Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Two Little Surprises

I didn't do time-elapse shots, just snaps. That's a campground light to the right.

I didn’t do time-elapse shots, just snaps. That’s a campground light to the right.

Camping in Sandwich, Illinois does have its unexpected moments. I’ll describe both of the most recent ones out of order, the first being that people in and around Sandwich are seriously into Independence Day fireworks. The night of Friday the 4th was met with homeowners and surrounding farmers setting off their own ware. That’s not so surprising. What was surprising was the Boom Factor. These people don’t settle for the pathetic, fizzing state-approved sparklers, nor the stacato popping of illegal firecrackers. I heard rounds of those maybe twice all night.

No, these folks go for rounds that sound for all the world like an artillery barrage prior to the surge of infantry. I spent last winter near the Yuma weapons proving grounds, where an occasional deep, penetrating boom was heard. This was a lot of booms packed within a span of a couple of hours, and many were basso profundo. You know, the kind that makes you pause for a moment before quietly muttering to yourself, “holy crap!”

I thought it a pretty good deal to be this close to them without having to go someplace.

I thought it a pretty good deal to be this close to them without having to go someplace.

Back in the near-Chicago suburbs where I come from, people who wanted fireworks would skulk across state lines to stock a few M-80s or Roman candles, and then return home to furtively light then up at the appropriate time. And the local suburban cops would do what they could to search and destroy the bolder ones onsite. Here, the sheer volume and acreage was startling. You could turn a full 360 to see and hear a Surroundsound experience in 3D.

Saturday the 5th began with a large selection of locals and floats at the Sandwich Fairgrounds itself, and people were setting up lawn chairs at the curb on streets that were parallel to each other, as if the parade path was going to be serpentine through the residential areas. I had a breakfast date with my chilluns, so I didn’t see how things panned out. That evening, a rock band played in the grounds as the celebration continued deep into the night. Then the surrounding fireworks began again, only this time, they were more oriented to visual display. Big visual display. I mean, they came pretty close to the commercial fare for altitude and what happened in the sky. It was sporadic because of the high cost of such ware, but with so many sites involved, it was entertaining. The several open-area lots left in town seemed to be put to good use that night, as well as the surrounding farms.

Then the fairgrounds itself joined in with a pro display, and eventually I could see the town of Plano lighting off a few rounds, as well as what looked to be an RV camp southwest of town. The latter two didn’t last long, but were well done. And the locals still chimed in, of course. The Fairgrounds fireworks went on, repeatedly intensifying and fading, for what seemed like an hour, easy. Meanwhile, two sedans near the camping field stopped in the dark at a street intersection and parked for awhile to talk, parking lights on. The lights on the two cars matched each other perfectly. Likely, part of the local law enforcement community. I heard multiple sirens together just once over both nights, on the west edge of town and heading south. There’s always someone who’s in the too-dull-to-care camp, who winds up either setting their neighbor’s roof on fire or injuring someone in the too-close gathering. Those few are the reason why it’s illegal to do much of anything but breathe and pay taxes in Illinois. So it was refreshing to see what I did those two nights. The will of so many, happily defying the iron hand of the law.

They were really lightin' 'em off at this point.

They were really lightin’ ’em off at this point.

The other surprise was a weird one, simply being a revelation or realization of sorts on the trip back from the gathering at breakfast. As I drive, my thoughts tend to bounce around like a pinball. It was simply a realization of what a miracle life is. Not the varied paths of human life and death, but that any life in any form exists at all. We kind of take it for granted that life began and continues on, as if that’s a normal and inevitable result of dead and inert matter, its chemical makeup, energy, and time. Yet the more deeply Science investigates, the more impossible that likelihood appears. But, now that it’s here and so determined to continue, we make easy assumptions that death is simply one step in our continuing on, in some form or other, forever. Screw up this time, and you’ll have another shot, and another and another until you finally attain a status of enlightenment. Or, we assume that our lives are simply the result of biological chance, now running its pointless course only to extinguish into oblivion, with all else being the equivalent of Campfire Stories Gone Wild, to comfort ourselves.

My own take is that assumption and even speculative hope may not necessarily reflect reality. And that reality includes more than physical reality – more than we and our instrumentation sense and can measure. If you in fact had just one chance to live, however long or short, what would you do with that one chance to exist? What are you (and I) doing with it now? Treat it like a unique and special one-time gift, appreciating our time under the sun, or figure it is of no real significance and, in the end, doesn’t really matter? Either way, we strive to make sense of it as a way to try to exercise what control we have over it, which isn’t much. We come to life. Then we end. I feel that what we do in between has consequence. We tend to live in the way that we perceive life to be. The heartbreaking miseries of this world are much less the result of weather calamities and diseases as they are the result of destructive human behavior and attitudes. Now and then, I remind myself to treat life as the miracle it is. Our personal power or control is not over life or death. It’s over building up or tearing down, while we experience it. That’s just my take, and you may feel differently. So here’s one more picture for you:

I like the "busy" ones. At this point near the end, a storm was approaching in the far distance, promising to out-horsepower this light show with its own, and drown out the stacatto cracks with a loud rumble and enduring boom of its own.

I like the “busy” ones. At this point near the end, a storm was approaching in the far distance, promising to out-horsepower this light show with its own, and drown out the stacatto cracks with a deep rumble and prolonged boom of its own. It earned my attention, even though it largely passed to one side.

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8 thoughts on “Two Little Surprises

  1. Linda Barton on said:

    Romeoville does a lot of business with Indiana also. Maybe Will county decided to join in the fun instead of fighting it. Its a way of life here every 4th and every place on every street. BUT the next day is another story.

    • Yup, then it’s back to Disturbing the Peace and breaking state and local laws, your honor. We don’t need kids or immature adults blowing their fingers off, but I’m a big believer in personal responsibility, myself…at least when it suits me. Keeps the lawyers employed and the economy going. By the way, today, just now, someone living near the campground lit off what must have been a case-worth of little firecrackers. Sounded like two sets going simultaneously and took a good five minutes to finish! When it was finally over, I could hear applause and yells. Now, someone probably has no money left for the week. Thanks, Linda!

  2. I love fireworks. When I had the farm all of us in the farming community there tried to see who could put on the longest, loudest, most colorful show. Talk about fun. You got the best show in town.

  3. Linda Sand on said:

    By the time I left Illinois at age 15 I think the only legal personal fireworks remaining were sparklers and snakes and I’m not sure about the sparklers. I lived in a city (Decatur) so most years we took a picnic to a park in Shelbyville to watch the official fireworks because they put on a decent show there. Now my favorite place to be is Seaside, Oregon, where families dig bunkers in the beach to protect them from the wind as they watch the huge fireworks show. The next day, plows drive down the beach filling in the bunkers.

    • How bizarre, Linda! That must be quite a wind! I suspect it’s one of those things that you have to go see it to understand how it all makes perfect sense. But I do have my little entrenching shovel…

  4. I find your words strangely comforting. I lost a friend last month to listeria and just learned yesterday that I lost another to leukemia. Both were my age: 47. I’m not even 50 yet and I’m already starting to lose count of how many friends have died. It makes a person start to question the purpose of it all and your musings are as good an answer as any. At least good enough to get me up and starting another day. Thank you.

    • And thank you for your thoughtful response. When I was about your age, a friend who was also a good man and married just a few years collapsed and died almost instantly while walking back out of a Walgreens store. He was 30 and otherwise in stellar health. While we both shared a definable faith, I feel that the bottom line, regardless of one’s beliefs, is that it remains valid to insist that life is a gift. We are dust come to life, and even that without our own effort or even a nod of agreement. Lives cut short, even very short, still have impact and shape our own. Our instinctive disappointment or disillusionment needs to be tempered with a gratitude that we had them alongside us for as long as we did. Grieving, but with appreciation, I guess you could say. To me, that honors them. Not so easy in some situations, but it generally hurts less to recall what you (and they) had than to dwell on what you (or they) lost. The course of life seems distinctly unfair at times, but in the bigger view, it’s also an opportunity for both us and those around us to make the best of it, internally and externally. I’m convinced that those each have consequence.

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