Planning for Sponteneity

It seems silly to spend so much time planning to be spontaneous. I mean, isn’t that oxymoronic? Spontaneity by definition implies a lack of planning. Just go ahead and do . . . whatever. As a matter of fact, that’s what I always thought I would do — start walking, and see what happens. After all, that’s what The Peace Pilgrim did. And she survived for decades living a totally spontaneous life.

There was only one time in my life I was truly spontaneous. It was the first years right after I met Jeff. His very presence in the world made the world feel friendly, and I felt comfortable taking chances. Over the years, I settled back into my worrisome self. Our lives became constrained by his health, our finances, and various matters beyond our control. He told me once it bothered him that our shared life had destroyed my spontaneity — but he never understood that he was the one responsible for whatever spontaneity I had developed.

campingWell, now that he’s gone, I am determined to be spontaneous once again to honor him and to honor myself, but I am discovering that it takes a lot of planning to prepare to be spontaneous. If I have everything I need for emergencies, if I have shelter, bedding, food, water, and a way to carry it all, I can just take things as they come without undue stress. Take chances (within reason. I will never be one of those who lives for risk.) Most of all, I’ll be able to enjoy the journey.

At least, that’s the plan.

Meantime, all I do, it seems, is research. There are an incredible number of resources on line, and I could spend the rest of my life researching the adventure of a lifetime (or a lifetime of adventures), but I am at the put up or shut up stage. Put up money, that is. As I mentioned a few days ago, I got my tent and backpack.

Yesterday I ordered a solar charger for my phone, specifically, a Powertraveller Powermonkey Extreme 5V and 12V Solar Portable Charger, Yellow (Because the yellow was $10 cheaper.) It supposed to charge larger electronics as well, so although the reviews all mention how slow it is to store the charge, I’m hoping it will do just fine for my phone. I’d hate to be somewhere with a signal and have no way to send in my blog! And besides, I have a GPS, on my phone, and can get various apps that will tell me where I am and where I should go. (Apparently, these electronic services don’t take the place of a topographical map and a compass, so I still have to learn how to do things the old fashioned way.)

I also ordered a Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System. And a PStyle. (Why should men be the only ones who can urinate standing up?)

Finally, I ordered Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 800 2-Season Sleeping Quilt and a Big Agnes, Insulated Double Z, NAVY, REGULAR WIDE sleeping pad. No claustrophobic mummy bag for me! The quilt is only rated for two seasons, but the warm sleeping pad and appropriate clothes will add to the comfort zone and make it usable for a third season.

I still have to deal with emergency supplies, clothes (cotton clothes are supposedly killers for hiking, and that’s all I own),  and dozens of other things, but I think I’ve got the major items covered.

I’m sure this is all as boring for you as it is for me, but what the heck. It’s all part of the adventure.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Shopping for an Adventure

I spent most of yesterday online researching various camping products, such as a solar charger for my phone. What a frustrating task! There are dozens of reviews for every product as well as descriptions galore from the manufacturers. Not surprising, every opinion is different. The products work. They don’t work. They chargers charge fast. They charge slowly. Sheesh.

It does seem silly that a phone is necessary equipment for backpacking considering how new the technology is, but the device is too valuable to leave behind, or to take and leave uncharged. GPS, maps, emergency calls, blogging, photos. Amazing what that little thing will do! (And my phone is very little. A mini.)

I had to close up my computer and get something to eat to stave off the circular thinking hunger was creating. (Remember H.A.L.T.?) I kept wondering what I was doing, buying all this stuff for a life I might not even like. I truly am a homebody, and therein lies the problem. When I settle down, I gradually give way to inertia, and then stagnation sets in. Oh, my. That is not what I want at all!

So far, there is little chance of my settling down. I checked out an apartment over the weekend, and though it was nice (but pricy), it depressed me. I could feel the walls closing in on me after just a few minutes. Was thrilled to escape when the tour was over.

So back to researching. And buying. I never have understood the joy people get from shopping. That, too, depresses me. I don’t like spending money, don’t like looking for things to buy, and I don’t like trying things on. Not only did I try on an apartment this weekend, I went tried on shoes. (Can’t go walking without adequate shoes, so those are a must.) I bought two pairs, one of which I will have to return. The shoes felt good in the store, but when I tried them on today, they seemed big enough but felt like ill-fitting casts. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

And then there is gear. Sleeping system. Tent. Backpack. Water filter. Clothes. Food. Emergency supplies. Daily necessities. The challenge of fitting one’s home into a backpack is incredible. Even the lightest of the items add up. Three pounds for a backpack. Almost three pounds for a tent. Almost three pounds for a sleep system. (What makes it worse is that some equipment like sleeping pads are not geared for shorter and wider people. To get the width, I have to get extra length, and that adds to the weight, but I did finally find a sleeping pad that was wide without being long! Yay! And I decided on a sleeping quilt instead of a sleeping bag. Double yay.)

I could go lighter on all that equipment, but then there would be no point to any of this because I would be so uncomfortable at night, I would hate every step I took during the day. It’s possible I’ll hate it anyway, because carrying thirty pounds of gear for any length of time seems nigh impossible, but I will, of course, try to get acclimated little by little and see where that takes me. If nothing else, I could use the things for car camping. As someone pointed out — if it can fit in a backpack, it certainly could fit in my car. (There was a snide remark somewhere in the comment from that person about my car being a backpack, and I hate to admit it, but there is some truth to that. A VW Beetle is not the most spacious vehicle ever made.)

I thought the hard part of all this would be to actually go on an adventure, but I have a hunch by the time I set out, I’ll be so delighted the shopping is all done that I’ll just float away on a bubble of glee.

Or not. I always seem to be shocked by the difference in how I expect to feel and how I really do feel.

I am also surprised by some of the reactions I am getting. One sister is delighted I am planning a solo hiking/camping/backpacking trip. One brother is freaked out by it. I guess I’ll just have to wait to see how we all end up feeling.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Grief Update: Looking For Adventure and Whatever Comes My Way

In exactly one week, I will be on my way to St. Simon’s Island, GA to speak at the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference. It’s been a long time coming — I was originally scheduled for last August, but I had to postpone due to the illness and then the death of my life mate. These past months I’ve been looking to this conference as a borderline of sorts, a life-changing experience, maybe because it’s something concrete to plan for rather than a hazy future of aloneness to drift into.

And now the conference is only a few days away.

Several people asked me recently if I’m excited, others asked if I’m scared, but the truth is, I’m just tired. I’m tired of grieving, tired of trying to make sense of life, and most of all, I’m tired of shopping.

Shopping? Yep. Of all the subjects I never expected to discuss on this blog, shopping would head the list. I’ve never liked shopping for clothes, and the truth is, I never had to. When one is a virtual hermit, one doesn’t need very much. But a world-class author (according to the Scribbler’s Retreat people, anyway) does need more than a simple top to throw over comfortable slacks when she is being introduced at a banquet, giving a presentation, attending a reception. I’ve been lucky in that a couple of weeks ago, two friends took me shopping to pick out the clothes they think I look best in, and then this past week, my sister came and picked the things she liked on me. This leaves me with a wardrobe that is not me. Or at least not the pre-death me. Perhaps it’s who I’ll become — a bit classy, a bit dramatic, a bit arty. Not a bad image if I can pull it off. And there’s no reason I can’t. I’ve survived fifty-eight weeks of grief. I can do anything.

It’s strange to think I’m going somewhere my life mate never visited, stranger to think I’m going without a single article of clothing he ever saw. There will be nothing on this trip (except my lingering sadness) to remind me of what I lost. There will be just me, heading out on an adventure, accepting whatever comes my way.