In-Dependence Day

The quiet that descends after our raucous Fourth of July is a welcome break, a chance to take a breath before the campaign season assaults us with the inevitable fireworks of slogans and slander.

We especially needed July Fourth this year as a time to come together, metaphorically if not physically. It’s our annual paradox of celebrating “independence” while acknowledging our de-pendence on community. Where I live, people are especially protective of their independence, or as my husband liked to describe it: “As independent as hogs on ice.”

Still, I relish the way my community celebrates the Fourth, particularly in this time of social distancing. There are no commercially sponsored or organized fireworks displays. Instead, folks patronize the various fireworks stands that pop up in late June, buying up individual stockpiles of noise and glitter.

fullsizeoutput_24e4East Side Park, on the Colville Indian Reservation across the river from my home, is the designated shoot-em-up area for a DIY pyrotechnics show. The spectacle begins as the sky darkens, around nine p.m., and lasts until nearly midnight. There’s plenty of space in the park, some seventy acres or so, for people to spread out and fill the sky with a thoroughly impromptu but dazzling show.

Volunteer fire crews are on hand to quickly douse the small blazes that inevitably erupt. I figured this year’s show, given pandemic and economic concerns, would be smaller than usual. The newspaper reported the crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 people was smaller. Still, the show was as extravagant as always, especially with Mother Nature contributing a display of her own.

fullsizeoutput_24eaA full moon provided an elegant backdrop to the bursts of color. Not only a full moon, but one in “penumbral eclipse.” That, explains the Farmer’s Almanac is “when the Moon crosses through the faint outer edge of Earth’s shadow (the penumbra), making part of the Moon appear ever-so-slightly darker than usual.” I could not discern any darker shades of moon, particularly when it was illuminated by fireworks.

To accommodate the inevitable litter created by the event, dozens of large metal barrels are placed throughout the park to serve as garbage receptacles. Sunday morning as my dogs and I took our daily walk, I noted the barrels were filled to overflowing and a degree of litter was spread on the ground.

Monday morning, a city crew was tackling the celebratory residue.

“Thanks for your work!” I called out to the men as the dogs and I walked past.

“You’re welcome. Thanks for paying us!” one of them responded.

“My pleasure!” I answered, and meant it. My own independence is a fantasy. I get to believe in it only because I can depend on others.

A Fourth of July moon over the Okanogan River

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