Why Do I Continue to Dream of an Epic Walk?

Somehow I can’t get the idea of an epic walk out of my head, though the reality of such a journey seems beyond my capabilities and even inclination. I can walk, that’s not a problem, especially since there would be no speed or distance requirement. (My journey; my rules!) But carrying several days worth of food and water, along with sleeping essentials and emergency supplies is a bit much. Even though the backpacking products today are gossamer weight compared to products made a couple of decades ago, the packed pack, no matter how ultra light, would be more than I could deal with. The improbability of such a journey is what prompted me to get my car restored (or rather, try to get it restored. They are still working on it). If I am going to make a trip by car instead of on foot, I’d prefer to look like a near-classic woman in a near-classic car rather than like a bag lady in a rattletrap. At least, that was the plan.

desertSo why do I continue to dream of and research/prepare for an epic walk? For the longest time, I didn’t know the answer to that. I thought a desire for adventure was fostering the idea, but there are all kinds of adventures, one of which I am on now — housesitting for a friend and walking the three miles from her house to the dance studio every day. (It doesn’t sound like much until you add in the two to four hours of classes.)

The truth is (as I have recently discovered), I feel at home on foot. The easy swing of arms, the push/thrust of first one leg and then the other is comforting. I can feel each step as it connects to the earth (or sidewalk or road or whatever) and I know where I am even if I don’t know where I am. Seeing the world at a walking pace suits me just fine — I can feel the nuances of a place as well as see the small details. And, as Steven Wright said, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” (Well, it would be if there were bridges over the ocean and other major waterways.)

I especially like the simplicity of walking. There are no engines to start, no doors to climb through, no dashboards and rear view mirrors to watch. All I have to do is go outside, and there I am, walking.

What I don’t always like about walking is the return trip. I can’t go as far as I want because I have to save enough energy to get back to my starting point, but what if I didn’t need to get back to my starting point? What if I could keep going? It’s those “what ifs” even more than a desire for adventure that made me wonder about taking some sort of long distance walk.

I could always do a yo-yo hike, which is probably what I’ll do for a while — just go out to a national park or BLM land where I can camp by my car, walk or hike with a minimum of gear, and then return to my car camp site for the evening. That way I’m never far from access to civilization. But then, there would always be the return trip to the car, having to gauge my distance to make sure I could get back to the car where my camping gear would be. And so I dream . . .

Meantime, there are my small walks — the walk to the studio, grocery stores, out in the desert. There might not be any epicness to such adventures, but at least for the time I am afoot, I feel at home, and that is no small thing.

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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.

Grief and a Need for Adventure

For the past few years, I’ve had an overwhelming desire for adventure, especially some grand and epic journey that would change me forever. I’ve noticed this same trait in others of my grief “age group,” those of us who lost our soul mates around the same time. Apparently, our psyches believe that only something great and powerful and life affirming (or death defying) can offset the terrible loss we suffered. This feeling isn’t reserved for just our group of course, but since we’ve suffered a similar loss within a few months of each other, the phases we all go through are more apparent to me.

For some people, the desire for an epic adventure dissipates as their grief dissipates. For example, I have a friend who’s been grieving the end of a love affair for the past couple of years, and although she’s been going through this same need for adventure, she now seems to have reached both an acceptance of her loss and a readiness to resume life on a more prosaic level. She wants to write and do art, which are adventures of their own, but both seem to demand some sort of settled life so the artist can pursue those adventures on art’s own terms.

campingMe? I’m not there yet. Although it seems as if I’m unequipped physically for great feats of endurance, such as an epic walk, I’m not ready to accept the idea of a settled life. In my case, I’m not sure it’s still about a need for adventure so much as a need for a simpler life. What could be simpler than taking a walk? One foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do. At least, that’s the way it appears on the surface. The more I research, the more complicated such a life becomes. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. In desert states, sometimes you have to walk fifty to a hundred miles before coming upon a water source. At a half gallon of water and five to ten miles a day, that means a minimum load of forty pounds just of water. Add to that food, shelter (tent), sleeping system, rain gear, emergency kit, change of clothes. No wonder people who walk across the country push or pull carts so they can haul the necessities. Or they walk with nothing, and trust in the journey to supply what they need. I have no interest in a cart, and no ability to surrender to trust, so here I sit, journeying on my computer, dreaming as yet impossible dreams.

People keep asking me if I had inherited this house if I would continue living here. I always say no just because owning this house was never an option, but the truth is, I probably would stay out of inertia. If you have a place to live, it’s much harder to uproot yourself than if life uproots you. But eventually I’d have to leave because I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up such a house. Nor could I handle the stress of upkeep. Most of my recent stresses and dramas have centered around this house. Alarms chirping, things breaking down, things needing to be fixed, replaced, cleaned, packed. Things. Other stresses and dramas have centered around my computer and car. More things. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a caretaker of things. I want more from life than . . . things. (I’ve considered joining the tiny house movement, but again, although on the surface, owning a tiny house seems simple, in the end it’s as complicated as owning a big house. )

I have dance commitments through the end of May, so whether the house sells or not, I’ll be staying in this area at least that long. (Jazz and belly dance performances in March, Hawaiian and Tahitian performances in May.) And then? More dancing, probably. I still have much to learn that dancing can teach me. I’m considering renting a room in a house, which would give me more unsettledness than an apartment lease. Besides, considering the non-credit I have, never having borrowed money or owned a credit card, it’s almost impossible for me to rent a place.

I have way too many things for a simple life, but to simplify my life, I’ll be putting it all in storage. That way I won’t have to be burdened with those things, but will have them whenever I need them.

I do know I will do something. I’ll have to. My mother died at eighty-five and my father at ninety-seven, though there’s no saying whether I will live as long as either one of them did. (My immediately younger brother died nine years ago from brain cancer.) Still, there is a possibility of my living for decades still. I will have to do something during all those years, and whatever that something might be, I’m sure it will be an adventure because life itself is an adventure.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.