I am so glad America's earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm for fireworks to the United States. Fireworks and black ash were used to celebrate important events long before the American Revolutionary War. The very first celebration of Independence Day was in 1777, six years before Americans knew whether the new nation would survive the war; fireworks were a part of all festivities. This early fascination with their noise and color continues today.
My first recollections of fireworks where at a baseball field in my hometown of Yerington, Nevada. My mother had an old Dodge Station Wagon, which she backed into the field so us four kids could watch from the back of it. My two brothers with their fresh new crew cuts and matching short outfits, which my Aunt Jerry had made them, where so excited. They kept asking, “When is it going to get dark enough?” The anticipation of the show was unnerving them. As we waited for the Nevada sky to darken, we ate a picnic and swatted mosquitoes off our arms and legs. I hated mosquitoes; and so I was more anxious for the show to be over; so I could get away from these pesky bloodsuckers.
My town was made up of copper miners, farmers, and cattlemen. There was no shortage of pickup trucks with their .22 rifles in the back window gun racks, filled with families picnicking and anticipated the great event. We also had a Piute Indian reservation right in our town. The Indians sat on spread out blankets or on the few bleachers available. We were positioned so we could see not only the fireworks in the sky, but the men setting them off, which was a show in itself.
As the sky finally reached an acceptable point of darkness, I had bumps all over me; I could not stop scratching. I just knew that the mosquitoes had carried off a pint of my blood in their now fat little bellies. BAM, BOOM, SIZZLE, CRACK! I looked to the sky and saw the fireworks explode into a beautiful artwork. My mouth dropped open, and during the entire show I forgot all about the mosquitoes and the itch.
Wonder of wonders! One definition of wonder is rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one's experience. I think that pretty well describes my experience that night.
Bill Withrow expresses better than I, how I feel about the wonder of fireworks. "I often use the word "joy" when describing fireworks. It is a considered word, deliberate in choice. Not just amusement, entertainment, astonishment, but joy. Our art makes us all into children again for a while. We become one in our experience for the moment; lost in the sound and color and light. We see large forces, stronger than we could ever be, yet beautiful in their effects. “
Long before I knew the Lord, I think I was fulfilling Edward Young’s quote, “Wonder is involuntary praise”; I just didn’t know how to express it. Later I learned that the Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” I am glad that every 4th of July we shoot off brilliant fireworks, because as Lao Tzu said, “From wonder into wonder existence opens.” It is easy as we get older to fall into the rut of ‘same oh, same oh’. Nothing shakes me out of that blasé state like a fireworks show. It puts the wonder back in my life. At least once a year, wonder becomes the wow,wow, wow of my life.