The Cosquer Caves

In a book I’m reading, the prehistoric art in the Cosquer Caves plays a major part, which is fun since I’d never heard of them, though in my defense, my last research into cave paintings preceded the discovery of the caves.

The Cosquer Caves are an underground — and undersea — treasure of cave art. Carbon dating shows two distinct timeframes for the art — around 19,000 BP and 27,000 BP.

[I looked up the definition of BP so you don’t have to. It means “Before the Present,” but since the date of the “present” changes every year, they have chosen the rather arbitrary-seeming date of 1950 to mean the present, which seems silly to me because they exchanged one rather arbitrary date for another. I understand why people don’t like the previous designation of BC because of the mention of Christ, but since he was not born in the year 0, the year itself didn’t mean anything. “They” did try to change the BC to BCE — Before the Common Era — but apparently, 1950 makes better sense to them for a starting date, even though it doesn’t to me.]

The caves weren’t discovered until 1985 when Henri Cosquer, a diver who was exploring the Calanques (a series of cliffs and bays not far from Marseilles), happened to notice a hole in the side of a cliff wall, 36 meters (118 feet) below the surface. And so he discovered the caves, which soon bore his name. Although the caves were made known almost immediately, the first mention of the cave art (all sorts of animals as well as hand tracings) came in 1991 when three divers got lost in the cave and subsequently died.

Before the sea began to rise after the last ice age ended, the Cosquer Caves were located several miles inland. The waters are still rising, slowly submerging the caves, and now the entrance to the caves has been closed off. If you wish to experience the caves, you don’t need to make the dangerous journey under water and through perilous tunnels (even if they were still open) — a replica of the caves has been recreated. Oddly, they have been recreated as they were found — underwater — rather than on land where they originated.

I find this story interesting for several reasons.

One: that such an important discovery wasn’t made public until the three divers died. I’m not exactly sure what that says about us as a species, but it does seem rather true to form.

Two: That the cave paintings came from two such distant eras. Generally, the art found in paleolithic sites seems to be done all in the same era and then is forgotten or just left alone as people move on. It’s been postulated that this was a site visited by nomadic peoples or world travelers, which could be true or just a guess to explain the diversity.

Three: Proof of how climates always change.

There are many terms that really get on my nerves: veggies, 110%, intestinal fortitude, to name a few. But my current most unfavorite is “climate change” because it’s redundant. Climate is change. Climate is always changing. We tend to think we live in a bubble, where what is always was, but this long period of rather temperate weather we’ve been experiencing since the little ice age, is a rather a rarity in the vast history of the earth. (The little ice age was a cold interval from the mid-fourteenth century through the mid nineteenth century. There were even colder intervals of cold between the main interval, the final one from 1840 to 1880.)

Although I am not disagreeing that humans have an effect of the climate, and in a bubble where outside things don’t affect what is in the bubble and where the bubble itself never changes, what we are seeing would definitely be human-caused. But other factors could be at work — sun spots and solar discharges are one hypothesis to account for some of the current climate. Others hypothesize that we are still coming out of the last ice age, and that our activities may or may not be aggravating that warming trend. Or it could be something completely different, perhaps even another planet in our solar system as the Sumerians believed (a belief I made use of in my novel Light Bringer), and the planet’s return from its remote journey into space is playing havoc with our climate.

We tend to think we know all there is to know about the earth and climate and human history, but the rather recent discovery of these caves and the art that was so important to humans back in those far distant days, shows us that we don’t know everything, shows us that we don’t live in a bubble, shows us that there are still surprises.

***

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

Science Says

A physicist at École Centrale Paris posted a detailed photo of a distant world that had supposedly been captured through the world’s most powerful space telescope. After the image got thousands of likes and oohs and aahs, he admitted the image was not a celestial body but a slice of chorizo sausage. He claims he perpetrated this hoax to make a point about fake news and how easily things were misinterpreted. He wanted people to proceed with caution and to be wary of studies and experts that support a particular point of view.

It seems to me that if he really wanted people to be wary, it would have made more sense to simply tell people to be wary, but where’s the fun in that? This fellow seems to like practical jokes — apparently, he’d posted the same photo online four years ago, claiming it was the blood moon as seen in Spain. (It makes sense in a whimsical sort of way since a slice of chorizo is a full-moon shaped, blood-colored product from Spain.)

Whether this particular usage of the photo was an actual hoax that he tried to backtrack from, a joke, or a timely warning as he claims, what I found interesting was not that people fell for his trickery (because truly, there’s no way we ordinary folk can tell if a photo is of a distant world or is simply a piece of pork) but that people want to believe in something bigger than they are. Even more, they want to be awed.

According to the dictionary, science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” More simply, science is “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena,” and “the discovery of general laws or truths that can be tested systematically.”

Despite science being a discipline of shared knowledge that is changed or refined as more observations are made and more experiments are done, many people look to “Science” (with a capital “S”) as an immutable authority, a secular replacement for religion as something both to believe in and to be awed about. Even worse, “Science Says” is often used as an excuse, a not-to-be-argued-with dogmatism, or a justification of one’s beliefs or actions, when in fact, “Science” says nothing. It has no voice. Scientists say things, and as shown above, what scientists say may not be the truth.

We certainly don’t need to turn our attention to scientists for something to believe in or something to “awe” over. We can go outside, look around, and see what we can see. After all, that’s how science as a discipline started, with people simply looking. Admittedly, we won’t see a piece of photo-shopped sausage, but we might see something even more intriguing.

***

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

Lilies of the Field

I thought I was being clever when I named this post since I am attaching photos of my lilies. I also thought I was being clever when I Googled “lilies of the field flower” to see what exactly those flowers were so I could astound you with my knowledge.

And that’s where the cleverness ended, mine and everyone else’s. Like with so much else I look up for this blog, there is no definitive answer.

Some people think the lilies of the field are lilies of the valley.

Some think they are the now rare — and spectacular — white Madonna Lily, the lily from which our Easter Lily was derived. Because this wildflower exists only in the high valleys of Galilee and a few other places and not near the shores of the sea of Galilee, other people think the Madonna Lily can’t possibly be the original lily of the field.

Some people think the lily of the field is the scarlet martagon. Even though this flower did exist at the proper time, Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus supposedly named this flower “lily of the field” after the biblical reference.

Some people think the lily of the field is the poppy anemone.

So, apparently no one knows what the lilies of the field actually are. All the lilies pictured here are lilies of my own field . . . well, yard . . . though “Lilies of the Yard” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Lilies of the Field.”

Making things even more confusing, only the first lily adorning this blog is a true lily, hybrid though it might be. The others are daylilies, which aren’t true lilies but are in fact a completely different genus.

But no matter what you call them, these lilies of my yard are lovely even though, as in the bible, my lilies toil not, mostly because I do the toiling — such as watering and weeding — for them.

***

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.

Inequity

The only time I watch television is occasionally when the woman I am looking after wants to watch. Usually we watch Judge Judy, though sometimes we watch the news.

I’ve been feeling rather smug since the fear-mongering tactics of the newscasters don’t work with someone who’s already been there. For example, if the prime interest rates are the highest they’ve been in twenty years, as they said, that means that I saw even higher rates twenty-plus years ago. If inflation is the worst in forty years, as they said, it means that forty-plus years ago, I experienced a worse rate of inflation. Same with the ups and the downs of the Dow. Been there. Survived that.

I must admit, though, that any smugness was wiped out by the shock of yesterday’s news. Truly stunning — from one minute to the next, this country’s clock was turned back fifty years. I don’t see how it’s possible. I don’t see how it became possible, especially since it wasn’t that long ago various factions were trying to get late-term abortions legalized. Since in Roe vs. Wade, first trimester terminations were acceptable, but later terminations were acceptable only if the mother’s health was in danger, making late-term abortions legal would have effectively overturned part of Roe vs. Wade, but to overturn the whole thing, banning all abortions? What the . . . ?

It seems simple to me. If you think even first trimester abortion is immoral, don’t have one. But other than that, what possible difference can one woman’s struggle with impending motherhood have to do with anyone else? People who think pregnancy termination is murder, well, so is the death sentence, so is sending our young people to other countries to be cannon fodder in distant wars. So why not terminate death row? Why not stop sending people to war? While we’re at it, why not protect children in school?

Why not a lot of things.

I can understand taking federal funding away from abortion clinics, because truly, why should taxpayers who think abortion is immoral have to pay for them? But to completely remove the option of termination for any reason, even incest or rape (as will be the law in some states), is truly unconscionable. There could possibly be a case made for women who willfully participate in sex because they did make a choice (though the choice they made might not be the one they have to live with) but women — and girls — who did not have any choice in the matter shouldn’t be penalized. They were already penalized too much.

I have no idea what to make of any of this, especially since pro-lifers are only pro-life as long as that life is a fetus. Once it becomes a baby, those very same people stop caring. What is going to happen to all those unwanted babies? (Unwanted even by those who oppose abortion.) What is going to happen to all those mothers, especially those who are unable to support the children they now have?

And why are only women being punished? It takes two to make a fetus. If the woman is forced to be a mother, why isn’t the man forced to be a father? If the woman’s life and income are at risk, why shouldn’t the man also bear some of the risk? If pregnancy is God’s will, why is Viagra allowed — wouldn’t the inability to get it up also be God’s will? Couldn’t it be God’s way of preventing pregnancy?

You’d think from all of this that I’m a liberal; I am not, although I do hold some so-called liberal views. Nor am I a conservative, though I hold some so-called conservative views. But my bewilderment at the Supreme Court decision? That isn’t about being liberal or conservative. It’s about being intelligent and empathetic, seeing beyond the idiocy to the very real problems that will be arising. Some states are talking about banning women from going to another state to take care of an unwanted pregnancy, though to monitor such situations would be even more horrific than what is going on now. Other states are talking about banning morning-after pills; some are even talking about banning contraception. Does anyone else see beyond the politics and the immorality of the moralists to the insanity of it all?

I generally try to stay away from writing about the issues of today, but this most recent issue is so beyond the pale that I can’t get over it.

I suppose not having to deal with the specter of an unwanted pregnancy is a benefit of getting older. So not only have I been there when many of the worsts have happened, so not only was I there when Roe vs. Wade was put into effect to the revulsion of almost everyone I knew, I am also here at the end of that particular era.

I’ve survived all that. It makes me wonder, though, how many women won’t survive this inequity.

***

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

Deserving

People often say, “You get what you deserve.” They don’t say it to me, necessarily; it’s just one of those meaningless phrases people use to try to find meaning — and fairness — when there is none.

A good example of the phrase meaning what it says is when a person picks on someone and that someone retaliates. As I have observed, though, bullies never see the retaliation in terms of their actions; they see the retaliation as the victim picking on them. So even though the bullies might deserve what they get, the bullies do not see it.

It’s the same with smokers who get lung cancer; people assume the smokers get what they deserve, but non-smokers also get lung cancer. My mother was one of those — never smoked, was never around smokers — though in a bizarre twist, her death certificate states that she was a lifelong smoker. She neither “deserved” to die of lung cancer nor to have a falsified death certificate, but those things happened. And speaking of death, did Jeff “deserve” to die at 63? Did my dad deserve to live to 97? Those are questions I have no answer for, nor does anyone.

What has made me think of this matter of deserving is something else, something more pleasant. My current living situation to be exact.

Here I am, living in a lovely house surrounded by a lovely yard with a fabulous garage and a delightful outdoor room (aka a gazebo). I do not know how I got to be so lucky, especially since it wasn’t that long ago when I was worrying about ending up on the streets. I had a small amount of savings that was rapidly being depleted, and I had no idea what I would do when it was gone. (I wouldn’t have lived “on the streets” as such — naively, I figured I would live in the national parks, going from one to another. If I had to be homeless, that seemed a more interesting way of living.)

Instead, following advice from a relative, I used that money to buy a house in the poorest county in Colorado, only a couple of hundred miles from some of the most expensive real estate in the country. It was the only place I could afford, but it turned out to be a true boon. The perfect place for me — not just the house and neighborhood, but the town itself.

Do I deserve my good fortune? I doubt it. (Did I deserve all the bad luck I’ve previously had? I doubt that, too.)

I also ended up with a lot of friends — some close friends, some close acquaintances, and some casual acquaintances. (This seems to be a good town for making friends — one such friend recently mentioned that they’d never had so many friends. Neither have I, to be honest.) I might deserve these friends because as far as I can tell, I am a good friend in return, and I do try to do things if not for these people, then for the community. (Such as my most recent donation of brownies for a local event.) But whether deserved or not, I do cherish each friendship.

But the rest of it? As far as I can see, my good fortune has little to do with my deserving it. Perhaps I deserve to have a pretty yard since I am putting a lot of effort into it, but so much of the beauty comes other from people’s labor as well as nature’s work. (Many of the flowers reseed themselves, so I reap the benefit without having any blisters and calluses to show for it.)

I wake up every morning amazed that I am living in such a house on a mini estate. And I am eternally grateful for my good luck, especially since deep down I truly doubt I did anything to “deserve” it. Though I am doing what I can to try to deserve what I’ve been given.

Still in the end, perhaps it’s not about deserving, but about making the best of whatever life hands 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.

Momentous Day

This is turning out to be rather a momentous day. Shortly after I woke up, I heard banging. I kept looking outside at the neighbors’ houses, trying to see what was going on. I even stepped outside for a minute to peek across the alley, but I couldn’t see anyone doing any sort of work.

The banging continued, and then I heard the sound of a pipe reverberating near my house, which made me realize the banging was in my yard. So I went back outside and walked around the house, and there was one of the people who has been sporadically working on my property. He was pounding in the metal edging between the path and the grass to make it easier for me to mow. It was supposed to be done anyway, so it wasn’t a special consideration, but still I was thrilled to see him doing the work today. It’s been a while since anyone stopped by to anything. (The last time was when they came to check the plumbing to make sure a leak didn’t account for my exorbitant water bill.)

He did a few other minor chores while he was here, and we talked about some of the work that needed to be done (apparently, this worker is one that my contractor trusts to do my work). He says he’ll be back, and I’m sure he will . . . some day. Still, I’m delighted that a bit of work was done!

My tarot reading amused me today since it seemed to reflect the work he did: “What was accomplished up to now gets an even greater boost.” A secondary meaning to my reading was: “Everything grows and becomes more abundant.” For sure!! Weeds, anyone? Lots and lots of weeds are growing everywhere.

Adding to the momentousness, today is the birthday of a tree in Denver’s City Park near where I grew up. Shakespeare’s Elm, a tree planted from a scion taken from the tree on Shakespeare’s grave, is 106 years old today. The tree was always special to me. In fact, a friend and I threw birthday parties for the tree many years ago. We’d sent out invitations to friends as well as the media and some city bigwigs, but the only people who showed up besides those we knew were a couple of cops. We made them welcome, gave them green punch and tree cookies, but they weren’t really there to party. They were scoping out the gathering, thinking perhaps it was . . . I don’t . . . some sort of drug rendezvous. Anyway, after about a half an hour, they looked at each other, and one said with amazement in his voice, “They really are having a party for this tree.”

Back then, it was a forgotten historical monument, but over the years, there have been several articles in the Denver newspapers and magazines showcasing that amazing tree.

So all in all, a momentous day, and it’s not even over yet!

***

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.

Adjusting to the Time Change

It’s been more than two weeks since the change to daylight saving time, and I’m still not used to it. Although I am going to bed at the same real time (assuming time is real), the clock tells me I’m going to bed an hour later. Even worse, I’m too groggy in the morning to figure out what time I’m supposed to get up. Is it an hour later than I had been waking? An hour earlier? During the day, I can figure out the time change if I need to, but mostly I don’t since I go by what the clock says. But in the morning? I have no idea what time I’m getting up, so sometimes, like yesterday, it feels as if there are too few hours in a day, and other times, like today, it feels as if there are too many.

Admittedly, some of that off-kilter feeling has to do with how busy I am. Yesterday, I was on the go almost all day, getting caught up on household chores and such, so today there wasn’t much left to do. I also managed to sleep a couple of extra hours yesterday morning, but barely managed to stay in bed until first light today, so not only am I left with the perception of extra hours today because of more free time, but there is also the reality of extra hours because of the early rising.

From what I understand, both this state and this country are trying to pass laws to make daylight saving time permanent, so there is double the chance of it happening, which makes me wonder how it will affect us.

Dr. Muhammad Adeel Rishi, pulmonologist and sleep physician at Indiana University thinks we should go back to permanent standard time, since our circadian rhythm is connected to the sun, and that rhythm is more in sync with permanent standard time.

Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine agrees with that assessment, but also says that of the three choices — permanent daylight saving time, permanent standard time, or switching between the two —permanent DST is the worst solution.

I would prefer if they got rid of daylight saving time altogether, but despite what Dr. Zee says, permanent daylight saving time might be better than having to readjust twice a year. That adjustment period certainly is difficult, and has been linked to sleep disturbances, mood and mental alterations, traffic accidents, and heart attacks.

Whatever they decide, I’ll have to deal with it, though come to think of it, permanent daylight saving time might not be so bad because in winter, here on the eastern edge of the time zone, the sun would set at 5:30 pm instead of 4:30, as it does now. 4:30 pm is dang early for it to get dark!

[Incidentally, I wrote daylight saving time instead of daylight savings time because although the second usage is more common — and how I used the term because I didn’t know any better — the first is correct. Supposedly, “saving” is singular because it acts as part of an adjective rather than a verb, though if it is part of an adjective, daylight and saving should be hyphenated. No matter how you say it or write it, though, the clock manipulation is still annoying.]

But the legislation is in the future. For now, I have to adjust as well as I can to these off-kilter days that are sometimes too long and sometimes too short.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Sanctioned Con Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Questioning the Science

A couple of days ago, I saw a comment by a bestselling author who was rather scathing about people who question “the science.” It kind of took me aback because it seemed so . . . ignorant. Science is all about questioning. If it weren’t for questions, there would be no science. It’s the search for answers to those questions that create what we call “science.” Although some questions seem to have been answered, such as why an apple falls (though “gravity” itself still inspires questions) and if the sun is the center of the universe, there are others that haven’t been answered and perhaps never will be, such as what the universe is made of, how life began, what makes us human, what is consciousness, and a whole slew of other questions that make people try to reach beyond what they know.

According to Nasa Space Place, “Science consists of observing the world by watching, listening, observing, and recording. Science is curiosity in thoughtful action about the world and how it behaves.” It also says, “Science is not just a tidy package of knowledge. Science is not just a step-by-step approach to discovery. Science is more like a mystery inviting anyone who is interested to become a detective and join in the fun.”

Nowadays, though, “science” has reached the level of dogma, something that is incontrovertibly true, and anyone who dares question that dogma is branded a heretic. Of course, the word “heretic” isn’t used because it smacks of religion, and science isn’t religion, it’s . . . science. Or so they want you to believe. You’re not allowed to do your own thinking because . . . science. You’re not allowed to question the doctrine they’re foisting on you because . . . science.

But nothing is incontrovertibly true, not even truth (whatever that might be).

Supposedly, there are whole rooms full mysteries in the dark corners of the Smithsonian that don’t fit current theories about evolution, prehistory, whatever. Science only gives us the best possible explanation for observable phenomenon, and science can be manipulated to fit the scientist’s bias and, more probably, to fit the bias of the government or corporation funding the science.

Getting on a soapbox wasn’t my point in writing this piece, however. What prompted this essay is that yesterday, the day after I read that author’s comment, I saw her latest offering among the new books at the library. By habit, I reached out for it, because she was an author I sometimes read, but I couldn’t touch it. She’s nothing special and rather predictable, but that’s not why I could not force myself to pick up the book. It was the memory of her scathing remark about the stupidity of people who question the science.

***

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.

Nightly Recap

During the past year or so, I’ve gotten into the habit of talking to Jeff at night when I am pulling back the bedcovers to get ready for bed. I don’t really tell him anything important; I just say a few words about my day or how I feel about things such as growing older or his being gone or anything else I feel like mentioning. I don’t think he’s listening — if he still exists somewhere, I sure as heck hopes he has something better to do than hang around and listen to me whine — but still, I talk to him, or rather I should say, I talk to his picture.

Occasionally I think it’s a bad habit and one I should break, because after all, it is a bit . . . not crazy, exactly, but off in some way . . . to talk to a picture. On the other hand, it’s not hurting anyone, least of all me, so why not continue? I’m not trying to hold on to him. After almost twelve years, it’s very obvious to me that he is gone. I’ve also built a good life for myself, so it’s not as if I am yearning for the past. I’m simply voicing the highlights (or lowlights) of my day. Although talking to a photo of a dead guy is basically the same as talking to myself, doing so gives me the feeling of imparting my feelings to someone other than to me.

This habit makes me wonder how important such a time of storytelling is, even if it is one-sided. In previous eras, clans and tribes, communities and families, would gather together around the fire in the evening and tell stories about their day. It was a way of saying, “I am here. I am living. I have meaning.” It was also a way of defining the clan, of gathering all their stories into one pot.

People living alone in houses or apartments seems to be a relatively new phenomenon. In previous eras — post-clan and pre-industrial age — families would gather in those members who were left alone, such as widows and maiden aunts and elderly patriarchs, but now, so many people, both young and old, are left to fend for themselves. Not that I want it any different for myself; it’s just an observation about changes through the ages, and how for most of human occupancy on this earth, we told our stories at night.

Whether it was a cultural evolution or written in our genes, it does seem as if this nightly recap is necessary. Oh, we can live without it — I did for over a decade before I developed this new (old) habit — but looking back over the many thousands of years of human interactions, this gathering of people and stories and thoughts seems important to our mental health or at least our sense of self and self-worth.

Of course, I could just be alibiing my habit, finding reasons that my behavior is reasonable, but still, I wonder.

***

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.