In Pursuit of Dreams

The only thing wild about my backpacking saunters yesterday and today was the wind. And oh, my, was the wind wild! It seemed that no matter which direction I went, I was always heading into the gale. Several times, gusts blew so strongly, I could not take a single step forward until the wind stopped to take a breath. I’d just as soon not be out in the wind, but if I didn’t walk when it was windy, I wouldn’t walk at all. (We’re in the windy time, though truthfully, almost all times are windy here except for a few weeks in the middle of summer when any air movement would be welcome, and in the middle of winter.) Still, my hikes yesterday and today were about a half-hour shorter than the ones I’d been taking — not only is the wind hard to hike in, it frazzles my nerves until I want to scream. (Actually, come to think of it, I did scream once or twice, but that didn’t slow the wind velocity one whit.) That I went out at all just goes to show how dedicated I am in pursuing my impossible dream. (Though I have to admit, if the only weather I ever encountered on a wilderness trail were such unremitting winds, the dream of a long-distance hike would die unborn.)

I’m hoping I will be as dedicated this month to the dream of finishing my decade-old work in progress, a book that was started so long ago that the word “Internet” was still capitalized.  I’ve lived so much in that time, written so much — blogs and other books — that it’s hard to put myself in the mindset of the story. If, as in a dream (the night kind, not the hopeful kind), all the characters in my story are different manifestations of my own persona, then how can I still be those characters when I am not them anymore? (Oddly, although much has changed in the past decade, the unsightly fad of young men wearing pants that hang below their underwear is still prevalent today. And of course, politicians are still lying.)

There is no wind in the book to frazzle my nerves, so yesterday I figured I’d spend an easy hour and a half writing, but after discovering that it’s almost impossible to continue writing a dormant book without knowing what the story is about, I spent the time reading the first half of what I had written.

I found myself smiling at the humor. Found myself pleased at the way I foreshadowed the ending in the first few chapters. Found myself chagrined that although I’d written the book to be timeless, I succeeded — the human politics and policies that so dismayed my poor hero continue to this day. As does the struggle to find a balance between freedom and safety.

Today’s “writing” session should be as easy as yesterday’s — I still have to finish reading the manuscript before I can add any words to the story, so there will be no writing. And no wind.

When I do finally propel the story forward, I hope I will do justice to my hero. It was a lot easier to write from a male point of view when I had Jeff to help keep the hero psychologically true to his gender. Perhaps if I inadvertently skew the poor character closer to my own gender bias, readers will accept the change as part of the character arc.

Assuming, of course, there are any readers. Although most of my published books are genre benders, this one is so different, it doesn’t bend any genre — it sidesteps genre altogether.

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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.

The Gift is in the Preparation

I woke this morning to the sound of wind squeaking through my ill-fitted bedroom window.

(Hmm. Wind. Window. Is there a relationship here? Be right back; I need to check the etymology of window. Yep. They’re related. Window comes from Old Norse words vindr meaning wind and auga meaning eye. So a window is a wind eye, or a wind hole. The earliest mention of window came early in the 13th century, and it meant an unglazed hole in the roof. So originally a window let in the wind and now it keeps it out?)

But back to the matter at hand . . .

I snuggled under the covers, thinking that I’d take a zero day today. (A zero day in backpacking terms is a day when no miles are gained.) Then I remembered my weekends are supposed to mimic a backpacking trip, and if I were really out in the wilds, I’d have to keep on the move. (Or not. There is that zero day thing.)

I remembered also that I only have these three days each week to condition myself to carrying a pack, since I have dance class the other four days. (I still hope for grace and balance from dance. It could happen.) And I need all three backpacking days to get used to carrying extra weight.

So, I got dressed, shrugged on the pack and headed into the wind. Yikes. Cold! And gusty. Some of those gusts were so strong they almost blew me over. But I did it — trudged four miles, teetering in the wind, with twenty-two pounds on my back — and I realized that though the goal might be to backpack on the Pacific Crest Trail, the gift is in the doing. It was hard going today, but what a thrill to be on my feet, moving through the blustery air, racking up the miles. Admittedly, four miles isn’t exactly “racking up the miles,” but still, to be able to walk any distance is a true wonder.

It seems funny that I’ve been thinking, writing, talking about the Pacific Crest Trail for so many years — four-and-a-half years since my first mention of the PCT, four years since my first hike on the trail — but until this very year, I never actually strapped on a backpack to try to train myself for such an epic hike.

I still don’t know if I can do any long distance sauntering, but as I discovered today, the PCT is the goal. The gift is in the preparation. And that, for sure, I can do — even on a windy day.

I still remember seeing this sign and taking the photo when I was on a different outing (to find the San Andreas Fault). I was so excited to see evidence of this mythical trail that I walked up the path a bit, but then I had to turn around because neither of my companions had any interest in the trail at all. I’ve done many day hikes since then, but still no overnights. That fearful joy is still to come.

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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.