Freedom’s Just Another Word

Today I saw a man on a bicycle. His thick white hair billowed around his head like a cloud. He wore a blue shirt and tiny white gym shorts. His bicycle was an old-fashioned upright, no lightweight racing bike or fancy mountain bike for him. A bright yellow milk crate was strapped to the rack with bungee cords. He was a throwback, a Grateful Dead follower, a snake charmer, a Reiki instructor, a draft dodger, a mountain climber, a healer.  He was wind personified, and he brought me back. Way back.

Back to reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Little Prince. Hanging posters of the Desiderata poem on my wall. Writing soulful quotes in a shiny green journal. A favorite: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” Driving around in with D. in her Mustang, feeling like we could go anywhere, do anything, but basically staying within a 20 mile radius, going to bookstores, and eating onion rings and brownie sundaes at the Big Boy restaurant. But we felt free.

Now, driving feels like an obligation, not freedom. Jonathan Livingston Seagull makes me gag a little just thinking about it, I can’t even pronounce Desiderata, and that ridiculous quote–what’s that about? OK, I still eat onion rings. But they’re a vegetable, right?

Why did that mysterious bike rider make me feel nostalgic and old and crabby. Maybe because I haven’t felt that sense of freedom in eons. Maybe I wanted to be on my bike. No bright yellow milk crate but it’s an awesome bike. Maybe I wanted him to take me to a Grateful Dead concert (are those guys still alive?) or read me poetry or fix my chakra–I’m sure it’s broken. Maybe I wanted to walk along a silent beach. Although I should probably avoid seagulls for a while.

It’s the first day of spring–maybe it’s just the sludge that washes up with this season. All that sunshine and the smell of dirt and the chirping birds and things growing again after so much dormancy. I know  a lot of people love spring, but all that rebirth gets on my nerves. And we’re just getting started here. TS Eliot called it–April is the cruelest month.

And yet, I miss feeling free. I miss my ignorance and youth. Would I go back? Never. But maybe I should strap a yellow milk crate on my bike rack.

Would you?



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3 responses to “Freedom’s Just Another Word

  1. WSW

    By a funny coincidence, I’ve been feeling much the same — in the wake of a college reunion that featured 30 year-old photos and even a little film of my younger, cuter, entirely carefree self. Would I strap a yellow crate to my bike? Maybe, but I’m thinking I’d rather get a motorcycle.

  2. Susan


    The aspen glitters in the wind.
    And that delights us.

    The leaf flutters, turning,
    Because that motion in the heat of summer
    Protects its cells from drying out. Likewise the leaf
    Of the cottonwood.

    The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem
    And the tree danced. No.
    The tree capitalized.
    No. There are limits to saying,
    In language, what the tree did.

    It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

    Dance with me, dancer. Oh, I will.

    Aspens doing something in the wind.

    –Robert Hass

    (The “Dance with me” line is supposed to be in italics but I can’t figure that out. Maybe the guy with the yellow crate would know how.)

  3. Donna

    Remember that strange feeling in our mouths after the onion rings? Next time we should eat the rings first. Loved this!

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