The Freedom Crow (FC) Trail Reflection
"Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
There was a redwood man whose wisdom rested in the strength of his trunk and extended the length of his limbs. On a far reach of one limb perched a hummingbird, her delicate talons barely gripping the smallest width of redwood branch.
From her hummingheart, she desperately chirped out a plea to the redwood, “Please, let me stay and let me come back.”
Yet as her song escaped her beak, she caught the hardness of the redwood turning colder with each chirp. Colder and ghastlier than he could bear himself, for his limbs and his trunk hid a secret. Beneath his tough exterior was a molding infestation, a fungal death that could no longer hold even the most delicate hummingfeet.
In a deep, faltering tone, he asked, “Why?”
The pace of her hummingheart matching the pace of her hummingmind, at 600 beats and 600 brainwaves per second, she chirped a confounding answer that seemingly had no place in this imaginary forest, whose backdoor opened into a yard with a chicken coup and a rooster that was not allowed to crow.
“Let me come back, so I can write.”
600 hours later, the redwood fully shed his façade. After all, redwoods are native to California, and he had chosen to forego the wisdom of his trunk and his limbs for a different landscape, somewhere he can return to being, simply, a man.
By then, our hummingfriend fluttered 600 miles north, and twice 600 miles west where she began to understand what inspired her instinctive request.
When my last partner ended our relationship, a novel and indescribable feeling permeated my chest. It was a lot like heartbreak, but also a lot like excitement.
I imagined returning to his house over time, returning to a different life that we would have created together, sitting in the mint-hued back office with my pen and paper, and musing out the window of my mind. When the break-up happened, that particular window shut with a clamor, an act that felt surprisingly cruel because, in that brief duration, I had nurtured a strong relationship with the rooster in the yard.
I miss Spark, the rooster. Unfortunately situated within city limits, Spark faced the choice of either becoming soup or wearing a barbaric collar to prevent his crowing, a situation that became more irksome the greater my physical distance from him. What is a rooster without his crow?
This romantic, existentialist question stirred my dreams with decomposing trees and falling feathers. I scribbled on scrap paper, document margins, and inner book covers in a summer frenzy, every spare moment pulled my hand and attention to create new windows for my musing pleasure.
It was three years since I created a poem or a short story, and more years since I shared them aloud. The feeling in my chest was indeed heartbreak and excitement, for a dying passion was taking this opportunity to crow me its call. It called me to write again.
In the ensuing four-month journey through various US sites, I couchsurfed with friends, allowed each day to determine my next move, and committed to writing everyday.
I challenged my belief in the power and responsibility of word-usage, since they determined which paths I followed. “Yes” and “no” acted as definitive guides and responses of consent to these paths. Did I want to sneak up to hot springs in the evening drizzle and sleep in the woods? Yes. Live in a treehouse and hike a lush island? Yes! Run away with the dirty, but peculiarly attractive mountain man? Ye—mm, no..
I found myself in Canada the day our country elected the first orange man to be our next president. Should I keep going north and never come back? Definitely, no. More than ever, this country needed people like me, New Americans who advocate for cultural progress because we remember the reason why our families chose to either arrive or stay here. We’d live or die for the freedom we were seemingly promised.
Words hold power. If they did not, a faction of the country would not take offense over what they deem “political correctness,” using their own set of words to pin their offense on an imagined in-group. Conservatives coined and continue to use the term in reference to part of the populace that recognizes and respects the diverse histories of our nation’s people by electing to add or subtract vocabulary from their casual lexicon.
Comprised of a percentage of “intellectuals,” the group’s acceptance of what can be viewed as a pejorative term arguably reflects a type of self-entitlement. In their system of value, they prioritize the encouragement of critical thinking as a fundamental basis for problem-solving and societal advancement. To cope with the assault of conservative worldviews they find humor in parody. And when they form communities that thrive under these exact values, they revel in the thought that it pisses the hell out of conservatives.
Dear intellectuals, like attracts like, and this trip united me with many of you, providing a panoramic view of how well we maintain our notorious reputation as structuralists and pacifists. We want to avoid fighting so much that one unstructured argument, an unintelligible statement, can throw off the beat of our week. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were rational, so policies can be neatly carried through and we can lay out the foundation of our futuristic, progressive utopia? If it’s any consolation, we may not have high standards in education or a straightforward means to dismantle the corporate patriarchy, but we most definitely will have driverless cars. Thank you, innovators of Pittsburgh.
Words wield power, which is why the rise of a new regime usually entails the intimidation, if not termination, of teachers, writers, and artists – keepers and creators of our traditions, languages, and mythologies. We can judge the strength of a regime based on the complexity of the stories it circulates, whether it incites deeper thought or emotion beyond paranoia and fear.
Fear is useful for survival, for the fight or flight response. However, when you’re not busy looking over your shoulder at the enemy that doesn’t exist, you can look ahead at the gorgeous glow of the horizon. Vibrant possibilities are derived from the appreciation of natural beauty, what is embedded in the people who are an extension of nature, and from whose faces we create the image of “God.”
For one to be opposed or unable to conceive of evolution through diversity, there must exist a feeling of imminent threat, that acceptance of shifting demographics and changes to American culture inherently entails a dying off of what one holds to be tradition, a way of life. It appears then, our differences lie in whether we are backward-facing or forward-facing in our imaginings of community and comfort, whether security rests in maintaining what possibly was or what possibly could be.
The strategy for survival rests not on the brute force of one against another, but in the gradual co-habitation and co-evolution of creatures leading to unfathomable diversity. For humans against humans within our larger environment, only time will reveal which traits are most fit.
My heart was tired of how we foil and allow ourselves to be foiled in our effort to create a world we deserve, the world we desire for our loved ones. And by “we,” I mean “I.”
The redwood that spurred my hummingwings to carry me through the trail was the first in a series recall of rotting relationships uncovered during the migration. More deeply rooted members required strength and ingenuity to unearth, and the discovery of each triggered a sharp intensity of pain. Disappointments and betrayals that hurt most come from those once trusted.
City after city, face after face, the more stories exchanged, the more enmeshed I became in the identical struggle we experience, grappling with the contradiction of heartbreak and excitement that breeds growth.
Within those stories lay the path of less suffering, opportunity after opportunity, to consent to the call for freedom, which crows louder and penetrates more pervasively than any surge of pain. Say yes. Accept this promise of change.