A Day in the Middle of Summer

I spent the morning outside. I hadn’t really planned to. Since it rained last night, I didn’t have to water today, and I figured the ground would be too sodden to weed my flower gardens, so I thought this would be a good day to take it easy.

Still, I had to go outside to toss out the furnace filter I’d just changed (after being very careful going down those old basement stairs), and I needed to reattach a motion-activated light that had somehow become unattached from its perch on the side of the house (I was especially careful going up the ladder since I’m not sure it’s something I should be doing), and because I was outside anyway, I pulled a weed or two.

A couple of hours later . . . Yep, that weed or two turned into a massive cleanup of one of the two uncultivated areas of my yard. It’s not as if the area needed it — the weeds were only waist high. (I’m being ironic here, if you can’t tell. Not about the weeds being waist high, because they were, but about the area not needing to be weeded.) I would have to clear it out eventually — I will be ordering some purple echinacea and Goldsturm black eyed Susans to plant there this fall, so this gave me a head start on the project.

Speaking of which, the echinacea that I planted last year came in a five-inch pot, and they did well. The price has gone up quite a bit, so I’m considering getting plants in three-inch pots, which are half the price, but obviously smaller. Would that be a foolish economy? Obviously, for the same budget, I could get twice as many of the smaller pots, so if a couple of the plants died, I’d still be ahead of the game, but am I sabotaging myself by getting the smaller ones? Or does it sound like a smart choice? I sure don’t know.

But I’m getting off the topic of spending the morning outside . . . After I finished my chores, I took a few photos of flowers. I love how this morning glory turned out — as if the sun were rising from its center!

About then, a friend stopped by and we sat in the comfort of my gazebo (me with dirt still under my fingernails) to chat for few minutes. Next thing we knew, the church bells were tolling the noon hour. Yikes! Those hours do tend to disappear on a person.

We said our goodbyes. She headed out to finish her errands, and I went to harvest my cherry tomatoes. All three of them!

And then finally, I went back inside.

What a nice midsummer’s day!

Only it isn’t a midsummer day. It’s merely a day in the middle of summer. A quick Google search to find out when midsummer really is told me that midsummer is celebrated around the summer solstice, which we call the first day of summer. So confusing!

Still, whatever you call it, I spent a pleasant — and unplanned — summer day outside.

***

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.

Downpour

I had a wonderful surprise last night, and you’ll never guess what it was. Aww, shucks. You guessed it. And here I thought I was being subtle and crafty.

Last night’s surprise downpour was anything but subtle, though it was crafty how it slipped in past the weather forecasters’ crystal ball. The meteorologists all said there was almost no chance of rain for the near future, and a few hours later — deluge!

I was thrilled to see the rain for many reasons. One, we needed it. Two, it was a lovely sight — and sound. Three, I was dreading today and having to be outside to water when it was so dang hot.

I also dreaded today because I’d signed up to work at the museum, and although I would have liked to help, I simply did not want to go meandering about in the afternoon heat. I lucked out on that, too. Because of the rain cancelling my morning chores, when a friend called and asked if I wanted to go to the “big city” with her (big only in comparison to this town; anyone anywhere else would consider it a miniscule place) I jumped at the chance to get away for a bit. Shortly afterward, I got a message that the time to help at the museum was changed from the afternoon to the morning, but it was too late; I was already on my way out of town.

So the day I dreaded turned out to be not so dreadful. Even better, I got to see my yard from a different perspective (from the street as we drove away from my place), and it looked pretty good for having to survive such a searingly hot summer.

It’s funny that although we are in the midst of summer (“midsummer” sounds much more romantic than it actually is), I only have three months to come up with and to write a mystery for the museum’s October event.

A friend is doing research for me on a tale she was told as a youngster — something about the military, the Cheyenne, gold, a cave, pictographs, and a totem pole. There was also a hanging, but I don’t remember if that’s part of that story she told me or a different one. (Not only did I talk to her yesterday about what she remembered, I also leafed through a book that gave some of the history of this area, and all that input is jumbled together in memory.) I sure hope she can track down some people who might remember the story because it sounds interesting (more interesting by far than this heat, that’s for sure!). If necessary, I could use those same themes to create my own story, but since it’s for the historical museum, I’d just as soon the mystery have some basis in fact.

But for now, it’s a matter of waiting to see what transpires, both with the story and with our midsummer weather.

We could see a few more showers tonight, but since it’s in the forecast, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rain passed us by — those crystal balls the forecasters are currently using seem rather murky and not at all trustworthy. Because I don’t have my own private rainstorm tucked away somewhere that I could trot out on days like today, I’ll just have to hope that everything again turns out for the best.

***

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.

Homefull

I often write about (or at least refer to) the changes in my life since Jeff died twelve-and-a-half years ago, but I don’t write that much about the changes since my older brother died. Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of his death, and it surprised me that it wasn’t that long ago (or perhaps it surprised me that it was so long ago — with death and grief, it’s sometimes hard to tell). His death set into play a long string of happenstance that ended up with me, in a house, in this sweltering corner of Colorado.

Mostly, his death changed me in some fundamental way so I was ready when my other brother suggested I take my small savings and buy a house. He’d come to help me clear out our deceased brother’s things and deal with any legal issues, and I have a hunch he wanted to make sure I was settled so he wouldn’t have to worry about yet another sibling. Whatever his reasoning, the idea he broached made sense to me, especially when he told me about this area that actually had houses I could afford.

The time was ripe, apparently, for buying houses in and around this area, because every one I liked (and could afford) disappeared from the market even before my real estate agent could look at it.

Luckily, I only needed one house, and that house came looking for me.

It seems as if I’d been looking for a very long time before I became aware of this house, but considering that my brother has been gone only four years and that I’ve been here a couple of months shy of three and a half years, the whole upheaval to my life — ambitions, geographical location, as well as the mental change from life-long renter to homeowner — happened in a matter of months.

It’s ironic that because of the death of my homeless brother, I am homefull. (That’s not a word, though it should be.) At any rate, whatever the proper word, because of him, here I am, with a home of my own.

***

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.

History Repeating Itself

I filter through a lot of information every day — books, articles online, pretty much whatever comes my way — and out of all those words, whatever sticks in my head is what I write about.

So what is sticking in my head right now?

Electricity.

The increase in electric rates, to be exact.

A lot of communities in southeastern Colorado are dealing with electricity rate hikes, which is no surprise considering that everything is going up. But what caught my attention is that along with a notice about the price increase, the electric companies are telling people how to save money by using less electricity.

One of their suggestions is to set the air conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Since I usually have mine set at 80 if I’m not doing anything but reading, does that mean I’m supposed to raise the thermostat? Wouldn’t that cost me more than leaving it where it is? I might save a few cents on the cost of running the refrigerator but I haven’t found anything that says 78 degrees is a better temperature than 80 for the house and the appliances. And anyway, most of my life I lived without any air conditioning, so 80 is real luxury! Another suggestion was to use the outside grill (which I don’t have) instead of the stove or the oven because it doesn’t heat up the house.

These suggestions aren’t what caught my attention, though. It’s that utilities and other energy providers always pull this stuff — they raise the rates because they’re not making enough, so then they suggest that people use less energy and then . . . guess what?

I don’t need to guess. I know. And so do you if you’re old enough to remember the gas shortages and energy crises we dealt with during the previous century.

What happened back then was that people followed the suggestions and used considerably less energy — fuel for cars, natural gas for homes, electricity — which cut into the profits the price hike was supposed to create. That meant the energy companies ended up losing more money than if they hadn’t raised the rates in the first place. So they raised the rates again.

That seems to be what is happening now. And as history shows, by the time the cycle ends, no one is happy, and we end up paying way more for less.

Lucky us.

I was being ironic with that “lucky us,” but if you forget the cost of the energy, we are lucky that we have such things as refrigeration, lights, hot water, air conditioning, and heat, though I don’t even want to think about the furnace during these incredibly hot days we’ve been having.

Still, it is amusing (somewhat) to see history repeating itself.

***

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

Holiday Destination

The American Automobile Association predicted a record number of road trippers this weekend. Despite the high gas prices, more than 42 million people in the USA will drive to a destination more than 50 miles from home to celebrate the holidays. There are nebulous reasons stated for all that travel — nebulous because with all the rhetoric being spouted, no one really knows why people are heading out. I tend to think people just want to run away for a bit, to pretend that life is back to normal (or more probably back to a normal they wish existed) where there were no wars, no babies going hungry for lack of formula, no deadly disease ready to spawn a new variant, no political polarization dividing families and turning friends into foes.

I’m lucky — I don’t need to contend with all that miserable traffic to get to my holiday destination because I’m already at my destination. There is no place I would rather be than right here, in my own house or outside enjoying my own private backyard park.

A local friend who knows the true state of my yard — that the pictures of flowers I post are pretty much the only flowers that are growing on that given day — teases me (in a friendly way) about my knowing every flower, every butterfly, every blade of grass in my yard, and that’s pretty much the case. She also thinks people should take life the way I do, by celebrating every little thing that comes along. Although I would never say “should” when it comes to other people, she’s right that I do celebrate each new development in my yard. Although I enjoyed my trips — from ocean to ocean and border to border — and loved seeing new things, it’s a privilege being able to experience the constantly changing environment of my own backyard.

It would be nice if the flowers in my yard bloomed constantly, but they come and go. The tulips were supplanted by larkspur and golden poppies, which in turn were supplanted by wildflowers, echinacea, and almost-ready-to-bloom lilies and daylilies. These will be supplanted by other flowers later in the season — marigolds, mums, and purple asters. At any one time, there are at least a few beautiful blossoms, a few spent flowers, and a lot of greenery.

The lawn, too, goes through cycles. Since it’s a cool weather grass that doesn’t like the heat of summer, I seem to be always coaxing brown spots back to life. In another two or three months, though, when the worst of the heat is gone, my grass will perk up again and stay green until the worst of winter.

But for now, I am glad I don’t have to be on the road with millions of others, and I am especially glad for whatever joys this “holiday destination” throws my way.

***

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.

Seeing the Bright Side

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I am not a glass-half-full sort of person. Nor, to be honest, am I a glass-half-empty person. I’m more prosaic than either type, more realistic. The nature of a glass is to not remain at a halfway point. If the glass contains a drinkable beverage, you drink it and then refill the glass with the same or a different beverage, or you wash the glass and put it away. If the glass doesn’t contain a drinkable beverage, you toss out the contents and wash the glass or you toss out the whole thing — glass and contents. If you don’t drink the beverage, the glass still doesn’t remain half empty/half full. There is a thing called evaporation, which means that no matter what, the glass will empty itself.

Life, like the level of the contents in the glass, is in motion. A situation can seem bleak with no bright side at all, such as the death of a loved one, and while that situation never changes, you do. When Jeff died, I tried to tell myself that at least he wasn’t suffering anymore and though I suppose that is a realistic bright side, it didn’t help me at all in dealing with my grief. However, there does come a time — years later, perhaps — when a griever has to stop seeing only the bleakness of life and to try to find a brighter side.

In my case, it was the dance classes I started taking three-and-a-half years after Jeff died. Although I was still grieving for him, my grief wasn’t the only “side” in my life anymore. There was a brighter side, too, which helped light my way through the dark times.

I’ve never trusted people who only look at the bright side of things. It seems to me they are either delusional or indulging in dreams instead of reality. Besides, without dark, there is no light. There was an artist who found fame as a painter of light, but if you were to study his paintings piece by piece (as in a jigsaw puzzle) you will see that most of the painting is dark; the darkness is what makes the light so bright.

I do think it’s possible, because of one’s situation, one’s temperament, or one’s mental frame of mind, that it becomes habit to only look on the dark side. (Which means, I suppose, that for some people, looking only on the bright side is also possible.) If only the dark is apparent, it’s a good idea to try to see the bright side of things. In the case of grief, it’s more than okay to indulge in the bleakness because that’s how we learn to cope with life without our loved one. However, as the years pass, it’s okay to start seeing the bright side of other things.

Although I am still aware of the bleakness of Jeff’s being gone, I have looked for a bright side and in fact, looking for any brightness in my life was how I found myself in a new way of being. It wasn’t that I tried to find a bright side to his being gone — there simply is no bright side. It’s that I tried to find a bright side to my still being here. And there is much brightness in my life now — a house, a home, a garden, flowers, a lawn, friends, neighbors, a compatible town, a nearby library — so much so that I no longer need to find the brightness. It finds me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

1000th Day of Daily Blogging

Today is my 1000th straight day of daily blogging. It’s not my 1000th post, that happened years ago. In fact, this is my 3,476th post. That is a lot of blogging!

I would have thought that after coming up with something to write about every day for 1000 days in a row, that I would have been at a loss for something to say today, but luckily, my neighbors served up plenty of things for me to write about.

First thing this morning, when I was taking my mower out of the garage so I could cut the grass, my next-door neighbor told me if I ever saw a particular person — middle-aged, skinny, tattoos all over his face — to call the cops because that person tried to break into his shed where all his tools are stored. He said if he saw the fellow on his property again, the person would be dead. Not a good start to the day!

Later, I set out to walk an errand (rather than “run an errand,” because with my knees, I don’t run for any reason, not even from scary dudes with tattoos all over their face). A neighbor down the block was standing in his yard behind a tree where I couldn’t see him, watering his grass on the other side of the sidewalk, making it impossible for me to pass. I couldn’t holler at him because he’s deaf, so I waved my walking stick. He saw it, swung the stream of water out of my way, and smiled at me. Big doings! In the 1,200 days since I bought my house, this was the first time he ever acknowledged my presence in any way.

I turned the corner, and as I was walking down the street, another neighbor that I’ve had little contact with stopped me to warn about a couple of aggressive dogs that were loose. He’d called dispatch because those dogs are often out harassing passers-by, and although this town supposedly pays for a dog catcher, no one has ever seen the person, so basically, unless I wanted to go home for the weeks it would take for the mythical dog catcher to catch the dogs, I was on my own.

Those dang dogs did come running after me, though they couldn’t get close because I was waving my sticks around. (I don’t know about walking softly, but carrying a big stick — or two — is always a good idea when walking in this town.) Luckily, another walker came up behind me, and the dogs left me alone and started harrying him, which didn’t seem to bother the other walker at all.

Eventually, the dogs ran off, but they found me again on my way home. The same neighbor who warned me about them jumped in his truck and got between me and the dogs until the dogs lay down for a nap — too much excitement for them, I guess. On his way back to his house, the neighbor pulled up next to me and said he’d been talking to the deputy the dispatcher had sent, but before the deputy could do anything about the dogs, he got another call and took off.

When I got home, I noticed the deputy talking to my next-door neighbor. (Since the deputy was just around the corner, that was probably the fastest response anyone in this town ever got after calling the sheriff.) Turns out, the scary dude was hiding beneath my other next-door neighbor’s bushes. I tend to think the dude ran off before he was apprehended because I didn’t see anyone in the official vehicle. Maybe the escaped dogs and the escaped dude are hanging around together, though I wouldn’t know. I’ve decided this is a good day to make sure everything is locked up and to stay inside.

So, there you have it. Other people might be celebrating Father’s Day or Juneteenth or National Martini Day or even World Sauntering Day, but me? I’m celebrating a safe return home after my action-packed saunter, as well as my 1000th blog post.

***

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

A Day for Friendship

The first year that I did a daily tarot reading, I used a single card. This second year I used two cards. Next month starts my third year, and I’ll probably graduate to a three-card reading. Not that I’m learning anything much either about the tarot or myself, but you never know. If there’s anything to learn, I’m sure I’ll eventually learn it, and if not, well, it’s as good a way to start the day as any other.

Mostly the reading is rote — I pick the cards, look up their meanings and try to figure out how the two cards fit together. Sometimes there seems no discernable relationship; other times, it’s obvious.

Last night, I dreamt of a wedding. I’m not sure who was getting married, though I tend to think it was one of my sisters. The main thing I remember about the dream, other than the talk of her getting married, is that the bridesmaids dresses were going to be brown. This morning’s tarot cards were the four of wands and the ten of cups. In the deck I am currently using, the Egorov Tarot, the four of wands is about completion, prosperity and satisfaction, and love affairs leading to a wedding. The ten of cups is about true happiness in love and friendship, and weddings.

I must admit, this reading amused me, reflecting, as it did, my dream of an upcoming wedding rather than any real-life experience.

Today was a day for friendships, however, so the cards got that right. One friend stopped by this morning to return a pattern for a paper project that she’d borrowed. We chatted for a while until it was time for me to get ready to host a different friend for tea out in my gazebo. Since today was vastly cooler than the past couple of days, this seemed a good time to try out my new gazebo furniture.

The chairs were comfortable, though after our tea, we took a walk to the dollar store to check to see what sort of cushions they might have. Although I liked the cushions I found, I wasn’t sure I needed them. It just seemed as if they would be more things to have to take care of. We also decided the furniture would be able to withstand the elements better without any cushions, so that’s how we left it.

On my way home, I visited with another friend in the middle of the street. The only time I see this woman, it seems, is happenstance when I’m out walking and she’s out driving. Hence our visits in the middle of the road.

That was the best thing about today — seeing friends.

I still feel a bit sick at the desiccated swath of grass (the only good thing about the desiccation is I’ve finally learned to spell desiccate, just as the only good thing about high temperatures is finally learning how to spell Fahrenheit). I’m pretty sure what happened to that grass is that there are no reserves of water beneath that part of the lawn since that patch of grass is being grown over an area that once was part of a gravel driveway. Although there wasn’t much gravel to be seen when the sod was laid, I have a hunch there were many layers of buried gravel beneath the dirt. So, great drainage, but poor sustainability. I’m not giving up, though. The grass did fine for many months, and if I can get resuscitate it, I’m sure it will again do fine. Meantime, I’ll be watering that patch every day for a while.

Many of the plants that were also affected by those hot, arid winds have recovered though, not surprisingly, the Siberian wallflower had no use for the heat and is struggling.

Still, there are plenty of flowers and greenery to enjoy, especially when I’m sitting in my gazebo, on my new chairs, sipping iced tea with a friend.

***

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

Brown Thumb?

I used to have a brown thumb — brown compared to a green thumb, that is. Instead of everything I tried to grow turning green, things turned brown.

I’ve been thrilled with my garden this year, delighted to see so much greenery and so many different flowers. I thought perhaps my “brown thumb” had finally been cured, but that gave me something else to worry about — my gardening posts have been almost giddy with my success, so deep down inside where I didn’t have to face the thought, I’ve wondered if I were about to get my comeuppance.

Well, I did.

Late yesterday afternoon, a wide swath of my pretty green lawn suddenly turned brown. Did my brown thumb re-emerge? Did my fatalism cause my grass’s doom?

I’m sure, despite the suddenness of the brown attack, the dying swath of grass had nothing to with my thumbs or my fatalism and everything to do with the very strong, very hot, very dry winds that blew through here all day yesterday.

I suppose a green-thumbed person would have foreseen the issue and hence could have prevented it, but I hadn’t a clue. Even if I had thought that the hot, arid winds would desiccate my grass so quickly, I wouldn’t have been able to rehydrate the lawn. Being out in that wind could have wind-burned me, not just my grass, and at my age, dehydration isn’t a joke. (Well, it never is, but youth can sometimes handle physical problems that age cannot.)

That patch of grass got the worst of it, probably because it was in the direct path of the wind. Other plants also succumbed, but those that were protected somehow — mulched, in shade, or had a bush nearby to lessen the wind’s viciousness — came through just fine.

I’d taken down this hanging plant and set it in a protected area. It’s twin, which was not placed in that same protected area, did not fare well at all. An unplanned experiment, for sure!

This whole experience showed me why that sort of weather — temperatures above 100, humidity in the single digits, winds around 40mph — is so dangerous and why it prompts fire warnings. Grass that turns instantly to hay can catch fire easily, and the wind can whip up that fire until it’s uncontrollable. Eek. I’m glad I only have to deal with a patch of desiccated lawn; things could have been so much worse.

***

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.

Gazing at My Gazanias

This was a rare day when I didn’t have many gardening chores to do. It was a good thing, too, considering that when I went out at 8:30 this morning, the temperature was already zooming toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit. By now, I’m sure, we’re well into the low hundreds, but I don’t want to check. Somehow, knowing the temperature makes it seem even hotter.

The only thing garden-related that I did today was harvest some larkspur seeds. Within a few days, most of my larkspur will have gone to seed, and I want to make sure I save plenty of the seeds for the areas that won’t be reseeded naturally.

Other than that, all I did was I set out my new patio furniture.

I spent a few pleasant minutes sitting in my gazebo, gazing out at my gazanias (and the rest of my backyard, of course) until the insanely hot and heavy winds blew me back inside the house.

It’s a good thing I did so much work on my yard earlier in the spring and especially earlier this month because for sure I won’t be doing much in the coming days. I have absolutely no interest in sweltering in the heat and being desiccated by the wind.

It’s also a good thing I have air conditioning. As pleasant as the view is outside, on a day like today, it’s even more pleasant to be pleasantly cool.

***

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.