And so here we are, the Fourth of July. It’s the big celebration that kicks off each summer. Parades have always been a part of the day for me, having grown-up in an Elks Club family. I remember those humid New Jersey mornings when we’d rendezvous with family and friends to stake out some hopefully-shady spot along the parade route, where we would sit…and stand…and pace as kids do, impatient until the first police car siren was heard, until we caught the first glimpse of that flag waving in the morning light. The crash of cymbals, the drum cadence, the blare of trumpets, the thrilling sound of marching steps in unison. Of course, I never realized any military implications in all that, though it seems so crystal clear today.
Things are simple when you’re a kid…there’s balloons and bands and funny cars and clowns (I’ve never been afraid of them, despite Tim Curry and Steven King’s best efforts), fire trucks and who knows what else. No doubt it was a thrilling couple of days, usually with any number of opportunities to see the fireworks displays of various townships and organizations, outdoor concerts on park greens, and all the picnicking or barbecuing with family and friends.
We’ll be working through some of this holiday weekend, but hopefully there’ll be time to squeeze a few of those traditions in here and there–I think our schedule will work out nicely to allow that. I’ll try to share some of those moments with you, as time allows. And I’ve made a switch with the playlist for the weekend, choosing a few things that feel appropriate to the occasion.
Meanwhile, the garden along the fence is offering its own version of a spectacular fireworks display, though it is a bit more slow-motion than the traditional skyrockets. Today, this second rudbeckia flower opened…completely different from the first, but bursting forth from the same clump.
Not far away, a tall pink garden phlox has opened its first sweetly-scented flower, and more are swelling, their bright pink petals slowly spiralling open. A little lower, the small yellow flowers of coreopsis echo the shapes of the stately Shasta Daisies, while brilliant orange and red daylilies airburst all along the fence.
‘Tis true, Independence Day is an American holiday, celebrating the birth of a new nation on the shores of a New World two hundred and thirty-two years ago today. Although this sounds quite old by human standards, when held against the yardstick of the other nations of the world, we are quite young, a whippersnapper, really…and perhaps can be forgiven for some of the brashness we have shown over the years. It’s also possible we ought to be sent to reform school. I feel myself scraping along the side of politics and that’s absolutely not where I want to go.
Independence Day is more than a birthday party. It’s a celebration of freedom, though typically, we don’t ever seem very certain what that should mean, exactly. We say all men are created equal, but we don’t always act like that’s true. We believe in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…within certain guidelines, of course, as to what Happiness might actually be, and who’s Life we’re talking about, and it’s quite possible Liberty’s just a pretty statue in the harbor.
Silly homo sapiens, thinking we have all the big ideas and the answers.
Wherever you are on this big planet of ours, I hope today finds you with a nice sunny day, or at least partly so. One that teases, its big green finger beckoning, enticing you out the front door, down the street or through the woods, or along some glistening shore…into some place that’s green…where you can get a glimpse of what freedom really looks like: through the soaring birds in the air, or the squirrels and chipmunks who dart and dash about, fish who break the surface of the water, the fluttering butterfly, a basking reptile. Take a deep breathe and try to put yourself in their lack of shoes for a few minutes.
“Freedom ain’t a state like Maine or Virginia
Freedom ain’t across some county line
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya
Freedom’s in the state of mind!”
– Shenandoah, Gary Geld and Larry Udell,