Much to my surprise, this photo received the most “Likes” of any photo on my otherwise rather modest Instagram account (more than 700 to date). This gave me reason to pause and wonder, out of all the wildlife and bird photography I have captured, why this one? Unlike my other posts, which typically contain up to 20 hashtags, I decided to keep this post very simple with only one hashtag: #Freedom. While there are many interpretations of freedom, the one that stands out to me the most is the freedom to connect with others.

After almost two years of a pandemic that has rendered millions of people flightless, we are all yearning for the freedoms that perhaps some of us took for granted—freedom to be with our loved ones, freedom to live without fear of contracting a deadly virus, freedom to walk amongst each other, and the freedom to see the smiles on each other’s faces. I never realized how critical non-verbal expressions of emotions are to our social fabric. How many times over the past two years have you been wearing a face mask and therefore, been unable to acknowledge the kindness of someone else because they couldn’t see your smile?

These freedoms to express ourselves, to communicate kindness, to convey gratitude or to soften someone else’s plight with even the most subtle movements of the lower parts of our faces, have been impeded. I may be mistaken, but I think this photo of a Cardinal taking off from a Mesquite tree along with the caption “#Freedom” tapped into people’s longing to be back to some sense of normalcy, and most of all to be truly connected to those around us. I will always look at this photo with a new appreciation for how critical it is to have the freedoms that are so vital to our emotional health.

T.L. Wilson

T.L. Wilson (formerly Terry Wise) has lived through a myriad of personal and professional lives, each of which has led her to the same place, with the same purpose: to provide hope and inspiration to others. Terry is the author of Waking Up: Climbing Through the Darkness, a book that offers a road map to emotional health to people who are faced with a diversity of life’s challenges (grief, depression, suicidality). Terry served on the boards of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology and spent a decade delivering keynote speeches in every state in the United States. After happily re-marrying in 2010, Terry wrote a novel, Viewer Indiscretion, penned under the name T.L. Wilson. Terry’s most recent endeavor as a photographer is to capture and share the beauty of the world around us through a different lens—a camera lens. It is her belief that recovery from mental health challenges is achieved incrementally and it is her hope that each image will provide doses of joy to the eye and warmth to the heart. Her mission is to make the world a better place one book at a time, one word at a time and now…one photograph at a time. To view more images, please visit