In Isolation Again

For the first time since this whole “Bob” mess started, it feels like an epidemic to me. Until now, I knew only a few people who got sick and though I didn’t personally know anyone who died, I was acquainted with a couple of women who lost their husbands, but each of those incidences seemed tragic and remote as if they were unconnected to anything else going on. Now, however, almost everyone I know is sick, helping to take care of someone who is sick, self-quarantining because of a positive test result, or exposed to someone who tested positive and is waiting to see if any symptoms show up. A lot of people who are negative have a cold or some other illness that prompted a test. And people are dying, though oddly, not from The Bob. Most are elderly people who sailed through the pandemic only to die of age-related illnesses.

As for me, I am fine, though needless to say, I am in isolation. There is simply too much illness out there for me to want to deal with anyone in person. I even returned my library books today so that I don’t slip up and accidentally go to the library during business hours. Luckily, I have a few emergency books, and I have been toying with the idea of reading The Wheel of Time series once more, which would see me through a couple of weeks.

I finished planting my bulbs today, though I have admit, I got careless, and in a few places, I dug up a daylily. When they are small, they look like grass, and since most of the weeds were a grassy type (prostrate knotweed), it was an understandable mistake. I did replant them, so I hope they survive. If not, I can replace them next year.

I had to laugh at myself (the only risible moment of the day) when I saw an ad for lily trees and clicked on the link to order them, but better judgement prevailed. I will wait until I see what and where and if any of the bulbs I planted come up in the spring, then decide what to do. After all, gardening is a project for a lifetime. It doesn’t all have to be done right now.

Although I wore myself out today, not wanting to have to deal with planting bulbs again tomorrow, I took a short stroll this afternoon to enjoy the lovely weather. Eighty degrees!! The last such warm day for the year, I’m sure, since tomorrow will hit seventy, and then fifties and sixties will be the highs for a while before the temperatures drop to winter lows.

I’m waiting for the eve of the first snow so I can plant my wildflower seeds, and then I will be finished with planting for the year. I will still have to water my new grass most days for a while, though I imagine that when the ground freezes, I’ll be able to skip that chore. For now, though, it’s a pleasant enough task, feasting my eyes on all that green as well as a flower or two, such as this Colorado Gold Gazania I found today.

I hope you all are staying well and safe and enjoying your day the best you can.

***

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.

Dona Nobis Pacem

I joined the peace bloggers in 2012. And every November 4th since then, I have blogged for — and about — peace.

This year’s theme is “Courageous Peace in a Time of Great Change.” I believe in personal peace, in finding peace within ourselves no matter what happens to provoke us into chaos. In fact, I think personal peace is the only peace attainable because it’s the only sort of peace we have any control of. Wanting world peace is a cliché, a coward’s way of putting evading responsibility and putting the onus on others, and those others generally use “peace” as a club to beat the unpeaceful into submission. But taking responsibility for oneself and finding personal peace? That takes courage. Eschewing the outrage so prevalent today? That, too, takes courage. And finding peace in a time of great change? That takes the most courage of all.

I have been folding a senbazuru, which is 1,000 origami cranes, in my effort to find my own peace, a sort of mindfoldness. (As of today, I have folded 992 cranes.) Traditionally, the crane has been a symbol of success and good fortune, and supposedly, if you had the patience and commitment to fold l000 paper cranes, your wish would come true. (It’s no wonder that one of the first books about origami, published in Japan in the late 1700s, was entitled, How to Fold 1000 Cranes.)

In the last century, however, the crane became a symbol of peace because of one girl, Sadako Sasaski, a victim of Hiroshima. Dying of leukemia, she started folding a senbazuru in the hopes of getting well. When she realized she wouldn’t finish the task before she died, she switched her focus to peace. Legend has it that on her deathbed, she held one of her cranes and murmured, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”

Today is the annual Blog Blast for Peace, a time for finding the courage to write peace on our own wings as we go about our busy lives.

Dona nobis pacem.

***

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.

Perspective

Perspective is such an interesting phenomenon. If you look at something from one direction, you see or experience one thing; look at from another direction, you see something else, such as in the famous illusion of an old woman/young woman. In my case, I am looking at the current temperature from the perspective of summer, which makes the day seem much colder than it will after winter.

The temperature never got above the high forties today, and add in a bit of a wind chill, and the cold was too much for me even to contemplate, so I stayed inside. Didn’t water my grass. Didn’t attack any of the multitude of outside chores that need to be done before winter. I did step outside for a minute, then hurried back inside because ⸰.⸰.⸰. well, because it was cold.

Coming out of a blistering summer, as we did, the temperature seems frigid. When winter comes to an end, however, and we are treated to such a day, it will seem wonderfully springlike. In fact, I remember telling someone once that a winter temperature in the forties was my ideal. Now? With many more years weighing me down? Low fifties would be more my style. At least I think it would be. I do know inside temperatures of 72 used to be toasty, and now, not so much.

If I live long enough, I’ll probably be like other elderly folk I’ve known, and wear a heavy coat when the youngsters are out baring their skin. I do remember wondering, when I was young, if those elderly folk were nuts. Now I know they were simply cold.

But I’m not quite that old yet.

And anyway, I have an excuse for not wanting to go out and water when there is a wind chill or any kind of chill — I always seem to get wet (feet, hands, and wherever a spray pattern lands), and I’d hate to get pneumonia from temperatures as balmy as forty-plus degrees. Or maybe my excuse is laziness. Either way, I took a day off from watering.

Tomorrow, we’ll reach sixty, and by Saturday we’ll hit the seventies. Now those really are balmy temperatures, at least compared to the cold spell of the past few days! I’ll be able catch up on the watering I missed today, and even plant the bulbs that finally arrived.

Until then, I’ll bundle up when I have to go outside and try to refrain from thinking that the young folk in their flimsy outfits are nuts.

***

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.

Macabre Musings

Some people celebrate Halloween for religious reasons. For many, it’s the night before All Saints Day, a Christian holiday, and a day of remembering the dead, both the saintly and the not so saintly. For Wiccans, it’s a sacred day, one of the few high holy days in their religion. (And some people, like Jehovah’s witnesses, refrain from celebrating Halloween for religious reasons.)

Some people celebrate Halloween for the fun — dressing up, parties, trick-or-treating, as well as the subconscious ritualizing of ancient fears.

Some people, like me, tend to ignore the day because it is generally a time of getting together with friends and family, and I’ve mostly given up any group socialization for the time being.

Whatever the reason for celebration, certain decorations are de rigueur — pumpkins, ghosts, black cats, skeletons. None of those things have ever bothered me, except for the time I went to a fundraiser around Halloween, and a local mortuary was advertising their services. That was fine, but I did think the cartoonish renderings of skulls and gravestones and dancing skeletons decorating their booth was in poor taste.

For the first time in my life, though, I saw a Halloween decoration so macabre that it really creeped me out — an 11-foot unicorn skeleton archway in front of a neighbor’s house. Unicorns are linked to such traits as purity, freedom, gentleness, innocence, divinity, magic, fun, positive thoughts, and most of all, life. A dead unicorn seems to be the opposite of all that, though come to think of it, the unicorn looks more like a three-dimensional x-ray than a dead creature.

Although I lost interest in unicorns long before they became a rainbow-colored fad, the skeleton seems inappropriate, sort of like decorating one’s house with the skeleton of a teddy bear or even a deceased pet. And since the rainbow unicorn also has connections to the LGBT community as well the princess culture for little girls, it makes the unicorn skeleton even more bizarrely inappropriate.

Such a decoration really makes no difference to my life (except for the creep factor), so I suppose I should count myself lucky that the only problem I am currently having is with a macabre Halloween decoration.

***

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.

Malls Near and Far

A couple of friends are currently living in Bangkok. She’s Thai by birth, and he’s from various places in the USA, and somehow they ended up here in this town, where I met them. Now that she has end-stage cancer, she wanted to go home where she was most comfortable, so I haven’t seen them in months. I do hear from them periodically, however, partly because I am looking after their house and partly so he can touch base with his home country. At least that’s my theory.

She’s mostly housebound now, which works okay over there, since they have restaurants and food carts spread throughout the city, rather than clustered in specific areas as in this country. Even better, all those food outlets deliver.

What really caught my attention in the last email they sent were the photos of a mall they visited — a real treat for them since she hasn’t been able to get out except to doctors and hospitals.

The mall they went to is huge. Make that HUGE. The 26th largest mall in the world. 300+ stores. Parking for 5,000 vehicles. There are more people working in that mall than live in this entire town. And when you add in visitors, there are probably more people in that place on a given day than in the entire southeastern quadrant of Colorado.

When I stayed with my father, there was a mall I visited occasionally, and that only had 114 stores. Combine that with the mall closest to where Jeff and I lived in western Colorado, which had only 100 stores, and you’d still come up short.

I can no longer conceive of so many stores in one place. In this town, I’d bet there are only a couple of dozen stores all told, and that includes thrift stores, dollar stores, convenience stores, and pot shops.

The last time I was in a real mall was many years ago when I lived in Denver — Cinderella City. It was something special back then, the first mall west of the Mississippi and supposedly the biggest mall under one roof. With 250 stores, it still falls short of the mall in Bangkok. It’s gone now — it seems as if it made history again at its end because it was one of the first malls to go obsolete.

(I’d forgotten, but I once had a store in Cinderella City, not on the main floor, but in the “Alley” where there were a bunch of boutiques. A friend and I sold clothes we designed as well as various hand-crafted gifts. My main claim to fame was a macramé pinafore with a halter-style top that I made, envisioning it as something to slip on over other clothes to dress them up, but a stripper bought it to use in her act. How did I forget that? Maybe because even though it makes a great story, it was merely a blip in my life.)

I’m sure there are many malls within a couple of hours from here in the major cities along the front range, but I have no real desire to visit any of them. I don’t particularly like to window shop and I certainly don’t need — or want — to buy anything. (I look at the images of all those container ships off the coast of the USA waiting to be unloaded, and I wonder what they could possibly contain that people want in such quantities. Almost anything I need is in this country already. And if it’s not, I probably could do without it.)

Still, it’s interesting to think of such places and imagine a different world from the one in which I live.

***

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

Global Catastrophe

I recently came across another of those ubiquitous articles about what we can do to stop climate catastrophe. Those articles always amuse me because some of their suggestions are the same sort of things Americans were told to do in the depression, in the world wars, in the early days of the population explosion. In fact, they are the very things I have been doing my whole life, such as reducing food waste (what food waste? I have no food waste) and reducing water usage.

Other things, though, are about spending money. Lots of money. The article stressed weather-proofing one’s house, which is a good idea because it reduces energy bills. It also said to invest in energy-efficient appliances, but if you keep your use of appliances to a minimum, there’s no need to buy new appliances especially since the old ones are going to clog landfills. Same with vehicles. There’s no need to invest in an energy-efficient or expensive electric vehicle if you simply drive less. (In the past fifty years, I’ve driven fewer than 200,000 miles. Still way too much, but almost nothing compared to most people.) They conveniently forget to mention that the batteries on electric cars wear out and that they pose a hazard when they are dumped.

One thing they never, ever say anymore is to have fewer children. Back when I was child-bearing age, not having children was supposed to be good for the world and the environment to reduce the toll of overpopulation, a philosophy I adhered to. Unfortunately, most of those believers suddenly changed their minds when their biological clocks started ticking, so there was a bit of baby boom when those women who had put off having kids ended up having kids at the same time as the younger generation.

I know a woman my age who has 65 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. If she had not had any children, there would be 65 fewer people on the earth to contribute to any sort of global catastrophe. There would also be 65 fewer people to buy all those energy efficient appliances and electric vehicles, which is probably why the whole zero population growth movement died decades ago.

I suppose I should be less amused by the whole global warming thing, and I might be if it weren’t for the fact that the same panic mode has been touted my whole life while the subject of that panic has changed. And if there weren’t so much emphasis on spending money and making rich people richer. 

In thinking about all this, I considered writing a book about some catastrophe outside of our control that was about to descend on us, such as sun emissions or comets or aliens or whatever, and the whole climate change scenario was to keep us peons focused on our guilt while the power brokers raked in the cash until the catastrophe came so near that they couldn’t hide it any more.

And then it dawned on me. I already wrote that book — Light Bringer. In the novel, the problems Earth is facing has to do with a tenth planet in our solar system, one with such a huge elliptical orbit that it returns to affect Earth every 3,600 years, as was explained in this brief excerpt:

Philip made a harsh sound that might have been laughter. “In the fifties and sixties, stories of alien encounters were about saving the earth from nuclear weapons. In the seventies, eighties, and nineties, they were about saving the earth from global warming. Today they’re about creating a one world government, warning us that if we don’t have a unified global agenda, we don’t get to join the galactic federation.”

“Those are nothing more than systems of myth that each generation accepts,” Teodora said. “What we are dealing with here is a real problem. There is a tenth planet in our solar system, and it is close enough that it is already having adverse affects on the earth. Besides the growing severity of all types of storms, during the twentieth century there has been an escalating number of major earthquakes of unexplained origin. The global warming you mentioned is also being caused by the nearing planet, and during the coming years things are going to get worse.”

It could be true. Who knows.

My Changing Identity

Before I bought my house, I rented a room in a house. There were three of us — the owner, another tenant, and me. Sounds so Judge Judyish, doesn’t it? Though truly, my only problem was the owner’s careworker who used up one of my favorite spice mixes. But that was minor. And none of this introduction has anything to do with what I plan to write about except to explain why I watched certain movies.

A television and basic programming came with the room rent, but I didn’t watch until the last few months when it occurred to me that I might never have television programming again. (I actually have two televisions, one hooked up to a DVD player and one hooked up to a VCR, but I don’t have programming and I don’t watch any of the movies I’ve stockpiled.) Anyway, that Christmas, I watched Hallmark movies galore. In fact, I watched so many, I was able to tell when the next twist would come. (For example, twenty minutes before the finish, the couple had a huge misunderstanding, and then, five minutes before the end, they finally found out the truth and made up.)

One of the big drivers of such movies is that because of the main character’s problems or her parent’s problems, she has to leave her power job and adopted big city behind and move back to her hometown.

It always seemed such a contrived plot, especially since once she was there, her values suddenly changed, going from a power player to a more laid-back lifestyle. I didn’t have that experience moving here because I’ve always been something of a small-town person even though I grew up in Denver. Back then, though, there wasn’t so much driving every which way — we all more or less lived in our parishes and congregations in our own discrete neighborhoods. Each move I made as an adult took me to smaller towns, except, of course, when I went to look after my father in California, and even that conglomerate of three linked towns had a small-town feel, mostly, I think, because again, I mostly lived in one particular neighborhood, the only one close to the desert.

What I am discovering, however, that despite my feeling at home in this small town, the movie scenario, while trite, it isn’t all that contrived. I noticed that when I moved into a place of my own — a very nice place, probably nicer than I had any right to expect — my sense of self began to change. I was no longer one step away from being homeless but instead was fully homed. My habits changed and I became more of a neatnik than I ever imagined. (Well, except for my office. I still have piles of paper on my desk, heaped blanket and pillows on my daybed, and an empty cup on the bedside table.) I also became houseproud — proud that this house belongs to me as well as being proud of the way it looks and the way I keep it up.

I’ve settled into that version of me — the houseproud one — and now it looks as if I will have to rethink who I am based on the looks of the grounds the house sits on. I’m more of a dirt and weeds with a few scraggly flowers kind of person. And now . . . well, now I’m not. I’m the proud owner of an — almost — landscaped property with reddish paths meandering through brilliant green grass and skirting around bushes that are still too small to be noticeable. But one day those bushes will grow up, the wildflower sections will bloom, and I will live in a showplace.

This all seems so . . . not me. And yet, obviously, it is.

I just need to get my head around that.

***

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.

Fishing Peers

November elections are coming up, and mail-in ballots are being sent out. Locally, the city wants to raise the sales tax to fund recreational activities and improvements throughout town, as laid out in this photo of that part of the ballot:

Sounds good, especially the construction of new recreation amenities. Parks. Bike Paths. Bike Parks. Fishing Peers.

Wait. What? Fishing peers?

Does this mean that if the bill passes, the city will provide fishing buddies to anyone who wants one? Since they are going to construct the fishing peers, that must mean robots of some kind. Sounds very avante garde for this area of the country, but I suppose even rural areas need to get with the times.

There are no fishing holes in town, at least not that I am aware of, so perhaps the fishing experience will be an inland excursion of some sort, just our fishing peers and us hanging around, holding a fishing rod, and hoping for some flying fish to waltz on by.

Or not.

Since a shooting range might also be part of the package, it’s possible we and our fishing peers might be shooting fish in a barrel.

What can I say: It’s government. You never quite know what you’re going to end up with when you “cast” your vote.

***

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.

Peace and Plenty For All

In the book I just finished reading, the trillionaire hero was using his resources to find vaccines for the common cold as well as coronaviruses that exist now and will exist in the future. He’s also trying to revamp the medical establishment so everyone has equal access to care. And, to top it off, he’s on his way to discovering cheap, renewable energy. All in the hopes of ushering in a golden age of peace and plenty for all.

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of people want him dead, not just those you’d expect like those invested in energy businesses and medical businesses, but politicians and even humanitarians who want only to save the human race. As one such fictional humanitarian said: “People need hardship. They need something to struggle against. Someone to hate and feel superior to. Without these things, they lose their identity and sense of purpose. And they can’t handle it. Without a real enemy, they start turning on each other.”

That made me stop and think. Is it true? Do we need hardship? Struggles? Someone to hate and feel superior to? Are we really so petty that such things define us?

Hardships do change us, and perhaps even make us grow (and grow up), but would we wallow in purposelessness if we don’t experience adversity? I think about my life now, with no great hardships and hopefully, none on the horizon. It sure seems to be a good thing and is exactly the way I like it. I realize grief changed me, but before Jeff died and I became somehow different, I was just fine. If he hadn’t died and I hadn’t endured all those years of grief, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, but I’m not sure it would matter, because I only became this person so I could survive the trauma of his death, my loss, the pain, and my altered circumstances. Either way, I’d still be me with the same core values and a belief in kindness at almost all costs.

Without any trauma in my life, the only real challenge is to find something to write about every day to post on this blog. Other than that, I don’t feel as if my life lacks purpose. To be honest, I don’t think if we all were living in a trauma-less time, anyone would feel as if their life lacked purpose. As humans, we are fully capable of creating our own purpose and meaning. Besides, if we need something to struggle against, we don’t need other people; there is always our baser self which provides plenty of challenge and scope for improvement.

I do think if humans as a species always had an easy time of it, we’d probably still be living in a pre-stone-age society because it was the challenges of daily life that forced people to come up with ever more sophisticated tools. How that particular theory brings us to the age of computers, I don’t know, because there is nothing in our lives — except for our sheer numbers — that require such a mind-boggling tool. Nor does the age of computers in itself bring meaning to our lives. In fact, we bring meaning to computers, as we find novel ways of using the tools. The truth is, tools don’t bring meaning, and tools don’t bring happiness. Societies that manage to live as they always have for thousands of years are as happy or happier than we are. They don’t know — or care — about the “advantages” that a civilized life full of hardships, tools, and people to hate can bring.

I could be wrong in my assessment, but I truly do not see how a golden age could bring about a lack of purpose, with people turning on each other for no reason other than a need to have someone to look down on.

***

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.

Ghosts Who Write

I got a book from the library written by what I thought was one author but it turned out to be written another author I’ve never heard of. So often, in these days when bestselling authors become brand names, after they are dead, their name lives on in the hands — and mind — of a different writer.

Which leads me to believe that old bestselling authors don’t die, they become ghost writers. (Though “writing ghosts” or “ghosts who write” might be more accurate.)

I got fed up with Sue Grafton and her characters long before she hit the middle of the alphabet, but I must admit I admire her for her stance on letting her series die with her. So Z really was for zero. (That was supposed to be the final book, Z is for Zero, but she never had a chance to start writing it.) Besides, once a new Sue Grafton writer finished with Z, so would the author be finished because there is no letter after Z. Unless, of course, her publishers started inventing new letters so that the series could continue indefinitely. (<~> is for <~>####, perhaps?) Luckily for us, Grafton put an end to that.

But other authors and publishers aren’t so kind. One author (who is still alive, by the way) has written and cowritten an estimated 278 books. (I think only 71 by himself, though such numbers are hard to find.) After he’s gone and each of those co-authors continue the brand, a thousand books — two thousand books — isn’t beyond possibility. According to one estimate, there are 26 new releases from this fellow. Some people only read books with his name on the cover, which is okay because I never do. His less than stellar writing does not appeal to me. What surprises me is that people don’t care about this particular book farm (where he raised books like cattle). They buy his books anyway.

But that’s not what this particular blog was supposed to be about. The whole purpose was to post my silly thought about dead authors being ghost writers.

My writings might continue to be read after I’m gone — after all, blogs are forever, and some of my books are on the Amazon treadmill (as long as people order them, they will be published) — but no one will continue writing in my name except by accident. (Mine is not a common name.)

I’m glad that I won’t be a writing ghost, though I would be just as glad (I think I would, anyway) if my books sold well enough for my name become a household brand.

***

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.