Adventure Update

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

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My adventure is slowly taking off –just baby steps at the moment. Literally, baby steps. Yesterday and today I participated in March of Dimes’ walks to support the cause but mostly to honor a baby who died before he was born.

Other than that, my life seems much as always, though it isn’t, really. I’m staying with friends until I get my car back, then I have to find a place to stay for a month — I certainly don’t want to wear out my welcome, and I need to stick around town for a while to rehearse for a dance performance.

The last days at my father’s house were hard — empty rooms and memories — so I’m glad I don’t have to be alone just yet. People are being very kind to me, which is helping make this transition easier. I sometimes wonder if all my talk about adventure is simply that . . . talk, but the idea is becoming very real to me, so I will do something. A friend told me about a woman who walked out of her house after her husband died, and never went back. Never had another permanent home. I understand how that is possible, and it might be the path I take.

Life beckons.

Pilgrims and Pilgrimages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Hear Adventure Calling

I went to a backpacking store today. That’s not what the store is called, of course, but I don’t want to give them any publicity since I was underwhelmed by the experience. These people have always been touted as fantastic help, but not so in my case.

I’ve been having problems with slippage on the trails when I go hiking, and I wanted real hiking shoes. I tried on several pairs, but in all cases, the arch support on the right foot ended up beneath my heel. In cheap shoes, I have no objection to ripping out the support, but not if I’m going to pay a small fortune for something that will wear out in a few months anyway. When the salesclerk shrugged off my problem, and didn’t bother to offer any alternatives, I wandered over to look at backpacks.

I have a hard time with backpacks. My core balance is below my waist, so anything high on my back causes an imbalance. I’m also short waisted, which adds to the difficulties of fitting and carrying packs. I found one that fit today — in a gorgeous purple color! It had so many wonderful and mysterious pouches and packs, straps and buckles and zippers, that it seemed as if it would be fun to carry, but the salesclerk told me I couldn’t use it on an extended backpacking trip, that it was for day use only. I put the pack back on the rack. What the heck would I need to carry on a short day hike that would need all that space? Two or three bottles of water, an extra pair of socks, a bit of food, a camera. That’s all I take with me. I certainly don’t need to spend almost $200 to carry so little. I can continue using the kiddie pack that I bought years ago for less than twenty dollars.

trailsThe guy kept asking me what my plans were. He said that I needed to buy a pack that fit with my trip requirements. He didn’t seem to understand that for me, the reverse was true. Once I find a pack that fits, then I will see what the pack can hold, what I can carry, and then decide what my trip requirements will be. Obviously, if I can’t carry enough food and water to last several several days, I will have to make plans accordingly. Makes perfectly good sense to me, but he seemed to think I was being obtuse and contrary and suggested I take a backpacking class.

Someone recently accused me of being contrary when I said I wanted to do things my way, and perhaps I am contrary, but just because everyone does things a particular way does not make them right. Everyone can be wrong. Not that I think I’m always right, it’s just that I believe I have the right to explore alternate ways of doing things based on my needs, not what someone else thinks I need.

That store I visited today was filled with products I don’t need and wouldn’t buy even if my life depended on it. Freeze-dried food that costs more than a restaurant meal. Elaborate tents. Expensive clothes. So not my style! (If I had to define my style, I’d call myself mystical in a down to earth sort of way, as contradictory and contrary as that might sound.)

I do admit I go overboard with a do-it-myself attitude, but what difference does it make? Well, it does make a difference to those who think I disagree for the sake of being contrary, and perhaps it makes a difference to me in that sometimes it takes me a long time to learn on my own what I could pick up in a few minutes from a teacher.

And yet, Taoism 101 says: we are always our own best teacher. Give yourself credit and patience to be such a teacher to your own life.

Little by little, I will teach myself what I need to know for my great adventure. I don’t want to be foolish and do things that would be more dangerous than spiritual, more grueling than fun. If it turns out that a hike would be too much for me, I’ll walk. If a walk would be too much, I’ll drive. If a drive would be too much . . . I’ll think of something.

I hear adventure calling, and someday I will answer that call. I might even get that lovely purple backpack and let its advantages and drawbacks help decide where I will go.

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

Adventure!

Just checking in to let you know I am fine. Somehow I ended up at a barbecue at a winery last night, went to the ocean and watched the surf come in (or out), drove late into the night because I couldn’t find a motel or even any place to stop on a winding road. It’s checkout time now. I wonder where I will sleep tonight?

I hope your weekend is as fabulous as mine.

(This is short because I am pecking it out on my phone. Please excuse any typos.)

My Knights in Denim

I had rather an interesting experience yesterday. The accelerator cable broke just as I drove out of a parking lot with a car full of groceries. Within minutes, two young men who did know each other simultaneously stopped to help. They pushed my car into a parking space (the car did not want to go in straight, but went in at an angle, which turned out to be the optimal placement for the tow truck). One of the men watched my car while the other took me and my groceries home and then brought me back to wait for the tow truck. Both of them left to finish their errands, then returned later to see make sure I was okay. Such chivalry! My knights in denim.

What could have been a disaster turned out to be a rather fun and entertaining day. (It was the first time I ever used my cell phone for an emergency. It was also the first time I ever used my insurance company’s new roadside service, which actually turned out to be easy and effective. Amazing.) And I enjoyed talking to the two fellows, neither of whom I would ever have met in the normal course of my life.

I’m not sure what if anything I learned from the experience except to relearn what I already knew — it’s nice when things work out, but if they don’t, it’s an adventure. Of course, even considering the broken cable, everything did work out. The breakdown could just as easily have become a real horror, but except for the groceries, I wasn’t worried. (And even the groceries weren’t much of a problem. I could have returned them and walked home.) I have no real reason to be one place other than another, and after dealing with death of my life mate/soul mate and the ensuing grief, I really do believe I can deal with anything.

This bodes well for my future travel plans. If things go as I intend, the trips will be nice, but if things go wrong, well . . . adventure awaits.

(This experience might turn into a story someday. My chauffeur looked a bit like one of my brothers and sounded exactly like him. Even had the same laugh. Sounds to me like a great jumping off place for a “what if.”)

Letter to a Grieving Friend

Hello, my friend.

I understand what you said about the continuity of attachment even after death. At the beginning of my grief, I held to the thought that I was sparing my life mate — my soul mate — from ever having to grieve for me since he died first, then it occured to me that if, in fact, we continue to live somewhere beyond this earth, maybe he is feeling as lost as I am, as disconnected, and as lonely. That took away the last bit of comfort I had. My other thought was that even if something of us survives, I will never see him again. When he and I met all those years ago, I had the strange notion that he was some sort of exalted being come to help me find truth and reality (when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, they say). I’m not sure why I thought I was so special, but the time when we met was steeped in mysticism for me. I sometime wonder if perhaps my grief is so difficult because our separation is truly forever, that by the time I die, he will have taken his rightful place somewhere high up in the pantheon of radiance, and I’ll still be muddling along without him. Such strange thoughts that beset us bereft!

I’m beginning to realize that in some way my grief might always be a part of my life. It’s too immense, this thing called death. Too hard to deal with the reality of it. Oftentimes when people mention how the loss of their mate helped them become the person they were meant to be, it makes me cringe, as if the loved one was an adjunct to their life, not a life in itself. But we all deal with life and death the best we can. My grief has two parts: my missing him and his being missing from this world. Both feelings will be with me forever. And through it all, grief really is molding me into what I will become. I thought I’d have arrived at that place of becoming by now, but it’s still a long way away.

Supposedly, people who deal best with the hole in their lives are those who continue to have a connection to the person, such as still talking to them or writing to them. What is the difference between that and a fantasy? Either way, the person has no physical being (except, in the case of the dead, as dust in the ground or pulverized bone — cremains as the funeral business so cutely calls them). But perhaps that attachment even after death is what makes the difference.

I’ve decided that a life of fun and/or adventure is the only thing that will make the coming years tolerable, yet I have no idea how to have fun. Don’t even know what fun is, except perhaps doing new things or learning new things.

I feel as if I am disappearing, though. So many friends, even friends I made after his death, have disappeared from my life, and I worry that I will disappear, too. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been looking at photos of me as a child, and I am no longer that person, can’t even remember what I was thinking or feeling when the photos were taken (can’t even remember having my picture taken) so that youthful “me” has disappeared. Maybe when today’s me disappears, I’ll be not simply old and decrepit, but different somehow, and able to handle the challenges that the future will bring.

I hold to the idea that maybe someday you and I will have a grand adventure together.

Your sister in sorrow,
Pat