Refreshment

I had a great day yesterday, but then, I always have an especially good time when hiking. Hiking is my therapy, my peace, my freedom. And when I have the perfect companion, hiking is bliss, even when the temperature hits a hundred or more.

Although my cross-country road trip was supposed to include a lot of hiking, I wrenched my hip at ballet class shortly before I left. And driving — all that sitting — only exacerbated the matter. I still managed a few good hikes along the way, but often the pain kept me from long treks. It was only after I figured out that the pain came not from the sciatic nerve but the accompanying piriformis muscle that I was able to find the proper stretches to help heal the muscle. And now, finally, I can hike again.

When a neighbor invited me to go on a hike with her on the nearby Pacific Crest Trail, I jumped at the chance. And oh, how sublime! The part of the trail we walked was fairly easy with no severe elevation changes and only a couple of treacherous spots where the trail had degraded. We ended up at a lovely tree-shaded spot by the golden Deep Creek where we lazed so long, I missed my dance class. But a hike, a new friend, easy conversation, and a creekside idyll were things not to be missed.

The hike back seemed even easier because we were prepared for the bad spots.

Although it can be dangerous hiking in the desert heat, which is why I always carry plenty of water, there is one factor besides the obvious joy of being out in nature that comes from such a trek — the feeling of deep and abiding inside-out cleanliness and freshness that results when one finally gets a chance to shower away the sweat.

Refreshment. Means a whole lot more than just the simple snack we enjoyed beneath the trees by the side of the creek.

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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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Stepping into Adventure

The longer I stay in one place, the more my life looks like my pre-adventure life — internet, internet, and more internet. Not exactly exciting and way too familiar.

Although it might sound adventurous being the innkeeper pro tem of a bed and breakfast, in reality (my reality, that is), all I do is have a few friends over. Well, they’re not friends beforehand, but while they are under “my” roof, the guests are friends. I talk to them, fix them breakfast, then leave them to go about their business.

And I go back to the computer.

Whenever I have access to the internet, I do volunteer work for my publisher, mostly trying to herd my fellow authors into reciprocal promotions, and failing miserably. Most of them (or rather most of the unapathetic ones) seem stuck on the thought of doing reciprocal reviews on Amazon and won’t listen to the truth — reviews do no good if you can’t get people to go check out your books on Amazon, and reciprocal reviews are subject to being deleted since they are against Amazon’s rules. But hey, what do I know? I’ve only been researching book promotion for nine years and still haven’t managed to become a bestselling author.

The only real adventure I’ve had since being here at the B&B is falling down the stairs backward, and as painful and frightening as practically scalping myself and being stapled back together was, it was a heck of a lot more exciting than my online work.

After feeling like Frankenstein’s monster for ten days, I am now staple-free. The bruises are fading, and I am making friends with all the stairs in my current life. When my hip isn’t stiff and my knees allow, I hike up and down the stairs just for fun. Stairs have been absent from my life for a long time, so they have become rather an adventure of their own.

And I am trying something new — standing up to work at the computer. Sitting aggravates my hip, undoing all the work I go to in order to stretch my piriformis muscle, so I am trying to stand more and sit less. So far so good. My main problem is that standing makes it too easy to walk away, which, considering how frustrating my volunteer work gets, is not really a problem.

I will probably be leaving here Friday, making the long slow journey back to the high desert. Once I get there, I am planning on looking for a place to stay for a while, and if I find one, returning to dance class. If I can’t find a place? Continue adventuring, I guess.

That’s all I have — a guess. After months of traveling, I still have no clear idea of what my life is, what it is becoming, or even what I want it to be.

The only thing I have learned is the necessity for finding a solid footing before taking the next step into … wherever.

***

(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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Pat Fell Down and Broke Her Crown

I get so tired of the endless catalogue of aches and pains, illness and death, interspersed between cat and dog pictures we are subjected to on Facebook, that I am hesitant to mention any of my own ills online, but if I don’t season my story with setbacks, the tale of my cross-country journey would be merely a travelogue.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned much besides legs covered with mosquito bites, bad allergies, and maybe a cold, but there have been other problems, most notably, a stiff hip. I wrenched it in ballet class about two months before I left (ironically, I was so concerned with not turning out at the knee because I didn’t want knee problems, that it never occurred to me the hip could be affected.) The problem was exacerbated by the extra driving I’d been doing (as you will recall, I didn’t have my car for at least six months before that, so I wasn’t used to driving). It wasn’t until I discovered the exercises to stretch the piriformis muscle that I started to heal, though long bouts of sitting or walking continue to cause problems. Still, I don’t let that slow me down. (Weather and being with people has done more to keep me from walking than my hip has done.)

There is something almost romantic (emphasis on almost) about a dance-related injury, even if one is more of a dilettante than a real dancer. But falling down stairs? . . . Oops, I am getting ahead of myself.

I am back at the Blue Belle Inn in St. Ansgar. Sherrie Hansen, the owner, is on a much needed vacation to Scotland (though it’s not all vacation because she is probably gathering background information for another of her Wildflowers of Scotland Romance Series) and I am running the B&B in her absence. On my very first day of being in charge, I helped the staff straighten a quilt hung at a stair landing. Foolishly, I stood on a small bench, and when I stepped off, I misjudged the distance to the floor, lost my balance, and fell down the stairs backward.

I hit the crown of my head on the edge of a windowsill and . . . if you don’t want the gory details, you can leave. I don’t mind, but I promise, I won’t show you a picture of the wound, though I have one. The doctor took the picture with my phone to show me what my head looked like.

I hit my head so hard, I thought I’d cracked it, and when I put my hand on the crown of my head, I could feel bone through the hole in my scalp. Oh, my. And blood? It’s true, scalp wounds bleed. A lot!

20160522_141851As it turns out, I only ripped open a few inches of scalp, which were stapled together at the emergency room. (If ever I get sick and need a lot of medical attention, I’m moving to Osage, Iowa. The ER medical folk — all women! — were kind, efficient, and thorough. Better yet, they all spoke English without an accent. My dad’s doctors had such thick Hindu accents that I could barely understand a word they said.)

The CAT scan showed no breakage or bleeding. The blood tests showed no organic problems. (They took all those tests to find out if there was a reason I fell. I guess they didn’t believe it was simply a momentary lack of attention.)

The fall terrified me, and the adrenaline coursing through my body kept me shaking long after I was repaired. I’m still stunned by the whole thing. Still uneasy about climbing stairs or doing anything that might cause me to lose my balance. Beyond that, I find it amazing to think we can be put together again. Supposedly, the only problem I will be left with is that the hair at my crown will grow in funny, but I’m at that age where hair grows funny anyway.

I keep thinking about this — how fragile we really are. I have been very careful on this trip because a person is always more vulnerable when she is not snug in her own little nest. And then, just like that . . . bam!

Oddly, despite the trauma of the moment, nothing really happened. I fell, I was given a tetanus shot and stapled back together, and that was it. No pain pills. Not much of a headache. No downtime. (But oh, such pretty bruises are blooming all over my body!) The real trauma will be when the bills start coming, but I don’t want to think about that. I just want to savor being alive.

I felt sort of wimpy at times on this trip. I’d envisioned myself facing up to life and whatever it threw at me, seeing what I was made of, but I’ve encountered nothing of a serious nature until now. So what am I made of? Not much. I kind of gasped as I fell, but then I laughed in disbelief at the situation even before I found out I hadn’t cracked my skull. The whole thing was so ridiculous. The fear and uneasiness came more from my body’s reaction to the fall. I just chalked it up to more firsts: First staples, first CAT scan, first check-up in over 40 years.

I try not to think of the potential damage such a heavy fall could have caused — I can’t let thoughts of what might have been or what might be in the future affect me. I know how easy it is simply to stay at home to protect oneself when alone, and yet, that is the quickest way I know to stagnate. A long slow lonely decline into a long slow lonely death. Not for me, thank you.

What’s the answer? I don’t know. I don’t even know what the question is. All I know is that I will be here at the Blue Belle Inn for a couple of weeks, which will give my scalp time to heal and the staples taken out before I set off down the road again.

***

(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.”)