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This poem is inspired by a column in The Epoch Times written by John Falce, entitled “The Experience of Freedom”

The rugged beauty of our land’s terrain
Is varied, airy, beautiful, and wide,
Reflecting freedom. This, our fruited plain,
Is something in which we should all take pride.
Americans are fully justified

In praising the amazing, vast expanse
Of wonders, like the towering sequoias—
Cathedral-like—we can experience
With wide-eyed awe and gratitude. The joyous
Adventures waiting for us are a chance

To get outside ourselves. But this past year,
We’ve lost our liberty; the re-breathed air
Confined behind our masks is stale. In fear,
We’ve given up all joy in life, till we’re

So obsessed with “safety” that it’s not
Even life we’re living: plexiglass
Detaches us from others; every face
Is stuffed behind some stifling fabric, caught

Where breath is weak, and civil things like smiling
Cannot be seen. It seems all we can do
Is try to keep our memories from spoiling
And hope that some day we will have a view,

Once more, of open spaces, of creation,
And, once again, live free in this great nation.

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Cynthia Erlandson is a poet and fitness professional living in Michigan.  Her second collection of poems, Notes on Time, has recently been published by AuthorHouse, as was her first (2005) collection, These Holy Mysteries.  Her poems have also appeared in First Things, Modern Age, The North American Anglican, The Orchards Poetry Review, The Book of Common Praise hymnal, and elsewhere.


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17 Responses

  1. Anna J Arredondo

    I enjoyed this very much, Cynthia. I especially love your rhyming sequoias with joyous!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Anna! I admit, I smiled when I thought of that rhyme.

      Reply
  2. Paul A. Freeman

    Did you know, ‘sequoia’ is the shortest word in the English language that uses all the vowels?

    Thanks for the read, Cynthia. I especially enjoyed the first part since my take on masks is that they save lives – though some find this questionable.

    By the way, ‘questionable’ is the second shortest word in the English language that uses all the vowels.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thanks, Paul — that’s fascinating (un-trivial) trivia! You must have some interesting reference books.

      Reply
  3. BRIAN YAPKO

    Cynthia, I also enjoyed this poem. I appreciate very much the justified pride you express in our country at a time when so many would have us forget what an exceptional place this is. Your reference to the cathedral of towering sequoias made me recall the beauty of Muir Woods and the holiness of nature in general. I also like the end where you link our nation and creation.

    I’m hopeful that your description of our lives behind masks will someday be the recollection of an odd but brief time in our history. We’re pretty much fully open here in New Mexico so I don’t see people wearing masks much. But you vividly remind me of what most of 2020 was like as well as the beginning of this year. Your poem is a great wake-up call concerning what we lost during that time and what we risk losing again. At what point are the dehumanizing aspects of prevention worse than the disease itself?

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you very much, Brian! I am very grateful to John Falce, the young writer of the Epoch Times article, for the idea. And it comes with some wonderful photos, as well. I highly recommend it to everyone — it’s on page B-5 of the June 9-15 issue. Also, I totally agree with your point of view; the word “de-humanizing” came to mind almost immediately upon the advent of mask-wearing and isolation.

      Reply
  4. Margaret Coats

    Cynthia, you make a most important point by praising the freedom to get outside ourselves. An intangible loss during the past year has been altruism and civic virtue. We have feared to help one another. And you are quite right to focus on the two often counter-productive measures that we have been frightened into accepting. What if, instead of being forced to mask and distance, we had been urgently advised to take protective doses of cheap, immune building supplements (Vitamins D and C and zinc), and to get more sunshine and exercise? Many lives would have been saved, and anti-social fears would have been allayed. Thanks for this poem.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Margaret. Yes, what if, indeed…. If we had done the healthy things you mention — and had not done the very physically and socially unhealthy things we were told to do — then we would have avoided the terrible consequences of living in fear of something much less dangerous than tyranny.

      Reply
  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Cynthia, thank you very much for the inspirational article and the resulting poem, both of which touched my heart with their powerful message. I love the images you conjure to portray nature in all her grandeur and glory. I especially like the second stanza with its masterly internal rhyme – praising/ amazing and wonders/sequoias are aural delights.

    Brian asks a very important question; “At what point are the dehumanizing aspects of prevention worse than the disease itself?”. This morning, I read that only 25 under 18s died from COVID in England, yet 100s died from suicide and trauma. C.S Lewis said that “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive”. His timeless observation certainly applies to today’s situation. Nature is a great healer, and the sooner we are soaking up its restorative properties the better.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      I love the C. S. Lewis quote and it works perfectly with Cynthia’s wonderfully apt poem. I like the rest of the quote as well:
      C.S. Lewis
      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

      Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Susan! I’m grateful to you for your comments, and to Mr. Falce for the imagery. C.S. Lewis was very wise and quite prophetic. My guess is that, if he were writing the line you quote today, he might leave out the word “sincerely”. I can’t help strongly suspecting that most of the powers-that-be were aware that the tyrannies they imposed were not for our good, but for their own control over us.

      Reply
  6. Cheryl Corey

    Cynthia, so nice that you employed imagery of the sequoia. It epitomizes strength, majesty, something that has endured for God knows how many millennia! Imagine how deep the root system reaches into the earth! It’s truly one of the great wonders of Nature.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Cheryl. I did get to see them once. They truly are awe-inspiring!

      Reply
  7. Daniel Kemper

    A needful reminder to get outside ourselves, which nature provides for us.

    And also art like this. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Daniel! I totally agree; spending time in nature is necessary to good health.

      Reply

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