Free Love

Oh, the things people throw away! Perfectly good items – especially in well-heeled neighborhoods. It’s no wonder we stop, poke around on Trash Day, and make off with a treasure – or at least something with its fair share of remaining utility.

It’s another rainy morning and I chose a meandering path through a beautiful neighborhood, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic (and garbage trucks) after early errands. I was enjoying the leaves in all their colorful glory, slowing as I moved over speed bumps, and content with the contrast of prideful foliage and November rain.

And then I saw him.

He was hard to miss – a big guy in a black pith helmet and dark jacket, his motorcycle parked just next to him. He was lifting a huge object out of a trash can.

I slowed even more and watched through the windshield wipers. The object appeared to be a mirror – a Federal mirror, in good condition. It had to be four feet tall, and the man was struggling, trying to lay it or stand it on his motorcycle so he could cart it off. It was a fascinating scene, and I admit, a lovely mirror which I can only assume was not a period piece, because even the rich don’t toss out 200-year old objects when they tire of them.

Don’t judge a book by its cover (or its helmet)

What amused me was that this man was unfazed by the rain and determined to get that thing onto his bike, which reminded me first off – never judge a book by its cover (or its helmet and Harley), and secondly – some gifts in life are free. Even if they come with a struggle.

More to my merriment, one house down (after all, I couldn’t remain there, staring), I saw another source of delight.  A sign on the edge of the property that read “Free dirt.”

Free dirt? Are you kidding? (Really. You can’t make this stuff up.)

At first I laughed out loud, and took my time waiting for the merge back onto a busy street. Free dirt. Apparently available at the mansion nearest you. And then I thought: Well isn’t all dirt free? Or shouldn’t it be?

Does everything have its price?

As I made my way home I realized, of course, that the answer to my first question is no, and my second – yes and no.  I’ve purchased dirt over the years – potting soil to be specific. And I suppose, theoretically, if you live in an urban environment where dirt is scarce, it’s a matter of basic supply and demand. If you need it and don’t have it, and the other guy has it and will sell it – it comes with a price. Of course in the rain, it’s free mud (or costly mud) – which led me to think of the sort of dirt (and mud-throwing) that seems free – ill will and bad words – and even that, eventually, comes with a price.

But then I thought of love. Free love.

You know. The sixties. Beads around our necks, flower power stickers, peace symbols painted on our VW mini-vans. The days of Woodstock and tie-dye and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. Like I said. Free love. Permission to give away what some paid for – with wedding rings or dollars, or other exchange of services. Ideally, an exchange of hearts is involved, but even that is debatable. Doesn’t everything have a price? Can’t love be bought?

The best things in life…

You know the expression – “the best things in life are free.” It sounds good, but is there any truth in it?

Aren’t there strings attached to most of our endeavors, and our emotions? Aren’t all human relationships an exchange of services? Is it just a matter of pay now or pay later? Do any of us love freely, or live freely – unless we do so in utter disregard of others and then, is that really a life that we want?

I thought about what it means to love freely. We love our children freely – and fiercely. (And pay the price, willingly.) When we fall in love we often do so tethered to our passions and feel anything but free. When love is a mutual exchange, the ties that bind are ties we want, ties we choose, given freely, but ties nonetheless.


And then there are signs. All sorts of signs. And free dirt. And those determined to make it work when they stumble on treasure, because treasure is rare, and free treasure – even more so.

As for free love – an offering of the body is not an offering of the heart; an exchange of bodies is not an exchange of hearts. It is sex, and sex isn’t lovemaking. Now free love may be a misnomer in any context; when love is scarce it doesn’t come freely. Of course, when it’s plentiful, it doesn’t come freely either. So where does that leave us?

For myself, I’m pondering signs. And wondering how Motorcycle Man managed the mirror. 

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    I truly laughed out loud at this one. I guess I have always been a scavenger at heart and often SEE treasures being thrown and I am not as brave as this ‘motorcycle man’. The reason for my laughter? Just this summer I had a sign in my yard, and what do you think it said?
    Yes- Free dirt.
    I belong to an online recycling community ( which was designed in order to keep still usable things out of the landfills. One mans treasure… This summer I was in the predicament where I had some large piles of excess dirt in a section of my yard I wanted to level and plant grass. I posted the free dirt both on the site and also a sign stuck into the very same dirt.
    Lets just say it was gone in an instant. Many who had removed a tree leaving a large hole which did not require a well fertilized top soil, but merely dirt. As you said don’t judge a book– helmet or free dirt sign :)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Love it! Thanks for clearing up that mystery! (And I think “repurposing” anything and everything makes sense. One man’s trash… )

  2. says

    Interesting. I love the sign! And yes, a treasure is often worth the struggle and the challenge – that discovery of the diamond in the rough.
    Love though – is it love that carries the cost or is it the expectations and conditions that we place on it with or without intention?

    (Things are crazy in these parts!!)

  3. says

    I chuckled at “Free Dirt” – really? But your questions about whether anything is free is an interesting one. I once did an analysis of Romeo and Juliet in college and likened their relationship to an account, a series of credits and debts between two people. Not very romantic of course, but I was trying to analyze whether the constructs between any two people can be without built in conditions or less transactional. Your post reminded me of that paper I wrote years ago.

  4. says

    I know a guy who says marriage is legal prostitution. Men give women flowers and perfume and candy and expensive dinners out in exchange for sex, sex, and more sex. Of course this is a seriously 1950s mindset that I was able to challenge and rebut, but it did change the way I think about modern relationships. It’s all give and take in one form or another.

  5. Jenn says

    My brother lived in Japan–Osaka–for a couple of years and there is a sanctioned “free day” where people leave their unwanted stuff on the curb once a month. My brother was able to furnish his living space and then some–especially when shopping in the high rent areas of town! Wondering why you didn’t offer to transport motorcycle guy’s treasure :).

    • BigLittleWolf says

      OMG, Jenn. Now I feel terrible! (Skipping over the fact that his pith helmet scared me to death… ) Honestly, I never thought of it! And I did have to get back to my home office and tend to tasks…

  6. says

    Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice is a movie that I’ll never forget. Don’t know how, but I ended up watching it with my parents and girlfriend. I was 19 and horrified by the experience.

    But on the topic of signs, boy has that been top of mind. I haven’t really been one to think that the universe is talking to me, but am starting to wonder.

    That motorcycle guy would have got me thinking too, about what lies beneath unseen and unexpected.

  7. says

    One time I hit and killed a deer with my car. The deer was left by the side of the road and even that was picked up and hauled off, presumably for someone’s dinner. 😉 And no, it wasn’t really free considering the bill I had to pay to get my car fixed!

  8. says

    I think one of the great disservices the ’60’s brought was the idea of free love and sex. Frankly, it sounds to me like an attempt at getting a “get out of jail free” card for immorality. Sex is an intimate secret. The most intimate secret. The fact that the ’60’s promoted sex as nothing but an act of pleasure is basically at extension Democritus’ hedonistic philosophy. When we share that most secret (and I believe sacred) part of ourselves, we are giving something to someone. Would we really share our deepest secrets with just anyone? I certainly hope not.

    Of course, would you have expected any other comment from me??

    : )

    By the way, thinking about that guy made me laugh. That was me a week ago trying to fit a stroller into my van. A stroller that refused to collapse. I finally got settled in the passenger seat. It was pretty hilarious.

  9. says

    Reminded me of Roman Polanski’s student film “Two Men and a Wardrobe” (… just for synchronicity’s sake.

    As for dirt, even though I’m composting these days it reminded me of some scientists coming to God and saying that they figured out how to make a human: First you start with some dirt… At which point God interrupts and says, “Wait a minute, get your own dirt.”

    I’m with you on the sex, love, free line of thinking (and always go back to Martin Buber on this and his assertion that life’s “essential deed” is to love, by which he means seeing in an I-thou manner—seeing to the sacred in the other, free of wanting to get or give.

    Even Buber says this is virtually impossible to sustain, but encourages us to try for it now and again. That’s why I’m so fond of “Namaste,” as a way of saying the light in I recognizes the light in thou.

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