For the love of explosives

Where I live is the sort-of birthplace of America, where the “shot heard round the world” was fired in the Revolutionary War.

Thus, Massachusetts is a fireworks-loving (and of course, a fireworks-prohibiting) kind of place. Where I lived before, In Madison, Wisconsin, the annual July 4th festivity called Rhythm and Booms was a million-dollar community gathering that drew thousands of believers, bathed in bug spray, to picnic on a (also buggy) patch of summer grass for fifteen minutes of star-spangled splendor, followed by a one-hour traffic jam to even get started on the road back home. And yet, I love fireworks. I love their magical, nearly supernatural beauty – and I love the genius that goes into making them.

I agree that no one should try to light them up at home – although I confess that one of my sons and I once bought so many fireworks in Indiana that if someone had rear-ended us, I wouldn’t be writing this. Fireworks delight me and make me pensive too, almost wistful. On Independence Day, they remind us that summer, barely begun, is already at its midpoint. On New Year’s Eve, when, here in Massachusetts, the tradition of “First Night” is often celebrated with fireworks (and banging on pots with spoons), it reminds us that another year of our only lives has expired, and a new one begun … which is to say, another turning point. And yet, I would hate to see a world in which fireworks were (sensibly) banned. They make a celebration that probably is not worth the time and danger, but is like nothing else, like the scent of cologne, impermanent and seductive.

Or the scene of cordite.

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