Transcendental Campsite


Photo by Rebecca Bronson

It was here, beneath the Blue Spruce where I buried my feet in wet leaves, cold dirt. Where I sat on melting snow to listen for the song of the cardinal, where I closed my eyes to remember all that beauty, all that pain of those dying days.

After Jiminah died the cardinal did not return; off to another tree, a high wire, to sing an animal, a human, out of body into the next world.

Why must I leave this place where I have felt the miracle and madness of loss, of love and hate: That reckless duality of the psyche I’ve befriended, entwined within; a passage into countless breakthroughs. There is an emptiness now in the cellar of my being. It will travel with me and I will  avoid it with wine and sleep and useless information, but more often, I will tend to it like a child who has lost hope for the return of love.

In the rhythmic spiral of time I steadied my mind and made a familiar path through that cement world, that infinite arc of souls seeking the unfathomable I:  I remembered what my teacher told me; that God lives everywhere; in the smell of rotting garbage strewn in parking lots; in the the drunk homeless man vomiting on the El train; in the innocence of pigeons nesting under rusty bridges.


It was a starless, cold place in the winter; frozen for months, wind and ice like broken glass against the skin.  A place whose spirits, angels, assorted rebels and divinities pushed me into a deep, long silence. Held me in and under until my stuggle to resist the trembling fear of aloneness, the vastness of mind, unexplored cauldron of the inner life, was sufficiently exhaustively awakened. Then imagined I was out of the dilated loam of solitude and emotional mayhem.

When the cycle was complete, Jiminah died, in the yard, near the spruce, and I knew it was time to come out of that place, to come into the world of the living springtime of life.

In all those days, months, years, tent pitched at the transcendental campsite, merging with the chamber orchestra of my being, I learned to love the night and its shadowy presence that lured me, invited me to look into my own eyes to see the one who was seeing me.

When it was over, that journey with the mystical lake, the frozen earth, the crazy mind, the wandering soul, the creative enchantment, the hard-won wisdom, the nights of sweating through transmissions from the ancestors, I finally understood that what awaits when one exits the underworld, the belly-slinking-push out of the old,  is unknowable, but ensconced in intangible, visceral magic.

What else could there be? How else do we make sense out of all this dying and leaving, this loss and betrayal, this  cruelty and kindness, this birthing and beauty and return?  Every cell of my body had been restored inside the belly of the Mother of pitch perfect timing, of inscrutable rhythm.

Sometimes when I touch the memory of that Saturnian time, still so alive as to smell the fumes of the underground train, I am drawn back in: what did I miss, who crossed my path at 3 pm on Ashland and Melrose, why was the beleaguered Lutheran minister in my life, who were those people who took in the caged bird at 1 am on Barry St?  So much more I want to remember and see and feel.

There I am, I see her now, still there, learning why she has come here and where she must go to become more of who She Always Was.

Longing for that onyx velvet swaddling of aloneness, wandering in the obsidian midnight, softening my armor to take in the wicked beauty of Halsted, Ashland, Clark in its arcane blackness, so many distant stars spilling out of blue’s bars and jazz clubs.

Here I sit in a room swarming with pristine light, sun pelting peperomia plant, Rosetta reposed in light stream, mountains peeking out beyond rooftops.  It has rained all day and I have found my way back to the sun, her light casting precious gemstones speckling though trees, a benevolent wind dancing through space, flooding the air with mercurial voices, never in the past, always in the present.

Soon it will be time to gather my mother up from the nursing home, load her wheelchair, listen to her unhappy laments, and remind her that it is springtime, and perhaps, if we keep our eyes on the high wires, we may catch a glimpse of a raven.  And if we stay curious and alert, we may be delivered a fresh memory of a young girl wearing a dinosaur t-shirt sitting next to her bearded father smiling down upon a weary grandmother through a bus window on a Friday afternoon in June.




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