Freedom is not just about the written word, saying and doing as you like in a free republic, being an American as you define it. That is part of it, an important part. But there is more, something beyond words, a kind of authenticity to life, a freedom of spirit.
Freedom, in a word, can be wordless, just a feeling, one that eludes easy expression. The feeling comes from taking risks, realizing you have that chance, opening the throttle on a country road, opening your mind without fear, jumping off a lake dock, or into personal creativity, music, art, reading, writing, chasing your goals, hand over hand up a tall tree, turning into the storm.
Freedom is being where you never imagined being and loving it – awash in wonder, seeing a lake bottom or distant mountains from a parasail, that spot in a sky you did not know you could occupy. It is watching a child grow, learn to walk, talk, play, giggle, laugh, tickle, and tumble, unencumbered by worries, filled with undefined optimism, possibilities, free of fear.
We do those things in America because we can, because our spirts are not tethered, broken by oppression, neither lost nor caught, not brought to a knee, but free. We do these things because we dare to think big and then bigger, to imagine, to test, and to see where testing leads.
We do that because we have faith in the possible, a word limited only by imagination. We have faith in ourselves, our neighbors, a confluence of ideals, knowledge of things seen, belief in things unseen, freedoms made possible by a constitution preserved with care and intent.
And sometimes, like a gust up a mountain pass, the feeling overtakes you, lifts you up unexpectedly. Clouds of doubt scatter, worries vanish, propelling you in ways only a free individual, in a free society can know. Such a day spurred this essay.
I was off for a simple afternoon run, unfamiliar place, meandering dirt road, undulating farm fences, mind wandering. Pace mattered little. Muscles, joints, and sinew objected slightly, function of age, but my spirit was willing and the expanse waiting.
Legs and arms dissociated from thinking, world became a place for play, oxygen-rich air, gentle roll of unlabeled roads. I misplaced time, temperature, and tempo. That is freedom. Crunch, spring, glide. Crunch, spring, glide. That was my whole world.
I passed a rope-wrapped farm gate, fencing along both sides, wide fields beyond. The fields were green, sprinkled with animals. I gave them no mind, dashed past, twig on a current. Somewhere beyond, I noticed an unfamiliar sound, slightly ominous.
Somewhere, large, powerful, fast animals – were running. My mind was slow, but somewhere in my untroubled soul, something said “pay attention.” Now the sound grew louder. What happened next was, for me, the embodiment of freedom, that hidden rollick in life, jump waiting to be taken, reward for living with whatever comes. It is the smiling, wonderful side of freedom.
From behind me, in numbers too big to count, filling the dirt fence to fence, poured a hoard of galloping horses, big and brawny, calico, brown, white spotted, speckled, and black, muscular, magnificent. Like me, they were free, no longer fenced. Like me, they ran as wild horses run, glad in the moment. And somewhere behind me, that gate must have swung wide.
The roar of their hooves, beat of breathes expelled by giant lungs, muscle-lashed legs came on. Thunder in my ears, they were like a locomotive at my elbow, manes flying, all about me.
For a moment, I wondered how this would end, me beneath their hooves or somehow avoided. The freedom-loving phalanx just powered on, galloped with me, then by me, consciously not over me. Somehow, they respected a two-legged horse, struggling for cadence on their road, as if we shared the feeling of being free. Unconstrained, they let me be, another freeform runner.
To run free with horses alive in the flow of their unsaddled freedom, along a narrow dirt track, wherever they were going, was like being carried over a waterfall tipped on its side. I was carried by them, their force, their love of freedom.
Those glorious, galloping animals seemed to embody freedom. They gave me their wings, lifted me into their world, before gradually letting me down, allowing me to settle in peace. For one indescribable moment, their freedom swept me. We shared the spirit.
To some, the experience will seem insignificant, and in some ways it is. It is not warfighting, speechmaking, a moment of victory. But in life, freedom – the simple feeling of life without constraint – does now and then sweep us. Stopping to absorb it is worthwhile. Unfenced horses, glad for the chance to run, reminded me how transcendent freedom can be. Like wild horses, we should love it, be glad for it, not forget what is occasionally beyond the power of words.
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