Freedom is a State of Mind
June 24, 2019 – Joemma State Park – Gig Harbor, WA
Yesterday morning, I savored my morning coffee, thinking to myself, you know, this is total freedom—no walls, no deadlines. It wasn’t the first time I’ve felt that way since we started our camping adventure five months earlier, but it was the first time I’ve said it and meant it so sincerely. We have a tent, but we no longer use it—except for sleeping in the truck, we spend all our time outside—no doors, no windows to lock. It helps that the weather has been atypically rain-free.
My musings were interrupted by noise coming from the outhouse just a short distance down the road. I heard fragments of conversation, “Holy shit” was the first one and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. Two young girls stood by the open door and the smell of raw sewage drifted down to our campsite. “I dropped my phone in the toilet,” she lamented. “I can see it. It’s sitting on a pile of poop.” “Are you sure?”, her girlfriend replied, reaching for her phone. “No, don’t call it, it might vibrate its way down.” I looked at Brent, trying to stifle my laughter, imagining her phone vibrating itself down to the bottom of a cesspool. Meanwhile, two guys had joined the group, while the girl discussed different options for getting the phone out, one of which included holding her boyfriend upside-down by his legs while he fished it out (no surprise that he nixed that one). They settled on calling the ranger, who sent out the poor maintenance man to do his dirty deed. A few minutes later, the cleanup guy emerged from the outhouse with the cell phone dangling on a stick. It was enclosed in a big plastic bag, as though it were a priceless specimen.
Little by little, we’re putting things in order. More than seven months after charges were filed against Brent for his involvement in a flight while camped out near the Green River, he was finally offered a plea bargain. In exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, he would be a free man. No more calling in every morning before 10:00 to report his whereabouts. There’s only one stipulation—he has to pay the other guy $500 for 5 days of lost wages. If it weren’t for the fact that the other guy was homeless like Brent, I’d say he deserved it, but hell—he wasn’t working at all at the time, so what wages did he lose? Brent doesn’t have the money, so he’ll have to schedule five days of work to earn it. I was thrilled at the outcome, but also perplexed. Why couldn’t they have offered the plea deal at one of the earlier hearings? Why did they waste taxpayers’ money to fly the other guy to Washington (he’d moved to another state) just to question him, when they could have done it over the phone? Why did the case have to drag on for so many months?
Initially I was thrilled that everything was over and a future in Arizona loomed closer than ever. Then I suffered a major meltdown. Things had been going smoothly until I rocked the boat and started a fight over next to nothing. For a couple of days, I lashed out at Brent and he was ready to call it quits. “I give up,” he exclaimed as he stomped off to take a walk. “There’s no pleasing you,” and he was right. There was no pleasing me, not then. I couldn’t understand why I was lashing out, but later I realized—it was the uncertainty of it all, the prospect of change. We’d been living this nomadic existence for over five months, just Brent and I, in a tent. Now we’d have to go back to living a normal life and, most of all, if we decided to stay together, I’d have to figure out how to integrate Brent into my life, and the prospect terrified me. Now I’ve settled down and feel ready to face whatever comes next.
The other day, we wandered down Joemma Beach looking for the “hippie shack.” A guy named Brad had told Brent there was a “hippie shack” not far down the beach, a place that was open to those who wanted to spend the night. “Just bring a couple of cans of food,” he said, “to replace the ones you use. It’s just past the dragon on the point.” We set off down the beach, past a sign that read “No Trespassing”, and ran into a group of guys harvesting for Taylor Shellfish, who apparently owned that part of the beach. The whole concept of “owning” part of the beach was ridiculous in my eyes. In Hawaii, all beaches belong to the State and anyone can walk on them. How can you “own” the beach and where does the ownership end? Where the ocean starts? At high tide or low tide?
The head of the crew approached us with a scowl, and I knew what was coming. “This is private property—no trespassing. Didn’t you see the sign?” Brent, being a good salesman, managed to talk the guy into letting us look for the cabin. In fact, by the end of the conversation, he was giving us a guided tour of the geoduck farm, on land rented by Taylor Shellfish. Geoducks (pronounced “gooey-ducks”” are large, phallic-looking shellfish that are prized as a delicacy in parts of Asia, and can be sold for $50 apiece when mature, but they take at least 10 years to reach that stage. They can grow up to three feet in length and live up to 150 years.
As we left the geoduck farm in search of the “hippie cabin”, I was hopeful, but confused. It seemed strange to me that it would be located on private land. We rounded the corner, and the cabin came into view. It did have a distinctly hippie aura—wind chimes made from driftwood, bright red door, but another “No Trespassing” sign hung over the entrance. I peered inside the glass. “This looks like someone’s house.” I turned to Brent and saw that he was as confused as I was. We left our two cans of food (just in case) and backtracked to the beach.
When we neared the campsite, I noticed a “Taylor Shellfish” truck parked on the boat ramp. An elderly man stood on the beach, hand on hips, but it took me a while to make the connection. Brent had been walking ahead of me and I wondered why he’d suddenly stopped. Then I realized—we were in trouble again. “I understand you were walking on our property. That’s private land, no trespassing.” We’d made friends with the Taylor guy earlier, and he’d ratted on us to his boss, but I guess that was his job—he’d be in trouble if he didn’t.
We managed to talk our way out of it once more. “Sorry, we didn’t know. This guy named Brad told us about a hippie cabin down the beach, a place people could spend the night, and we were just looking for it—we even brought a food offering and left it.” The boss looked at us like we were crazy, “Well, Brad doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. There haven’t been hippies on this beach for 30 years or more.” Wishful thinking, I guess, on our part. Maybe Brad was just pulling our leg, or maybe we had the wrong place. Who knows?
The hippie shack incident got me thinking once more about freedom, or rather the lack of it. Rules and regulations abound, and with the new REAL ID policy, our every move can be tracked. But, when you come down to it, freedom is nothing more than a state of mind. We can choose to worry or not to worry about something that could or couldn’t happen. When we live in fear—fear of being robbed, fear of traveling abroad—we limit our options. For me, it’s the fear of what others may think that hems me in, but I’m working on it. No, I won’t take off my clothes and jump into the Trevi Fountain anytime in the near future, but I’ll try my hardest not to please everyone because I know it’s futile—and I’ll try not to be so hard on myself, cause that’s another trap as well.
I often wonder, when I’m dead and gone, what my grandkids will say about me. “Oh yeah, that was my crazy grandma. She ran off to Italy to live with an Italian, then she ran off to live in a tent with a homeless guy.” Yeah, that about sums it up. Impetuous, adventurous. I may not always make the best decisions, but I live life to the fullest and try not to hurt anyone along the way.