Freedom to Breathe



Another framegrab from my next film: the clean sculptural beauty of a pandanus tree. These trees cling to our beloved points up north & I'm always appreciative of their angular form & ruggedness & endurance. They have a kind of grand symbolism in the small personal landscape of my soul; I associate them with clear warm water & perfectly stacked ribs of shining powdery sandbanks.

I had the lovely good opportunity this week to visit such a place to do some filming & to connect with friends old & new. In between, I managed to partake in riding some long waves at one of my favourite places. It was a good, simple journey & I was full of thankfulness. On the drive home today I was thinking about Alexander Solzhenitsyn's seminal poem Freedom to Breathe:

A shower fell in the night and now dark clouds drift across the sky, occasionally sprinkling a fine film of rain.

I stand under an apple tree in blossom and I breathe. Not only the apple tree but the grass round it glistens with moisture; words cannot describe the sweet fragrance that pervades the air. I inhale as deeply as I can, and the aroma invades my whole being; I breathe with my eyes open, I breathe with my eyes closed - I cannot say which gives me the greater pleasure.

This, I believe, is the single most precious freedom that prison takes away from us: the freedom to breathe freely, as I now can. No food on earth, no wine, not even a woman's kiss is sweeter to me than this air steeped in the fragrance of flowers, of moisture and freshness.

No matter that this is only a tiny garden, hemmed in by five-story houses like cages in a zoo. I cease to hear the motorcycles backfiring, radios whining, the burble of loudspeakers. As long as there is fresh air to breathe under an apple tree after a shower, we may survive a little longer.


Sure, I know Solzhenitsyn's circumstances were vastly removed from my own experience this week, but his intrinsic expression of gratitude resonated with me as I played upon that pandanus pointbreak, dodging the crowds & surf schools & rain squalls.

Humble thanks to you, Maker of trees, pointbreaks, poems & people; friendships, hopes & many other richly wonderful things. Always, Lord, deepest thankfulness for the gift of fresh air to breathe & the wide wild sea to adventure in.

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