Coddiwompling

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Coddiwompling. Even the definition sounds wonderful. Coddiwompling means to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

Doesn’t that sound like me and my desire to walk the Pacific Crest Trail? (Or any long distance trail, actually. I just want to take a very, very, very long walk.) I don’t really have a need to walk one place or another, just to walk purposefully toward some vague destination. Though, if I ever get to the point of actually going on a backpacking trip, that destination will probably not be vague — I will, of course, need to know where the trail is going and have an approximate idea of how long it will take me to get there.

So maybe coddiwompling isn’t the right word for my aspirations, though my true destination is more spiritual, and that certainly is vague. How does one know what sort of spiritual destination one is heading toward, or what one will gain from a vision quest? That part, for sure, is about traveling purposefully toward a vague destination.

And this whole impetus to saunter the world, for all its purposeful preparation, is vague. I will be doing a solo backpacking trip while in Washington State this May, probably just for a few days, to dip my toes into the backpacking pool (figuratively speaking, of course — I truly do not like crossing water on foot, not even creeks or rivulets, and I truly do not like hiking in wet socks and shoes! So not fun). Then, a longer backpacking trail in the fall.

And then? Who knows. Either I will have had my fill of adventure, or I will be so addicted that I continue to coddiwomple.

I once read an article that claimed it is the pain we are willing to sustain, the pain we want in our life that determines our happiness. I don’t like pain of any kind, but so far, whatever pain has come from coddiwompling in the desert, is pain I am willing to embrace for my greater good. Luckily, many of the rewards of walking come from effort and dedication and concentration rather than sustained pain. (Though carrying a twenty-two-pound pack for five miles last weekend certainly brought its share of soreness!)

It seems weird to still be talking about aspirations, about things I am going to do rather than what I have already done, and yet, what I have already done is . . . done. It’s the traveling purposefully toward a vague and unknown destination that I find so compelling.

So, coddiwomple on!

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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 Lilt in My Heart

Ever since I made the commitment to do a solo backpacking trip in May, I’ve had a strange feeling, one to which I am so unaccustomed that it’s taking a while for me to recognize the emotion. Maybe excitement. Perhaps anticipation. Or could it be . . . happiness?

It’s hard to tell. I haven’t felt lighthearted since Jeff fell ill decades ago. Watching him waste away destroyed my happiness, and the long years of grief after his death certainly didn’t do anything to remind me what happiness felt like. And even though dancing has been good for me, brought me back to life after Jeff died, it hasn’t been a consistently lighthearted endeavor. Sometimes it’s frustrating learning a new dance. Sometimes it’s hard making my body do what it’s supposed to do. (Yeah, point those toes!) And then there always seems to be one individual I have a hard time dealing with. (For me, dancing is about paying attention, everyone doing what they are supposed to, all moving as one — the zen of it. And some people insist on doing their own thing, no matter what the teacher says. I try not to let it bother me, but the truth is, their improvisations destroy the energy, pain amelioration, mental stimulation, and the joy that synchronized dancing brings.)

Still, it could be that this feeling has to do at least partly with dance classes. We are learning fabulous dances in both Hawaiian class and Belly dance, as well as reclaiming a great tap dance I sort of learned at the very beginning that got lost from disuse. And Hawaiian class was great this past week, going through all our old routines, which truly gave me the zen of dance feeling.

But that can’t be all of it, because there have been many such dances and days over the years. Mostly, I think, the lightheartedness has to have come from the idea of the backpacking trip.

A long time ago I read an article about dreams. If, for example, your dream is to visit Paris, and you are unable to go there for whatever reason, the suggestion was to figure out exactly what you want from the visit and what would give you the feeling you craved. Do you want the joy of sitting in an outdoor café eating brioche and sipping Café au Lait? Eating delicious French food in a fancy French restaurant? Visiting art galleries? Then try to find a substitute for whatever it is that you want. If you can’t go to a French café in France, find one near you. If you can’t afford an expensive French restaurant, save up your money and treat yourself — though it might be outside your budget, it would be a heck of a lot cheaper than airfare to France, and might give you a taste of the dream. And if art galleries are what you most desire, then visit those you can in this country. Or look for traveling exhibits from the Louvre.

What I’m getting at here is that whatever it is that I want from a remote backpacking trip, I am apparently getting at least a part of it now, though I have no idea what it might be. It’s possible that roaming the desert with a twenty-pound pack makes me feel as if I am already on that mythical trip. It could be the thought of walking around with my house (a tent, a sleeping system, and a camping stove qualifies as a house, right?) on my back like a turtle amuses me, even though at the moment, the turtle effect is only in my mind since the pack is filled with water bottles. (Each .5 ml bottle weighs approximately a pound, which makes it easy to add weight and calculate the total.) It could be that I like the challenge of training. It could be a lot of things, but I don’t suppose the reason matters.

All I know is that I woke this morning with a lilt in my heart that even the soreness of today’s saunter couldn’t dissipate.

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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.