Choose your escape.  Ah! the road trip.  The All-American freedom ride! Freedom beckons in Emily Dickinson’s “Could I but ride the indefinite”.

George Washington Bridge, New York from inside my car

George Washington Bridge, New York from inside my car

The last time I drove cross-country from Knoxville, Tennessee to California was with husband number one in 1966, I think it was.  Gasoline was about 50-cents a gallon and “indefinite” could be entertained. Carmel was breathtaking, San Francisco more beautiful than I’d remembered from trips with family when I was a child.  Driving nearly as far in 1967 in a Volkswagon beetle with a 10-month baby and a two year toddler, from Knoxville to Colorado had the same sense of adventure when starting out. You haven’t lived until you have a baby in the back seat with diaper rash as you trek across the flat stretches of summer highways in Kansas and Colorado.

Could I but ride the indefinite
As doth the Meadow Bee
And visit only where I liked
And no one visit me

And flirt all Day with Buttercups
And marry whom I may
And dwell a little everywhere
Or better, run away

With no Police to follow
Or chase Him if he do
Till He should jump Peninsulas
To get away from me —

I said “But just to be a Bee”
Opon a Raft of Air
And row in Nowhere all Day long
And anchor “off the Bar”

What Liberty! So Captives deem
Who tight in Dungeons are.

The romance of no destination, not even a companion to muddy the freedom of going anywhere, stopping any time. No schedules, no meetings.  No babies.  No spouse. Nil.  And visit only where I like and no one visit me”. With gasoline so expensive compared to everyone’s memories of road trips of the past it takes a real diehard in 2008 to see this as a true holiday from care. Choose your escape.  Mine’s the Meadow Bee’s.  She’s really got it down. “Marry whom I may. Dwell a little everywhere. No boundaries, no rules.  Sign me up!

But, there’s just one thing.  Aren’t we equal opportunity freedom-lovers, here?  Purveyors of the joys of endless flirting, until, the playmate we picked up considers our idea of living a little everywhere and says, “Or better, run away/”.

And, “With no Police to follow/Or chase Him if He do/till He should jump Peninsulas/To get away from me —.

A “He” has slipped into this poem while the fun was happening.

This spouse-of-easy-pickings, this sexy Buttercup, so enticing to flirt with all day has become someone who has the same freedoms, as it turns out.

Like the giddy excitement of starting out in that beetle gradually became an asphalt stare of pure stamina wondering how in the world Kansas or Oklahoma could possibly be so large, that cute Buttercup may have something to say about freedom, too.  He has, in fact, “run away”.

Eat your heart out buttercup

Eat your heart out buttercup

Suddenly, freedom seems less enticing.  Where did they go?  Well, they went flat.  But, why? I said, But just to be a Bee’.” “But, I only wanted to be like a bee, free to come and go as I wish. To flirt, to travel, to party, party, party.”

Now, melodramatic whiner.  Where the road warrior?

“Ride the indefinite” surely lures an escapist with its tempting, floating sound. Now, a second look to see why it couldn’t last: Opon a Raft of Air”. The “indefinite” is not so free and easy, after all, if its ride requires a raft.  One of air, at that.

I’ve used a few “rafts of air”: a car full of gas, a bag of chocolate chip cookies, maybe a bottle of Scotch, and/or that new date.

At this stage in the poem, I can feel the air go out of the fantasy. The laughs have abandoned happy hour.  Escape seems impossible as soon as:

“To get away from me —”.

From Me?!  Moi?!

And row in Nowhere all Day long

And anchor “off the Bar”


What Liberty! So Captives deem

Who tight in Dungeons are.

Seems we went nowhere after all, and were “anchoring ‘off the bar’”. The last surprise of pure escapism is its opposite: captivity.  Boy! do I know that feeling! To rely too much on abdication of responsibilities for a response to crisis, or, even the “daily grind” is to bring back a sense of having no options. What Liberty! Freedom? Ha! No such thing!

Digest a poem a day — Accept what comes your way

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