leftover from a job. Even though I didn’t think it would be enough for the small square of lawn in the front corner of my lot, I said I wanted it. Well, it turns out there was about four times what I needed, so they kept laying down the sod and laying it down until it was all gone. And wow! So much green!

The rest of the landscaping, such as the path meandering around my yard, was also somewhat of an accident in that I never planned it. My contractor, knowing I was trying to elder-proof my property, suggested the paths, and I agreed to let him do it. Even the red of the path that offsets the grass so well was his choice. (Or rather the landscaping company’s choice since it was all they had in stock.)

It’s amazing how accidents and happenstance turned me and my life into a spectacle of sorts, which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad thing for someone as self-effacing as I am. Any of these things gives people a reason to stop and chat. And even if they don’t stop, they for sure know who I am.

It does make me wonder what the next thing will be that adds to my persona. I’m certainly not planning on being any more noticeable than I already am, but then, I never planned any of these things. They just . . . happened.

***

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

Full Moon Agitation

I’ve been struggling with sleep the past couple of nights. One night I felt too unsettled to fall asleep and the other night was so bright when I awakened at 3:00 a.m. that I was sure it was almost time to get up. I’d thought in the past that such unsettled nights — especially when there is no reason for the agitation — presaged a full moon, but I didn’t think it was the issue here because we just had a full moon.

Still, I checked the calendar, and lo and behold — there it is. A full moon. The moon will reach its peak fullness tomorrow afternoon, and then begin to wane. The previous full moon was four weeks ago. (I am so losing track of time!)

Oddly, it’s the nights leading up to the full moon that are the problem. The fullness itself doesn’t cause a problem for me — at the peak fullness, the moon seems to sigh with relief that the arduous job of waxing is finished and is gladly getting ready to wane.

It’s not so odd now that I think about it. Often the buildup to something is either better or worse than the thing itself. The days before a grief anniversary, for example, are often worse than the anniversary itself, and the anticipation of a treat is sometimes more satisfying than the treat itself.

Knowing that the incipient full moon has begun to create a restlessness in me as I get older doesn’t help much, but it does keep me from worrying about a more serious cause for the insomnia. I’m just glad that tonight I’ll be getting back to sleeping well (or rather, as well as I ever do anymore). I’m also grateful I’ll have a full month before the next full moon — the flower moon, so called because May is the month of flowers. (The moon this month is called the pink moon because this is the time the creeping pink phlox blooms.)

I hope you have a happy full moon day tomorrow. I certainly intend to, especially after all the agitation the buildup has engendered in 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.

For Want of a Nail

I’ve been thinking about that old saying about for the want of a nail the kingdom was lost. The full proverb is:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

What made me think of this proverb is my attempt to get my brakes fixed. The four brake cylinders were replaced, but the parts store sent a master cylinder with the wrong clocking, so that part never got replaced. The brakes worked fine for a few months, but the last time I drove and put on the brake, the pedal went all the way to the floor. The car stopped, but it spooked me, so I went back to the mechanic to get him to order the correct part. I checked on Friday to see what’s going on, and apparently, he hasn’t been able to find the right part.

And that’s when the saying, “for want of a nail,” started going through my head. A master cylinder isn’t that expensive, around fifty dollars, maybe, and because of not being able to get that part, my car is suddenly defunct. Although I seldom drive, I’ve been worrying all weekend about being permanently without a car since it’s so important to have for emergencies. And then suddenly it dawned on me: if I had to sell the car because the brakes didn’t work, you can darn well bet that whoever ended up with it would figure out how to get a master cylinder. So I am going to keep after my mechanic to make sure he finds a part. I plan on talking to him tomorrow to see if taking a picture of the part will help him locate the correct one, because I am not going to let this go. I’ve spent too much on the car in the past few years restoring it and making sure it runs perfectly to give up on it now.

As if that isn’t problem enough, I had a hard time dealing with my lawn mower today. Although I hadn’t planned on mowing the grass for a while, I noticed that a lot of people were mowing their lawns today — the people whose lawns had greened up — and one fellow I talked to said this was the right time. I contacted my contractor, and he agreed that it wasn’t too early to mow.

So, I got out the mower, found the battery, and dug out the instruction manual. I don’t use the mower enough for the practice to become second nature, so I have to relearn how to use it every spring. I got it started, it went a few feet, beeped, then stopped. I had no idea what was going on because the battery was full, but I went ahead and plugged the battery in the charger while I cleaned the mower of any possible clogs.

Eventually I got it to work. Apparently, the grass was too tall and too thick for the available power, so I raised the mower to the highest level, replaced the battery, and all was fine. The grass is still too tall, though if I don’t let it get much longer, perhaps the next time I try mowing I can cut it a bit shorter.

By the time all that was done, I didn’t have the energy to deal with the string edger (it’s actually a weed whacker, but it can be set to trim the edge of the grass). I don’t remember ever using it, so I have to start from scratch learning how to wrap the string and attach it and all the rest of it. That will be a project for another day.

I used to think I was good with mechanical objects, but apparently not. Still, this is just the beginning of the mowing season, so I will have plenty of time to get familiar with my tools. Perhaps this time the instructions will sink in so next year there won’t be all these problems.

Hopefully, long before then, the mechanic will find the right part to get my car running. Or rather, get it stopping.

***

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

Aphantasia

Ever since I became an author and interacted with other authors, I have been fascinated by the different ways peoples’ brains work when it comes to writing. Some people sit down and start writing, and the words appear on the page almost without their volition. Some people envision whole scenes, and interact with those scenes. Some people see a movie in their head, and simply write down what they see.

I have never experienced any of those things. For me, writing has always been a puzzle, putting together words to create characters and conflicts, scenes and scenery, plots and passions. But I have never once seen an image in my mind’s eye of anything I have cooked up in my brain pan. I simply don’t think in images, and never have.

I remember once telling my mother about a girl who clerked at the local Safeway. This pretty girl was kind and thoughtful, and never seemed to think the work a burden. My mother said she’d look for the girl. Weeks later, she told me she finally met the girl, and she shook her head at me. “It would have been easier if you had told me she was black.” I was taken aback because I didn’t remember that particular detail. I only had an impression of her, a vague idea of what she looked like. I took this to mean I was color blind as to race, when it really meant I was mentally blind.

Another time a friend mentioned a fellow we worked with who had a full beard. I thought the friend was joking because I was sure we didn’t work with anyone like that. The friend pointed out the fellow, and sure enough, there he sat, a few feet away from me, full beard and all. That time I took my lack of attention to this detail as a general lack of attention, when it was really another example of where I was mentally blind.

I’ve never understood how people could utilize visualizing techniques, because I can’t visualize. I can remember, of course, but my memories don’t take the form of images. They depend more on a sense of . . . essence. Needless to say, I would be a terrible witness if it ever came to that. I do notice things, and I do pay attention, but I don’t have the detailed visual recall necessary to a be good witness.

It turns out there is actually a word for the inability to see mental pictures: aphantasia. For some reason, aphantasics tend to be introverted, while hyperphantasics (those with well-developed mental imagery capabilities) tend to be extroverted, though what one condition has to do with the other, I don’t know.

Supposedly, there are techniques that can help “cure” me of this ailment, if in fact I have it. I do see vague images at times, which some researchers say means I am not aphantasic, though other researchers say that some aphantasics have visual memory recall. Either way, it makes no difference to me. After so many decades of not seeing pictures in my head, I’m fine with my lack of visual imagery, no matter what the condition is called. And anyway, at this advanced stage in my life, strong imagery could only confuse me.

***

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.

Traveling Books

Although you might think this post concerns books about traveling, it’s actually about books that travel. I’d never given much thought to how far books travel, and probably never would have if it weren’t for the confluence of two events. First, my friend who returned to Thailand to be with his ailing wife, took my book Bob, The Right Hand of God with him, which, according to him, makes me an international author. Sounds good, doesn’t it, being an international author? More accurately, it makes the book itself an international book because the author — me — is definitely not international since I’ve never been out of the USA. But my book is now out of the country, having gone by way of car, plane, bus, and perhaps even train, so that makes it a traveling book.

The second event concerns the book I am currently reading. It was written by a Spanish author and translated and published in the U.K. And somehow a copy of that book, printed so very far away, ended up in the local library in the ongoing book sale section. It looks like a well-read and much-loved book, so who knows what sort of roundabout journey that book made to get here. And now it’s in my hands.

This made me think of other traveling books I have known. For example, a friend sent me a trio of books about trees for a house anniversary gift, and those books also came from the U.K. Actually, they came from Amazon in Las Vegas, which is mystifying because she ordered the books from a business located in U.K. Still, since those books were published in London, they had to have traveled to Las Vegas somehow, before they ended up here.

I’ve also been an agent a couple of times for someone overseas who needed out-of-print books that were not available where he was living, and if I remember correctly, at least one of those books originated over there.

Most books don’t travel that far, at least I don’t think they do, but still, they rack up the miles going from the printer to the distributor to the seller to the buyer and then to the reader if the buyer and reader aren’t the same person. Eventually, books travel to a secondhand store and then continue their journey to another home. I ordered one such book from a used book outlet in Oklahoma, and the gift card inserted into that obviously unread book showed that it had been gifted to someone in New York. It was delivered to me in California, and then I myself brought it to Colorado.

But that was a simple journey. Some books travel in a more convoluted fashion. I heard of a woman who had donated her childhood books, then later in life found one of those very same books in a used book store far from where she grew up. She bought it, of course, because obviously it wanted to go back home to her. One can only imagine the secret life of that book — where it had traveled, who had read it, who loved it, and how it ended up back in the hands of its original owner.

A huge percentage of books don’t enjoy that kind of far-reaching journey. 77,000,000 unsold and unread books are pulped — destroyed — each year by the major publishers. (Print-on-demand, where only books that are already sold are printed, hasn’t changed things much because bookstores need the product on hand even though they return up to 40% of those books to the publisher, and up to 95% of those books are sent to landfills or recycled into paper pulp.)

But that’s too depressing to think about. I’d rather imagine the journeys books go on. It’s only fitting that they get their own journeys since so many of them take us on mental journeys and allow us flights of fancy such as this blog post.

***

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.