Winter Redux

In the light of a warm spring day, it’s hard to remember the harshness of winter. It’s even harder to believe that winter weather will be returning in just a few days.

Winds will be bringing in a new storm, and snow is forecast. The lowest temperature on those supposed snow days will only be about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so I wouldn’t believe snow was coming (and not just because of the bright day) except for the fact that I put away my snow shovel today. It’s been residing in my enclosed back porch for the winter to make it easy to grab when it snowed. Previously when I left it in the garage, I couldn’t get to it. Not only did snow pack in around my back door, but I needed the shovel to shovel my way to the garage to get the shovel.

But now it’s back in the garage, hanging up on my newly installed tool bar. I didn’t know if I should take a photo of the bar since it would show my oh, so valuable, discount store tools, but decided it would be okay since I doubt anyone would want them. What people steal are small power tools that are easy to sell, and the only thing powering my tools is me. And to be honest, that power source is not worth much of anything.

No one will be here working for the next few days. They have a lot of tree work that needs to be done before the winds hit, but maybe they will come on the windy days.

Meantime, I am enjoying the work that has been done.

It’s amazing to me how nice the place is shaping up to be. I never imagined owning a house, never imagined a garage for my aged car, and I certainly never imagined a landscaped yard (though there will be some wild and weedy spots) and yet it seems that I will eventually have all three — not just the house and garage, but a nice yard.

In my pre-grief years, I’d never been one to talk about the good things in my life thinking it was akin to bragging, but now I know it’s about acknowledging my blessings and being grateful for the way my post-grief life is going.

And I am definitely grateful.

Who knows, I might even be grateful for the coming winter redux.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Supernal Silence and Unfathomable Peace

My friend dropped me off at a road in the Redwood Forest that led down to Smith River. It turned out to be a popular spot for both tourists and locals, so when I saw a narrow trail that veered off from the road, I took it, hoping to find a place to walk far from the madding crowd. At first it was an easy trail, but then it ascended into hills that had been hidden in the immensely tall redwoods. (It’s hard to describe these massive trees without reverting to the trite adjective “towering”, but they did tower. In many cases they were so tall and the woods so thick it was impossible to stand back far enough to see their tops.)

The trail grew more difficult and I was grateful for my trekking pole — it aided with both balance and sure-footedness. Even though the cars and people were not far away, the trees absorbed the sound, leaving nothing for me to hear but the sound of my stepping feet, the zip of a passing insect, the thud of a falling leaf.

I moved slowly, not just for safety but to experience fully this confluence of the forest and me. It seemed strange to think that hundreds — thousands? — of years ago, the first seed took root. And that single seed contained an entire universe of forest, events, beings, birth and death, that ultimately drew me in.

A bench in a small clearing caught my attention. A plaque on the backrest said, “…seated here in contemplation lost, my thought discovers vaster space beyond. Supernal silence and unfathomable peace.”

Of course I sat. Contemplated. Listened to the silence. Felt at peace. Wondered what I would learn and experience if I could sit there for hours. I know what I would feel if I sat there in stillness too long — stiff — so after a half hour, I answered the siren call of the trail.

Later, I saw another bench. This one exhorted me to “Rest and be grateful.” I rested, pulled out my small hunk of cheese, and thought of all I had to be grateful for. The bench. The cheese I savored. The trees. The path that afforded me relative safety in my adventure. My walking stick. Knees that still worked. Feet that took me where I needed to go. Friends who brought richness to my life. The supernal silence. The unfathomable peace.

When I finished the snack and litany of gratitude, I continued my journey.

Shrieks of playing children broke the silence. As I waded past one group, a boy shouted hello. I was so deep in my silence, I couldn’t return the greeting. The woman said, “It was nice of you to say hello.” That brought me to a stop. I turned, and with a finger to my lips, responded to her rebuke with a whispered, “one does not say hello in church.”

In the resulting silence, I headed down the path. It seemed strange that a mystical place for me was simply a playground for others. Most people I’d seen had driven a bit, got out of their cars to take pictures of each other against the backdrop of trees, then drove a bit further, stopped, and took more photos. Others had boats, rafts, and swimwear, headed for watery play.

As I picked my way down the trail, setting my feet carefully and leaning on my pole in the steep post, I had to smile at my pretensions. Wasn’t I playing too? Playing at mysticism? Playing at adventure?

At that very moment, a woman came up the trail with her three noisy unleashed dogs. The dogs surrounded me, barking and snarling, nipping at my pants. The woman screamed at me to stand still, that I was scaring them. And then one of them bit me. Not a bad bite, just a small break in the skin and a bruise, but huh? That was the third time I’d been menaced by dogs since I’ve been here. Don’t people up here train their dogs to obey?

So much for safe adventures. So much for peace.

Despite the ignominious end to my adventure, somewhere inside me and forever a part of me, is the stillness I’d found sitting on the bench, my back pressed against the words “…seated here in contemplation lost, my thought discovers vaster space beyond. Supernal silence and unfathomable peace.”

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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.”)

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