A Desert Revelation

Ideas of an epic adventure of my own seem unreal at times, and yet, in my researches, I’ve been coming across the blogs of many older women who have undergone great losses and great grief, and are now finding solo adventures in their latter years. Living in RVs, stealth camping, kayaking in all 50 states, thru-hiking various national trails, pumping iron. It’s as if once women have been set free from all ties, we become bold and adventurous, treating the whole world as our own back yard.

desert knollsToday, out walking in the desert, I had an interesting revelation. I was thinking about these women and their great adventures, thinking about the possibility of my own adventure walking or living on the road. I was wondering which I should do first, get a van conversion or go walking, when it hit me — do both at once.

I talk about thru-walking the Pacific Crest Trail, maybe walking across the United States, or some other epic walk, but such an athletic feat is beyond my strength and knowledge, at least for now. Even if there weren’t the problem of carrying enough water to get me through long dry sections, there is the greater problem that I don’t like backpacking. I do, however, like seeing the world at a walking pace of about 3 miles per hour.

I know people who would like an adventure but don’t have the financial or physical resources for an epic journey of their own. What if I got the van or camper, let these people use it, even paid for their expenses, and all they would have to do is meet me at the end of each day with my gear and supplies. The rest of the time, they could loll on the beach, enjoy the scenery from a mountaintop, maybe find the inspiration and the time to finally write again.

Meantime, I’d be just walking along, nothing in my mind but the next step, nothing in my pockets but enough water and food to get me to the rendezvous point.

I could even go to where such a willing volunteer lived, and find somewhere to walk around that region.

And if I had extended periods between walks? Come back here and take dance classes, of course.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Four Years and Two Months of Grief

In two days it will be four years and two months since Jeff — my life mate/soul mate — died, and even now I can feel the effects of his goneness. I still have occasional grief surges that bring a quiet bout of tears and a great yearning to see him once more. Chances are, I will have will have such upsurges for the rest of my life, though perhaps at a continually diminishing rate.

I keep busy, so I’m not subjected as often to the desperate loneliness and aloneness that plagued me for the first three and a half years of my grief, but holiday weekends, when everyone else is involved with family, brings the loneliness home to me. (I’m not strictly alone, but my 97-year-old father is involved with his personal end-of-life rituals, and my dysfunctional brother is . . . well, let’s just say I am much better off when he leaves me alone. Neither man sees me as real, so although I am not strictly alone, I am actually more alone than if I were truly alone.) Sometimes I wish I had someone for my own, but I’m desert knollsnot interested in getting involved. Not only is it too soon for another connection, but a connection would pull at me, keeping me from doing what I want/need to do — whatever that might be. So I deal with the loneliness as best as I can.

For thirty-four years, I was connected to another human being on such a profound level that when he died, it felt as if half of me went with him, as if I were straddling the line between here and eternity. I don’t feel the nearness of eternity any more, don’t feel the awesome gap between life and death — in that respect, my life has gone back to “normal.” But even after all this time, something in me yawns wide and cries out to be filled. Sometimes I try to fill the emptiness with physical activity. Sometimes I try to fill it with chocolate and other treats. Sometimes I try to fill it with reaching out to others. But it is always there, an itch beneath the surface of my consciousness.

Despite Jeff’s absence, despite my brother’s presence, I am happier than I ever thought possible, and yet . . . Jeff is still gone. Still dead. Still, strangely, a part of my life.

I went walking in the desert today. I haven’t been out there for a while, keeping my ambulation more as a means of transportation than recreation, but it felt right. I used to talk to him in the desert, used to feel close to him in the vastness the open land, used to show him the steps and positions I learned in my various exercise classes, but today I just walked. Felt the ground beneath my shoes, felt the heat on my shoulders. Just . . . felt.

(I did ask Jeff if he’d watch over me when I took my epic walk, but he didn’t respond.)

I know he couldn’t have stayed. I know I couldn’t have gone with him (except for the part of me that died when he did). I know I’ve had and will continue to have many adventures I never could have had if we were still together. I know, though I seldom admit it, that when I am finished with my responsibilities here and head out on my own, my life will be better without him and the demands of his illness.

And yet. And yet . . .

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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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.