Tuesday, July 5, 2011
burning fast and bright
This is how we celebrate the Fourth of July at our house: with white noise cranked up to eleven, shhhhhhhing in the dark hallway and in Bean's bedroom. We listen to the too-close pops and claps of fireworks exploding furiously in the backyards of the houses surrounding ours, and hope--- hope and cringe that Alice will sleep, that the cats will eventually settle, and that our house will not burn down from an errant bottle rocket (one, two, or seven). This is what happens when neighbors can get their hands on any and every illegal incendiary device known to man, whatever is made and sold at local Indian reservations. There is barely a second between the pops, some high and whistling, others with a low booming depth that scares me silly.
But in the smallest quiet, I find myself thinking--- not of the excited teenagers surely clutching the lighters and matches fueling the explosions, and not of our country or the freedom so dearly bought with the sacrifice of patriots and rebels so long ago.
Instead, I'm thinking of the lives that remind me so much of the fireworks bursting in colorful blossoms around our dark house. I'm thinking of the people I've known who live lives so fast and so bright, they cannot sustain the burn. I'm thinking of Virginia, who ran up mountain trails and slid down rock falls, her dogs at her heels. She was the bossiest person I've ever known, but she loved her friends with a heart so fierce, her loyalty burned lines in the carpet. That was Virgina-- lover of the outdoors and friend to the canines, so strong in her own opinion, you just wanted to slap her silly. She left a hole in the world when she dropped so quickly out of it: breast cancer that ate her up in a single swallow. I wonder about the son she left behind.
I'm thinking of Carol. A nursing student who smoked a pack each day without irony. She sat in my bedroom and told me I was her favorite roommate, like, ever. And then six months later we argued over something stupid and I never talked to her again. She was gone just a year later, an inoperable brain tumor. She went home to Connecticut and got a dog who stayed by her side as she faded. Her parents dream of the grandchildren they will never meet.
I'm thinking of short lives and the burning trail they leave. Does it come down to fire? To fuel that ignites but cannot sustain a steady flame? I am sure there have always been human fireworks that light the sky, lives that cause us to turn our faces to the heavens and marvel at their astounding beauty.
And here is the noise they make around us: the loudest percussive boom, while the rest of us flicker quietly on the ground.
Labels: more about me