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04 July 2010

Red White and Blue

Independence day.  Individuals try to escape being alone,  and America celebrates winning a war  that separated us from tyranny, repression, and unsuitable taxation.  Individually, we seek out partners and have children, and we are still alone.  Sometimes we fight to separate ourselves from each other.   We celebrate liberation.

This idea of independence squirmed into my life as a stifled child; a child with latent words ready to spew lava and ash all over my town.  A child with a knowing, a bee that could find honey.  Even landlocked, I felt the magnetic pull drawing me to high tides and hammocks of full moons and peace.

Isn't that the basic human condition? I wanted my freedom.  I wanted to escape a dictatorship.  I wanted to rise above my condition.  The quest for more, better, something else.

When my  daughter was a toddler she would wobble up to the refrigerator and open it, stand there, the frigid swirl of air escaping, wasted energy.  I offered her a carrot or a cucumber, she'd study them, and then declare: "I need something else."

"Something else,  what do you need?"  I would say.

She would choose yogurt.  She smeared it in her hair, on her face, on the tray of her walker and all over the dog's back.  She'd roll over to the refrigerator again,

"I need something else."

As with all the paradoxical truths of the universe, more, what's next, the find is first what I sought.  Insatiability handcuffed me.  In all of my accumulation I found prison.

So I took out my paint brush, and I changed the images on my canvas.  I threw globs of green and blue, pink floated in.  Orange and yellow hid in shades.  I added the whole brown family, with white poodles and grey dew on lime wedges.  No form, no need.  When I finished, I noticed, smudged just like the pluff mud, my safe place.

"The Artist" by Abbey winner of  the MUSC Happy Halls Art Contest 2010  

I like to celebrate independence every day.  Realizing very young how alone we all are, not as a design flaw, but a simple condition, made declaring myself free an effortless step.  However, knowing nothing, being culturally starved, and listening to the messages society inundated me with, left me with credit debt and a bad habit.  Freedom was a bit of a mess.  With no boundaries, I was testing all the back alleys.  I stumbled over broken bottles, and wiped blood off my forehead.  I celebrated by flying with strangers in single engine airplanes over the mountains.  I shot fireworks out of the back of taxis.  I ate charred hot dogs off grills of silk spider webs.  Freedom was sloppy.  I slept through days and stayed awake for weeks.  I didn't wear a watch because it was worth more than time.

I need something else.

I freed myself over and over again, and every time my independence looked like an old railway, overgrown with rust.  The weeds twisting a note on the ties that they too are free, no longer useful.
Independence.  Freedom from people, the paradox of what I seek and what I resist.

My moment of real liberation came when I freed myself from the obligation of stuff.  I purged.  I vomited all the things I thought freedom meant.  Once emptied, I found the elusive freedom I was looking for.  And then I channeled everything I had into finding a place to just be.

I fled the dark alleys of freedom for a smaller safer place.  A place with stars in the sky, and fireworks in the crickets song.

I can take care of myself, educated, strong, unafraid of challenge and risk, but that isn't freedom.  I can give generously to others, but that isn't freedom.  I can need no one, and crave company, clearly, not freedom.  My freedom came when I looked out into this great black void of loss and failure, and saw not the emptiness but the stars.  I am content.  I am free.

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