May You find the Castle in the Middle of Nowhere, made of Sand and Magic.

Some twenty years ago I was having a bad visit with my dad. Bad. My thoughts were dark, and my mood was gloomy. I was filled with the kind of despair that only a fight with a family member can give you. Like, stabbing-knives kind of misery. To escape for a few hours Barb and I took our nephew and the canoe out to an island on the lake. We camped on it every summer as children.

We discovered that someone, now decamped and nowhere in sight, had built a magical sandcastle and town. Suddenly the black clouds lifted and I felt as filled with wonder as my nephew Niko.

one of my favorite photos of a young Niko

The paths of the sandcastle town were lined with wild mushroom caps, still fresh and unblemished. Someone made the sandcastle just hours before we got to the island.

Not a soul in sight

My photographs are decades old and pretty grainy. But you can see the sandcastle is truly in the middle of the Adirondacks wilderness (i.e. the middle of nowhere)… Only the shores of Cranberry Lake are all around.

Who built it? What whimsy inspired the person or persons to erect a fairy town on the waterfront of an island that few people ever visit?

The memory of that discovery and its gift of magic in the middle of a very hard place have remained as detailed as every bit of love and care that someone spent building it for us to find.

For those who want to know what happened next: Dad and I resolved our differences and grew closer again. I never found out who built that fairy town. But I still wonder why it appeared in my life at just that point and I remain grateful and filled with wonder that it did.


NOTES: Text and Photos ©2022 Jadi Campbell. The township of Cranberry Lake has a whopping total of 126 inhabitants. Finding a fairy castle and town built on the island there was nothing short of a miracle.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Cold Comfort. Helping Refugees: Part 6

I missed several appointments to meet my refugee and give her massage therapy. I didn’t show up, because my father died while I was on vacation. I had to cancel my flight home and extend my visit to America.

I called M’s daughter the day after I finally got back to Germany. We set up another appointment. Just like always: Monday afternoon. I got there and took off my shoes.  M’s husband offered me a glass of strong Turkish tea. “No sugar,” I requested. (It’s usually served with enough sugar to send me into diabetic shock.)

M was sitting up in bed with a smile. I sat on the edge and took her hand. “Please tell your mother how sorry I am that she didn’t know where I was for the last three weeks.” (I’d sent a SMS from the States, but they hadn’t read it.) Her daughter dutifully translated my German words. I looked into M’s eyes and talked slowly, willing her to understand.

I tried for a session that would make up for the long summer pause in her therapy. I began with foot reflexology and moved on to treat her knee and hip joints, her shoulders and neck, her hands. When I was done, M surprised me by taking my hands back in hers and scrutinizing my face. She spoke for a long time.

The daughter translated for her. “My mother says to tell you, don’t be sad that your father died. Everyone’s going to die sometime. And you and I, we’ll have to die too someday.” M kept holding my hands and I felt tears come. We kissed one another on the cheeks.

The tears were for my father; they were for myself and my loss; and they were because that day was the first time that M comforted me rather than the other way around. Cold comfort, to be sure…. She gave to me out of her terrrified flight, her pain, the violence and death she’d seen in her home country. Her words were framed with the bitter truth of the life  she’s known. But she presented me with that truth, because she wanted to ease my ache.

And it helped.



%d bloggers like this: