Archive for July, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Yesterday was a day of simple pleasures.  Drinking a cup of coffee on the deck in the morning, watching the lake ripple with the slight breeze.  Sun dappled leaves rustling.  Sitting with Dad, he on the swing, me at the picnic table.  Not talking, just sitting and enjoying the view.  Watching for any activity on the lake.  Oatmeal with fresh raspberries for breakfast.

Walking the dogs down the trail to the back lake with my sister and nephew.  Boy running ahead with the small white Westie, joy radiating off both of them.  My sister and I are on alert, watching the woods, checking the ground for signs of unfriendly animals.  We’d found new tracks of a big cat the day before.  Picking berries as we go, popping the sun warmed morsels in our mouths, no pretense of gathering them for later.  Raspberries are almost done, eaten by greedy bears.  Blackberries are just ripening.  We can see where the bears were laying in the berry bushes,  large areas flattened just off the trail, some new since yesterday.  Constant boy chatter.

Swimming off the pontoon boat in the stillness of the back lake.  My 16-year-old son taking charge, piloting the boat, dropping the anchor by hand since the anchor winch is having issues.  Seeing him dump his 10-year-old cousin into the lake to find out if the water is warm or cold – instructing him just before he dropped him to yelp once if it’s warm, twice if it’s cold.  One yelp.  Watching his tall frame spin through the air in an attempted back flip into the water, hearing his laughter as he comes up.  Floating on a home-made raft of “noodles”, eyes closed, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face.

My sister and I cooking a dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs, beans and salad.  Chatting with Mom as we cook. letting her simply sit at the table as we prepare to feed the hungry hoard.  Conversation around the dinner table.  Laughter.

Having my son put is head on my shoulder as we sit side by side on the couch in the quiet of the night.  Not too big, not too old, at least not yet.

Simple pleasures all.  Yet worth more, as they say, than all the tea in China.

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Like millions of others, I watched the fireworks last week.  A tradition all across the United States on the Fourth of July, fireworks displays are  large and expansive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce, choreographed to soaring music, spectacular spectacles in the sky.  Or they are small and quaint, a small mosaic of bursting lights and loud noises.  I have been to the large and expensive displays, from floating on a boat on Lake Washington in Seattle, to sitting at Lincoln’s feet on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  And those were spectacular pyrotechnic displays.  Flowers and shooting stars, multi-colored, large, all bursting overhead in perfect time to the orchestra playing patriotic symphonies, the magnificent majesty conveying our nation’s might and glory.  And yet, to me, the true spirit of America comes through better in the small, local displays than in the spectaculars of the large.

My afternoon started with a small town parade.  In 106 degree heat, the color guard from the local American Legion, dressed in everything from their dress blues to their BDU’s,  carried the American flag down the center of the half mile long parade route.  They were followed by the local water ski club, by local merchants armed with squirt guns, and by the high school football team who ran back and forth from their pick up drawn trailer to the crowd lining the street with buckets of water that they dumped on the grateful.  The volunteer fire department brought up the rear, with lights flashing and hands waving.  Children chased after candy tossed from the floats by the handful and squealed with delight as the spray from the squirt guns doused them.  There were no  political speeches, no grandiose declarations of the might of our great nation. Just pure small town fun.

The day ended on the shores of a small lake in northern Wisconsin. A small bar and restaurant, which I’ll call Bug Pond Bar,  sits on the edge of the lake. Bug Pond Bar is normally full of a group of local characters.  Turkey Tom, Florida Ron, and Gramps, to name a few.  On the 4th, the bar was bustling.  Campers from around the lake, visitors from down south and summer people mixed with the usual crew.  There were brats and dogs on the grill, beer was flowing and karaoke was on hand.  Unlike a great deal of the country there was no fire danger, no fireworks ban.  Thanks to the 7 and a half inches of rain that fell in the weeks before, grass, trees and weeds were a vibrant green.  About 50 yards from the deck there was what looked like a circle of boxes, of varying heights and sizes.  Fireworks.  We laid out our blanket under the spreading branches of an old tree,  no more than 50 yards from where the ring of fireworks were set up and headed to the deck for a cocktail or two.

The fireworks didn’t start until 10, so we had plenty of time to sit and chat.  We sang along to the karaoke, sipped our drinks.  It seemed like every other person stopped to talk to my Dad.  He spends the summers up at the lake, and everyone knows Jack.  Sitting next to Dad, Mom twinkled like the sparklers that kids were starting to light.  As dusk darkened we moved to the blankets under the trees.  They didn’t move as swiftly, or bend as easily as they did on their first date 56 years ago, but Mom and Dad still sat on the blanket, Mom leaning against Dad.  In their faces you could still see the handsome young football player and the pretty little blond.

Just before the fireworks started, Lee, one of the owners of the Bug Pond Bar, came on the PA System.  She reminded everyone of the raffle for a pair of water skis, proceeds to go to helping pay for the fireworks.  She asked for a moment of silence in memory of John, who used to own the Bug Pond Bar and who had passed away last month from cancer.  Then everyone stood for the Star Spangled Banner and BANG!  the first rocket shot into the air, exploding in a star burst of red, white and blue.  Because we were only 50 yards away from the ring of fireworks, we could see the guys with their torches, touching the hot glowing ends to the base of the boxes, then jumping back before they shot skyward.  I think I even saw one guy light a cigarette, but I couldn’t swear to it!  For fifteen minutes or so there were white spirals, multi-colored stars, red, white and blue streamers and green ribbons exploding overhead.  A finale of several going off at once closed out the night, although it seemed more like the guys got tired of lighting things off than a planned final display.

As the smoke cleared, blankets were gathered up and  tired children were piled into cars.  There was a feeling of satisfaction hanging over the crowd.  It might not have been the largest display of fireworks, or the most elaborate, but it was our fireworks display, paid for with donations from the crowd.  And I think that’s what makes small town fireworks more special than the larger, more spectacular displays.  They belong to us, just like America belongs to us.

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