New City of Friends

What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown? And what are those of life but for Death?


I’ve been reading Walt Whitman recently, finding insight and comfort in his words. The above poem: “Portals” from Leaves of Grass.

And here, “I Dream’d in a Dream”:

I dream’d in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth/ I dream’d that was the new city of Friends/ Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led the rest/ It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city/ And in all their looks and words.

Last month, I wrote of the passing of Elisif. Today, I write about love.


When you lose a loved one, people treat you kindly. Such has been my experience these past weeks. Love has come from everywhere: directions unexpected… the long ago past… from everyone… even those I once had the foolishness to think of as my enemies.

(I now know what it means to love my enemy.)

I have learned love—neither exceptional nor ephemeral—is always right there. It is the rule, not the exception. It is easy to miss among the noise, but get quiet and listen: it is there. It is right there, all around.

With the passing of my daughter, I am now living in Whitman’s new city of Friends, and I hope never to leave it… never to allow myself to forget that this is the order of things: love, the substrate of all our relationships.

With it, we are invincible.


These sentiments may be familiar… from your own times of grief and love… perhaps from recollections of September 11, 2001 and our coming together as one in the days following.

But that dissipated.

How to hold it, every day? That is the urgent question.


Before Elisif’s passing, I had for many months been working on a project called Autumn Leaves.

In my project description, I write:

Autumn Leaves is about celebrating the deeper connectivity and meaning of our lives, and the importance of collectively gathering from time to time for no other reason than commemorating who we are, as individuals and as a community.”

I think perhaps Autumn Leaves is about my new city of Friends—who knew?


Last night, I dreamed I was on a ferry, crossing a dangerous sea.

Elisif was there, four or five years old, waist deep in water, clinging to the half-submerged vessel’s side. I beckoned her to come to me—and she did, ducking under the water within the boat, popping up in front of me, onto my lap, where I then held her tight… I held her tight in the dream, never to let her go.

Then I woke up.


When Elisif died, I knew pain as never before.


What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown? And what are those of life but for Death?

What I love about Walt Whitman is his unapologetic embrace of death.

In “To One Shortly to Die”:

I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.


What I think Walt Whitman knew, and what I perhaps have learned: knowing love is directly proportional to accepting death.

Therein…  remembering this… I hope… just maybe… lies the secret to my remaining in my new city of Friends.