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Lumos! Lighting Up the Nights with Bugs, Bombs, Books, and Bestial Beach Bonfires

This July, my daughter and I are staying up three whole hours later than usual to accommodate all the "bombs bursting in air" and to head off jet lag before a Bastille Day-themed family wedding that will surely involve partying into the night. Daddy still has to go to bed at 7:30 for now, because of his wee-hours work schedule, so that means we girls have to spend that extra three hours of magical summer nighttime either outdoors or being very quiet. And after the fireworks have all burned out, that means two things: catching fireflies and reading extra long bedtime stories.

When my daughter held her sparklers this year, she shouted, "Lumos!" and pretended they were wands from the world of Harry Potter. This summer, we are starting Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it is trippy--and magical and life-giving and hopeful--to be reading this book as its terrible real-life prophecies come true.

There is also something hopeful and life-giving and magical and healing about watching a public fireworks show in a big crowd of strangers. To me, the Fourth of July has always felt bigger than U.S. Independence Day, just like Christmas feels bigger and older than Christianity--because, at its roots, it is. On the Fourth of July, there is something primal and ancient and transcendentally apolitical about the bold colors--blood red and primary blue and glowing white--and there is something--well, more than a little something--Chinese about fireworks themselves. And there is pagan poetry in gathering with your neighbors on a late, Northern-latitude summer night to set fires and play with them. And there is something entrancing about being in the presence of so many concussive blasts and fire hazards on a soft, warm evening when the air feels like a thick blanket and the ground is strewn with the perfectly relaxed bodies of people stretched out on their backs to watch sparks and smoke fill the night sky. Here is danger holding hands with joy. Here is an inexplicable veil of tradition that makes a crowd of strangers loaded with explosive devices feel like communal meditation. Here is the BOOM that signals one minute until the show begins, which echoes for miles and cracks against all the trees and houses in the land and reverberates back through us from every direction and causes the whole crowd of wild and random strangers of all ages to stop talking and turn off their phones and car headlights and extinguish their sparklers and hold their breaths, as if we are packed into a little movie theater together, as if our tiny little lights and voices will keep us from being able to see or hear what comes next!

Here is unity. Here is humanity flattened out at the level of our animal minds.

Here is the downbeat that interrupts the rhythm of my anxious thoughts and invokes my desire to behold a light in the darkness.

I'm newly inspired to make progress on my novel, and I'm also hankering hard for that upcoming Rammstein album. I think it is marvelous that they are aiming to debut their newest (and possibly last ever) works "on Mexico's heavenly beaches," because Mexico is their favorite place to perform for reasons that are clear to anyone who has ever been to a Mexican rock concert (the most enthusiastic fans in the world; the warmest welcome) and because Rammstein has the power to inject a boatload of $$$$$$$$ into Puerto Vallarta at this difficult time for Mexico, selling $5,000 tickets to rich people around the world who are required to travel to the beautiful and beloved state of Jalisco, which gave to the world mariachis and tequila, if they would like to witness the world's biggest, hottest, loudest, and most spectacular of all heavy metal shows in all the history of the world until now and probably forever.


Until then, I will have to be satisfied with this sarcastic riff on Woody Guthrie, which I still love after the better part of a decade. But only after the fireflies and the bedtime stories are over and the kids are passed out, because this kind of fiery summer joy is for grownups only (and, before you play it, absolutely NSFW).


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