For the Love of Freedom Chapter 1
Thursday, September 17
In the soft blushing twilight of a September nightfall, as one of the last glorious summer days fades away, I feel the taunting touch of the north wind, a harbinger of the cold months ahead. Stifling a shiver, I slip my hands into my pockets for warmth. Ordinarily, this first kiss of autumn triggers the departure of my carefree summer disposition, reversing my governing mood back toward melancholy. I lament the passing of cloudless day and wispy warm breezes. I shudder over thoughts of the advancing frost-bound season of dread. I stare headlong into winter, that disproportionate but unavoidable part of life in Michigan.
Tonight, however, as though released from decades of behavioral bondage, I feel none of these anxieties. In fact, quite uncharacteristically, I sense a sort of anticipation for all that dwells beyond the pleasant shroud of summer. There is no shrinking back, no programmed limit to my
spirit’s ascendancy, only a willingness to embrace what lies ahead, to continue onward in defiance of the sun’s sinking circuit. Far above the cyclical thrum of the natural world, I soar, untouchable and free.
Sitting on the mossy bank, staring into the Looking Glass River, I see a watery luminescence spreading eastward along the surface, evidence that the sun is blazing through a distant horizon. As the colorful water flows past, rippling joyfully as it changes, the thought occurs to me that, like the stream, I may be changing too—no longer what I once was; perhaps not even what I genuinely believe myself to be. And so I wonder: Who really am I at this particular point in time? How can I accurately discern the underlying truth about myself?
What can I do to raise the level of my own self-consciousness? Unfortunately, my indistinct reflection on the water fails to provide a window into my soul, and so I am left with the sense that my life is incomprehensible and deep. The evening light dims to dusk and I consider the residue of what was once a perfect September day. Reluctant to depart from this peaceful respite by the river, a place of escape I frequently enjoy, I suppress the pull of obligation and attempt to rekindle the sense of freedom and contentment that glowed within me just moments ago. Sadly, the soaring feeling is gone, irretrievably lost, and in its place, a string of unanswered questions about my secret life. Regretfully, I foresee little likelihood of genuine understanding in matters such as these matters of the heart and soul.
And even less chance such understanding can be communicated with someone else, someone equally muddled in the normal state of human consciousness. Moreover, should I fail to disclose my true self to others, then some part of me will remain unknown, untapped, un-communicated—perhaps the key to me, perhaps even some frightful, treacherous or conniving portion. What shows on the outside may just be the manifestation of a role I play, an obtuse character I adopt to wheedle about in my search for truth, or in the discovery of others.
But, just as there is no escaping the natural world, I am equally stuck with myself, with what I have become through four-and-a-half decades of life. Though I may choose to believe I am free to change without limits, I will remain subject to nature, relationships, an aging frame, a set of ethics and morals, a mortgage, a job. Consequently, if all people live their lives under similar constraints, bondages really, how can anyone ever experience true freedom?
In fact, freedom may be entirely illusory. And, it is therefore possible, even probable, that none of us will ever truly know what it means to be free, or succeed in becoming that which we desire most desperately to be. Tonight, though, I want to be convinced—and indeed I believe I am so persuaded—that what I am down deep, what I possess with certainty, is life. The night’s curtain has now almost completely descended upon me and my undulating
thought life. As I fasten my parka against the creeping damp I stare upward toward the brightening panorama of a world heretofore hidden behind a veil of light. Delicately appearing in the firmament are the celestial bodies that were there all along—just obscured from view.
A lonely frog croaks, and then I hear another. They were there as well.
I arise and begin the steep trudge back toward home where my wife and the very real part of my life await, where I am known as “Chip” Halick (Randall being my given name), a freelance journalist in his second career.