Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In the Open Fields, I Sang a Song of Freedom

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In the Open Fields, I Sang a Song of Freedom

Article excerpt

It was the summer before first grade, and my parents decided it was time for a family road trip across what felt like the entire country. We drove for two full days from Arlington, Va., to Garretson, S.D. I saw things I had never seen - the blue ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, cornfields that stretched on for miles, tiny towns with old white steeples at their centers.

I had my nose pressed to the window during most of that ride.

But it wasn't until we arrived at my father's childhood farm, where he'd been raised by his mother, his uncles, and his deaf grandparents - all farmers - that the world around my young suburban self began to feel almost magical in its simplicity. I can remember skipping through the fields of corn and grain, gaining momentum with every step, opening my arms wide and twirling beneath the open blue sky.

I made up my own song, a tune I've never forgotten: "I am free," I called out, over and over and over again. "Oh, what a joy, I am free." The words just rushed out.

When I came in from that first adventure outdoors my father was sitting by the window. I was filled with joy and scrambled over to his lap. I remember being surprised to find tears in his eyes.

He looked at me gently, and after a moment's silence, said something to the effect of, "That is the greatest thing to be."

Looking back I can see that there were political overtones to his emotions. His grandfather had fought in the Great War, his uncles in the second, and he had served as an Air Force technician in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. Our lineage was colored with the realities of sacrifice.

But his response was also fueled by a very real appreciation for the quiet of nature, one that, five years later, would drive our family to buy an old farmhouse in central Minnesota so that we kids could spend our middle and high school years on the outskirts of a working-class town of 2,000.

I am reminded of my simple song of freedom from time to time as I witness my generation's choices of interaction. It doesn't matter where I live - in the four years since my college graduation, I have been in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Boston, as well as Springfield, Mo. …

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