I was feeling very patriotic, watching fireworks burst over Smithville Lake. I also gave thanks to live in a country where explosions over-head are a celebration, and not a threat. That they are fireworks; not bombs.
And though the colorful pyrotechincs made my heart burst in Red, White, and Blue, I cannot pretend fireworks are an exclusively American passion. On the night of Guy Fawkes day, the skies over Oxford cackled. A well pickled lad at the pub explained, “we Brits love to celebrate not’in more’n a Colossal failure.” The next morning their streets, like ours, were most happily scarred.
But still, it was the Chinese who, in the 7th Century, invented fireworks. Their intention was to scare away evil spirits. We all know of the Dragon Lanterns and parades. If I was a drifting spirit, I’d be pretty afraid…
Therefore I can say with some certainty, that everyone has something in common. We are fascinated by that thing of which King Louie sang in Disney’s Jungle Book,
Man’s red fire.
And yet even as we gaze into the skies, the water creeps up from below us. Across America the rivers have swollen. Submerging fields and towns. The idyllic Missouri village of Parkville is being encroached upon. The streets downtown are barricaded by walls of sand-bags (built, the Sheriff explained, by volunteers). The roads are flowing and the baseball diamond is a swamp. It would be a great landscape for an epic paint-ball war; maybe import some alligators. But I’m afraid the mess afterwards might invalidate the fun. Not to mention the PETA headache.
Besides, the old houses along the rich soils of Missouri River’s flats show water lines with pride. “When the water gets high, we take all the valuables upstairs.” Practical, I suppose. And who can argue; the houses do still stand.
Happy Late Birthday, America. Here’s to keeping your head above water, but ducking the mortar.