Real Reality

I’ve been reading a book about cyber technology running amok, or perhaps people running amok using advanced cyber technology (so advanced, it hasn’t yet been created, though obviously it has been postulated by someone, even if only the author). To be honest, I’m not really sure what the story is about because unlike most books that I read at a single sitting or two or three (at most), the pages on this book aren’t advancing at all. I tend to think my slow progress has to do with my falling asleep while reading. (Well, no. I don’t “tend to think” that napping is the reason for the slow progress — I know it is.)

It’s no wonder the story isn’t keeping my interest. It’s hard for me to care about people —real or otherwise — who wrap themselves in the latest technology. I understand some body/computer interfaces could have (or for all I know, all ready do have) lifesaving capabilities, but I’ve passed my time of keeping up with current cyberlife. I use only a fraction of my computer’s potential, sticking with such basics as blogging, researching, shopping a bit, playing a game (though my interest in the hidden object game I was once fascinated with has been steadily waning). I certainly have no interest in the internet of things, a potential combined internet of things and persons, the metaverse, or virtual reality of any kind. I prefer to stick with real reality (or rather what passes for real reality since there is no real consensus on what reality is).

It is ironic, though, that despite my decreased use of social networking sites (I write my blog and spend about two minutes on Facebook going through the whole rigamarole FB has forced me into to post my blog on the site, but that’s it) I don’t feel as if I’m alone, though I actually do spend most of my time alone. It made more sense to feel as if I were with people back in the days where I was in fairly consistent contact with people, especially on the now-defunct writing site that was the best social networking site for authors, but now it’s more of a sense of being in contact rather than actually being in contact.

And then, of course, there are all those characters in the books I read that people my life.

I keep saying that one of these days I’ll start writing again, and I tend to think that day is coming soon. I was showing friends my zinnias yesterday, and it suddenly struck me that Zinnia would be a great name for a character. Later in the conversation, as we talked about lilies, it seemed that Lily and Billy would be great names for twins. Once an author has names, can a story be far behind?

I’m still “researching” the story. (By research, I mean I’m just living, but if I call my everyday life “research” then I can pretend I’m actually working as a writer.) Unfortunately, I still have no idea what story I want to write. It would be fun to write another “Pat” story, sort of a sequel to Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. One visitor told me I have a ghost, so I’m considering a ghost story. One friend has told me a few of her experiences that makes me wonder if I want to write some sort of alternate reality tale. For example, a wildfire burned all around her house, and the people who used to own the place (who were still emotionally invested in the house) watched four tanker trucks circling her property, spraying the house and trees to keep the fire away. The firefighters working that day said they only had one tanker truck, and they needed it to keep them safe from the fast-moving fire. Even worse, they saw embers landing on her roof, and later told her they felt bad they couldn’t save her house. They were astounded when she told them the house hadn’t been touched.

It’s certainly interesting to speculate which reality was real — the former owner’s, the firefighters, or my friend’s. They couldn’t all be real, could they?

Someday, I am sure, a story — either this one or another — will gather enough strength that will compel me to write, and when that time comes, I sure hope the book won’t put people to sleep.

***

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

Liking What I Write

jockey

Sometimes I read an article I wrote, and I think, “I wish I had written that,” then it hits me that oh, wait. I did write that.

A case in point:

This morning someone left a comment on my post “Let It Ride,” telling me he was doing a podcast about the movie and wanted to know if I would like to join the discussion. Not remembering having ever written about the film, though it is one I like, I went back and read the post. The piece turned out to be not so much a rehashing of the movie (which the critics hated and apparently, so did the screenwriter, because she had her name removed from the credits), but a discussion of the philosophy of luck.

I generally do not like stories about gambling. They set my teeth on edge because of the inevitable slough of despair the character falls into when the addiction gets the better of him. Despite that, Let It Ride is one of my favorite movies, probably because although the story takes place at Hialeah amid the horse racing culture, it is not a movie about gambling. It’s the story of how the forces of the universe align to give Jay Trotter (Richard Dreyfuss) one perfect day, how he had the wisdom to recognize the gift, and how he had the courage to accept it. Not everyone accepted the gift. Even those who saw what was happening to him and were jealous, refused to follow his lead when he so generously offered to share the luck.

I think the part I liked most about that particular post was my summation: What does this philosophical vision of the movie teach me? Perhaps that luck — and life — should be taken as it comes, we should trust ourselves, and beyond that, we should just let it ride.

So, that was an example of something that I wish I’d written and had. On the other hand, there are a lot of things I read that I am very glad I didn’t write. The last book I read (or attempted to read) was a mystery written by a man from the point of view of an alcoholic woman journalist who kept sabotaging her life. It was a popular book, though I don’t know why. A writer struggling with alcoholism is such a trite theme; hundreds, if not thousands of books (though not a single one by me) have been written with that same generic character.

Another book I was glad I didn’t write was the one I read before that — a novel by a youngish white woman whose point-of-view characters were a flamboyant black woman and an old man (who turned out to be younger than I am). I thought such stories were no longer acceptable in a world where people don’t appreciate race appropriation.

I suppose I should be grateful that I like the things I write since there is so much writing out there that I don’t like. I also suppose I will follow through and email the guy about his podcast, though I’m not sure I’ll accept his offer. I really have nothing much more to say about the movie than what is already in this post and the one where he left his comment.

***

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.

Reflection of What Goes on in My Life

When I blog every day, as I have for the past 1000 days, it’s hard to come up with blog topics, so if I think of something I might want to write about, I jot it down. One such topic on my very short list is “metaverse.” Apparently, the metaverse is like a three-dimensional internet experience where you can go into the virtual world and do things you do in the real world, like go to school or work, browse store shelves and shop, play games as if you were really there, and all sorts of other real life and virtual life experiences. There’s no such thing as a metaverse yet — so far, it only exists in science fiction movies — but all the big internet and computer and game moguls are working on it. (Which is why Facebook changed its name to Meta — it wanted a head start on the whole metaverse thing.)

I’m not really interested in such a concept. I have a hard enough time with the physical universe (to the extent that it’s physical, that is), and my internet usage is basic — blogging, researching, ordering things I need — so I doubt I’d ever be interested, especially if Facebook/Meta is involved. There are still blocking my blog, so I have to reblog it onto another blog and then post that link, but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be doing that. Although I have a lot of friends on Facebook, I really do not like that FB is trying to control the narrative of our lives and our world and now, apparently, the universe.

Another item on my blog topic list was a quote from Thomas Browne: Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible sun within us. I like the quote but never quite figured out how to use it as a blog topic.

The last item was something I just added recently “Reflection of what goes on in my life.” Huh? What the heck was I referring to? I doubt it was the tarot because it certainly doesn’t reflect what goes on in my life. The refection of what goes on in my life doesn’t refer to the books I’m reading, filled as they are with violence, murder, mysterious happenings, weird phenomenon, and sometimes a bit of romance. Considering that my yard, lawn, and garden are what I am currently focusing on, I suppose I could have meant those, especially my lawn, but I have no idea why I thought any of those things reflected my life. If I remember what I meant, I’ll be sure to mention it, but since there’s nothing else on my blog topic list, I’m tossing out the list, so chances are I won’t even remember that I wanted to write about something that’s a reflection of what goes on in my life.

***

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.

A Day Off

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a day off, not just from work but from . . . everything.

Having a day off from work is common now that my hours have been cut way back, but at this time of year, there’s always something to do outside: watering, mowing, weeding. planting. It got very cold last night, almost down to freezing, and it rained for quite a while, so today was not only too cold but also too sodden to do any outside tasks. Feeling a bit lost, I exercised a bit, played around on the computer, did the daily Wordle and Quordle, read a book, ate a meal, caught up on my gardening journal, dealt with my out-of-the-country friend’s mail. And that was all before noon.

I did go outside and wander around the yard checking to make sure there were no lingering effects from the cold. The only problem I found was me — I’d already become used to the heat, so the day felt much colder than it was. I considered taking an actual walk, but the rain started spitting again, so I came back inside.

And now here I am, writing my 971st straight blog post. (I’ve posted a total of 3,446 so far, but now and again I took a break from daily writing, so this current tally of 971 is just my latest spate of blogging every day

Tomorrow will be a lot warmer, but will still be too damp to do much of anything except weed. There’s always weeding to do, and with this rain, there will be a whole lot of weeds popping up.

On a completely different topic, I finally got my master brake cylinder replaced. Although the brakes work great, the warning light still comes on. It could be a problem with the sensor. It could be that it takes a while for the sensor to catch up with the new brake system. Or it could be . . . I don’t know. I’m going to try not to worry about it. I’d much rather the warning light came on when there is no problem because it reminds me to be careful, than for it not to come on when there is a problem. (Seven years or so ago when I was dealing with a crooked mechanic’s crooked employees, someone had cut my rear brakes and plugged the hole in the brake fluid reservoir, so although I (unknowingly) was driving without rear brakes — which caused me to have an accident — the brake warning light never came on to warn me of a problem.)

I’m not going anywhere anyway. I can get most of what I need right here in town, and I hitch a ride with a friend when she goes to the “big city,” our humorous appellation for a nearby town with a few more stores than this one. And, of course, there is the possibility of ordering online.

Besides, why would I want to go anywhere? I’m already where I want to be, even with — especially with — a day off.

***

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.

Do the Job in Front of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Gardening and Aloneness

A friend called this morning and asked if I was outside taking care of my “baby.” Meaning my yard. I had to laugh because I really was taking care of things in the yard. The only reason I had my phone with me was to get photos of the larkspur and the roses that had begun to bloom prolifically.

Obviously, my focus on the garden and lawn hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, the growing beauty of my yard is rather a conversation piece, something to share with neighbors who get the fun of seeing what’s developing without having to do the work. Until recently, I’d never realized that about gardening — that it wasn’t a lonely project but something to share. In fact, a neighbor a few houses away is going to be sharing her garden with me. Literally sharing. Tomorrow evening, I’ll be heading over there to dig up some of her prolific plants to transplant in my yard. She said, “I love sharing plants. I can’t wait to share some yard pretties with you.”

And I can’t wait to get them.

Although I’m surprised that I’ve taken gardening to heart, since I’ve never really been all that much into gardening, I’m not surprised that I’ve become focused on something outside of myself.

When you live alone, you need something to keep you going, something outside of yourself to expand your reach, something . . . more. I have friends and neighbors, a couple of siblings I am in occasional contact with, and a job that occupies my attention a few hours every week, but the rest of the time, when I am inside and the door is shut, there is only me.

I will eventually get back to fiction writing, but for now blogging is all I can handle. Any long writing project, such as a novel, seems incredibly lonely. I spend too much time in my own mind as it is. Admittedly, when you write a novel, you people your mind with various characters, but that simply masks the truth of being alone.

Since I need something more than just me alone, it might as well be gardening. At worst, babying a yard is a lot of work. At best, it’s a joint creative endeavor between me and nature and a couple of neighbors. And in the middle, between best and worst, is a whole lot of yard pretties!

***

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.

Not Everyone Loves a Parade

There was a parade in town yesterday. I hadn’t planned on going because I am not a fan of parades, maybe because most of the parades I’ve seen as an adult are small town affairs that are best appreciated by those who know the folks participating in the parade. I am especially not a fan of this town’s parade. I saw it soon after I arrived in town, and I found it amusing that the town is so small, the parade consisted of mostly official vehicles from the sheriff’s department and the fire department.

Still, when a friend asked me to go with her to this year’s parade, I opted to go. (I am still trying to say “yes” to most invitations). It was nice. Instead of standing around waiting for the parade, we walked along the parade route and talked to people we knew. (One woman told me a horrific story of a neighbor’s dogs jumping their fence and attacking her and her dogs. The neighbors called the police, blaming the woman. The neighbors escalated the situation on FB, and eventually, somehow, the woman’s husband got blamed for the situation and he was fired. Yikes. Many of the dogs around here are a menace! Luckily the dogs on either side of me are tame, and even if they weren’t, they can’t jump a five-foot fence.)

When the parade drew close, we stopped and watched.

I was surprised by how much I appreciated seeing all those official vehicles in the parade this time. Considering the fires in the area as well as the ongoing danger, it was a tremendous comfort to see at least a half a dozen modern fire trucks and loads of equipment. The fire department is a volunteer organization, but there seem to be enough people brave enough to answer the call when the siren blows.

I was also tickled by the mounted police. I thought the police I saw were just mounted on horses for the purpose of the parade, but when I checked out the sheriff department’s website, I discovered the police on horses belong to an actual mounted posse. Some of the members of the posse are law enforcement officers, but many are members of the community who have full-time jobs and serve in their spare time as volunteer members.

The members of the sheriff’s posse participate in training to learn the different skills needed by law enforcement officers. The mounted unit trains and practices horsemanship skills, mounted law enforcement techniques, and ranch skills. The horses used in the mounted unit are owned by the members of the posse. All members of the sheriff’s posse have the opportunity to learn law enforcement skills; some of these skills are arrest control techniques, traffic control, report writing, and methods for searching for evidence or people.

Too bad I don’t have a horse, don’t know how to ride, and am too old and decrepit to be of use to a posse, otherwise the posse would be something I might be interested in. Even if I can’t join the posse in real life, I can certainly have a character be part of the posse. Sounds like a fun addition to whatever book I decide to write once I re-retire.

I had no idea a parade could be so interesting. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go again next year.

***

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

Red-Letter Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Bloggers and Bloviators

A fellow I read about mentioned that he hates “bloggers and bloviators” because he thought they do more to exacerbate problems rather than to help. I didn’t take offense at the “blogger” comment, because although I do have a blog, which technically makes me a blogger, I’m not a capitalized Blogger. (I actually meant I wasn’t a major blogger, a blogger with a capital B, but it is also true that I don’t capitalize on my blog since I don’t make money from it.)

I don’t have much of a following because I tend to write about simple things and stay away from the topics that attract masses of readers: politics, sex, celebrities, clothes, food. The one really important thing I write about — grief for a spouse, life mate, soulmate— is only helpful to a small segment of the population, and certainly isn’t a topic one reads for its entertainment value. And now I seldom write about even that. Mostly I write to write — for the habit of it.

As for bloviators: according to Wikipedia, ‘bloviation is a style of empty, pompous, political speech that originated in Ohio and was used by US President Warren G. Harding, who described it as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing”.’

Admittedly, I often say nothing of any import on this blog since, as I mentioned above, it’s more for the habit of writing than because I have anything significant to impart, but I am definitely not pompously political. Or even non-pompously political.

What I do like is the alliteration of the words “bloggers” and “bloviators,” which, of course, is why I am going through the motions of pretending I have something to say on the subject. And since apparently I don’t have anything to say, I’m going to cut this short lest I run the risk of becoming a bloviator myself.

***

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.

Elasticity of Time

The older I grow, the more elastic time seems to get. Whatever needs to be done can barely be fit into the time allotted before and after work. You’d think then, that days like today, when I go in a little later, that I would have an extra couple of hours to get things done, but it doesn’t work that way. Here I am, struggling to get a blog written, a meal fixed and eaten, and myself dressed before work as I always do.

So what happened to those extra two hours? Lost in the elasticity of time, obviously.

I tend to think of elasticity as something that only stretches, such as rubber band, but it seems to be also something that shrinks. Otherwise, I’d have plenty of time to do . . . whatever.

I suppose I should be grateful — and I am — for the discretionary time I do have. Things could be worse (they always can be, even for those of us who like to think things can always be better). Time could simply shrink all the time and never stretch back to what it was. Though some days, it feels like it only shrinks.

As I’m sure you can tell, this is one of those semi-nonsensical fill blogs, where I have nothing to say (and little time to say it), but since I’m on day 932 of a 1,000-day blog challenge, I need to post something. Not that I will stop blogging every day once I meet that goal, you understand, it’s just that having a goal keeps me going. I need the discipline of blogging every day. Just as posts like this are place holders for my more thoughtful essays, the blog itself is a placeholder for my novel writing since the habit writing something every day is good practice for that, too. When I am re-retired, I will get back to writing books, but meantime, here I am, trying to stretch time by cooking and writing at the same time, and not succeeding very well. (Burnt the bacon and splattered myself. Ouch!)

Still, time has stretched enough to get everything done. I might even make it to work on time!

***

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.