how to find freedom

A long time ago, we were not such great adventurers. We had our dragons, and our rebellions, but mostly we stayed near home. After all, there wasn't so much of a faraway to go to. We honoured our land and treasured our bonds of family and marriage. We learned the songlines. A man's heritage was a great deal of who he was.

Mostly now this is gone. We drowned it in the wild southern seas, we threw it to the prairie winds, as we moved away from all we'd ever known. My own great great grandfather changed his name, somewhere between the British Isles and New Zealand, liberating himself but depriving his descendants of their history. These days, personal freedom is the ideal. Families are for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

The world has become small again, every place mapped, most of them connected by phone, but still we have the grand adventuring spirit. And even if we don't travel far, we leave home. We make a name for ourselves. We seek whatever it is we want for our own happiness. We strive always for freedom.

Freedom in life, in thought, in spirit.

But there's something you learn when you become a parent - well, hopefully you learn it then, and not through crippled days of loneliness in some cold wild land where you have found yourself trapped by your own emancipation - there's only one true way to freedom. And that's in love.

If you've ever been alone for longer than enough time, you'll know how it traps you. You may smile and laugh - you don't care, you're a strong and independent woman - but secretly you strive to get other people to like you, be with you, hear you, understand you, love you. There's no real freedom in aloneness. There's just aloneness, silence, in the wide spaces of the world.

Only a truly empathic relationship allows you breathe with a kind of freedom that opens the heart and eases the body, even if it does close down roads and keep you at home. Only in a space of trust and comfort can you ever feel safe enough, certain enough, to free your soul. To really be your soul.

Of course, love doesn't always come from family. Sometimes it's safer to run and run, and shape yourself from the clay and winds of a new home. But what I'm thinking is, in general, we've come to believe that leaving - seeking, exploring, escaping - is the only right way to become ourselves. Add to that a contempt for anything less than perfection in other people and we reach the idea that it's fine to break bonds, disregard other people's love, refuse all obligations, and leave ancestry behind, for the sake of our own happiness. And then we wonder why our marriages fail, our friendships dissolve, our planet becomes polluted. Personal profit is such a measly benefit of self-centredness.

Religion and science tell us a hundred different ways that we are all connected as one. I don't understand why we've come to believe that we'll ever find true fulfillment by detaching ourselves from bonds and going it alone.

Written in response to the movie, Into the Wild, which was beautifully filmed but broke my mothering heart. The photos were taken on the oldest ground I've ever stood upon.


  1. Your photos are amazing. Interesting and thoughtful piece. I have not seen the movie, and I doubt I will. I'm not much of a movie goer. xoxo Su

  2. imagine if we all fell in love with our beautiful Earth over and over every day for the rest of our lives

  3. this is something i've been pondering for some time. there's so much emphasis on personal freedom to the exclusion of all other considerations, so much rhetoric about "leaving what doesn't feed you" and "getting toxic people out of your life" that sometimes i wonder what the cost of that might be, how it looks to the people left (justly or not), and most of all, how do you know when to do that? because, while i'd be the last person to suggest anyone stay in a truly bad place, all relationships--married, partnered, parent-child, friendships, co-workers---have their difficult times. all come at some cost to personal freedom. i've been divorced, and that was hard. i've been married (twice now), and that is hard. i am a parent---again, hard. i'm friends with people who are, maybe through no fault of their own, hard to love. i have no easy answer to how these things should be decided! it's an ongoing question for me; how to balance freedom and soul needs with love, with parenting, with compassion. only in parenting do i feel i have found any answers...

  4. Dear, precious friend, I always enjoy visiting your beautiful blog as I find your writing to be lyrical and meaningful. This post touched my heart and caused me to think, dear one.

    Also, thank you for the lovely visit to my blog the other day - your words were such a joy to read! Have a beautiful week! Love and hugs!

  5. While there are plenty of (political, economic, cultural) reasons why we seem to drift apart, every one of us on it's own self-centered orbit I agree with you. Love is the (or at least an) answer.

    It's a funny thing... When my older kid was born I read a lot with the little one crawling all over me, trying to understand where we are historically and how we managed to get ourselves in this mess. One would expect to end up as a cynic, but reading all those rather boring books full of numbers brought back an unlikely hope. Maybe I am naive to expect that people could learn to love their place, each other and themselves in a way that we can try to mend some of the damage we inflicted upon this world. I'd rather be that, live a simple life and try to raise my children that way, than follow this poisonous ideology of self-fulfillment, performance enhancing and exploitation of everything.

  6. can you tell me what the center design in the first photo is? Is it wild, natural? Or metal? Or?

    so enjoyed all your photos and considering standing on the oldest ground....

  7. That's the natural interior of a punga fern tree. Amazing, isn't it?

  8. I love these photos--I keep coming back to them and studying them. So much beauty.

    I really enjoyed reading this post and the comments, especially the one by No Fixed Stars.

    I think you are right: love is the the essence of what it means to be human, and freedom is being what you were meant to be (I'm speaking in an ontological sense, not occupational). For example, a train is free only so long as it stays on its tracks. A train that jumps the tracks is "free" of the rails, but no longer truly free, since it is a wreck and can no longer go anywhere. It may look like a train, but in essence, it has ceased to be a train because it has lost its natural function. Being human is like that, too. So many people have lost their humanness which is found in connection to Spirit, the Earth, and others. They are off the rails, wrecked. Only love can put them on the path to being truly human.