Being the Forest

Tantra Bensko
10 min readSep 17, 2019

A Feral Life

After my divorce in my late twenties from the Southern house where the curtains were always drawn, I lived outside in the wilderness more than I lived inside in rectangular encasements. A life of fresh air and rich soil made me dance, breathe and sing joy, kahoot-kaloy!

Sometimes I slept directly on the red rock canyons in Utah, the same color red as my hair. The sun heated the iron in the ground, which remained warm until deep into the night.

In Colorado, I sometimes slept in caves; one was simply a hole the same size as my body and horizontal. I would squeeze in with the top of my head sticking out, and when it rained, my forehead would receive the drip drip drip of “Chinese water torture.”

Other nights, I slept in haystacks, abandoned cabins, old cemeteries, on the edges of cliffs nestled up against boulders overarching deep rivers, usually alone, except when my son was free from school and he slept on the ground with me. We grew into a pair of feral joysters, wearing stones, talking to rocks, feathers in our hair, barefoot, yelping with coyotes. Our smooth faces painted with the red rock dye, made of love.

After a long summer together, just the two of us sleeping on blankets (sometimes in a tent amidst thousands of other campers) I’d wave goodbye to him as his soul began merging to fit the angular edges of his father’s house until his next vacation. He had the best of both worlds: the solidly traditional upbringing with continuity intact, as well as the free-form exploration of the natural world.

Being a somewhat feral mother, I liked to nurture animals, having had many friends with feathers or fur, raising them from abandonment, healing them from injury, and bonding with the groups of creature-mothers in their clawed and toothy tribes. I became them, moving as them, dancing their spirits, calling their calls.

Forest Surprise

I found a magical second-growth forest in Oregon along the coast, below Florence. It became my favorite home, the moss being juicy green fairy-fodder. I settled in and gazed down into the hollow kivas of the tree stumps which led my imagination deep into the ground. I felt shamanistic without any need to experiment with plants to guide my chemistry. I went into…

Tantra Bensko

Gold-medal-winning psychological suspense novelist, writing Instructor, manuscript editor living in Berkeley.