The Shadows of Past Springs

Those of you who are not lucky enough to live in Oregon may have a hard time appreciating the excitement I experience waking up to a sunny day in spring.  I woke up today to a cloudless day, full sunshine, clear crisp air, and my nine year old twin granddaughters climbing on our bed full of hugs and laughter.  When we got up I opened all the windows for the first time since late last fall.  We went to walk our dog Brandy, an eleven year old Golden Retriever who acts like a pup when the grandchildren visit.  She forgets her age.  Gone the slow and sometimes painful looking walk, the very frequent naps.  In their presence she appears to be fully awake, need little sleep, and prances around like in the old days.  It has been a day full of grace and light, made all the more special because somewhere in Florida my friend Rosita woke up to a day of freedom after having spent more than half a century of oppression in Cuba.  For the month of May, at least, she gets to visit her son and live in the presence of liberty.

Do you think about the gift of your freedom?

A couple of years ago I went to the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland.  I was there with members of my writing group.  We decided to go to dinner at a lovely restaurant next to a river.  We were all having a wonderful carefree time, for in addition to belonging to a group we enjoy each other’s company immensely.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw a boat approaching.  Among all the boats full of people enjoying a beautiful sunny day, this particular boat caught my attention.  There was a bearded man in the boat, alone, and he seemed to be looking our way.

I resumed talking to my friends, but my attention became divided and the carefree feeling of moments before was replaced with a feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach.  Every once in a while I looked at the bearded man now heading our direction with some degree of weariness.  All the while I kept on interacting with my friends who seemed  oblivious to the threat I was perceiving.

Then it happened: the bearded man bent over.  The world around me disappeared.  My friends’ voices faded and my attention was riveted on the bent over man.  I waited helplessly as he reached for his rifle and looked for a place to run to where I could lead my friends to safety before the madman began his violent rampage.  In the space of a breath or two I was transported to the world of terror that I had left a half a century before.  I started to get up and was going to yell “Run, follow me!”  just as the bearded man sat up again, without a rifle or grenade.  Instead, he held his fishing pole in one hand, and set his tackle box next to him with the other.  Slowly, I began to breathe, surprised that I had not noticed when I had stopped breathing.  I began to hear my friends voices again, began to leave the terror and come back to the present into a world of love and laughter.  No one around me seemed aware of the world of fear I had returned from.  They had grown up in freedom.  Things like that didn’t occur to them.  They didn’t know the kinship that was possible between a man on a boat and death.

I had a magical day today.  I had a magical day because there are no men in olive green watching my family,  wishing me ill, wanting to hurt me or my family.  I had a magical day because I walked with my grandchildren without having to wonder if bullets would start flying around us, or if a bomb would explode near us and hurt us. And I had a magical day because for the first time in decades, Piti, Olguita,  Rosita and I are all safe from experiencing the terror, in a land that with all its arguable faults and debates over a President’s birth certificate,  allows us to live in the absence of constant fear and out of the shadow of past springs.

Do you think about the gift of your freedom?

Are you grateful?

13 comments

  1. Like usual I really enjoyed your “Shadows of Past Springs”, and yes I am so grateful for our freedom, for the liberty to appreciate life as it is in this country.
    Thank you for your Shadows. My best regards,

    Carmen Guerra

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  2. Thank you for your comment, Carmen. I really appreciate you reading my posts. I send you my gratitude along with the wish that we may live the rest of our lives in the light of freedom.
    Blessings, my friend.
    Adrianne

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  3. In my busyness it’s easy to take freedom for granted. When I walk in the evenings in my South Florida neighborhood the strong breeze that caresses my whole body, specially at this time of the year, reminds me in a special way of the freedom that I enjoy. And I feel grateful for my parents who sent me 50 years ago out of Castrolandia and for this country that welcomed me.

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  4. Adrianne, what made you think of this bearded man today, of all days? Did you know, or could you have sensed, that Osama bin Laden is dead?

    Yes, I treasure my freedom…

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  5. Oh, Adrienne~ What a beautiful and haunting essay. Of course we take our freedom for granted if we were born here. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate it, but I believe most of us don’t think about it that much. I can’t imagine having the kinds of memories and fears that you do, and then having them pop up in the midst of a happy moment. You are very brave to face these fears and to be able to write about them. You are a huge benefit for those of us who don’t generally think about how fortunate we are. Thank you.

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    1. Tracy, part of what I want my blog to accomplish is that we all become aware and treasure the freedom that we enjoy and take so for granted. If we can be mindful of how much richer the poorest man in America is by the simple fact that he can speak his mind, perhaps we could unite around our blessings and not our differences. I think all of us could stand to think about our freedom much more than we do. Thank you for you comment and have a wonderful day, rainy and dreary as it is. Just as the sun bathed us in its light yesterday, the rain comes to bless us with its moisture today. And just that quick, freedom can become a thing of the past. Blessings.

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  6. You definitely had a “flashback”…it happens to us for sure. It occurred to me as well, when I lived in Spain, and while enjoying an exquisite New Year’s eve at a fancy restaurant with a band, shots were fired…I “panicked”, knowing that I was in Europe, and although the firing of bullets could also happen in the USA, on a New Year’s Eve, it was certainly a lot more “frightening” living in a foreign country…where a “revolution of sorts” could take place….or a civil war. Right then and there, on that New Year’s eve, I decided the only place I could feel “safe” was in the United States of America the Land of the Free.

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  7. Emy, many Pedro Pans, and Cuban exiles in general have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have tried to raise awareness on my EMDR listserve, because we normally present for counseling with issues of anxiety and depression and many therapists are unaware of our issues and treat us for our “presenting problems” without a proper history.
    Glad we’re here. Grateful. And very grateful for your friendship.
    Adrianne

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    1. Great observation for everyone’s mental health’s benefits.

      I am very grateful for your friendship too!

      Emy

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  8. Going back to the bearded man on the boat. Since it turned out he was harmless, and had bent over to look for his fishing pole, he could be a Jesus image. In a way this is what happened to many of us 52 years ago – but in reverse. We saw the bearded leader of many bearded men wearing rosaries around their necks, and we believed that they were, like Jesus, men of God.

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    1. Absolutely! I have a passage in my memoir about that very thing, marching with their rosaries around their necks and their rifles on their shoulders. As a pre adolescent Catholic girl I fell into it hook line and sinker! What better disguise to wear in a country that was 98 percent Catholic? We should have questioned the glinting rifles instead of focusing on the crucifixes…. Thanks for your insight, dear Elena.

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