Two Little Surprises
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!”
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.
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: