Freedom must be found

A lot of my friends recently asked me what it’s like to be free.

Freedom is sprinting down California Highway 1: you’ve been winding the redwoods for miles now and you finally spot a break in the trees. You park in a pine-needle-padded alcove between two thick trunks and take off toward the vista. Nobody’s around but millions of silent soldiers, standing rank in the late autumn air. Heart in your ears, you skid to a stop on the lip of a tree-laden canyon. The forest opens just enough to reveal a sea of frothy ridges out on the horizon. Birds swoop from cloud-soaked branches. The sun maneuvers its way to the top of your head. And you’re smiling.

Freedom is sitting outside your shanti in a 400-person coastal California town, head tilted 90 degrees backward. The trees are deep navy arrowhead silhouettes pointing toward a gray blanket of night. The stars shine like diamonds littered on asphalt, and they take you away. Thought evolves too quickly for you to catch up with it, and you succumb to the meditative state the night demands. And for just a moment it’s only you and those stars, gleaming emblems in the sky.

Freedom is fleeing from the Pacific as its waves bite at your ankles. Sand between your toes, sea salt in your pores. You’re scrambling to escape the icy ocean foam, fists tight around the stones you just gathered. Never will you feel more exhilarated than when the ocean chases you.

Freedom is cracking your windows on Redwood Highway 101 to smell the fresh pine.

Freedom is parking next to a herd of elk grazing in a meadow of tall grass.

Freedom is bowing to the mammoth trees and maybe hugging one that speaks to you.

Freedom does not just come to you. It must be found. Luckily you can find it pretty much anywhere along the 650 miles of redwood coast from Berkeley to Brookings. And once it’s found, the rest is magic.

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