Chapter 5: Phoenix Rising

Wednesday, July 22, 2009:

My curiosity over the letter’s origin turns to obsession. The postmark from Brazil, the return address sticker from my old apartment building, the eerie reference to fire and self-induced imprisonment, which I had recently written about in my journal…. Who could have written such a letter and under what circumstances? The question rests on my pillow, and the letter under it, as I drift off to sleep that night.

At 3am, I awaken to a familiar sensation, heart racing, pajamas damp with sweat, images of fire and smoke still emblazoned on my eyelids. But, this time, mingled with a tingling exhilaration. I search my mind for the details of the dream…the cedar maze, fire and smoke, but then…the sensation of my body rising upward, up, over the flames, floating, swirling on cool night air, like a campfire spark joining stars in the sky.

Quietly, I leave my bedroom, dawning housecoat and slippers as I go. The cat meets me in the hallway, blinking sleepily and pausing to stretch his back legs out behind him as he follows me into my little office, where I sit down and awaken my computer.

Without hesitation, I open a blank document and begin to type…

Gisa Catarina Gertner was born at sea on October 5, 1933, halfway between the province of Tirol, Austria, and the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil….

Originally published at on January 20, 2015.

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