Puzzling Through the Impossible Dream

I had lunch with a friend today, and she mentioned wanting to walk the Pacific Coast Trail, which was one of the trails I’d researched during my original research for an epic hike. She said the problem is that the trail is still two decades away from being completed, and by then she’d be too old to have any interest in doing it. Since that was also my reaction to the trail, we talked about how to do the trail anyway, such as taking the Greyhound around unfinished places or possibly Ubering.

One big problem of an epic adventure, assuming of course that the other problems such as being able to carry a pack, go the distance, and various other minor matters, is the necessity of hitchhiking to town to replenish supplies and returning to your starting point when you finish the hike, which is not something I would ever do. But Ubering into town? Along the coast? It might be doable, especially on the more populous parts of the trail where there is no camping.

Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a continuous trail through the three coastal states, there is no real Pacific Coast Trail. There is a California Coastal Trail, which connects various walkways, boardwalks, multiuse trails, and roads all along the coastline (well, except for the places where there is no place to walk) and there is the Oregon Coastal Trail, which as I understand it, is completed. In both cases, tides have to be taken into consideration, because there are many spots that are only traversable during low tide. And the trail is narrow, steep, and rocky in other spots.

I have hiked small parts of both coastal trails (very small) and the beauty is only matched by the difficulty. But still — a wonderful, if impossible dream.

So far, I have not found any map or website for a Washington State Coast Trail for hiking, though there is one for biking. (And you do not want to hear me talk about the problems about walking on cycling trails. Yikes!)

But this gives me something more specific to aim for. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about as many ticks as on other trails (I don’t think I do), and perhaps not as many mosquitoes. Since I am dreaming impossible dreams, starting at the northernmost area and working my way south could be best way of doing it — begin in the summer at the coolest part of the hike, and hike the warmer spots in the fall and winter.

Forgetting for the moment that I lack the necessary physical stamina (which might — might — be offset by frequently Ubering into town for supplies so I don’t have to carry as much), I wonder if I would have the mental stamina to do this. To just throw myself onto the world and see what would happen. (And then, there is the problem of what to do with my car while I’m gone. Unless I park, hike back to where I last parked and then head back to the car? Or walk ahead and Uber back to the car? Or forgot hiking and just drive the coastal road?)

I sometimes (well, all times) think I am foolish for continuing to think of such an epic adventure, and yet, for a person who loves puzzles, this is one of the greatest puzzles I have ever encountered — how to move one sluggish older woman several hundred miles along a trail without destroying her.

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Believing Impossible Things

In an effort to see life in a new light, I’m going try to believe impossible things. I’ve always wanted to know the truth, but grief has thrown so many of my perceptions out of whack that I don’t know the truth of anything any more, so I’ve decided to believe things that are untrue. For example, I’m going to believe I am at the perfect weight. And maybe that’s the truth. Who’s to say? Only me, and I’m not talking.

And hey. Why stop at weight? Maybe I’ll believe that I myself am perfect. Now that I think about it, that is the truth. Since I am the only me in the world, whatever I am is perfectly me.

I’ve always been very self-aware — knowing both my good points and my bad points, my successes and failures — but if the universe is unfolding as it should be and I am where I am supposed to be, then there can be no good points and bad points. There can be no successes and failures. There is just me, a creature born of stardust, the culmination of billions of years of creativity and change. Odd to think that I (well, all of us) are a part of this process.

Maybe we are the process.

This thing called grief has given me an interesting perspective on life. A day or two after my life mate died, I couldn’t visualize him, so I looked at the only photo I have of us, and I wept because I did not recognize him. When that photo was taken, it was an exact likeness of him, but during the subsequent years of illness, he lost the fullness in his face, first becoming distinguished looking, then gaunt. When he died, I an idea/image of him in my mind, perhaps a composite of him through the years, perhaps what he actually looked like near the end, and that single photo I have of him does not resemble the person I knew. Now, however, the photo is how I remember him since it’s the only image of him I have. (Occasionally I can remember his smile or the way he looked when he died, but mostly he has faded from memory.) The way he looked in the photo and the way he looked at the end are both parts of his process, so I’m content remembering him when he was still relatively young and healthy.

It’s not just our internal images of a person that changes to accommodate the vagaries of age; our internal image of the relationship itself changes to accommodate the vagaries of life. Most of the transformation of a relationship from youthful and passionate to aged and (perhaps) wise and companionable goes unnoticed. We are always who we are. We are always in the present.

In other words, we are a process. Do we have an existence beyond the process? Someone told me recently that we can’t prove we exist. Maybe this is why we can’t prove it — whatever we try to pin down is already gone, lost in the past.

I never had much use for photographs of myself, but after my mother died, I inherited a bunch of photos taken of me when I was young. I put them in an album and I leaf through it occasionally, seeing the progression of myself from a baby to a young woman, trying to figure out what those girls have to do with the me of today. I’ve always felt like just me, and yet, (for example) I cannot remember this little girl in the photo, cannot remember being her. She has receded far into my past. Or perhaps she’s become subsumed into my current persona. Either way, she no longer exists even in memory.

But she is part of the process of me.

(Hmmm. Maybe there is something to this idea of believing impossible things. I’ve already found one new way of looking at life.)


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