Hunting for a Photo

When I was looking through the media files on my blog a couple of days ago to find the clip art image of three witches I wanted to reuse to illustrate that day’s blog, I came across the photo of the first hat I decorated. It surprised me to see the hat because I hadn’t realized I’d taken a picture of it; I hadn’t realized I’d ever uploaded it to the blog, and I had no idea why I’d done so. In the original article I’d written about the grief upsurge the loss of the ribbon had caused, I’d never actually mentioned the ribbon. I only said that the thing I lost wasn’t important in the grand scheme of life and death, but it was important to me. It made me feel good, but more than that, it was a symbol, in a way, of my struggles to create a new life for myself. And somehow, that symbol had blown away in the wind. It didn’t change the facts of my new life, of course, since it was only a symbol. And as I can attest, although the symbol is gone, my new life is still here. I am still here.

And, apparently, the hat with the ribbon is still here, at least as an image even though the hat itself fell apart several years ago. It was seeing that photo that prompted me to write yesterday’s blog entry about hat heads, but when it came time to publish the article, I couldn’t find the photo again. I knew I’d seen it — I mean, I hadn’t even remembered what the hat looked like until I saw the photo, so it wasn’t a trick of memory that made me think I’d seen the hat. I did begin to wonder, though, because I went through my blog’s media library three times, which is a real pain. I seldom tag my photos because it used to be easy enough to find the year I thought I’d uploaded the photo and just look through that year, but with scrolling, that’s not possible. I have to scroll through all the photos to find the one I want (which should teach me to tag the photos so I can find them again).

When I still couldn’t find the picture of the hat after scrolling through all the photos the third time, I checked the photos on my computer and even the photos that are stored elsewhere online, but still couldn’t find it.

After an hour, I finally gave up and used the photo of the second hat I’d decorated with one of my sister’s gift ribbons.

It bothered me, though, that I couldn’t find the picture. I realize I have fourteen years of blogs and blog photos, but still, it’s a finite number. I should have been able to find it within a reasonable length of time. When I came home from work yesterday evening, I decided to try once more. I vaguely remembered it was near a cartoonish clip art image of two men fighting, so I looked for that photo. And right next to it, at the end of the row of photos, there was my hat.

I’d forgotten about checking the edges of the page of photos. From my stint copyediting, I learned that we tend to look in the middle of the page, so any errors that show up (and obviously, images that don’t show up) in an edited page are generally found close to the margins.

I’ll remember for next time. I’m just glad I found the photo (shown below) so I can stop wondering where I’d seen it and why I couldn’t find it again.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Hat Head

People often tell me how lucky I am that I have a hat head so that I look good in hats. I’m not sure what’s lucky about that — I would wear them anyway. My hats were never a fashion statement. I’ve always worn hats outside, for warmth in the winter and for coolness in the summer. That the hats became anything more, turning me into a woman people refer to as “Pat in the Hat,” was sheer happenstance.

My sister is very creative, and the bows she puts on gifts are works of art. I never knew what to do with them except to reuse for my own gift-giving, so I always carefully packed them away. One day, I’d dropped my hat on the table by one of her ribbon and bow creations I’d removed from a gift, and just for fun, I slipped the bow around the crown of the hat. I probably never would have given decorating hats another thought, except that after a few days, the ribbon disappeared. It had been a windy day, and my surmise is that the bow had blown off. I retraced my steps again and again, and I never did find it. This was shortly after Jeff died, when any loss, even the loss of a ribbon threw me back into full grief mode.

I eventually used another ribbon for the hat, more to make myself feel better (at least there was one thing I could replace!). Then, when that hat wore out, I went shopping for others. The irony is that if anything makes me look good in hats it’s that I have a relatively small head, so the hat more or less balances things out, but most hats are way too big for me. So I got in the habit of collecting the hats as well as ribbons and bows, so that I would always have a hat to wear.

Over the years, it’s become an identifying factor, but the truth is, everyone looks good in hats. It’s just a matter of finding the right style to fit one’s head and frame one’s face. In fact, most church-going women of a certain age have an assortment of hats to wear to church, and as far as I know, no one ever went up to one of these women and said, “Oh, my. You look terrible in hats!” Because they didn’t look terrible. They looked dressed up.

The real issue seems to be “hat head” of a different sort, so called because when one removes a hat, one’s hair is mashed down, making it very obvious that one had been wearing a hat.

I’ve never really cared. I walk so much (or used to until the knee issues showed up) so it was always more important for me to be comfortable.

Being known as “Pat in the Hat” has its advantages. It’s easy for people to remember my name, and if anyone has a nice hat they want to get rid of, they know exactly who to give it to. And, of course, hats are a good conversation opener. Everyone notices my hats.

So maybe it’s not so much that I’m lucky to have a hat head, but that I don’t mind having hat head after I remove the hat.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

More About Risks and Safety

I think a lot about safety, wondering how to be adventurous and bold while at the same time not embarking on a death march.

Human predators mostly look for the weakest member of the herd, someone who walks with their head down, someone that no one will notice if they disappear. To that end, I keep my head up, try to pay attention to what’s around me, and always wear a hat that makes me stand out. Wide brims with flowers, ribbons, feathers — any sort of decoration that makes people look and smile. Seems like a silly sort of thing to do for protection, but getting people to notice me in a good way makes it harder for a predator to cull me from the herd. Not that I started wearing hats for that reason. The hats came first, the reason later. I wear hats for protection from the sun, and when I would get gorgeous ribbons on presents, I started decorating my hats with them. It’s nice that the extra bit of color makes people smile and me noticeable.

When I was trying to decide whether to get a new car or get my Beetle restored, the deciding factor was safety. Admittedly, an old bug, even one with a new engine and transmission isn’t the safest car from a driving point of view, but from a predator point of view, it’s worth its weight in gold. Everyone notices my car. Not everyone talks to me, but everywhere I go, someone does, and that is protection. And if something were to happen to me, if I were disappeared from an interstate truck stop, someone would notice that my car was there way longer than it should be. Most cars don’t garner attention because most cars are common. But mine is an uncommon car of memories and dreams. And there is safety in that.

Although I blog about my adventures, giving frequent updates, I am particularly careful not to post itineraries online. After I’ve been somewhere, I will tell you about it, but I see no reason to leave a trail for predators to follow. For someone who lives her life online, I guard my privacy. (And you should too.)

I do other things of course. Carry an external battery good for four charges of my cell phone. I stash filled water bottles under my seat, carry extra food, keep my camping quilt and a pillow handy, have a flashlight near at hand, keep a few tools in the glove compartment, have an emergency kit in the car, and oh, so many other things.

When I’ve hiked by myself, I’ve carried a map, generally just a handout at a trail head or printed off the internet, but when/if I ever get into a real backpacking situation, I will make sure I have a topographical map and compass, and will know how to use them.

I’m researching other things at the moment, such as bear spray (which some people say is great, some people say no, some people say it’s illegal in areas) and a bear horn to scare the animal away if I were ever so lucky to see one. Knowing me, though, I’d probably do what I do when I see a snake — watch it in awe. But we’ll see what my research holds. (I’m more concerned with dogs, though. I’ve never even seen a bear when I hiked in the woods, but I have been bitten by someone’s unleashed dog because the stupid woman couldn’t control her three animals.)

I’m not foolish enough to say nothing will happen to me, because anything can happen, and often does. But that knowledge is a safety feature I carry with me at all times. Cockiness can get people killed. Caution can save lives. And I am almost always cautious. I listen to my surroundings, not music. I try to be present in the moment and not get lost in daydreams. I use two trekking poles to save my knees, to help me keep my balance on slopes, and hopefully to ward off anything that comes close.

All this is by way of saying that I do everything in my power to minimize whatever  risks I might face, so that I can face adventure with wonder and a touch of boldness.

I understand how difficult it is to see someone you care about take risks, so I hope this makes you feel better about the risks I take.

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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.