For me, the long weekend for Memorial Day will always symbolize the onset of summer. It is a time when everyone packs up their cars and heads to the cabin “up north” or visits one of Minnesota’s numerous state parks or lakes. It represents freedom in more ways than one. The freedom of summer and of course the freedom that we are so lucky to have living in this country. A freedom that so many brave souls have fought for and died for.
My grandfather, father and two uncles were both in the US Navy. For my dad, it was a life-changing experience. At the tender age of 19, he set sail and saw the world. He told me that he will never forget the time the ship pulled into a harbor in Italy. It was the early ’60s and his young eyes had never left the United States before. He noticed that there was a large mob of Italians waiting for the ship to pull into port. Was it a welcome? he thought surprised.
Slowly the ship moored and once it was fully secure, the desperately awaiting crowd did something that stunned my dad. They ate. What on earth are they doing? my father asked an older, more experienced shipmate. Eating dinner he replied with a deep, shameful look in his eyes. The locals were so hungry that they feasted off the ships garbage for their meal. It was that moment in which my dad realized how truly fortunate he was, and moment that would be passed on to his children over the years.
His three year service in the Navy began a life long passion of travel and seeing the world. A passion that passed on to me and has never left my soul.
A holiday weekend away from home, along the North Shore of Lake Superior got me thinking. What does Memorial Day truly mean? And what does it mean to me?
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America”.– William J. Clinton
I saw this quote and it resonated with me deeply. For all the bad that our nation faces – all the greed, materialism, hatred and fear – there is something stronger that can right things. Freedom. Freedom to be an individual and to choose the path of life you will take. Freedom to make mistakes yet reinvent yourself. Freedom of speech, of religion, of politics and of sexuality. While others may try to knock you down, I still believe strongly in our nation being founded on freedom and freedom is something worth fighting for.
Of course I don’t believe in many of the ruthless, unexplainable wars we have fought. Furthermore, there are many ills that have made me want to pack up and leave. Yet, despite it all I still perhaps naively believe in the American Dream. And I believe you can find happiness and be yourself.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves”. – Abraham Lincoln
We spent our Memorial Day weekend together as a family, surrounded by nature. Being outside is something I have loved all my life thanks to my parents. It is a love I want to instill in my children who will be the future caretakers of our planet.
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion”. – Albert Camus
I desperately hope that a little piece of me will be passed along to my children. That they will someday be able to open their eyes and see the world, not just this little state in the middle of the country, the bubble in which we live.
“What light is to the eyes – what air is to the lungs – what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man”. – Robert Green Ingersoll
As we hiked along the Superior Hiking Trail which goes for hundreds of miles into the pristine, untouched wilderness that remains in Northern Minnesota I kept thinking about one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. I smiled, realizing what a bright future remains and all I hope to accomplish and change. It was a powerful, intoxicating feeling. A feeling of freedom that we are so lucky to have.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.