Despite the ominous title of this post, for the most part yesterday was far from melancholy. I awoke with no particular plans; The Hermit was away on business and we had not received any invitations to family functions (I would not have minded spending the Fourth where I spent so many other July days growing up, my grandparents' lake place that now belongs to my uncle but...never mind. another post for another day.) It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I decided to singlehandedly decimate every single spotted knapweed plant on our property before it got too hot; then I could have an excuse for goofing off the rest of the day. I did not quite achieve my goal, but I have greatly reduced the potential for flowering and seed production of this invasive weed.
Starflower came out looking for me at the end of the driveway; she said Fred had called and that he and Missy invited us over for an afternoon picnic. Perfect! It was a fun, relaxing afternoon with good food and beer as per usual. Calvin and Starflower played with their best friends, Sally frolicked with Fred and Missy's two German shepherds, and we played a few tunes along with Chris, guitarist from the Whistlepigs. We probably started the music too late, however; musical ability, although perhaps enhanced by one beer, seems to have an inverse relationship with the number of beers consumed subsequently.
The kids had decided they wanted to go see the fireworks in a nearby town with their friends that evening, so instead of heading home, which I was ready for, we followed them to their house. Despite my fatigue at that point, when Mr. Attitude was jumping on the trampoline I joined in because it looked like fun. It was, too much fun for a 39 year old! I found out I can still do a split jump and touch my outstretched arms to my toes. I stopped short of jumping off the upper rungs of the twelve foot stepladder the kids had placed next to the trampoline. My heart skipped a beat as I watched Calvin and Starflower do just that.
All too soon it was time to drive into town. By the looks of things, the normal population of the town had increased at least tenfold for this event, a definite challenge for a crowd-impaired person like myself. By the time we found our friends and sat down, I was feeling tense and jittery and wishing it was all over and dreading the exodus, the long drive home, and all that lay in between. Even though we were with friends, I was missing being with The Hermit. I felt lost and alone in the darkness and the crowd.
The fireworks started, the usual resounding cannon noises and crackling stardust and screaming comets and momentary bursts of color, larger than life, a nice show all in all but I kept thinking "Why am I here? Why is everyone here? Why is anyone here?" Here we are, celebrating excess, celebrating ideals and prosperity and victory, celebrating with flashes and loud noises. Hooray for us. Hooray for freedom. Hooray for the appearance of freedom. Hooray for the thousand idling, petroleum burning cars that brought us here. Hooray for our children; we take for granted it will always be like this for them. God help us. God help them.
Sitting in the van, waiting for traffic to inch along afterwards, I felt trapped, tired, and alone. Alone in the glare of a thousand headlights. Alone with my near-sleeping children. Finally, inch by inch I arrived at the main street and turned east out of town, still in a long line of cars, still alone. The cars dropped off with each cross street and the freeway, until at last, after the next town I turned down the dark road leading ten miles to our house, alone, yet feeling oddly safer and more calm out of the crowd.
We returned to the midnight stillness of our dark house; I had not thought to leave a light on. I got everyone in and into bed, but still I could not sleep. I went out to the cook shed and poured myself a glass of chardonnay, then sat alone in the silence.
I can't quite put words to what it was I was feeling; something ominous, something uneasy. The significance of the day was not lost on me; on this day when we reflect and celebrate our nation's independence, I can't help but look around and see it slipping away. Unless. Things can never stay the same; that is a given. But in what direction are we headed?
This is why I take solace in my garden, in the woods, in music, in the natural gifts of each passing day.