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Monday, December 21, 2009


by Gary Lehmann

In the Muir Woods high above Sausalito , where the giant California red woods stand,
there is a sign prominently displayed between the Men’s Room and the Women’s Room
that declares this space as a First Amendment Area. “What is that?” my brother asked.

This area has been set aside for individuals or groups exercising their constitutional
first amendment rights. The National Park Service neither encourages no discourages
or otherwise endorses these activities and receives no funds in relation to these

My brother and I stood before this sign for some time in bewilderment. Then he said,
“I think John Muir combed his hair funny.” We looked up and down the path. Nothing.
Then I said, “I think John Muir smelled bad after living so long in the wilderness.”

All we heard were chirping birds. Then he said, “I think all these trees would make a
lovely great pile of toilet paper.” The birds sang on indifferent to constitutional issues.
He shrugged. I said, “I thought the whole country used to be a Free Speech Zone.”

Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Gary Lehmann’s essays, poetry and short stories are widely published. Books include The Span I Will Cross [Process Press, 2004], Public Lives and Private Secrets [Foothills Publishing, 2005], and American Sponsored Torture [FootHills Publishing, 2007].