Unspeakable Truths

I don’t know the truth of what’s going on. No one knows, though most of us read a few articles, see a few videos, watch the news, talk to friends, and so we think we do. Not even the people the “conspiracy theorists” think are behind the current situation know the truth. There are folks so deeply entrenched into the power structure of the world economy and have been for so many years, that we see only their minions.

Although I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, I have spent most of my life researching conspiracies, trying to find the truth. (Keep in mind that researching back then wasn’t a matter of googling a few sites and watching a couple of videos. It meant books, and books, and more books. It meant studying research papers and tracking information through various sources.)

That’s all I’ve ever been interested in — the truth. Whether it’s the truth of religion, politics, history, science, life, death, it’s all fair game to me. Truth has been a lifelong pursuit. In fact, when I was in eighth grade, we were assigned to create the front page of a newspaper, including headlines, articles, etc. My newspaper was all about the meaning of nursery rhymes, and back then it took some digging to find out some of those meanings. For example, “Ring-around the rosy” originated as a rhyming song about the black death —“We all fall down.” Mary, Mary, quite contrary supposedly tells a grim tale about Mary Tudor.

One thing I did learn during a lifetime of research (two lifetimes if you include Jeff’s historical research in addition to mine) is that often a so-called conspiracy is merely a plan someone or a group of someones makes and doesn’t tell anyone.

Is what’s going on today fulfilling some people’s agendas? Probably. However it started, however anything starts — whether by accident or design — there is always someone who is ready to make a profit from it, either in money or power. There will also always be people who believe there is an agenda even if they can’t agree on what that agenda might be, and there will always be those who don’t. It doesn’t make a difference, really. We still have to deal with each day as it comes and to protect ourselves however we can.

Although I have been trying to find out how some influential people are using this situation to promote themselves and their businesses (destroying small businesses in the process), I don’t know if I care what the truth is. Whether this is the simple pandemic we’re told it is or whether there is some nefarious purpose behind it, knowing won’t change anything. Besides, the truth doesn’t always set us free. Sometimes it only serves to make us sad and weary and so very, very discouraged.

When I was writing A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about biological warfare that mirrors this situation in sometimes eerie ways, I needed a substory and, as often happens, I found a clue in the very next book I read, and the pursuit of that clue led me to a place called Pingfan and added a depth to my novel I could never have imagined.

By that time, I thought my knowledge of man’s and woman’s inhumanity to their own kind made me shockproof, but even I was appalled to learn about Pingfan. For those who have read A Spark of Heavenly Fire — no, I did not create Pingfan. I don’t have that sort of inhumane brain. General Ishii created the place.

General Ishii was the leader of the Japanese germ warfare program. It’s ironic, but the Japanese had no interest in biological warfare until the Geneva Protocol’s 1932 ban on biological weapons. Ishii concluded the ban meant they were an effective means of fighting a war, so he persuaded the imperial army to let him establish a biological warfare installation. The army granted permission in 1937.

They built the installation in Manchuria near a village called Pingfan, forty miles outside of Harbin, and it was huge—a town in itself, actually, and self-supporting. In addition to living quarters and the research facilities, which included a separate compound for plague research, there was a school, a railroad siding, an administration building, a crematorium, a powerhouse, a hospital, an airbase, and farms for raising food and livestock. A high wall topped with barbed wire hid the facility from view. A moat lay beyond the wall to trap any intruders, and an electrified fence surrounded the inner perimeter to prevent escapes.

Three thousand doctors, scientists, technicians, and soldiers worked there. The output was staggering. They grew and experimented with all kinds of diseases and bio-weapons. And they had the capacity for producing twenty million doses of vaccine annually. Radiating out from Pingfan were eighteen other biological warfare stations, each staffed with three hundred people. Many of those stations were on mainland China. The whole program was administered by an organization with the innocuous name of Boeki Kyusuibu, which means Anti-Epidemic Water Supply Unit.

The Japanese conducted their experiments on Chinese villagers and POWs—mostly Chinese, but also American, British and Australian prisoners. (Many of the soldiers from the Bataan death march ended up there.)

Hundreds of American POWs died torturous deaths, and if by chance any of them survived one experiment, they were immediately put to use in another. Thousands upon thousands of Chinese were also killed—at least a hundred thousand, perhaps as many as a million—but the Japanese admitted to only a thousand. (And now the Chinese have their own bio-labs.)

The Japanese conducted all sorts of experiments.

Using planes, they scattered rice and wheat mixed with plague.

They dropped anthrax bombs designed to shatter into a thousand pieces of shrapnel. A single scratch from one of those fragments caused death in ninety percent of its victims.

They injected their victims with diseases, fed them cultures of diseases, exposed them to clouds of diseases in gas chambers, then killed them at various stages of the diseases, and performed autopsies on them. They performed some autopsies while the victim still lived.

They poisoned thousands of wells in Manchuria with cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Interestingly, a regiment of Japanese soldiers unknowingly drank from one of those wells. Thousands died.

They also infected fleas with botulism, put them in balloons, and let them go, hoping they’d reach the United States. Many of the balloons did reach the western coast, but luckily the fleas had all died.

In addition to bacteriological experiments, the doctors had conducted experiments on frostbite. Victims were taken outside in the coldest months of the year and forced to immerse their hands and feet in barrels of cold water. They were kept outside until their extremities froze, then were taken back inside so the doctors could investigate means of treating frostbite.

The doctors had also done blood work experiments. In an effort to discover if blood other than human could be used to treat wounded soldiers, prisoners had been drained of their own blood and infused with horse’s blood. All died.

After the war, Ishii ended up in the custody of the United States. He told them about his germ warfare program in exchange for immunity. The U.S. concluded that the potential benefits of the research outweighed the demands of justice. No war crimes were ever brought against Ishii, and the whole thing was covered up. Ishii retired to a village named Wakamatsu-cho, where he lived on a pension provided by the U.S. government until his death in 1959.

None of the other doctors involved ever charged with war crimes, either.

The pathology squad leader who had conducted live autopsies became a professor at Kyoto University. He later became a professor emeritus of the university and a medical director of the Kinki University at Osaka.

The doctor who had fed typhoid germs in milk to prisoners, and who had been responsible for certain types of germ bombs, became a professor of bacteriology at Kyoto University.

The frostbite expert joined the faculty of Kyoto Prefectural Medical College and later became its president.

The premier germ bomb expert joined the Japanese National Institute of Health, where he continued his bacteriological research.

The hematologist opened a blood bank that eventually became one of the most successful multi-national medical supply and pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The only reason any of this became public knowledge is that many years later, when some of the American victims applied for help through the VA, they were told their records were sealed, and that what they had experienced had never happened. They fought for their truth, and won.

Was that the end? Of course not. There’s always someone trying to make a bad thing worse. For example, the Russians built an underground facility capable of growing eighty to one hundred tons—tons!—of the smallpox virus every year. Even worse, they modified it genetically, combining the smallpox with Ebola and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a brain virus. Worst of all, the collapse of the Soviet Union left hundreds of biological research scientists unemployed. Many of them took the smallpox with them when they went to work for other countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, India, and maybe even Israel and Pakistan. And of course, the United States.

So, do I think some powerful people are using this current situation for their own ends? You bet. Do I know that those ends are? I can guess, but even that would fall short of the truth, because some truths are so horrific and unspeakable that only masterful psychopaths can imagine them. I no longer even have the heart to write about such crimes, which is why only my first four books are based on various conspiracies.

If you’re interested in reading A Spark of Heavenly Fire, it’s still available as a free download from Smashwords. Click here to get your free ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

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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.

Adventure!

A friend is here visiting, taking time from a disappointing road trip from California. Their trip was planned months ago, and they had no idea there would be any but the usual problems of long-distance travel. But we are in the time when things are shutting down to keep people from congregating, so many of the places they’d planned to see were closed. Now, they face additional closures, and are unsure of how and when they will be able to return home.

But in the middle of all that turmoil came their visit here, to southeastern Colorado. Considering the problems they’d encountered elsewhere, their visit here might stand as one of the highlights of their trip.

We didn’t do much, just spent time together and went exploring. One of the places we visited was Fort Lyon — an army fort turned into a naval tuberculosis sanitarium turned into a VA neuropsychiatry hospital turned into a Colorado prison turned into the Fort Lyon Coalition for the homeless. Whew! A lot of history!

One interesting little building on the grounds is the Kit Carson Chapel. Carson didn’t really have anything to do with the chapel, other than his dying in Surgeon General Tilton’s quarters on May 23, 1868. When that particular building started falling apart, the VA made a new building out of the rocks. Originally, the building was a museum, then eventually was designated the Kit Carson Chapel.

When Colorado took over the facility, one of the agreements was that they would move the chapel to a more accessible location by the entrance. The building is available for weddings and funerals. Although it sits in solitary splendor, when one drives from Fort Lyon National Cemetery through a tree-lined road one sees the chapel in an entirely different aspect.

Although the return trip for my friends seems fraught with uncertainly, one thing is certain — we had a good day.

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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.

More Murder Mystery in the Museum

Thanks to everyone who has contributed ideas to the murder mystery game we have planned for the local museum. Although I was able to use only one or two of your ideas for the game, I will keep the rest to help me with the book. (I’m thinking that my next book should be based on this museum experience, though instead of a fake body, we find a real body.) The book will be in the present, so I should be able to make use your ideas such as time zone variances and medical conditions; unknown twins, seamen, and parrots.

Meantime, I’ve been researching Clay Allison, and I found suspects in the history of the times. (After all, it is an historical museum event.) I’ve figured out how to present the clues for everyone except Colonel Mustard and Mrs. Peacock, but if I don’t, I don’t suppose it matters. In the end, it could come down to a guessing game. This, then, is what I have written so far:


Spur of the Moment Murder Mystery

It is Monday, March 5, 1877. Rutherford B. Hayes has just been publicly inaugurated as the nineteenth president of the United States. Hayes lost the popular vote but won the most electoral college votes after a ferociously disputed ruling by a Congressional committee. Citizens of the town are out late, some celebrating the victory, some drowning their sorrows at having a Republican in office.

Revelers discovered the body of Clay Allison outside the jewelry store at 9:00pm. There is no lack of people who want Clay Allison dead.

Mrs. Peacock, born in 1842, is the married sister of Deputy Charles Faber. Clay had gunned down the deputy after the deputy had demanded Clay and his brother relinquish their guns. Mrs. Peacock is not only grieving the loss of her brother, but is fuming that Allison went free after the judge ruled Clay Allison’s actions self-defense. She claims to have been home alone with her husband.

Colonel Mustard, the blacksmith, born in 1832, was at the garrison at Gainesville Alabama when Clay and the others in his Confederate unit surrendered at the end of the Civil War. Clay claimed he’d been pardoned, though Colonel Mustard maintains that Clay had escaped the night before he was to go before a firing squad. Twice Clay had escaped justice, and that does not sit right with the Colonel.

Mrs. White, schoolteacher, born in 1824, was overheard telling a friend that Clay Allison deserves to be shot for mangling the English language. Clay had bragged that he was a shootist. “Shootist?” said Mrs. White. “He just made up that word.” Mrs. White claims to have been at a suffragette meeting that evening at the schoolhouse. The suffrage referendum had just been defeated in Colorado, and she and other women in town knew they’d have to form a political coalition to work on getting suffrage for women in Colorado.

Professor Plum, a professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, born in 1878, is writing a book about Clay Allison. He came to town to talk to Clay, though Clay seemed disinclined to tell him the truth of his life, which enraged the Professor. Professor Plum was seen in the vicinity of the jewelry store around the time of the murder, though this seems to have been a nebulous sighting at best.

Miss Scarlet, dance hall girl, born in 1860, hated Clay Allison for promising her marriage and a life of respectability and then reneging on the deal. She claims to have been with Mr. Green when the incident occurred.

Mr. Green, bank teller, born in 1847, says he was not with Miss Scarlett, had never even met her. He claims to be an upstanding citizen with pretentions to being bank president one day, though he does admit that Clay Allison tended to play fast as loose with the ladies in town, and should be shot on general principles.

Rules:

Look for clues in the above history, in the various exhibits, by talking to the characters. Check off the characters as you learn they didn’t do the dirty deed. Whoever is left, then, must be the killer.

o Mrs. Peacock.
o Colonel Mustard
o Mrs. White
o Professor Plum
o Miss Scarlett
o Mr. Green

So who killed Clay Allison? How was he killed? Why was he killed?


And there you have it (as of right now anyway), my murder in the museum scenario. It’s subject to change of course, if I come up with more history or better ideas.

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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.

 

Murder at the Museum

The local historical museum is hosting an open house at the end of the month, and they want it to be more than simply a viewing event, so they’ve decided to use a murder theme. And I’ve been coopted to help figure out how to do create the mystery.

This is not a murder dinner (that will come in February instead of a Valentine’s celebration), nor is a skit. It will basically be just people visiting the museum and . . .

The “and” is where I come in.

My idea was to give people photos of certain exhibits as they were pre-murder. Then people need to find those exhibits, discover what is different, and so learn what the murder weapon was, or the time, or anything else I can figure out.

We will have a body. (In fact, the very first time I roamed the museum, I turned a corner and for just a second thought I saw a dead body.)

People will easily be able to figure out the weapon and time of death because of the photo evidence. But I can’t figure out how they can guess whodunnit. There will be people in costumes of the period, and one of those folks will be the perpetrator. I could leave a clue somewhere, I suppose, that would indicate one of the people. I could give them alibis, I suppose, and have visitors decide which one is lying. I could give a handout, I suppose, with all the motives.

As you can see, I am doing a lot of “supposing.”

I could set up the game where motive isn’t necessary to figure out who did it. I don’t remember, was motive a part of Clue, or was it more, “Colonel Plum in the library with a candlestick”?

If motive isn’t necessary, we could give a small prize to anyone who figures out how the mannequin was killed and who did it (that way it’s not a race, and the museum won’t be destroyed in the process), and then give a main prize to the person who comes up with the most intriguing motive.

If you have any suggestions how I can go about putting together this murder at the museum, please feel free to leave a comment. As you can see, I need all the help I can get.

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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 End of the Creeping Darkness!

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At 8:28 this morning, Pacific time, winter came. Twice. The calendar winter, of course, but also the weather winter. Soooo cold! 8:28 am PT also marked this year’s winter solstice, ending the creeping darkness. “Solstice” comes from two Latin words, sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “stationary” because on this day, in the northern hemisphere, the sun seems to stand still, as if garnering it’s strength to fight back the darkness.

Technically, the winter solstice marks the moment when there is a 23.5-degree tilt in Earth’s axis and the North Pole is at its furthest point from the sun — from here on, the days will get longer, gaining us an additional 6 and 1/2 hours of sunlight per day by June 21st when the days begin to get shorter again. (This is reversed in the southern hemisphere, so today those down under will be celebrating their summer solstice.)

Though neo-pagans have claimed the solstice for their own, this is one of those natural holidays (holy days) that we all should be celebrating. The triumph of light over darkness. A day of stillness, of hope, of giving thanks for the promise that even in our darkest hour, light will return.

My celebration was simple. I lit a vase of lights and went outside and toasted the pale winter sun with champagne. Well, it was really sparking apple/peach cider, but the sun didn’t seem to care. It slid beneath the desert knolls without even a wink or a nod to acknowledge my obeisance. But it will return with greater strength tomorrow. And so will I.

Wishing you a bright and hopeful end of the creeping darkness.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

My Humpty-Dumpty Arm

I went to the doctor on Wednesday to get an update on my arm. The news was sort of disappointing. I’m not healing very fast at all, so the external fixator has to stay on another four weeks if I can keep the insertion points from getting infected. Apparently, I did so much damage that the arm/wrist/elbow can never be completely repaired. At the moment, the best we can be glad about is that the wrist and hand bones aren’t migrating. The real problem bone for me at the moment is the unbroken bone, the ulna, because basically it’s not attached to anything near the wrist, and it hurts even worse than the broken bone. Not only did I shatter my elbow, pulverized my wrist, break the radius in a dozen different places, I tore or destroyed multiple ligaments and even a tendon or two, including the ligaments that hold the ulna in place.

The surgeon still claims that my wrist will have only about a 50% mobility, but for the first time he admitted that most people generally don’t use more than 50% except for turning a doorknob or accepting change, so that part of my prognosis doesn’t sound as dire as I thought, though a two-year window for healing is daunting. He says it could also be two years before I have full use of my hand and fingers, and even then I will lose 10 to 20%, but how often do you need to make a tight fist or bend your fingers backwards? I guess boxing lessons won’t be in my future! (That was a joke — I never wanted to learn to box.)

He seems to be mystified by the scope of the injury. Apparently, it’s a bit of a physics miracle in that a single fall cannot create this much havoc. Generally the energy from a fall is dissipated by one or two breaks, so this sort of damage normally comes from something like a car accident. The only thing he can figure out is that I must have bounced, which I think is possible, though I don’t know for sure. All I really remember is complete disorientation and confusion as I was falling, then lying on the ground screaming in pain.

I continue to be left to my own devices most of the time. I still can’t drive, still can’t walk far, can’t concentrate well because of the pain medications, so all that’s left for me to do is piddle around on the Internet, read, do puzzles, and think. People keep accusing me of thinking too much, and yet why not? At best, I might come up with some interesting ideas. At worst, it’s cheap entertainment.

Ever since seeing the doctor, I’ve been pondering on miracles and other life-changing events. For the most part, it seems that life-changing events are of the “negative” variety — the death of a significant person in your life, severe injury, loss of a job, or loss of savings due to medical bills. I know there are “positive” miracles, the most common ones being falling in love or having a baby, but still I wonder why the negative life changers seem to outnumber the positive ones. I realize that positive and negative are judgments we put on events that happen to us, that inherently things are not necessarily good or bad, but you have to admit, falling in love is a heck of a lot more fun than destroying an arm, and the results are much more pleasant. (Falling in love isn’t always a good thing, especially if the object of that love turns out to be abusive, but it still feels good until it goes bad.)

We humans are myth-making creatures. We tell stories about our lives, the things that happen to us, and the things we want to happen to us. (If you doubt our myth-making capabilities, all you have to do is look at the current political milieu and the accusations of evil being bandied about on both sides — good and evil are mythic elements, and are not necessarily representative of a cosmic truth.)

When people say things happen for the best or that things happen for a reason, that is the beginning of their myth. I don’t think my fall was anything but a fall, no inherent meaning, no “best”. I have not yet created my “fall” myth, haven’t figured out yet how to turn this devastating injury into something positive. I suppose I could look at it as a way of facing my worst fear — stagnation. My problem is not that I hate being alone, especially with nothing to do, it’s that such a lifestyle suits me too well, and I do not want to spend the rest of my life in a cocoon of entropy. When you are with someone, they bring energy to your life, but when you are alone you have to work at garnering energy otherwise you succumb to entropy. But still, facing this fear in no way is worth the pain, panic, and poor prognosis of this injury, especially since I would eventually have to face such a life anyway.

I suppose it’s too early to create a myth surrounding this injury. That will come with time. Meanwhile, I try to remain as stress-free as possible, to eat as well as possible, to do what I can to foster healing. I’d keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that I don’t need the full two years of healing, but it’s going to be a long time before I can cross my left fingers. Ah, well, something to look forward to.

I hope the myth you’re creating for yourself today is a happy one.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Field of Dreams

I enjoyed the movie Field of Dreams and even liked the ending as long as I didn’t let myself wonder how the magic had already reached out to all those folks, bringing them to the field. Unless they were all local (and we know they weren’t since the locals thought he was loco), some of them would have had to start traveling almost as soon as the field was completed. But this is a movie about magic, not logic.

Apparently, the magic reached out beyond the screen because the field became a tourist destination. I always found that ironic. Didn’t people realize it was just a movie, and that the magic was only movie magic? I felt disconnected from these folk, unable to understand the draw, until I was driving along a highway and noticed one of those blue signs that listed local attractions. And there it was, in Dyersville, Iowa: Field of Dreams.

I’d chanced upon other movie locations in earlier travels: the Bagdad cafe, Tom Hanks’s house in Sleepless in Seattle, the fabulous wrought-iron building in Wolf, an iconic route 66 motel that has appeared in dozens of movies, the town where True Grit was filmed, the La Brea tar pits, and several others I don’t remember at the moment. In this spirit, I turned off the highway and made the three-mile trek to the Field of Dreams.

As I drove to the site, I had to laugh at the foolishness of my becoming another pilgrim to the location, but when I arrived, the feeling of being foolish disappeared. It really is special being able to see in real life something you have seen in a movie. Beyond that, it was fun seeing the field itself, so incongruous — a ballpark in the middle of an agrarian area. And it touched me, that magic of dreams.

Maybe

I don’t know what my maybe would be; don’t even know what to dream about or hope for, and yet as I stood gazing at that field, I sensed possibilities as yet unrealized.

Such is the magic that reached out to us from the movie. And such is the magic that draws even a cynic such as I to the Field of Dreams.

“If you build it, they will come.”

Apparently so.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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A Ghost of Times Past

I am a generation of one, without roots, and currently without even a place to call home, so people’s rootedness often seems strange — and compelling — to me.

Perhaps the most fascinating story of roots was one I heard at a Chinese buffet in DeKalb, Illinois. Not that the buffet had anything to do with this particular history — it’s just where we happened to have our conversation.

I had arranged to meet an author I had collaborated with on a steampunk book called Break Time. This book exemplifies the wonder of the internet — the authors collaborating on the project came from four different countries, and none of us had ever met in real life. So I was thrilled to finally be able to meet one of the authors — Dale Cozort, who writes science fiction and alternative histories.

Dale, his wife Elaine, and I had a pleasant chat over plates of delicacies until I happened to fill a momentary pause with an idle question. “Do you live here in the city?”

Elaine said yes, they lived in town, in one of the first houses built there.

That sure caught my interest! When she told me the house had been built by her great-great-grandfather, I asked how they came to own the place. I expected her to say that they bought it when it happened to come on the market, but what she said made my jaw drop.

Her great-great-grandfather, Eli B. Gilbert, an attorney and Civil War officer, had built the house in 1864, and it had been in her family ever since. She grew up in that house and is the fifth generation of her family to own it.

Wow! Talk about roots!

There are reminders of the past everywhere, including portraits of her progenitors. Apparently there are places in the attic Dale and Elaine are still exploring, and they keep finding fabulous treasures, such as her great-great-grandfather’s will. They have donated many of the documents they have found to the local library, and there are probably more to discover.

Can you imagine being so bound to a place? No wonder Dale writes alternate histories! History colors everything he does, everything he touches. The house even stirred up my muse! What if someone living in the house were to open a door expecting to enter their bedroom, for example, but entered the room as it was 153 years ago, before the Civil War ended? Oh, my.

Elaine and Dale invited me to the house and, stepping inside, I could feel the weight of all that history. Elaine said, almost sadly, there were no ghosts in that house, but in a way, the house itself is a ghost — or at least a testament — of times past.

Such an unexpected and unplanned joy of this trip — meeting Dale and Elaine and being introduced to their history and their house. I just hope that in my amazement and enthrallment, I remembered to thank them.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Pilgrims and Pilgrimages

I just got a notice on Facebook that I’ve been approved for a group called “American Pilgrims on the Camino,” though I’d never requested to join, never even knew there was such a group. I do know that El Camino de Santiago is the name of the pilgrimage route(s) to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many people make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, but others have a more secular agenda, such as an adventure or challenge.

desertThe first I’d heard of The Camino came from a women I walk with who mentioned that she wanted to do it. It seemed quite romantic, this pilgrimage, even for a non-believer, but the truth is, any hike I do is by way of a pilgrimage. Walking for me is not a sport, not an endurance test. It’s a way of connecting to the outer world as well as a way of exploring my inner world.

Christine Valters Paintner wrote: “I am captivated by the image of pilgrimage as a metaphor for our human journeying. Not just the physical journeys we make to outward places, but to the interior places of the heart, the new landscapes we are called to explore. Can we allow our own trajectories to be oriented in a new direction? Often the call arrives to our own lives unbidden. Something happens which we did not expect and we need to shift our perspective to open our eyes to this new possibility.”

I feel the call, but I don’t know what is calling me or what I’m being called to do. It certainly has come unbidden, this pull toward adventure, but I am opening my eyes to new possibilities. It seems as if the whole world is out there for the taking if I only have the courage to grab it.

I doubt the Camino is in my future. Although travelers rhapsodize about crossing a lower ridge of the Pyrenees, walking on farm roads through areas of rolling vineyards and crossing several mountain passes, and tramping through the forested river valleys of Galicia, the truth is that much of the Camino is paved, and is better suited to bicycling. In some ways, such a pilgrimage would agree me because stores and inns line much of the road enabling me to carry a light pack, but it seems silly to travel all the way to Spain for a pilgrimage when I can do something even more spiritually rewarding here in the USA.

Still, for now, I’ll keep my membership in The Camino group. I could end up doing almost anything, including making such a trip. Or I could end up just making small pilgrimages. After all, there are dance classes to consider, and dance is a pilgrimage in itself.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Perfect Day

This is one of those perfect days, a gift from the universe. The weather isn’t particularly nice, none of my problems have been resolved, I’m still facing life alone and yet . . . and yet . . .

I’m walking around with a smile on my face. (I’m cracking up here. I accidentally wrote “with a simile on my face”, and I suppose that could be true, too.)

It’s possible my recent bout of tears/sorrow/grief shook something loose in me and when things settled back into place, they settled into a more harmonious whole. It’s possible I’ve reached a new level of acceptance of my life, because as I have discovered, every step forward is accompanied by an upsurge of grief for what I am leaving behind. It could be that the grief I’ve felt over the loss of a friendship has smoothed over with the realization it’s how I feel about the friend that counts, not what the friend feels about me.

Or it could be the alchemist affect.

wizardPeople frequently remind me that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result each time, and if we lived in a closed system where everything remained the same, repeating the same ineffective actions would be insane. But every day things are different. And it’s that difference the alchemists banked on. We picture the alchemists doing the same procedure repeatedly in a crazed attempt to perfect their experiment, but the truth is, they did the same thing over and over again in exactly the same way in the hope of getting different results. Sometimes everything came together as they hoped, and they transformed lead into gold or themselves into a higher form of life or atoms into energy.

The alchemists knew the truth — that we do not live in a closed system.. The earth hurtles around the sun at 67,000 mph. The sun hurtles around the galaxy at 140 miles per second. The entire universe is also moving and expanding, so from one second to the next we are in a completely different place with a possibility of different factors. Add in more localized variables, such as humidity, temperature, sun spot activity and solar winds, and it would seem insane to do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results.

Does it really matter why I feel good today? Not particularly. It’s enough to know that it is possible for me to have a day that makes me feel good even though such days are as incomprehensible to me as those where I can’t stop crying.

For all I know, it’s not even me who cried the other day. Maybe it’s not even me who feels good today. Maybe I’m just a conduit for unrecognized cosmic energies.

Which would make today exactly as I said, a gift from the universe.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.