Monday, July 4, 2011

fire on the mountain

tonight I had a moment; I know my penchant for these, bear with me. I was going down on a knee, reaching for a volleyball in the backyard of a palatial home on Denver's south side, a house belonging to the parents of a dear friend of mine. I got sweaty enough to pull my hair back, and laughed as we kept the ball going in circles and only occasionally over the fence into the untamed prairie beyond. I was playing with a Moroccan, a Frenchman, and a Jew, and it was the most natural and easy thing in the world.

After brats and burgers and flaming shots of about 5 different liquors, we wandered out in the road and lit off about 60 dollars worth of fireworks. From the vantage point on the hill, we could see about twenty individual shows, the country club being the closest. If you kept your head on a swivel and remembered to look behind you, the best show of all may have been up in the foothills, illuminating black against vibrant golds and greens at rapid interval. The whole mountain looked like it was erupting. Like it was on fire.

I saw something earlier today to the effect of, after 235 years, it's definitely not perfect, but it's still the best idea. Talking with Elise, who lives in the north of France, made me realize our excess-- but also our push to celebrate ourselves. They never do anything like this, on this scale. I thought how we were just looking at the south of one medium sized city, and how the whole country was lighting up like this. We all do it together, because for one night it just feels good to celebrate. To throw a smoke bomb, or wave a sparkler, or get silly with some kind of mystery cocktail. To laugh when the automatic sprinklers turn on while everyone is laying on the lawn. To play volleyball in the land of the free, home of the brave, with whoever is there, because we are friends. Because that is what America is all about.

After the show, the owner of the house took me down in his basement and showed me pictures of his mom, who was a WASP in WWII. There she was, standing on the wing with one leg on the edge of the cockpit, sass just dripping off of her with that flight jacket and silk scarf. She's in the ground now, has been for years, but we build on that. I've reaped the rewards of every time she climbed in that bird and did her job because it was worth doing. Tonight somebody had the watch at OCS, and somebody's land nav'ing around the desert in California or maybe the wild woods of Maine, running into cacti or tripping over roots. It's not perfect, but it's better than good.

I'm glad I'm here; I'm glad it's now. We've got good days ahead, and I'll be happy to be there too. Happy 235th Birthday, you grand ol' gal.

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