The Gift is in the Preparation

I woke this morning to the sound of wind squeaking through my ill-fitted bedroom window.

(Hmm. Wind. Window. Is there a relationship here? Be right back; I need to check the etymology of window. Yep. They’re related. Window comes from Old Norse words vindr meaning wind and auga meaning eye. So a window is a wind eye, or a wind hole. The earliest mention of window came early in the 13th century, and it meant an unglazed hole in the roof. So originally a window let in the wind and now it keeps it out?)

But back to the matter at hand . . .

I snuggled under the covers, thinking that I’d take a zero day today. (A zero day in backpacking terms is a day when no miles are gained.) Then I remembered my weekends are supposed to mimic a backpacking trip, and if I were really out in the wilds, I’d have to keep on the move. (Or not. There is that zero day thing.)

I remembered also that I only have these three days each week to condition myself to carrying a pack, since I have dance class the other four days. (I still hope for grace and balance from dance. It could happen.) And I need all three backpacking days to get used to carrying extra weight.

So, I got dressed, shrugged on the pack and headed into the wind. Yikes. Cold! And gusty. Some of those gusts were so strong they almost blew me over. But I did it — trudged four miles, teetering in the wind, with twenty-two pounds on my back — and I realized that though the goal might be to backpack on the Pacific Crest Trail, the gift is in the doing. It was hard going today, but what a thrill to be on my feet, moving through the blustery air, racking up the miles. Admittedly, four miles isn’t exactly “racking up the miles,” but still, to be able to walk any distance is a true wonder.

It seems funny that I’ve been thinking, writing, talking about the Pacific Crest Trail for so many years — four-and-a-half years since my first mention of the PCT, four years since my first hike on the trail — but until this very year, I never actually strapped on a backpack to try to train myself for such an epic hike.

I still don’t know if I can do any long distance sauntering, but as I discovered today, the PCT is the goal. The gift is in the preparation. And that, for sure, I can do — even on a windy day.

I still remember seeing this sign and taking the photo when I was on a different outing (to find the San Andreas Fault). I was so excited to see evidence of this mythical trail that I walked up the path a bit, but then I had to turn around because neither of my companions had any interest in the trail at all. I’ve done many day hikes since then, but still no overnights. That fearful joy is still to come.


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.

Life Is Weird Place To Live

Life is weird place to live. Just a few days ago, people were calling me negative — so many, in fact, that I began to believe I really was negative — and now people are calling me positive. Not those same people, of course. I haven’t talked to any of the first group in a while, and some I might never talk to again. Even if I were negative, being called negative creates negative vibrations, and I certainly don’t need any more of those in my life.

I’ve been making an effort to meet new people. I found out that the local Sierra Club does a conditioning walk three nights a week, and I’ve been walking with them, which has been fun. It’s a great activity for introverts and designated listeners since everyone gets a chance to talk. (In most of my friendships, I’m the listener, whether I want to be or not.) Although we walk fast (three miles in an hour or less), it’s a social occasion, and the adrenaline and blood rush keeps us all in good spirits. The walkers are wonderful people, interesting and supportive of one another. And they think I’m upbeat, have a good attitude, am interesting. It does my ego good, though I’m sure the truth of me lies halfway between the two extremes of positive and negative.

Overall, the first group of people seemed more unhappy than this second group, and both groups were seeing themselves reflected in me and I was reflecting off them, like one of those mirrored illusions in a fun house where mirroryou see yourself reflected endlessly. If you see a thousand images of yourself, which one do you choose as the real image? Maybe all are real in one way or another. Our bodied selves might be an illusion, too. Maybe the person we see in a single mirror is but one of our myriad images that we choose to inhabit for that moment.

A better analogy might be the energy between two points. An idea, for example, doesn’t exist in our neurons but in the energy zinging between the neurons. Maybe whoever we are at a given moment are the personas we and the people around us create in the energy zinging between us.

When we are in love with someone, often we love who we are when we are with that someone. We love the persons we create between us. (This could be why the death of one’s mate is so devastating — among all the other horrors and gifts of grief, we truly do have to deal with the loss of ourselves.)

Hmm. I’ll have to think about all this. Are we really so fluid? Are we simply bodies of energy that flow around and through all we encounter, changing and being changed with every brush with another creature? If there is nothing immutable at rock bottom, then life really is a weird place to live.


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.