I love fireworks. They inspire a certain little-kid sense of awe and wonder, as I look skyward and drink in the symmetry and precisely vivid colors and patterns.
As I write, I’m watching out my living room window as fireworks explode down the street and behind the Elgin Tower. Every year, people start celebrating with their large stash of (illegal) fireworks about a week before Independence Day, which means I often get a preview for my late-June birthday.
And indeed, a week ago, on my thirtieth birthday, I got home from work and school, discovered a cupcake on my doorstep, and watched some fireworks from across the river. Every night this week, there have been more and more, a crescendo of colors and lights and sounds popping above trees and buildings all around me. (Sadly, some of the best displays off to the east are now blocked by the thickening grove of trees across the street.)
Last winter, as part of the Reverb10 project, I had thought about advice for the year ahead, told from a vantage point of five years in the future. In the process, I had discovered the FutureMe site, which allows you to write an email to yourself to be delivered at a future date.
I received my FutureMe note on the morning of my birthday, and read it with a smile. Some of the advice has been heeded, dead-on. It was full of good reminders of what’s important, and also how fleeting and trivial some concerns can be. I even found myself rolling my eyes at one point. But it was really interesting, and reassuring, a sort of progress report on where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. I highly, highly recommend it, and I’ll be sitting down and writing a letter for my next birthday in the next couple of days. (The site will let you select a date up to 50 years in the future, though I wonder if my Gmail address will still be active then.) I may write five and ten year iterations, too.
But back to the fireworks. I feel like we all need to take a moment for ourselves, and fireworks are such a great way to do that. I’m at the tail end of a divine four day weekend, full of friends old and new, miles of walking around my adopted hometown, ice cream, beer, late-night tacos and hot dogs, barbecues, staying up too late and sleeping long past sunrise. I spent the evening in the backyard, reading for pleasure, sipping iced tea and ducking the mulberries the squirrels shook loose, watching the fireflies come out as the sun set.
My feet are blistered and I’m sunburned and mosquito-bitten, but happy. So happy. Even if twelve short hours from now I’ll likely be on my third conference call for the day.
That’s why we do what we do. We work to live, to make these moments possible. So here’s to celebrating our American way of working hard while carving out a balanced, full life. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than smuggling fireworks across state lines and blowing them up in a cacophony of war-zone pyrotechnics that have the ability to make us pause and draw inspiration.
Happy Independence Day.