I grew up in New Jersey in a development of homes that varied only by color- yellow, blue, and pink. There were no fences in my neighborhood. My yard was as long as I could throw a ball and as wide as my mother’s voice carried on a dinnertime breeze. In those days, I would follow bees where they led me. The lawns were all my lawns, provided I didn’t wreck them. The bees were anybody’s bees, provided you could catch them. In this small huge place, I began to believe in a kind of freedom that would always be there for me, whenever I took the time to see it, touch it, and smell it.
Our street was patched with tar, and on blazing hot days the tar would bubble and snap beneath my Ked’s when I ran, and I did a lot of running. Running through rainbows that sprang out of sprinklers. Running to escape the Lost in Space creature who resided behind Mrs. Cat’s shed. Running behind the mosquito sprayer that came twice a summer down our street and left a heavy fog in its wake. A fog you could swim in, appear and disappear in. Once, I even ran to catch the rain. I caught it too, and I stood wet looking back at the dry road where I had just been.
When I wasn’t running, I was laying in the grass. I liked the smell of the seasons, and I found I smelled them best when I was on my back. I would lie there and listen for sounds that happen only close to the dirt and only when you are very still. I remember wondering if the tickle from a blade of grass was a bug from a world too small to see. I would watch the sky for hours. I’d pick a cloud because I liked its wisp of a tail or the colors of gray in its hair, and I’d follow its slow glide across the sky. I’d follow it until it was a speck and then gone. I remember feeling like a cloud, like a part of the sky.
When I’m not sure of what I believe, I remember the concrete porch of a nine hundred square foot track house in New Jersey. I return to the primordial soup of my conscious thought when I lived in a boundless space and life was a series of sensations. When I was unencumbered by property lines, schedules, and hygiene. When I was unadulterated by thoughts of nation, religion, and power. When I breathed freedom like air, a freedom so ubiquitous I didn’t have a name for it. Nothing can touch this kind of freedom. Not a thought or a threat. Not age or disease. It was with me when idealism gave way to human frailty, and it will be with me when I am old and my thoughts skip like a broken record. This, I believe.
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