Life, Death, and Dancing

I’ve gotten so used to living my uncoupled life, that I seldom stop anymore to think of what has happened to get me where I am, and yet, this past week, I did marvel at the strangeness of it all.

If Jeff hadn’t died . . .

If I hadn’t gone to take care of my nonagenarian father . . .

If I hadn’t stopped by a dance studio to inquire about classes . . .

And so there I was, all last week, in rehearsals for dance performances that would take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Me? Rehearsals? Dance performance? Remarkable.

This might not seem strange to people who have only known me in the post-Jeff phase of my life where I have become rather adventuresome in a small sort of way, but before that, I lived a quiet life, a bookish life. I have always tried new things and looked for challenges, but never have I gone so far out of myself as I have in these solitary years. I suppose it makes sense — all comfort died with Jeff, so it doesn’t make that much difference if I am comfortable or not.

Oddly, though, I was perfectly comfortable performing this weekend, though I still remember how hard it was in the beginning to push through the discomfort and be able to even think about dancing in front of a crowd.

(I’m second from the left, costumed for “Rejoice” from The Wiz.)

I sometimes wonder what the person I was all those years ago would think about the future she is living, but I’m glad she didn’t know. It’s taken many painful years to get to this point, and it was probably better that she didn’t see what was before her.

I should remember this when I worry about the future. Back then, I couldn’t know what my life would be like eight years in the future, so any worry would have been wasted. And perhaps it is the same now. In eight years, my life could be so different, that any worrying I do today would be wasted.

For me, then, the moral is to take each day as it comes while trying to go beyond what is comfortable, and to enjoy any accomplishments that might ensue.

All that and dancing, too!

***

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.

A Gift of Frankincense and Myrrh

Once, long ago and far away, three wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to a baby. Today, a wise woman gave me a gift of frankincense and myrrh, which could prove as valuable as gold if they work as promised to relieve the pain of my poorly functioning hand.

It seems odd to know of those ancient substances without ever knowing what they were or what they were for. Seems even odder to take the story of the wise men and their gifts for granted. I mean, really — would you bring something so obscure to a baby shower? No, you’d stick with something practical like . . . I don’t know . . .  whatever is practical to give to a baby. But perhaps those aromatics weren’t merely valued for their scents. (I think that is what we were told, I don’t really remember.) Maybe the frankincense and myrrh were valued for medicinal purposes, for keeping the baby healthy and the mother pain-free.

One of the many weird aspects of growing older is the way the body’s fat migrates. The protective fat pads from my feet and hands have disappeared, which makes long distance walking painful (the tops of my feet, oddly, not the bottoms). Perhaps these gifts from the wise woman will enable me to ramble again (though, admittedly, when I did ramble for hours, it was not during a time I was taking dance classes. Those classes range from an hour on the shortest day to four hours on the longest day, as well the mile walk to and from class, so I am not actually as lazy as I think I am).

If nothing else, these mythic gifts bring me a wonderful feeling of strange, as if somehow I am connected to the ancient story of the magi and that journey they took so very long ago.

***
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 All Awhirl

I think my computer has the soul of an old cat. It’s been in storage for two months, alone and neglected, and when I rescued it today from its storage unit kennel, it decided to neglect me in return. I suppose that passes for fairness in the purr-fect cyber world, but it sure was irksome! Poor old thing, the battery was almost dead, so dead I didn’t think it had enough juice to resuscitate itself, but luckily, it did finally begin recharging. It took several hours for the beast to decide to share its CPUs — I have no idea what it was doing other than its svchost.exe thing. It didn’t seem to be chasing anything dangerous like bugs or viruses, so I let it play.

I’m getting my metaphors twisted here, but the thing really did seem to be punishing me for my neglect. We’ve made up, though, and its decided to let me have my say.

To be honest, I have nothing much to impart, so you won’t hurt my feelings if you leave. Mostly, the past couple of days have left my mind in a whirl, and I’m using this bloggerie to unwhirl my life, and bring me back to a semblance of equanimity.

The bus/train return trip was an interesting experience. I made friends with a self-named “new generation hippie” or “traveler.” She said she got tired of the scene, because although the kids were into various spiritual things, they were mostly into drugs, and she wasn’t. These travelers slept in fragile eco systems, without a care for the damage they did, just because. I might not have paid attention to the account of their shenanigans, except so much of the research I am doing about hiking and backpacking is based on protecting the land while making it available to as many people as possible. The various trails in California, as well as the Appalachian Trail are particularly at risk. (For example, lot of people are reporting used toilet paper “flowers” along the trails. Some parts of the trails are littered with trash and broken gear.) I can’t do anything about them. I’m just glad I walked softly on the trails provided and left no trace. (Though they left a trace on me! Mosquito bites and bruises. Eek.)

Since I’ve been back, I’ve spent a lot of time at my storage unit, trying to find what I need for the next month or so. (For the past eight weeks, I’ve lived with less than 53 litres of possessions — that’s how much fit in my backpack.) And now I find I need a whole carload of stuff. (Computer, dance clothes, printer, nutritional supplements.)

I checked on my car yesterday and today. Poor old beetle still isn’t finished being restored, but even though the body shop guy is only working on it when he has nothing more lucrative to do, I am grateful for the care he is taking. He keeps finding things that were supposed to have been fixed, but weren’t. I’d paid a supposedly reputable VW repair business to replace rusty brake lines and leaky fuel lines, and even though they took the money, they didn’t do the work. Even worse, when I went back because the problems didn’t seem to be fixed, they swore they double checked the work and everything was fine. I can sort of understand cheating with parts like a muffler (they did that, too, took my money for a new muffler, and neglected to put it in) but brakes? Fuel lines that are prone to catching fire? Cripes. They tried to murder me for a few dollars. Oddly, the reason I went to them in the first place, is for them to fix something a previous mechanic had screwed up. And now they’ve been put out of business by myriad lawsuits.

Luckily, I have a new mechanic and now a body shop guy. Between the two of them, my car should run as well as any ancient car can, and look a whole lot better than most old vehicles.

Meantime, I’m back at dance class. It’s been a long time since dancing made me smile — too many personalities and too much drama overloaded my system and took away the joy, but now I feel renewed. At least for a while. It helps that I have another trip planned. And it also helps that I’m literarily causing havoc for my dance mates.

I started writing my novel about the dance class when I was up north. I even know who committed the murder and why, just don’t know all the particulars, but I don’t need to know those details until I write myself into a corner and need a twist to get me out. I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue writing the book now that I am back in class. I have a hunch it will be hard to keep my mind in the story when every day I see the characters in real life doing the opposite of what I’d written. Sort of kills the imaginative aspect, I suppose, but maybe not. The characters are already evolving away from their real life counterparts, and since I couldn’t have a whole bunch of supporting characters muddying my figurative waters, I combined the women into composite characters, which makes it easier to be truthful. (As the wolf told Red Riding Hood, “the better to destroy you with, my dear.” Or some such.) Besides, if anyone annoys me, I can get my revenge on them in the story.

It’s hot here in the desert, close to 100° and so humid I am drenched even so late in the evening. Such a vast difference between here and the northern part of California! Oddly, the skies seem higher in the desert. The light is different here, so glaringly yellow, that I’m sure it causes some sort of optical illusion. And oh, does that sun burn! In all the hiking discussions I have read, all the experts have iterated not to wear cotton when hiking, but that can’t possible refer to the desert. Wearing synthetics would be like sitting on a vinyl seat in a car that has been baking in triple digit temperatures. Ouch. But I’ll check out Merino wool — supposed to feel like silk.

And anyway, I’ve put away my hiking persona for now, and donned my dancing diva.

Thanks for helping me unwhirl. I feel so much better now!

Here is a song someone sent me. Sounds like my life. https://youtu.be/6BvPMbJZfLw Hope you enjoy 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.”)

Dreaming of Life in the Slow Lane

It seems strange to be alone. Strange to be blogging. Strangest of all to feel as if I belong —- not belonging to anyone or anywhere just . . . belonging. Maybe I’m beginning to feel a connection to the world again. Or it could be my inner sense of irony coming into play since I am at my storage unit sitting among my belongings.

I’ve been staying with friends ever since my father’s house was sold. (I’d been looking after him these past few years, and now he’s gone, as are my mother and life mate/soul mate.) I’m without a car —- the restoration that was supposed to be done in three weeks has now dragged on into two months — but it hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience. At least not to me. My friends might have a different opinion! Besides, I’ve needed to hang around town a bit longer anyway. I’d committed to doing a dance performance at the end of this month, and there have been practices and rehearsals to attend. And dance classes, of course.

I have been researching ultralight camping gear, researching the various trails, following the comments and updates of women hikers in preparation for . . . something. Adventure. Experience. Life in the slow lane.

I still have no idea what I am capable of, what I am willing to risk, what form my adventure will take. All of know is I want that intangible . . . something.

My original idea was to be spontaneous, just follow where the trail of life might lead, and perhaps I will still be able to spontaneous once all the research and preparation has been done. And yet . . . there have been people who set off on foot with no preparation or baggage whatsoever, just a head packed with determination and a heart full of trust. Such a life might come for me eventually, but for now I’m still dreaming. And researching.

I do believe, though, that whatever journey I make, whether strolls around the neighborhood, day hikes, backpacking, or cross-country road trips, I will be starting out alone. A friend had invited me to do the Appalachian Trail with her, but the more we talk, the less it seems to be to my advantage. But who knows what will happen in the next couple of years. I can’t even predict the next couple of weeks!

It’s been nice “talking” to you again. Wishing you fabulous adventures and dreams enough to last a lifetime.

***

(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.”)

***

A Close Encounter of the Unhomed Kind

(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.”)

***

I’ve been sort of joking about being homeless, and I suppose I sort of am. (How is that for a noncommittal sentence!) And anyway, I consider myself ‘unhomed’ rather than homeless. (I’m laughing. I’m using my phone since I don’t want to be dragging my poor old computer from place to place, and the phone has a mind of its own. I’d written the word ‘unhomed’ but the word ‘unhinged’ appeared instead.)

My stuff is in storage, and at the moment I am living off the kindness of friends, but this is due more to my lack of a vehicle and a need / promise to continue with dance classes at least until the end of May than to destitution. I have resources and plans, just a strange set of circumstances coupled with a growing need for adventure.

I’d planned to rent a room for May, but couldn’t find anything within walking distance of the dance studio so I will need to continue relying on friends for another few weeks. The distance wouldn’t have mattered if I had my car, but it’s still at the body shop. The original estimate on my car was that it would take three weeks to be de-dented, de-rusted, and painted. Four weeks have gone by, and now the auto body guy says three more weeks. Luckily, my friends don’t seem to mind my company. And if they did? Well, I’d figure out something. Use my vehiclelessness as an excuse to go on some sort of adventure by bus, perhaps.

I am learning something during this time — the foolhardiness of my making plans. Every time I make any sort of plan, it changes. Not just concerning my living situation but about taking off on a trip. I’d planned to leave June first, but a friend asked me to housesit the first couple of weeks in June, so I’ll be staying around here a bit longer than I’d originally intended. Makes life interesting, just going with the flow.

And for now the flow is toward . . .

I was going to say the flow was toward homelessness, but the truth is, now that I don’t have a permanent place to stay, I feel less homeless than at any time since Jeff died. He was my home, and I knew that to ever be happy I’d need to find ‘home’ within myself. To be home wherever I am. And if I am home, I can never be homeless even if I don’t have a set place of residence.

If you’re one of those who are worried about me, I truly appreciate it, but there’s no need to be concerned. I’m just experiencing a close encounter of the unhomed kind.

Back to Class

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the experience of a break from school, but I’ve been taking dance classes, and since the year-end holidays all fell in the middle of our class week, we haven’t had lessons for a long, long, long time. Well, it wasn’t that long, but considering how important those sessions have become to me, it seemed as if I’d started leading a whole other danceless life during the break.

Luckily today, our first day back, we took it slowly. Much strength and elasticity is lost with just a couple of weeks of inactivity, and there is no way to make up the loss in two-and-a-half hours. (One and a half hours for ballet, one hour for Arabic dancing.) Supposedly every day lost to dancing takes a week to make up when one is young, so there’s no telling how long it will take now. I’ll just be patient with myself and hope the teacher will do the same.

danceStill, it was good to be moving, to feel alive. Since most of today’s ballet class wasn’t taken up with all our usual barre exercises and stretches, we had time to learn a little dance. “Dance” might be too grand a word for those few basic steps, but it was elegant for all that, with développés, pas de bourrées, glissades, sauté arabesques, and soutenu turns. (I’m showing off. Can you tell?)

It’s amazing to me that anyone is willing to teach someone who comes to dance at such an advanced age, particularly since I will never be a “real” dancer, just as I will never be a “real” writer. Neither dance nor writing will ever be the sole focus of my life. I will not tolerate suffering for the sake of either art. (Quite frankly, I have no interest in suffering at all.) I have no passion to bring to either activity — I seem to be missing the passion gene, and the consensus seems to be you need passion to be a dancer or a writer. Although writing and dancing bring much life to my life, both seem to be not ends so much as means to what I really want, though continuing to be frank, I have no idea what I really want. (Which is sort of the problem, because of course, if I knew what I wanted, I could start doing whatever it is I needed to do in order to get what I wanted.)

But I’m getting off the topic of this particular bloggerie, which is today, dance, life.

Today I danced. Today I lived. Can’t ask for better than that.

***

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.

Dear Diary

I always loved diaries when I was a kid. Blank diaries, that is. The lovely cover. The tiny key that could lock the book so no one could see the secrets confided within. Every time I got a present of a diary, I would think about all the wonderful thoughts that would eventually be written, but invariably, after an initial entry professing my intentions to write every day, the diary would lay fallow. Blank. Not surprising. Not much happened seemed to happen to me. School. Home. Library. Church. That was the extent of my life.

I’m not sure my life is more exciting than those long ago non-diary years, but I am more aware of my emotions and thoughts, so now this blog often resembles a diary, one I have been writing in daily for a few years now. Three years, I think. Maybe four.

I never intended this to be a diary. Years ago, I’d read that a blog was necessary to help build an online platform for authors and so, even though I hadn’t a clue what blogging was, I started this blog. At first it was impersonal — posts about writing, books I’d read, my efforts to get published, but after my life mate/soul mate died, I couldn’t stop bleeding my grief onto this blog. Now, anything goes. So . . .

Dear Diary,

I had another good day today. Took a couple of dance classes, started learning a new dance in jazz class and another new dance in Hawaiian class using an ipu (a Hawaiian gourd drum). When I got back to the house, my sister had prepared a feast for us, a bit of celebration. (Because we needed something exciting in this house where we are looking after my 97-year-old father, who actually is strong and well enough to do more for himself than he does. Because she is leaving next week since she isn’t really needed here. But mostly just because . . .)

I wasn’t going to walk tonight (I’m still recovering from allergy-induced chest congestion), but after such a feast, I’d better make the effort. I’ll write more tomorrow. I promise.

***

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+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Update on Writing, Spirits, and Other Matters

Lately I’ve been hearing about all sorts of blatant plagiarism, where “authors” steal another writer’s published book, adding sex scenes or scrambling a few words and passing it off as their own. In one case, a plagiarist stole the exact cover of the book. In this brave new world of publishing where anything goes, it’s harder than ever to keep control of one’s own work. Once it’s in the public eye, the book is available to anyone with a few cents for an ebook download. Chances are, the plagiarized book would be lost in the millions of books now available, and even if the crime was discovered, most self-published authors don’t have the money to fight such infringements, and even if they did, it’s one person’s word against the other. Many self published authors don’t even bother to register their books with the copyright office in their country because once a book is written, it’s automatically covered under copyright laws. But courts are a different matter. They need the official copyright to proceed with trials and repercussions.

bookI’ve never quite known what to do about publishing my work. For now, I have a publisher, but when I get back to writing Ms. Cicy’s Nightmare, a murder mystery based on my dance class, I will continue publishing it on my blog, the way I started. (I am a bit embarrassed that the book is in hiatus after a single chapter, but in my defense, as soon as I cleared the month of July to write, life filled the void with all sorts of traumas and family dramas, which I am only now recovering from.) But when the book is finished? I might or might not get an official copyright. I am not litigious, so chances are I wouldn’t take any copyright infringement to court. Besides, I could easily prove the book is mine since the names of my characters will reflect their real-life personas. At least, that’s the plan. Besides, I don’t much like government intervention of any kind, even if it’s in my best interests.

The ordeals of the last month, including my father’s hospitalization, my brother’s, increased insanity and my trip to return him to Colorado have pretty much numbed my creativity. Since so many of the would-be perpetrators are on hiatus’s of their own — weddings, vacations, illnesses — I don’t have much impetus to write, but soon . . .

As for other updates:

My sister and I drank spirits to the spirits again tonight, if only to bolster our own spirits.

And lastly, I just got an email from Squidoo saying they been purchased by HubPages and that some of my content will be transferred to the HubPages site. Do you have any experience with HubPages? I’m trying to decide if I should just delete my Squidoo account and forget the whole thing or let them transfer my content.

***

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+. Like Pat on Facebook.