A while before Christmas, along with the plastic Santas and blinking lights and frighteningly-flavored candy canes, fireworks started to appear in the supermarkets and drug stores. There were all sorts, from simple sparklers to huge variety packs of things that go pop and bang and boom and pfizzz.
A friend had explained that regular fireworks, the kind that go boom in the sky and shower the earth with lights and patterns we can only imagine unless we get hit in the head with a baseball, those fireworks are illegal for private use in Hawaii. But they are brought in anyway, by the barge load. We thought he was joking.
In the evenings, we started hearing the occasional bang or pop, sometimes distant, sometimes rather close. Was it engine backfires? Maybe. Handguns? Unlikely. Hawaii has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, something we are extremely grateful for. So we wondered, but as with so many things in this strange, new world, we had no idea what was going on.
Last night, New Year’s Eve, the bangs and pops started before it even got dark. We’re surrounded by trees so we couldn’t see much. We enjoyed listening as the intensity grew, but us being us, we lit up our $10 bag of bangs and pops and climbed into bed by 10:30.
I couldn’t sleep, so I was laying in the dark thinking my thoughts when the clock struck midnight. The bangs and pops suddenly escalated enough to draw me out of bed. I crept to the bedroom window and found that if I rested my forehead against the screen, I could just see the upper arc of fireworks rising above the trees from a couple of streets over.
I was entranced. I stared at the glowing points of colored light as they quickly faded and disappeared. At the same time, I could hear more bangs and pops, hundreds of them, coming from other directions. The curious kitten inside me grew desperate for more.
I tiptoed around the house checking all the windows but could only see a distant glow. Still, the bangs and pops continued.
There was no moon and our street has no street lights, so I eased the front door open and inched my way outside. The street was inky dark. I looked up and saw the twinkling glow of a billion stars. From the end of the driveway, I could see the pulsing glow of fireworks in all directions, now to my right or left, now behind me, now dead ahead.
The air was mild, the breeze gentle; I stood in our driveway, in my underwear, wrapped in a robe of sulfurous smoke, slowly turning to take in the stars, both in the distance and so very close, totally alone and yet at one with the universe, feeling a sense of childlike joy as pure and inviting as a freshly fallen snowbank.
My wish for you, gentle reader, is that you find a moment to discover that joy some time in the coming year. It’s out there. You just have to look for it.
From Puna to the world, Happy New Year.