When the Night Erupts in Brilliance

(Photo: William Rivers Pitt)(Photo: William Rivers Pitt)

There is a long stretch of dirt road in a corner of southwest New Hampshire that seems to be made of different time. Should you happen down its shaded way this time of year, you’ll encounter an odd sign on a warped plywood board leaning against an ancient oak tree. “BUKOWSKI’S NORTH,” it reads, an homage to the downtown Boston bar my friends and I shared while whittling our nights away over strong beers and stronger fellowship.

Every year, for years, I dust the winter off the face of that old sign and lean it against the tree, braced by a rock older than God. That sign reminds my visiting friends to slow down, to stop, and park either in the small cut-out or along the road itself. There is a driveway, but it is more of an air pocket than an entrance, a steep dive down to a small log cabin that sits on a lake. The pure blue beauty of the place – the porch, the ripples on the water, the wind, the scent of the trees and the quiet thunder within the soul evoked by the deep green all around – has a wonderful way of … well, of doing what it does.

The cabin was once an ice-fishing shack with no insulation – you could see through the gaps between the logs – but enjoys a massive stone fireplace that warmed the original owner after he came in off the ice with his catch. My daughter’s great-grandfather bought it from that fisherman for a small song, way back when something like that was still possible … and for four full generations since, my family and our dear friends have enjoyed the ravishing privilege of that small space.

For the last ten years, the cabin has been basically mine, the third generation with the fourth generation now happily toddling in tow. I open it in April, close it in late October when the water needs to be shut off, or else the pipes to the well will freeze, and so that’s basically the ballgame until the snow melts again, but in that small slice of time between Now and Then, it is paradise in miniature … and no weekend whatsoever tops the Fourth of July at the cabin.

We grill, we eat, we drink, we smoke, we fix what needs fixing, we have bonfires … and we few, we happy few – the far-flung, the desperately busy, the exasperated parents, the hard-core experts, the long-lost friends from days of yore – come together in a ring around the flames, and we exhale … and exhale … and exhale … and then go back into the cabin in due time to sleep the sleep of the righteous, after which we wake in an ocean of pure air to the sound of the loons on the lake.

As Lead Columnist for Truthout, I have been tasked through the years to write on all the holidays of import. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter on occasion, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and once again the Fourth of July. Having been here for thirteen years, I consider the duty a full joy: It is a hell of a thing to have the privilege to write for such an extraordinary organization on such important days, and to represent in my own small way the extraordinary people I work with.

I am, by nature, angry and informed at all times, even on holiday weekends. Therefore, here goes:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership sucks. Fracking sucks. Citizens United sucks, as does the corporate ownership of this democracy. The Keystone XL pipeline sucks out loud. The wars, and the ruthless “Defense” machine that keeps manufacturing new ones, need to go. Crazy people in tall offices who think women should bend the knee because Jesus, or something, are the worst people in the country, and must be voted out of their stations of power with dispatch. The ecosystem is dying at speed and will take us all with it, by way of an angry ocean, if we don’t wise up.

Spare us your fossil fuels and pipelines already, fund education and Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid instead of war, regulate the finance industry so far up their asses that the bump on their throat is the nose of the regulator, put the Wall Street Banker/thieves who steal from us with brazen abandon in prison, pave the roads, fix the bridges, and everyone deserves a damn job.

Oh, P.S. Stop shooting unarmed Black men for no reason, put the tanks away, actually protect and serve, and while you’re at it, dismantle the prison “industry.”

Good?

Fine.

A nice place to start.

John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail regarding this day wrote, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance.” We have yet to be delivered, and we have such a long way to go. Yet all is not darkness, and reaching for the light is an effort that yields its own rewards. That road, such as it is, never ends.

In the meantime, I will be at my daughter’s great-grandfather’s cabin in the warm company of old friends this weekend. There’s a guy on the other side of the lake with one of those floating docks that is anchored 30 feet out in the water. He fancies himself a fireworks expert, and has repeatedly proved it year after year, and every Fourth he stacks that dock with vivid pyrotechnics … and then, just as the sun fades and the stars appear, he lights the fuse, and the night and the surface of the lake erupt in brilliance.

I can’t wait to see what he has in store this year.

Happy Fourth of July, all. Let freedom ring.