Pat’s Big Adventure

In April, when I moved into my current rented room, the desert across the street called to me, especially the trail I could see in the distance, but I had to ignore the siren’s song. I’d just had surgery on my hand, multiple drugs had been pumped into me, and I had a hard time finding my equilibrium. Even worse, the thought of falling panicked me.

Today, finally, I followed the trail over the hill. It wasn’t much of an adventure as compared to climbing Mt. Everest, but it was a huge milestone for me.

As it turns out, it was a good thing I waited. I needed to use both hiking poles (which I couldn’t have done six months ago) because the trail was rocky, and in some places, I had to pick my way carefully through narrow rocky paths.

At the best of times, I’m not much of a hiker — I’ve seen people clambering hills as sure-footed as a mountain goat, but not me. Still, slow and steady keeps me going and gets me home safely. Despite some briefly treacherous places, the worst thing was entering a gated community from the back side, and not being able to get out. Luckily, I only had to wait about ten minutes until someone drove through the gate. I had to scurry to get through before the gate closed, but I managed to exit the neighborhood.

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One great thing about getting out in the wilds, even if it’s only the wilds across the street, is being able to get a different perspective on life. For example, in this final photo, the city between the boulders in the foreground and the hills in the background looks like just another field of scattered rocks.

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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.

Grieving in the Desert

It’s been a while since I went walking in the desert. A couple of months ago, I started taking extra dance classes, so I felt as if I needed to rest in the evenings and on the weekends to make sure I had the strength to dance, but lately it’s more because of . . . well, because of laziness, I guess.

After last night’s upsurge of grief for all my losses, I wanted to talk to Jeff (my deceased life mate/soul mate). During the past four-and-a-half years since his death, I’ve felt the closest to him out in the desert away from the traffic and commotion of the city. But he wasn’t there today. Of course, he’s never been there except for the part of him that used to be a part of me, but today even that tenuous connection was missing.

Bell MountainI used to worry that my grief kept him tied to me so he couldn’t go wherever he needed to go, though I’ve believed from the beginning that when he died, he went far beyond my influences, back to the higher reaches of radiance he came from. (At the same time, oddly, I believe he is gone, obliterated, oblivious. This second belief seems to be the result of my logical mind, while the first is more intrinsic.) I have no true belief as to what happened to him — either way, he is gone from my life with only his very pronounced absence still making him present to me.

At the moment, I have his photograph standing on a table where I can see it frequently, though sometimes I put it away or lay it face down depending on my current state of dependency. During the time of my dysfunctional brother’s nearness and my father’s decline, I needed to keep the photo handy to remind me that my life wasn’t always such a horror. Eventually, I’ll pack the photo away and not look at it much if at all — I’m not sure it’s a good thing to keep reminding myself of our past. The past is past, and only shows itself in what I have become because of it, anything else seems to be . . . I don’t know. Wallowing maybe. Irrelevant perhaps.

It does seem strange to think he isn’t relevant to my life anymore. For thirty-four he was relevant to everything I did, said, thought. Now my life is mine alone. I still wish I could go home to him, but though I seldom admit it even to myself, I know I would chafe under the life his illness forced us to live. I remember how numb I was that long year of his dying, and I don’t have that sort of defense any more. His death and my ensuing grief killed that particular mechanism in me — now I feel everything, as if my emotional tuning fork is poised to thrum at the slightest disturbance.

Sometimes, when I am at my most mystical, I feel as if my life’s journey is just beginning. That everything up to now has been prologue. (That sounds familiar. Didn’t Shakespeare write, “What’s past is prologue”?) So I won’t say prologue. Maybe school. My life does have a bit of that “almost graduation” feel to it, along with the panic/excitement of what is coming — whatever that might be. I’m trying to follow the advice of a very sage woman and not give too much thought to the future, but my mind does seem to wander/wonder at times.

I will make one plan for the near future, though. I’m planning to walk in the desert again tomorrow. Even though Jeff might be absent, I was very much present, and that’s what mattered.

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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.

Fishing For Life

Today is the 3 and 1/6-year anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death, and I’m still sad, still missing the spark to get my life going again. For thirty-four years, he was my spark — everything was so much more vibrant when he was in my life — and without something to spark my interest again, my life will continue to feel sad and flat.

A few days ago, in Dreaming My Life into Being, I wrote about my plans to go fishing for life. Well, today, I went. (The second part of that plan was to turn off my computer for a day, and as you can see, I didn’t do that, but following through on half a plan is better than doing nothing, right?)

Today’s fishing trip wasn’t a major journey by any means, just a long hike through the desert on a quest to find the trail to the top of Bell Mountain. I’d climbed halfway one day, but gave up when the trail petered out to 60-degree angle. There is no way I could have climbed that sort of slope with only my tennis shoe-clad feet and bare hands — who am I trying to kid;  there is no way I could ever have climbed that slope — so I turned around and came back. (Slid down halfway, I’m sure, though I don’t remember. It was in the midst of the worst of my grief, and there are blank spots of pain in my memory.)

Bell Mountain

Bell Mountain

I’d recently read online that there is a trail to the top, though it’s on the other side of the mountain, so my quest today was to make my way to the other side and find the trail. Again, I had to turn back. I’d walked for two hours, and perhaps another two hours would have taken me around to the trailhead, but then, I’d have been too exhausted to make my way back. So once again, the mountain defeated me.

The way back.

The way back.

Just because one goes on a fishing trip doesn’t mean you’ll get what you went for, but still, it was a lovely day in the sun with just enough wind to keep me from dying of the heat. So I did catch something — a bit of life.

I also caught a thought. We talk about life being a journey, but it’s always a forward motion or maybe even sideways. No matter how far we go, we continue on from there. Unlike other physical journeys, such as a hike, we don’t have to return to home base. So we can give it all we have without needing to keep anything in reserve for the return trip.

I hope I remember that when next I feel as if I can’t continue my life’s journey.

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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.