Free to Be

Do you remember the first time you sensed what it meant to be free?

You were young, or at least younger. You were spending time lifting the edges of life. Edges that shimmered dark with a curious promise. You were falling in love with things and people around you.

Do you remember the place, or the places? Those thin places on earth, where here and there were at confluence. Where the fine hairs on your body would rise up to brush the universe.

Do you recall your people? Do you recall sharing the secrets of your soul that you could only point to through broken sentences and wet eyes and mounds of laughter and dirty jokes?

Do you remember how it didn’t matter whether or not you owned anything? How it came to you in a blinding flash that you couldn’t own anything without it owning you. Those days you ate when you were hungry and slept when tired. And you kept playing on the borders that were brimming with ideas.

And ideas were beginning to mold and transform you. Old wisdom seeped in from reading and watching and you thought you owned it and even made some of it up yourself. And Wisdom just loved you and let you think that as long as you wanted and needed to.

You drew it, painted pictures of it, and wrote it down on scraps of paper. You made rhymes with it and somebody had a guitar that they played until their fingers bled.


In this place, with these people, you could experiment with who you were. You were free to experiment with becoming. Somehow, you knew God liked you, or at least that the gods accepted you. And you moved toward them when they showed themselves.

It was a cloudless night the first time I saw the ocean. I mean really saw it. We were on our way to Tofino. Stopping the Plymouth by an unmarked trail, we got out and without talking headed for the sound of surf. The stars were big and the moon brilliant. On the trail our legs sped up on their own. At the end of the path we came to a mountain of driftwood and scrambled over it like rock crabs. The surf was a mile out. A dozen white lines spread out across the horizon separating swells of black. Six of us broke out in a run. Running to what? Something primordial was crashing and giving up its secret. And we raced to catch it.

That was the first time I saw the ocean. And the first time I felt free enough to let myself feel absolutely alone.

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  1. You just made me hungry for youth again. And though you’re no longer as young as you were then (though still clearly young!) you still seem to experience that freedom, that eagerness for thin places, for the secrets of the universe, that freedom to be alone….but is it like it was then, is it as eager and unencumbered? Because I find it’s not. I experience that eagerness only rarely, find that the oceans have yielded little truth, and that most experience now, even that desire to find those thin places, is tarnished with fatigue or grief or so many unanswered questions, often so much so that it overshadows and chokes my spirit…though I find that the one place I’m now most likely to experience both eagerness and that thin place is in the company of my husband, my children, and a small handful of other best friends. That’s why I believe God lives in the spaces between us— that’s the thinnest place for me, the place where I’m most likely to sense her presence, to feel the universe has yielded a secret or two.

  2. Thanks for your beautiful comment Connie,
    I was reminded of all those dizzy thoughts and experiences a few days ago and for a moment found myself in that place. Not a return, which is impossible, it was its own moment. I wish I would find myself here more often. Fatigue and sadness and other encumbrances move in too readily. But there are full times. And I refuse, while I have breath, to give up the hunt for thin places.

    And you’re right, in those places, God lives in the spaces.

    PS, Your Well, Well, Well, column (in Vue Weekly for those reading this and don’t know) continues to impress and inspire my own writing. I’ve found the “thin place” while writing. Not regularly, but enough to notice and wonder.

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