Went camping alone a couple weeks ago.

Point Beach, Northeastern Wisconsin.

A thousand acres of woods, sand dunes,

Mosquitoes, no AC,

Weather patterns which are out of my control.

And a mile long beach with no sign of civilization.

Spent a lot of time staring at Lake Michigan,

A kind of meditation.

This time the big lake was calm,


No turbulence.

To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed,

I love it when the roar of three foot waves

Frightens me a little.

Makes me feel small,

But somehow part of a beautiful something

That’s a lot bigger than I am.

Small in a good way,

That smallness in the city can’t produce.

That said,

In the solitude of aloneness

I often feel lonely,

Sometimes sad.

Without the distractions of civilization

All I’m left with is the beauty of nature

And the very mixed spiritual bag of my Self.

The Japanese, I’m told, have a concept called


Finding beauty in imperfection,

Profound truth in earthiness,

Valuing authenticity more than

Success or winning.

Myers Briggs told me what I already knew—

That I’m an introvert—

That I need to be with people but at some point

I need to retreat into solitude

To refuel.

I don’t always like what I find, of course

Going inside is often a journey

into the unexpected.

This time my pilgrimage to Point Beach

Included reading Dakota by Kathleen Norris;

She was talking about the barrenness of

Western South Dakota,

But she could have been describing

My journeys inward when she wrote that it’s

“a terrifying but beautiful landscape

In which we are at the mercy of the


And even angels proceed at their own risk.”

Part of who I am, you should know,

is a white boy from Wisconsin.

The first chapters of my story begin with

Camping in January,

Falling asleep to the sound of a foghorn

Believing that people are richest when

Their needs are fewest, that

Marshmallows roasted on a bonfire with a

Slab of a Hershey bar

Between two graham crackers

Is gourmet dining.

Those boyhood memories,

Keep pulling me back to Point Beach

I suppose.

To stripping life down a bit

Less of the conveniences and distractions

That modernity has blessed

And cursed us with.

Some of my neighbors think I’m crazy

When they see me stowing my sleeping bag

Into my van.

They say, “When you go camping

you have to pee where?!?”

More vulnerable to the blessings of

Seeing awesome lightning strikes over the big lake

And the curses of the downpour which preceded  them

Spoiling my plans of a day on the beach.

Camping is not a trip to Disney World

Where everything is pretend. . .and comfortable.

What Norris said about life in the Dakotas

Puts into words what I encounter when I’m

Alone at Point Beach:

“Distractions are at a minimum

And you must rely on your own resources,

Only to find yourself,

Utterly dependent

On forces beyond your control.”

“The truth of asceticism [or Point Beach solitude]”

She wrote,

“Is a way of surrendering to reduced circumstances

In a way that enhances the whole person. 

It is a radical way of knowing exactly

Who, what and where you are

In defiance of those powerful forces in society. . .

That aim to make us forget.”