A lot of fireworks at home - that's what the early 4th's in Colorado entail. My father and all the other fathers must have pillaged every stand for this showcase at yet another neighborhood block volleyball party. Boxes and bags emerge from the basement garage where the explosives had exponentially reproduced over the course of a year. Speeding flares, screaming rockets, buckets of sparklers, coiling black snakes. My Dad the Igniter. Oh the outdoor smells, the scent of new and old fire.
Washington state 4th's are at the mountain home of my uncle where volleyball, food, and firework cavalcades routinely appear though we're surrounded by dry forest. Cousin numbers increase every year when you're on the upper end of this generation echelon. One year, uncool me in my black and green. Another year, skinny me in my red and white. Attempting to mingle but still holding back, even among family. Us the out-of-towners, just slightly removed, until we're there again for another short-visit vacation. These childhood holidays might be the most free 4th of July's ever.
I'm in the recording studio with my harp. It is plush dark. The mics are very very close and I feel horrifically exposed. Oddly, I also feel held and safe, and giddy about what might happen. I've been granted entire days to get down my ideas, to listen back to my creations, to hone what I hear and believe in, AND I'm painfully aware I've not prepared enough for these moments - have I not taken myself seriously. He is patient in the control room; I am paying him, yes, and he also has other clients to serve this July, other musicians, other responsibilities. And it is falling apart, right under my fingers, falling away as it is back at home where I explained I need to go do this on my own. Have I really earned the right to take up this space? Listening back years later I hear the angst in my notes, the desire for Different. I also hear what could have only been born there, then, in those very moments of quiet consternation. I hear what tension birthed, I hear my heart speaking without words. This might be the most pivotal 4th of July ever.
The stoneyard is a perfect place for downtown firework viewing and for endless tabled rows of family-made food. The invitations to this event always stretch far and wide, so in a way I shouldn't be surprised to hear my name and see him in this context - oh DID he marry her - a relic from another time deposited right here in the copper dust at my feet. I scour for vegetarian bits among platters of charred meat - I search for water among the coolers of bottled alcohol and sugar. Maybe I don't belong here, but I know how to be here. We'll keep the tradition of grabbing a cream dessert at the restaurant next door to wait out the ant-lines of cars and trucks streaming back into the suburbs. It's as much about avoiding unnecessary accidents inflicted by others as it is about buying time for my driver's repeat beer over-consumption buzz to fade. Stirred-too-hard cream fruit dessert is both my body and soul nourishment. These might be the most unsettling 4th of July's ever.
We've traveled hours to the river for a small town parade-peformance and are quite a pair, females dressed blue and red sequins with red-white-blue streamers in at least her hair, one of us liberal with the makeup and the other conservative. In everyday life, no one would peg us as sisters, but in these get-ups, they immediately do. We've already done the pool party where it's clear we don't know how to act. We hide away in the second-story guest house for brainstorming sessions, walk around town to escape laptop-laden air, and then get ready in the white-tent dressing room, one of us gearing up for the headline onstage performance while the other captures significant moments on camera because her costume allows her free pass access. The softness of the night is alive with lights and color and bustling people and there is comfort in our not knowing anyone here. Though we stand out like glittering beacons among shorts-and-sandals families who've created long lawn-chair lineups, they don't really know us, no, not really. This is a culmination of my efforts to put everything on the line for a life turnaround, and it sparkles now like the fireworks over the wide river water - here we are, both known and unknown, bound and released by music. I'm humbled by the thought that this might be the best 4th of July ever.
A parking lot feud, a hot screaming-threat scene straight out of a TV drama. The cops are called, the rights are explained, and the flaming parting of ways leaves me to gather my wits so I can attend, without tainting, a family backyard barbecue. Later, unbeknownst to everyone, I return to the scene, attempt to act rational, find words that do not incite, squelch squelch squelch, and insidiously lay the groundwork that will prevent another blowout and ease us into next steps I don't want. Thus the decision is made - it is over. Without foundations, time cannot grant improvement - in my dismay I see there is no desire for different. It has to change or it has to go. I leave for intense inner work, conduct the business from five states away, and return to both Empty and New. Begin again. This might be the darkest 4th of July ever.
Sitting alone on this multi-peaked rooftop, in my heart I know I should love this being above, beyond, alight. In a way, no one knows where I am, and I can see everything from here - the fireworks in the distance, the natural firefly light-blink in the not-too-distant tree lines, the cars below hyped up on July 4 speed-noise adrenaline and who knows what else. I can't hear the symphonic music, and I can't grasp having chosen that over this, and as much as I want to lie down right here and go to sleep, these tears won't let me. I know they mean something isn't good, I know this situation is a sign, but I can't see the shape or the shadow, I can't put my finger on it. I want to be up there, riding the bursts, shooting in a definite direction, not in the seemingly perfect temporary-quiet that is here. I want to feel cared for. I want to feel on fire rather than damped-out kick-boot ash-covered alone. I know I can shine, not be in shadow. This burning has a place, and I want to fly. Up and from the roof, right out of here. This might be the most confusing 4th of July ever.
Flying all day across the country, the snow-capped mountains looming just outside the window, the slow-move peaks are promising adventure and release. We're high on and exhausted by the time and distance - we land and load a good meal before huddling in our light weather gear on a windy crowded bridge with a throng of locals. It's the beginning of our grand west coast adventure, and the fireworks are very far off in the distance over the Willamette River. Hikes, ocean, camping, and donuts are on the long list of Must-Do's. We can't really see the color bursts, but delight in knowing they are there - they are scatter-quick borders of an illustration that has already started to be carefully colored in. This is it, but isn't really it - there's assuredly more. We are excited and hopeful, looking for signs about what this trip means for us, to us, about us. This might be the most hopeful 4th of July ever.
Alone again, but welcomed to the small gathering of long-time family friends, the excellent food is offered just outside the remodeled home by those modeling the healthiest of partnerships. The intelligent conversation turns to education, and education reform, and what is best for kids in a world where teachers and parents are more out of touch than they've ever been. I surprise myself with my outspokenness: I have opinions and can communicate them. Driving home in the new car, the moonroof open, the fireworks are THERE! Just above! It's too dangerous to stop along this winding country road where a few days prior the police posted No Parking placards. A church driveway is nearby, the car swerves precariously 180 degrees to face the river. I want to jump through the roof, touch the sky, but instead I steady myself with elbow-roof propping and barefoot-tiptoe standing on new seats. Never before have I seen fireworks so close, and they are loud and booming and beautiful and stark against the clear and perfect night sky, coaxing an answer to What Will Life Now Bring? So many unknowns. I think I know, and I know I don't. This might be the most enlightening 4th of July ever.
What does it mean to be free.
Liberation. Freedom. Emancipation. Release.
Hey, baby, it's the 4th of July.
Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
My House is For Sale
Sense of Place
My House is For Sale
Sense of Place
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — tristahill.com — for links to her monthly newsletter, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings.