Pointing Myself in a Direction

I reconnected with my once-upon-a-time Yoga teacher the other day. She happened to “like” one of my twitter posts, and I was so pleased to see her name after all these years, that I immediately wrote her a message, and we’ve been “talking.”

I loved her Yoga classes and her philosophy. She was the one who taught me to use my whole sphere. She said we live in a personal sphere, the space taken up by outspread arms and legs. As we age and become more fearful of missteps, we shrink into the center of our spheres, shortening our stride, hunching into ourselves. Ever since, I have striven to open myself not just to my physical sphere, but also beyond what I can encompass.

I was devastated (devastated for myself, not for her) when she left to accept a fabulous job offer. It worked out, in a way, because I went searching for something else to do to give me a respite from looking out for my father, and I found dancing. (This was one of those very rare cases of one door closing and another opening, though I truly hate that platitude. After Jeff died, people frequently said, “When a door closes, a window opens,” but who uses a window in place of a door? And anyway, what good is a window or even a door to a widow who has lost her foundation?)

In one of the recent messages to my erstwhile Yoga instructor, I mentioned my idea of eventually doing some sort of epic hike, and she responded: “Baby steps everyday towards your goal will help you accomplish your dream. We have a Bucket List of walking The Camino de Santiago-we’ve begun working on it-It’s years ahead. Just point yourself in that direction & start!”

So, baby steps.

The first step is to get well. I caught the cold that’s been going around, and I’m stuck inside for the duration. (It’s interesting how the idea of an epic adventure always rears its head when I am housebound. Well, perhaps not interesting. But understandable.)

The second step is to continue working to get my hand/arm/wrist/elbow in as good a shape as possible.

The third step is to . . . well, one and two should be sufficient for now.

I am beginning to see, though, that an epic hike for me would be years in the future, which is one of the things that makes it an impossible dream — by the time I am ready, it’s possible I would be too decrepit or too broke. But it is a direction in which to point myself, and that has been the problem these years after Jeff’s death — I’ve had no direction.

I might be driving up the coast to Seattle in May, which would be a good time for a reconnoitering trip. I am also collecting lists of hikes that are less ambitious than the iconic national trails and that might possibly be good starter long hikes. I just added the Pinhoti Trail to the list. I am sure there are hundreds of trails that would be perfect for a few weeks or even a few days. Or even one night. (If I’m going to do baby steps, a one nighter would be the first trip!)

It’s possible what I like is the impossible dream and that backpacking is more of an ideal than something I ever want to do. (My father had such a dream — for as long as I can remember, he talked about walking the coast of Portugal. I don’t know when he finally gave up on the idea, or when it gave up on him.) And yet I have enjoyed every one of the day hikes I have ever taken, and enjoyed every night I spent camping.

Step three, now that I think of it, should be to get over the idea of chucking it all and just heading out. Considering the dismal state of my finances, it seems silly to pay rent when I am elsewhere, but for now, it would probably be best to have a base. And anyway, there would be the problem of what to do with my car if I were on the trail for months.

So, baby steps all the way.

I do like the idea of doing something every day to prepare, even if it’s only research. (Only research? From what I’ve been able to gather from the research I have already done is that research is one of the most important things a beginner backpacker can do.)

But for now, I’ll point myself in the direction of a nap.

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.

After Kicking the Bucket List

A few days ago I mentioned in a blog that I didn’t have a bucket list because there are too many things in the world that either I’m not aware of that perhaps I would like to do, or if I am aware of the things, I’m not aware that I would like to try them.

Several people pointed out that bucket lists have become a cliché, which they are, but the way I figure it, they are also redundant. A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die. As far as I know, every list is a list of things one wants to do before they die. A shopping list is more immediate and a heck of a lot less exciting than a list of activities such as sky diving or mountain climbing, but still, it’s a list of things to do while you are alive.angel

I have yet to see a list of things to do after one kicks the bucket, though I imagine such a list would read:

1) Make an appointment with God.
2) Tell Him/Her what He/She did wrong when creating the world.
3) Learn how to play the harp.
4) Shop for the latest fashion in wings and halos.

Or, in a more dire situation:

1) Amass a stock of aloe for burns.
2) Find your friends, especially those your parents once warned you about.
3) Look for a hot guy.
4) Have a hell of a good time.

Now those are bucket lists!


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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

My Wish List

Wish lists, such as things you want to accomplish before you turn thirty (or forty or fifty) or things you want to do before you kick the bucket (I finally figured out that’s what a bucket list is!!), seem to be perennial favorites as blog topics, so I though I’d share my list:


Yep that’s it. A total blank. Looking back, there are only two things that were ever on my mental list of things I wanted to do with my life when I grew up: read and write. For most of my life, I indulged my habit of reading rather than doing something that might have been more lucrative, such as striving for a high-powered career. I also tried to write a novel when I was young and it was one of the regrets and sadnesses of my life to discover that I had no talent for fiction, yet eventually, I did become an author. (Proof that you don’t need an innate talent for writing but can learn how to tell a story in a compelling way, which in itself is sort of a talent.)

There are things that I would have added to a life list if I had been aware that I would experience them. I would have wanted to be deeply connected to another human being, to have the privilege of being there at the end of his life, though I had never aspired to doing either of those before they happened. I would have chosen to experience for a brief time such disparate places as a mesa in the high plains of Colorado, the edge of the north woods of Wisconsin, the high desert of California, but again, those are not things I would ever have added to any list since I’m not easily uprooted. I would have also wanted to reconnect with my best friend from high school, and now I’ve done that. (The visit was wonderful, by the way, and wonderfully strange considering all the years that have passed since I last saw her.) Besides, now that I’ve done these things, I would have crossed them off any list anyway, and the list would still be blank.

A couple of times I tried to do the creativity stimulation exercises in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I generally stuck with the morning pages (three pages every morning to write whatever came to mind) and the artist’s date (a weekly date with yourself) but always, when I got to the part about making lists, the excercises screamed to a halt. There are various exercises in the book involving lists: What would I try if it weren’t too crazy? What would I do if it weren’t too selfish? What five things would I never personally do that sound like fun? What do I wish for?

I’d like to be able to make a living with my books, of course, but other than that, no wish comes to mind. I’ve never had any desire to go to Paris or London, never had any desire to travel to exotic locales to see ancient ruins, though I wouldn’t mind seeing such places if I could figure out a way of simply being there without having to make the long trip. I did have a desire to see the Olmec heads, and one came visiting at a museum nearby, so I satisfied that desire.

I’m not sure it’s possible for me to become a wisher. I used to want things, of course, but too often I didn’t get what I wanted, so I learned not to want. I know it’s important for a character to want something — it’s what makes them compelling. But is it important for us to want things? Or is it better for us to be more zen in our approach, to accept what comes our way? This is where I am now, stuck somewhere in the middle of those two questions.

Maybe this could be my list?

1. Find something to wish for.
2. Wish for it.


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+