I worry for my kids that they will not grow up with the freedom I had. Ethan chose that word himself from an advertisement that came in the junkmail: F - R - E - E, Free. It's one of the few words he can spell.
When I was in kindergarten I lived in Palo Alto, CA; a gated community with a large playground in the center. It was alright. In Colorado Springs I ran wild in the busy streets. Everyone had their own agenda, young and old. It was a rocky, dangerous time. When we moved back to California to the mountain home where my mother was raised, it was an extreme disconnection but it was also my first taste of freedom and space. Being poor wasn't nearly so painful because all sorts of fruit grew for most of the year. My cousins and I took a machete and long pruning clippers and cut trails through endless blackberry brambles. We were so proud at the time, oblivious that the trails would be swallowed by vegetation again in a matter of weeks. We could follow streams deep beneath a canopy of trees into a crowd of ferns or head up into pines, oak, madrone, manzanita and who knows what else.
We could walk, hitch hike or beg relatives for a ride up to the Low-Water Bridge. We would float down the river rapids, rest in warmer pools created by the weakening flow of water between spring and fall. It took me years to get the nerve to jump from the bridge. Now I jump from cliffs ten times that height. I was coming into my teenage years and the extreme disconnection could not continue.
We moved to Utah. Nobody lives in Utah by chance. You have to want to live here and work for it as well. Utah has a harsh environment; an unpredictable cross between desert and mountain conditions. I lived three miles from the Flaming Gorge Dam. I had space and made friends. We slept in juniper forests for days at a time. We rowed to islands in the dark and ate around a fire. In the morning we would fish and jump off cliffs. An osprey chased us out of his yard. I rode my bike hundreds of miles without seeing anyone. I could snowboard on a steep trail at the end of the street. We picked wild flowers and gave them to maidens. We walked up and down mountains, through blizzard snows, along the river, on the frozen lake. It sounds romanticized but it's not. That is what it was.
My kids are boxed in now. Adventure is limited to getting to know your neighbors. We can pack in the canyons with everyone else who is trying to "get away." Good space is hard to find but I will take them there, one way or another, as soon as I can so they can be free.