Trying to Believe in My Mythical and Mystical Future

I just finished watching Joe vs. the Volcano for about the sixth time. The first time I watched it, I didn’t particularly care for the film but I watched it again and again because I could not get one image out of my mind — the scene where Tom Hanks is in the middle of the ocean, floating on his makeshift raft, and dancing.

A similar scene in Talent for the Game has Lorraine Bracco and Edward James Olmos running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, turning on the radio, and dancing.

I always wished I were like that — able to live to the fullest even when things were at their worst, but I usually cry. Crying is how I relieve stress, though dancing would probably be a better choice. At least in these two movies, after dancing, the characters find what they want even if it’s not exactly what they are looking for.

Joe vs. the Volcano has since become my favorite movie. It’s beautifully written, stylish, philosophical, and fun (though I still find the island folk a bit over the top and ridiculous). The story’s basic premise seems to be: live, take a chance, see what happens. (Come to think of it, that’s more or less the same theme of Talent for the Game.)

I’ve been having a crisis of faith lately. During all these years since the death of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate, I’ve clung to the idea that great wonders are in store for me if I can just embrace life, but now that my transitional life is winding down midst conflicts and drama, I’m beginning to feel the first stirrings of worry.

When I have to leave here, I don’t want to settle down in any sort of rental somewhere, don’t want to live on the road, just don’t want to deal with any of it. I’ve known from the beginning of my stay here that the second half of my grief’s journey is still to come. The first half is away from pain and sorrow, the second half is toward . . . joy, perhaps. I am very aware that I will not be going home to Jeff. Very aware I will not even have a home base as I did here. Aware that the emptiness I have held at bay may once again take hold of me. Aware of my limited financial resources.

When I expressed such a sentiment to a friend who lost her soul mate around the same time I did, she reminded me that life works itself out in unforeseen ways — when things seem most dire, opportunity can fall out of the sky and land in our lap.

Despite my momentary lack of courage, I am trying not to worry, trying to take each conflict/trauma/drama as it comes, trying to do the best I can for everyone involved even though my best so often falls short of wisdom.

Most of all, I am trying to believe in my mythical and mystical future. If dancing can make it so, as in the movies, well . . . I am dancing.


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.

All Good Stories Begin and End in the Heart of a Man . . . or a Woman

I just finished watching Last of the Dogmen for the fourth or fifth time, and I am still under the spell of powerful storytelling. The story itself is good, but what makes it special is the narration by Wilford Brimley. Oddly, the narration was added after filming and over the objection of the writer/director who was so upset by the use of supplementary text that he refused to write Brimley’s words. Apparently, in some versions of the movie, the narration was subsequently cut way down and redone in another voice, probably in response to viewer complaints since most people seemed to think the narrative annoying, so I’m lucky to have the version I do.

What’s interesting about the narration from a writer’s standpoint is that it’s a good example of tell don’t show. Normally, showing is the way to go, but there are many intangibles that cannot be shown, especially in a movie. What’s interesting about the narration from a viewer’s standpoint is that it adds a different dimension to the film, taking it beyond a fantasy/romance/western into the category of myth.

Broken heartThe narration starts out with Brimley intoning that “the story begins where all good stories begin and end — in the heart of a man . . . or a woman.” I like that line, mostly because of its truth. If a story doesn’t delve into what matters, then the story doesn’t matter. Another line of Brimley’s is “Sometimes you have to put your faith in something you can’t see.”

And that, of course, is why the movie speaks to me. Both characters are searching for something beyond their ordinary lives, as am I, and they find wonder and mystery they could never even have imagined.

Perhaps we are all looking for what lies beyond the façade of normal life, because really, how can this culture of ours be the apex of billions of years of creation? There must be a world of wonder running concurrently with this world of wage slavery and commercialism. We can’t all find Dogmen, of course, but we can find . . . something.

For thirty-four years, I did find “something.” Although I wasn’t looking for it, I found love, companionship, connection with another human being, which was magical in its own way. And now that he’s gone, I want a different form of magic, though I couldn’t even begin to define what I am looking for. Just . . . something.

And that “something” lies where the rest of my story is — in my heart. It’s just a feeling I have, that there’s something out there — or in me — to find. In Joe vs. the Volcano, another favorite movie of mine, Meg Ryan tells Tom Hanks, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”

While living in a state of constant total amazement sounds exhausting, it would be nice to waken just once.

As for movies, apparently what appeals to me in film is the mythic quest. Joe vs. the Volcano, like Last of the Dogmen, is another story of people finding what they never knew they were searching for. And it’s a story of luggage, but luggage is a topic for another day.


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.