I am Where I Am

It’s been a strange couple of days. On Saturday, when I left the house where I was staying and headed out, I started crying. It mystified me because I was glad to leave that place. I’d been invited, and I paid rent, but I never felt welcome, felt as if the dog’s dislike of me was an imposition for them even though I was the one who bore the scars of his dislike. And it’s not as if I were leaving that town forever. I fully intend to resume dance classes once I’ve completed my journey. So why the tears? All I can figure is that with tears I express whatever I can’t express any other way.

On Sunday, I went on an arduous 4-mile hike in Joshua Tree National Park despite the incredible wind, and when I returned to my campsite, I felt as if it was time to end the journey. After all, I’d camped by myself, challenged myself with a difficult and exhausting hike, napped under the stars.

I can’t say I particularly enjoyed all of that, but it is adventure, and adventure is what I once craved. Maybe still do. But it’s hard for me to crave what I am doing. (Think about it. If you crave a pizza, do you still crave it while you are eating it?)

You’d think I’d be ecstatic to finally undertake this journey, but to a certain extent it feels . . . not empty but devoid of excitement. In one way, this is good — it means I’ve accomplished what I set out to do after Jeff died. Since he was my home, I had to find home within myself. And so I did. I am wherever I am, and wherever I am, I am home. (In the interest of fairness, I have to admit that despite what I just said, I get a bit panicky when I think of the immense distances I will be traveling, and how far I will be getting from all that is familiar.) In another way, lack of excitement is not so good. Shouldn’t I be beside myself with joy to be embarking on such an adventure? But ah, that is the key. I am not beside myself. I am in myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I am glad to be on this great adventure, glad to be able to experience this vast country, but it’s a quiet kind of gladness, an acceptance that things will not always be comfortable, not always fun.

But always beautiful.

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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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All of these photos depict parts of the trail I hiked, including the photo that looks like all rocks.

And So the Adventure Begins

I survived my first night in the “wilderness.” I use quotation marks because although Joshua Tree National Park is considered a wilderness area, the campgrounds are anything but. Lots of human-made noises — loud talking, shrieks of laughter. The pounding of axes splitting wood. The crackling of fires burning. Dogs barking. And there are lots of bright lights.

The only thing wild is the wind. I was going to hike today, but the wind is so strong, it’s hard to stay on my feet. I’m hoping this is just a morning wind and things will calm down later. I have no idea if this tent will survive the day. It’s trying to pull up stakes and move to another spot. I’d leave, but I paid for two days and, more importantly, I don’t know if I could “untent” in this weather.

The most interesting experience so far was my late night/early morning nap under the stars.

When I woke at 2:30 am, I noticed that the light coming into the tent was diffused, and since I knew this was new moon time, I realized the light must be starlight. I debated a few minutes about going out — I was exhausted since I hadn’t slept much, and although I was cold, I hated to lose what warmth I had. But I reminded myself this is why I’m here — to experience that which I can’t experience in the city — and so I dragged my mat and quilt outside, laid it atop the picnic table, and settled myself on my back.

And oh! What stars! It has been years since I have seen so many stars. I lay there for a while, watching the little dipper drift from right to left and tried to comprehend that what was seeing was the effects of the earths rotation. The frigid wind finally drove me inside.

I took a short stroll this morning, and now I’m trying to decide if I should take on the wind and go for a longer hike or if I should stay here and wonder if the tent will hold.

This wind reminds me why a small tent is better than a large one, but considering that I’ve never camped before, I wanted to be able to stand upright and not have to deal with the claustrophobia of a tiny tent. I might have to rethink this.

Another item that’s iffy is the black base layer I am wearing. It’s made in two layers, and the outer layer is supposed to be merino wool, but considering that it turned my sleeping pad black with wool dust, I get the impression it’s a cheap wool. Still, the pants kept my legs warm, so there is that to be said for it.

I’d planned to blog every day again, and though I am writing this as planned (Saturday, Feb 6), I don’t have a signal so I can post it. I hope you weren’t worried.

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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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