Perhaps freedom is a phantom, a ghost to be believed in, chased but never caught. Maybe its captured only in our dreams and in the television screens that tell you where its been and sell you where to look for it next. I remember seeing freedom a long time ago. It was in the grainy movies with golden light and palm trees; I saw it in an old mustang with the top down on a burning black road, it was blowing in the summer breeze and doing backflips into shaded lakes. Maybe it was these staticky visions of freedom playing in front of my wide eager eyes that led me to up and leave New York City to chase this illusion of an idea across the entire country. I didn't understand it at the time, why it was that I wanted to go, and I'm not sure I even understand it now, all that it was was an adventure with no plan or purpose, just a feeling I was after. I guess its safe to say that it was freedom that I was ultimately searching for, and looking back I admit that I have to laugh at all the places I tried to find it.
I swear that I could feel it hanging in the air around me that very first morning, a few minutes before four, as I packed the trunk of my two-seater car with an old tent, a torn suitcase of dirty clothes, and enough non-perishable groceries to survive the trip. I thought I saw it waiting at the local bus station, sharing a bench with one of my most adventurous friends, and I rubbed my eyes twice when it climbed in the car with us and put its feet up on the dashboard as we headed west. I heard it creeping into our voices as we shared stories of emotional emancipation over the low hum of the radio, half-asleep, hoping to speak our dreams into existence with the windows rolled down, bouncing our desires off of the face of the first quarter moon.
Days and nights, just us and our veiled freedom, passing through the lives of others while chasing the meaning of our own. We would rise with the sun and scan the horizon as it set each night, squinted eyes expecting to see it within the melting colors of the dusk sky. We stood in open grass fields with craned necks, watching cotton clouds shape-shift, trying to find the hidden messages, and we would lay on our backs on the hood of the car to see if the stars held any secrets.
We knew it was all around us, and we searched everywhere for that feeling.
We scavenged broken down barns for it, we weaved through cornfields, we climbed over waterfalls, we ducked through wet caves and traversed vast red rock canyons, constantly seeking, constantly in pursuit. We thought we could find it in the rocky mountain hikes, dodging hail and rain while ascending through the thinnest of air, views that took our breath away you could say. We tried to taste it in the strange canned meat and pickle sandwiches we ate for every dinner, we slept near it in the empty Walmart parking lots, we danced with it in front of national monuments, we swam with it in hidden reservoirs, we wandered lonely dirt roads hoping to bump into it, it tried to guard us when we played basketball with the locals, we sped on interstates trying to catch it in the blur and we came to a complete stop to search for it within ourselves.
All in all we spent 14 days finding our freedom, and I can't tell you for sure that we found it. But, we felt it, these shoebox pictures are the proof of that, and maybe, in the end, that's all you can do.
- Ryan Anthony Dube
(All Photos by Kevin Czopek + Ryan Dube)