My Kind of Freedom

I remember sprawling in a canoe, while August sunshine washes over my bare, reddening body. my dangling feet are splashing the cold, blue lake. The canoe swings slackly around the makeshift anchor. A gusty breeze ripples the lake, It plays with me, too; tickling my wet shins and ruffling my unruly hair. far away on the other side of the lake, helicopter blades chop the heavy air. Somebody must be working. The crazy loons splash the water wildly and practice their clumsy take-offs. A squealing osprey hovers above me. Perhaps it thinks I am a fish. Lazily I flick the pages of the book I am trying to read, and take a sip from a lake-cooled can of pop. The occasional mosquito lands on my chest, and I drowsily brush it away.

This is my kind of freedom.

I remember leaning over the deck rail of a Norwegian freighter. A clammy winter fog blankets the ship and wharf. I look down and see the moist hair and pale, dripping faces of a couple of London dockers. They chatter as they take the heavy hawsers off the bollards. But their talk, and the squeals of the cables, reach me muffled and dampened by the fog. Around me, the deck is untidy and cluttered. Patches of rust gleam wetly, adding dull colour to the dreary sogginess of mid-ships. A drunken sailor lurches to the rail with a bottle of slopping beer in his unsteady hand. He mumbles a curse, shakes his head and pukes over the side. I look away. Blearily he glares at me and slurs a greeting. He asks me how I feel. The siren booms and the hull clangs against the dock. The screws churn the murky Thames. Good-bye England.

This is my kind of freedom.

I remember traveling: hitching, driving, flying, sailing, walking. I remember people: faces, clothes, homes, bodies, love. I remember countries: mountains, bush, desert, lakes, ice. I remember cities, grime, bustle, cars, crowds, life. I remember all this. I remember exploring new experiences. I remember searching for new ways to express myself. I am still adding to my memories.

This is my kind of freedom.

I look around me, and see others who think they are free.

A woman is wearily shopping in a crowded store with a baby stumbling behind her. His nose is running ans he is bawling loudly. Mother sighs and slaps his thigh listlessly, but doesn’t wipe his running nose. The baby screams angrily and clutches his mother’s skirt. She shrugs her shoulder and continues to search the shelves for food bargains.

She isn’t any older than me.

A pimple-faced college student and plump blonde girl gaze into a Yonge Street jewelers window. They are holding hands. She excitedly points out a pretty engagement ring to him. He gazes lovingly at her, smiles and pecks her flushed cheek.

He isn’t any older than me.

A friend tells me of his problems. His parents are threatening to throw him out of home unless he has his hair cut. Another friend is pregnant, She is sick with worry and tried to take her life last week. Her boyfriend is in debt; owing money on his car and stereo hi-fi set. My friends look weary and used.

They aren’t any older than me.

i look around and see still more who tell me they are free.

Theirs in not my kind of freedom.

Toronto, Ontario; Winter 1969

I wrote the essay here, a memoir, in the winter of 1969 for an assignment in Technical Writing as a beginning student in Public Relations at Humber College, near Toronto. The teacher, Sandy J~, was in her late 20’s; nearly 10 years older than me. She was pretty. I was besotted with her. My crush on her inspired me to write the best I could, to impress her and to win her heart. I got 4/4 for almost every assignment. But I never got a kiss, let alone her heart. I think she was married to a dentist. In re-reading this essay almost 40 years later, I am struck at how much my naive memoir anticipated my later life of travel, adventure and my pursuit of Freedom, if not Happiness… But during the process of typing this piece up, I became ashamed at the smug, and arrogant perspective I had of life, as I then thought it should be lived, when I was only 21…

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 50 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his decades of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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