A Gathering of Gatherers

Once upon an e-time, long ago and far away, there was a social networking site for writers, photographers, and artists of all kinds called Gather. I haven’t thought about this site much lately because, well, because it’s no longer there. The owners sold it, and the buyers only wanted the health site part of the owners’ holdings, and so Gather was deleted. All our photos, articles, discussions . . . gone. Though some people were perspicacious enough to copy and save those discussions, I was not one of them. Luckily, I was able to recreate some of the photo essays I posted on the site, those I was most proud of, such as Echoes, Deep Thought. Or Not, and Short and Witty Photographic Ditty.

Today, when I was talking with my sister about my upcoming trip, she mentioned how wonderful it was that I actually turned online friends into offline friends, and so I told her about two of the women I will be visiting on my way to Seattle. Then it dawned on me — I’d met both of those women on Gather. Not only that, it was my sister who had introduced me to Gather. She’d found a contest on the site that she talked me into entering. And that contest led the way to many new friendships.

It’s interesting to think how one small thing can reverberate through the years. I don’t know if my sister actually changed my life by her urging me to enter the contest, but she sure had an effect, and my life is richer for it.

Gather might have been the beginning, but I have since met others online through my blog or Facebook. Generally these folks started out as fans or fellow grievers and became friends. People often caution me about visiting people I only met online, but I have never had a problem. (Apparently, they haven’t had a problem with me, either, because almost all of them have remained friends.) Over the years, reading and commenting on each other’s blogs, seeing the photos of their families and vacations, participating in various discussions, you do get to know people. (It’s the same as offline, actually.)

I must admit, having people to meet along the way makes any trip a wonderland of possibilities — not just because of meeting the people themselves, but because of all the things they love in their area they want to share, things I would never have found on my own.

People who are fed up with the politics and policies on Facebook and who are looking for another place to hang out would be gravitating to Gather if it still existed. For a while, Facebook was an adequate substitute for Gather, but it is becoming increasingly unfun. (Which is one of the reasons I keep blogging — it makes me feel as if I am in control of at least a part of my online destiny.)

I can’t go back, but I can go forward, and forward means I will soon be meeting friends from Gather and elsewhere. I can hardly wait!

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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.

A Lifetime of Adventures

I spend a lot of time looking at maps — world maps, US maps, state maps, road maps, national park maps, national trail maps, short-trail maps, loop trail maps. Maps.

trailsI’ve never been much of a traveler — I always get sick whenever I’ve taken more than an hour airplane trip. Nor have I ever wanted to travel outside the United States. There is more here than I can ever see in a lifetime, especially since I prefer to see things on foot. I’ve mostly given up any idea of walking across the country or thru hiking one of the national trails, but there are hundreds, maybe thousands of trails in this country all for the taking. (And I can always walk pieces of the long trails. Have already hiked short sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, the California Coastal Trail, and the Oregon Coastal Trail.)

One trip I would like to make someday is a trip to Australia and New Zealand. Not only do close friends live there (friends I have yet to meet in person, but close for all that), but oh, the adventure of it! Going walkabout. Hiking some of the best trails in the world. Coastlines.

And another good friend who I plan to finally meet in person in a few months, has recently told me she is hypnotizing me by osmosis so I will join her on her overseas trip to Baku, Azerbiajan next year. It must be working. I’m looking at maps again. And one thing I noticed is that Baku is about a third of a way around the world. So are Australia and New Zealand.

I’ve been playing around with a trip planner site, one that helps plan complicated world trips. I started out with the US – Baku – Sydney – Dunedin – US. The trip planner kept telling me I could add certain other cities for the same cost. So now it reads: US – London – Oslo – Moscow – Baku – Bangkok – Sydney – Dunedin – US. (I don’t know where my Australian friend lives, maybe not Sydney, but I don’t need to know yet because this is all just a game.)

Would I ever do such a thing? I don’t know. I still like the idea of a freighter to New Zealand and Australia, and I hate the idea of all that air travel, to say nothing of being sick for months at a time while doing it, but to travel around the globe? What a romantic idea!

Meantime, I’m back to taking dance classes and planning a southern trip for this winter. Or rather, letting my friends plan it for me. It does my heart good to know that people are so excited to meet me, they are planning all sorts of delights to entice me. Camping trips. Night sky viewings (I am truly enamored of the idea of dark sky parks, where light pollution is at a minimum and the stars don’t have to compete with ambient light from distant cities). Canoing. Feasts. Friends.

If you live anywhere along Interstate 10 or within a hundred miles or so (since it will be winter, I don’t want to go very far north this trip) let me know, and I will add you to my itinerary.

People have called my redwood coastal trip an adventure of a lifetime, and it was, up to now. But there are other trips, other adventures — a lifetime of them.

And in between, there will be dance classes to bring balance to my life.

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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.”)