Maybe Something Is Working

Yesterday I had to cut my backpack saunter short because of a cramp in my calf. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t want to keep on going and maybe make things worse. This answers a question I’ve been pondering about whether I should take my supplements with me on a backpacking trip — both times I ended up with a bit of a problem — the calf this week and the thigh last week — came after several days of being too lazy to take a handful of pills. As silly as it is to get nutrition (and fractured nutrition at that) from various capsules and tablets, apparently, these supplements do help keep me active.

Another potential problem is that I do the backpacking practice from Friday to Sunday, and people who only exercise on weekends often end up with injuries. I figured I wouldn’t have a problem because the days I don’t hike, I take dance classes, but perhaps it’s time to change my hiking schedule. If I only saunter a couple of miles, I have no problem doing other physical things, so I am going to attempt to take shorter saunters more frequently to see if that will help build strength.

It’s one thing if I never build up enough strength to do some sort of epic hike, but it’s another thing entirely if I am prevented from even attempting the dream because of injury. (Besides, one iffy limb is enough!)

Because of the calf situation, the friend who keeps me company while I struggle with the backpack on Sundays suggested we practice tap instead. So that’s we did. And then, when I got back, I still went trudging for a couple of miles. I don’t feel as if I’m getting any stronger, and yet I can remember that just a few weeks ago such a walk carrying a weighted pack would have worn me out. So, maybe something is working?

It seems odd to me, even now that I’m focused on finishing my decade-old work in progress, I am still interested in an epic hike.

In a mythic hike.

I recently came across a really great hiking term — MYTH: Multi-Year Thru Hike. Isn’t that a cool acronym? A MYTH could be something more practical for me to work toward — doing the whole Pacific Crest Trail, but not all in one year. It sounds like it would be a lot more fun that way, especially since so many people who do the thru hike in one year (five months, actually), seem to feel lost afterward, or depressed, or suffering various ills. (Generally, those are younger folks, so I doubt I’d have the same reaction, but who knows.)

Still, a hike of any magnitude is far in the future. More immediately is my May trip. Even more immediately, as in right now, I have a literary trek to take. My characters are about to leave the oasis where they’ve been resting and are heading out across the desert. Considering how frequently bits of my novels come to life, I won’t be too hard on them lest it backfire on me.

See you on down the road.

***

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.

Adventure? Or a Boring Walk in the Park?

A friend commented the other day that the trails that call to her are the Grand Canyon and Bryce, and it struck me that although I’ve always lived within a two-day road trip from both, I’ve never been to either. So much to see!

I need more adventures.

If I can’t get fit enough to do a long backpacking trip, I can always drive to those legendary places, camp in a campground, and then do day hikes. (In the back of my mind, a little voice is telling me that the Grand Canyon is part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Does it sound like I’m obsessed with trails?)

In my favor, I am up to carrying twenty-six pounds for five miles, which means at the very least, I can do dispersed camping trips to get me into the back country.

That’s not bad. Maybe not a thru-hike, but it’s more than simply sitting and staring at a computer. And I have to admit, I do spend a lot of time on the computer, not just because of this blog, but also researching the trails and such.

During one such search, I found a discussion about the best way of preparing for a thru hike. A hiker suggested doing a lot of hiking, and at least one day a week, hike for nine hours. Not nine miles. Nine hours! I don’t want to do anything for nine hours. Not even read. Or sit at the computer. Or sleep, apparently, since I am now in the habit of waking several times during the night.

But this made me think — parts of the trail are dangerous if you aren’t paying attention, and who can possibly keep themselves focused for nine hours? Among the recent college graduates who make up the bulk of the trail population, there is a good bit of drinking and drugs, and there don’t seem to be a lot of folks falling off cliffs. So perhaps the trail isn’t as dangerous at all. Maybe it truly is a walk in the park.

A boring walk in the park. In  my post “Pretending”, I mentioned that one of the reasons people quit the trail is boredom, and I wonder if it’s a more prevalent reason than people are willing to admit. I remember one woman a long time ago saying she got tired of staring at dirt, and that’s the truth of it. Unless you saunter, as I do, and stop every few minutes to look around, all you see is the ground in front of you. Even out in the desert near here, where the trails I walk are wide enough for off-road vehicles, one misstep could cause an injury. So I see a whole heck of a lot of dirt and sand.

But seeing dirt and sand is still seeing, right? And if all I see is dirt, it would still be nice to see dirt of different colors.

Yep. More adventures.

***

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.

Run, Run, Run Away

It’s a good thing I’m already planning a trip in May because I just want to run, run, run away. Originally, I wasn’t going to leave until the beginning of May with a possibility of not coming back, at least not until the end of summer, but I made a sort of promise to try to be back after Memorial Day, so now I’ve moved my departure date to late April to make sure I can do most of what I’d planned. The way I feel today, though I might move the date even closer.

I am tired of drama, other people’s negativity, and my reaction to both. I wish I could just let drama and negativity run down my back, but as an empath, I feel the energy. The problem is, if I run away from the bad energy, then I also run away from the good. Today at Hawaiian class, there was no drama; everyone quietly went about the business of practicing our dances. We were all moving as one, which is the way it is supposed to be, and I could feel the positive energy, could almost feel the strings connecting our arms as we raised them in unison, could almost see the aura of our single entity-ness. That is such a special joy.

And I would run away from friendship, which is much more valuable to me than my struggles to deal with those who enervate me.

People always say that if you run away, you take you with you, but in my case, that is not a problem. I do fine by myself. What I would carry with me, however, is my ever-worsening financial situation, which is something I will eventually have to face.

But not today.

Today I’m dreaming of life on the run. Or rather, life on the saunter. As much as that appeals to me, if I run away now, I also run away from the opportunity to continue conditioning myself to the backpack.

And I’d run away from the opportunity to learn more. I’ve been reading about the various troubles some people have with the trail community. Though most people seem to be supportive, there are a few elitists who think the thru hikers are the only ones who belong on the trail, a few who see the whole thing as an athletic endeavor, a few who are too insensitive to make allowances for those who are different. I doubt any of these folks would be a problem for me — I probably wouldn’t see them longer that it takes to say hello. My only worry would be that one of these folks would inadvertently push me over the edge of a mountain as they scurried by me.

I keep thinking the trail is not far from here, so just run away for a short backpacking trip and see what happens. But then I’d lose the benefit of having someone help me plan my first backpacking trip and to be standing by in case I run into problems I cannot handle.

Can you tell I’m psyching myself to continue the status quo for a bit longer?

So, I’ll stay for now.

Or go.

***

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.

Running Away

I was talking to a couple of friends today about my upcoming trip to Seattle and my plans for a solo backpacking trip when I’m there. They asked me why I even wanted to go out into the wilderness by myself, and I had to admit I wasn’t sure. All I know is that after Jeff died, the idea took hold of me, and that every time I had an upsurge of grief, the idea came back even stronger, and now it just won’t let go. (The desire for such an adventure is a common reaction to grief.)

One woman said it sounded as if I were running away. Well, yes. Of course I am.  But then, I am also running toward something I can’t yet imagine. When I explained that the trip is a spiritual journey, a vision quest, the other women said she hoped I would find what I was looking for.

Am I looking for something? I don’t know. Do I expect to find something? Not exactly.

“Aren’t you afraid to be out in the wilderness by yourself at night?” they asked. Well, sure. But I think that’s sort of the point. To feel the breadth and breath of the night. To be aware of danger but at the same time bask in the vastness. To be afraid and in awe of the very world we live in. We’re used to thinking of the wild world as our own backyard, and yet the world exists in and for itself, without a single thought for the oh, so arrogant humans who live on the surface. Perhaps a respectful fear is a good thing to cultivate — at least it’s a recognition that we are not the center of the universe or the galaxy or even the world. In many respects, we are superfluous. If we did not exist, the earth still would continue revolving around the sun. If the earth weren’t here, we’d be . . . nowhere.

I try not to have any expectations. I know it’s dangerous to be out there alone. I know even experienced wilderness hikers get lost, get hurt, meet up with dangers — not bears so much, but clouds of mosquitoes, lightning, corroded trails, raging streams, and unleashed dogs are all very real dangers. And yet, I can’t let my fears dictate my future — otherwise, I’d never leave the house. (Being a crazy cat lady sans cats is as realistic a fear as any of those I might encounter on the trail.)

So maybe what I am running away from is that untenable future? Maybe what I’m running toward is a way to change what seems fated?

The way I see it, only good can come from seeking the goal. (Not necessarily the trip itself, but the push toward the trip.) Using hiking poles is helping my miracle arm. (The one that was broken in twenty-five places but now acts mostly normal.) Carrying a backpack is strengthening my body. Projecting myself into possible unpleasant situations is strengthening my resolve. Research is stretching my mind. Eating a clean diet is making me healthier.

At least, that’s the theory.

I’m still a long way from actually doing the trip, but every time I go to ballet class or saunter with my pack or forgo a sugary snack, I am taking another step on the trail.

And that seems as good a reason for planning on going out into the wilderness by myself as any other.

***

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.

Epiphany

The epiphany I mentioned in the title has nothing to do with the three kings, though, considering what day this is, I won’t rule out the possibility that this particular epiphany is a gift from the magi — the insight had to have come from somewhere.

This morning, after I stretched, I put on my two-pound belly pack and shrugged into my fifteen-pound backpack, grabbed my trekking poles and went out for a trudge. Actually, I am getting used to the weight a bit, so it’s more of a slow walk now than simply a plod.

My normal three-mile route goes up the road to the desert about a mile away, a mile turnaround in the desert, and a return down a parallel street on one of the few sidewalks in the area. Today, I spent a few extra minutes in the desert, enjoying being out in the open, enjoying the very thought of being away from civilization if only for a few minutes.

On the walk back, I marveled that I seem to be in the perfect place to train for some sort of extended backpacking trip. Proximity to nature. Winter weather conducive to walking. The right gear and clothing.

And then the epiphany hit me — maybe I really am supposed to do this. “This” meaning my impossible dream of an epic backpacking trek

At lunch with friends a week or so ago, we talked about our lives and the future. They have houses, responsibilities, family. And me — all I have is this dream. They couldn’t understand why I would even want to go camping, let alone backpacking, and I couldn’t explain the pull of the quest. I’m not athletic at all — spent too many years lounging around reading to be really fit. I’m not an outdoorsy sort of person — except for walking, of course. I certainly have no lifelong love of camping — until recently, I’ve always been too much of a comfort seeker to easily embrace the discomforts inherent in a camping trip.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

The quest is not — obviously — a quest for discomfort, though in a way it is. It is in stretching our boundaries, in embracing discomfort, in reaching for the unreachable that we see the truth of ourselves, learn how we connect to the world around us, understand that we are nature, that nature is us. If we could see the world and us as energy or a quantum state, we would see that there is no real separation between us and our surroundings. I understand this, but I would like to feel it — to be alone, just me and the world, to go past what is comfortable or convenient to whatever is beyond the ordinary. A spiritual quest, in other words.

Yoda (what or whoever that might be) said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I’m wondering if the opposite is true. “Try or not try. There is no do.” It could be that in my case, the trying is the doing. Or the doing is in the trying.

There is a good chance that this trying — this training — is the quest. (Wait! Is that another epiphany?)

After Jeff died, I thought my move away from our home of two decades would be the start of a life change — a real journey. But it turned out the drive to my father’s house was simply a trip — the journey had been in all the changes I’d undergone before taking the trip.

I wonder if this quest is the same sort of thing — that if I am ever able to do some sort of long backpacking trip, it might simply be another walk, that the quest is in all this preparation.

Should be interesting to find out.

***

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.