Dreaming of Adventure

I’ve been spending way too much time lately thinking/talking/writing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, especially since I doubt I will ever travel more than small pieces of it. There are many problems to deal with when hiking the length of the trail — food (two pounds a day is recommended), water (either too much in the high sierras, with swollen rivers and icy trails, or too little in the deserts), heavy packs, wind, ticks and other unfriendly insects — and I would prefer a trouble-free life.

Still, just thinking and researching the logistics of such an adventure are an escape from my life. In looking after my 97-year-old father and dealing with a dysfunctional brother, I amcamping always aware of others, either listening for signs of distress from my father or listening to my brother’s moans and cries without knowing if these sounds come from pain or are a way of manipulating me. When one is hiking alone, away from civilization, away from other hikers, even, one only has to listen to oneself, only has to fulfill one’s own needs. That idea is restful to me. One foot in front of another, nothing to think about, no one to worry about.

Even more that that, thinking about such an adventure is like working a puzzle, helping to keep my mind active and alert despite too much loss of sleep. I’ve even gone so far as to join a few Facebook groups, including a couple just for woman hikers. Lots of good information in those groups, lots of things to consider. Planning such a trip gives me a new way of looking at ways of life we take for granted. Modern plumbing, for example, has made basic body functions easy for us. But what if there isn’t a restroom for hundreds of miles? How does one keep clean? How does one remain infection-free?

Thinking about living an adventurous life (simply thinking about it, not living it) has also helped me past the last hurdle of grief, giving me something to concentrate on besides what I have lost. It’s been almost four years since the death of my life mate/soul mate, and I have adjusted to life without him. In fact, sometimes I forget that I once had a different life, that once someone loved me. I don’t want to forget — I loved him deeply — but I can’t spend the rest of my life yearning for him, can’t be always looking to the past. Thinking about a life on foot makes me realize that, whether my life will be on my feet or on my behind, I do still have a life.

Throughout all these years of grief, I have been afraid of the future alone, afraid of becoming the crazy cat lady (sans cats, of course), afraid of settling somewhere and waiting for entropy to take its course. Thinking about other possibilities — hiking the PCT, walking to Seattle, car camping, going abroad and just winging it, taking a freighter to New Zealand — helps me realize that I don’t have to moulder. I can live. I can be adventurous. I can take chances. I can try new things. I can learn new things. I can become the sort of person who could hike the PCT if she so desires.

I don’t know what I want to do, and there’s no reason to make any plans since my stay here at my father’s house could continue for many more years. But I can prepare. In fact, tonight I will take a backpack on my Sierra Club walk (I walk with the club three nights a week) and fill it with a five pound weight. Five pounds is heavy! I cannot imagine trying to carry thirty pounds for any distance, but at least, this will be a start.

But a start of what? Maybe someday I’ll find out.

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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.

Dreaming My Life into Being

JJ Dare, friend, fellow author and sister in sorrow, wrote a blog post today about Floating in the Sea of Dreams that got me thinking . . . again. . . . about how I am dreaming my life into being. The Sea of Dreams is like a primordial ooze where ideas and hopes rise up and evolve and then sink back into the deep only to ascend once more in a different guise. And every permutation of these dreams changes us, makes us grow, helps us reach our destiny.

A few months ago when my 96-year-old father (my current responsibility) seemed near death, the idea of living on the go appealed to me. I worry about settling down and stagnating somewhere, and moving from place to place would vanquish that worry, though of course, other worries would take its place. Weather, for example. It’s one thing to think of such a life in the puget soundstillness of a warm desert spring day, and another thing to consider the possibilities of snow and tornadoes, hurricanes and ice storms.

My father is doing well, so much so that it’s possible he could outlast me, and the thought of living on the road was subsumed into the Sea of Dreams. I’m back to taking life one day at a time, not thinking about the future, not making any long-term plans.

The other phase of my original idea of living on the go was to do an extended bookstore tour in an effort to introduce my books and my publisher to the offline literary word. That idea, as I have discovered, seems to be another overly rosy daydream. Since I couldn’t go on the road, I’ve been doing my bookstore tour via mail. Sending out letters, gift certificates, offers to interview booksellers.

There’s been little interest in my mailing, and unfortunately, it makes sense. Bookstores are in the business of making money, and since I am not a big name in the literary world (hard though it may be for you to believe), they have no incentive to stock my books. Of course, if/when I do become a big name, they will be interested in my books, but by then, I won’t need them. (If you are a bookstore owner and reading this, and you are interested in my books, let me know and I’ll send you a gift certificate. Or if you are interested in my interviewing you, you can find the interview questions here: Bookseller Questionnaire.)

So this dream of becoming an offline author, like many others I’ve had, is slowly sinking back into the depths, but already, some dreams are beginning to arise. I’m getting inklings of a desire to finish my works in progress. And the idea of being on the go is slowly evolving into something I can do now. I’m considering shutting off the internet one day a week (gasp!!) and taking myself on a fishing trip. (Not to fish for fish, of course, since such a hobby is only peaceful for the one fishing. The poor fish are scared, hurt, and fighting for their life.) My idea is to go fishing for life. Just take off for a day. Go wherever. See what I can see.

Meantime, I’ll continue floating on the Sea of Dreams, dreaming my life into being.

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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.

Allowing Myself to Dream

warriorYesterday I wrote about Living Each Day We Are Given and how there will come a time when I am free from my current concerns. People think I should be preparing for that future, planning what I am going to do, where I am going to go, and how I am going to live. Each person has his or her own suggestion as to what form that preparation should take, such as my going back to school either to situate myself anew in the job market or to take advantage of student loans. Others think I should be researching places to live, but the truth is, I am tired of planning. I’d like to be bold without being foolish, adventuresome without being reckless, but most of all, I’d like to be spontaneous without being flighty. In other words, I’d like to stretch myself to see what I’m made of without putting myself in danger, and I can’t do that if I immediately go from one planned life to another.

Still, I am preparing for my future, though it might not seem like it. I am exercising and trying to eat right, taking yoga classes and going for long rambles in the desert. And I’m pitching ideas, trying them on for size.

I’ve always had a sense of my strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t want to take those strengths and weaknesses into consideration. I want to throw myself wide open and envision a life of endless possibilities, at least to begin with. It won’t be long before the realities slowly creep back in. I’m not elderly, but I’m not young, either. I’m not indolent, but I’m not athletic. (I’m smiling to myself as I write this. I had to rewrite the word indolent a half a dozen times because each time I inadvertently wrote insolent. I’ve never been insolent, never liked hurting people, so I have no idea where the subconscious desire for insolence came from.)

I’m not much of a daydreamer, living fantastic adventures in my head. I’ve always been too practical and pragmatic to want what is unattainable. Never been one to want much of anything, to tell the truth. Many women in my situation gave up their own dreams when they got married, and now that their husbands are dead, they are picking up those original dreams and running with them. I have no such abandoned dreams, but many things will be open to me in my new life that would have been inconceivable in the old one, and I need to allow myself to dream so I can become receptive to those possibilites.

Do I want to hop a plane and fly to Britain, with no real plans of what to do when I get there, just see what happens? Do I want to hole myself up in a garret and write incredibly wise and witty books? Do I want to enroll in classes — Tai Chi or calligraphy perhaps? Do I want to get rid of my stuff or put it into storage, and take to the roads? Do I want to . . . ?

There is a chance that I will move back to Colorado and settle down, but now that I am on my own, settling down seems too much like stagnating, and stagnation terrifies me. I don’t want to end up like one of those old woman who sits in her dark apartment, alone, with the whole bright world outside her door. And yet, and yet . . . there is the small matter of a lack of funds and the large matter of a laid-back nature more suited to a life of contemplation than a life of action.

So now I’m throwing my heart out into the world of possibilities in the hopes that someday the rest of me will follow.

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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+