Thursday, July 4, 2013

In Da Pants Dance Day

It was a chicken. 

It sat quite still, staring out at the world with dead eyes frozen in an expression of mild shock. It was only a few inches tall, and looked innocent enough. A simple child's toy, poorly made by the look of it. Its features were painted on with a sloppy hand, by someone who had only read stories of chickens. It's possible that somebody somewhere may have loved it, except that it was occupying a few square inches of real estate on the sidewalk. 

Had you been there, and had you been curious enough, perhaps you would have kneeled down to see that the somewhat proportionally demented poultry was sitting on a little blue stage. There were words on the stage. Were they a child's name? Perhaps a note indicating where the lost toy should be returned? This guesswork would have been folly. The stage read:

Hen Laying Egg
See Bottom for Other Cautions

This was the moment you would have realized that what you mistook for a child's plaything was in fact a firework. If you had been like me, 7 years old at the time, you would have also leapt back in alarm when the head of the chicken began to spin around and around with increasing speed; 360 degrees of Linda Blair. You also may have screamed while clutching the hand of your father and your sister, who were laughing in astonished horror at the unmistakably raising butt-flap of the chicken firework. The head spun faster and faster, becoming a blur of red waddle and painted feathers, and then... Then the magic happened. 

Eggs. Eggs engulfed in flame rocketed like launching bombs from the chicken's rear end. The flaming orbs shot out across the sidewalk and toward our feet. We danced to avoid the farm friendly fire, leaping into the air like cowboys who are getting their feet shot at in the entrance to a seedy western bar. I lost track of how many eggs that chicken lay, but I never let go of my father's hand.

What is America to me? Is it the availability of explosive replicas of farm animals? Is it freedom, chivalry, and dollar flip flops at Old Navy? Is it pickles and beer?

I can't say that the Fourth of July has ever had much of an impact on me. I enjoy fireworks, and I like eating food, but I never really spent much time thinking about whether it had some sort of meaning. I know it is Independence Day; the day we became a country. But I'm not entirely sure that I know what that means to us as a people. I've been living in the woods of America for the past 4 months. What does it mean to me?

I believe that this country was built on the pursuit of giving more and more rights to our people. Every time we as a community are able to successfully give more respect and freedoms to our individuals, we become stronger. There have been times where we have taken steps backward. But I suppose I like to believe that we continue to move forward toward an understanding of freedom as choice. That we can respect the choices, rights, and happiness of others. We are only as strong as each individual, and every time we can bestow more rights, we become a stronger country.

This country has a beauty that I have never before really understood. Now I have climbed the backbone, scrabbling up mountains and standing on their shoulders. I have never felt that I own this land; we cannot presume to own it. But this earth owns me. And it is my home. They sang about purple mountain's majesty. Baby, I've lived it. 

Hiking the Appalachian Trail has given me a deep abiding respect for this little section of our planet. The mountains haven't thrown me off, I can touch the sky and I have stood inside the clouds. I have the choice to do something like this, to do something like hike 2,200 miles just because I want to.

Isn't that something?

This Fourth of July, Dumptruck, Grim and I got to be with Whistle's superb aunt, uncle, grandmother and cousins. We ate more food than a garbage disposal, watched movies and lounged in air conditioning. Whistle did a rainbow hair wrap for me, and I macramed Gryffindor colors onto Grim's hiking poles. Their beautiful house is up on a hill, and we could see out over a valley where fireworks were set off at dusk. Never before have I been able to enjoy fireworks without sustaining at least 50 bug bites. But we could sit in the living room and look out at the explosions of color. What luxury! Tomorrow morning we head back out to the trail, and I will be ready to once again be enveloped by bugs and trees. 

A few years ago, I remembered the Hen Laying Eggs, and tried to find one to give to my father. I went in several fireworks shops, but was unsuccessful. Eventually I asked a proprietor if they were available anywhere. He told me that they had been banned, due to the incidence of people figuring out how to rig the chicken's butt flap closed, not allowing any eggs to escape, and causing the chicken to eventually build up enough salmonella napalm to explode in a leaping ball of fire. This was disappointing, mostly because I was sad that my father, sister and I had not thought to try just such a thing all those years earlier.  

Happy 4th, my friends.

Clever Girl

Whistle's handiwork!

Grim's Gryffindor poles

Grim and Whistle on the porch watching the show.


  1. Because it said "Hen Laying Egg" we were very happy more than 1 came out. If memory serves it was, in fact, 8. Hen Laying Egg was a perfect combination of innocence and mayhem; like Anne of Green Gables joining a biker gang. Beautiful post about the meaning of the 4th; you nailed it. The Statue of Liberty re-opened yesterday for the 1st time since Sandy. As she promises, America will continue to grow stronger the more we live up to her promise to "lift my lamp beside the golden door". America is defined by choice and captured it beautifully. Of course, we're also defined by our God-given right to seal hen-laying-egg butt flaps. Thanks to Whistle’s family for taking such good care of everyone. So much fun to be with kindred spirits (hey…two Anne Shirley references in one note!) Love, Mom and Dad

    1. PS I assume that's not someone's butt Dumptruck is leaning against in the 1st picture...:-)

    2. Nope, that is in fact his pasty white man leg. His thighs glow in the dark!

  2. Stephen bookmarked your blog and I was just going through it and found your beautiful 4th of July post. We are very touched by what you said... I just followed so I can see on my blog roll when you update what you are all up to on the trail! We REALLY enjoyed having all of you stay with us and are very happy that you enjoyed yourselves and got a chance to recharge for the next leg of your journey! Be safe, healthy and take care of each other! You are all always welcome! :)
    Aunt Tery :)
    (my blog name will say Mrs.C because I have my own art ed blog that I use to post whats going on in my classroom. I use it to connect with other art teachers across the country and world)

    1. Thanks Tery!! We had such and amazing time with you. I hope your cruise was fantastic! I'll see if I can follow your art blog, I'd love to be in the art teacher loop! Much love!

  3. Mama Apple Butter here, I just wanted to tell you (if I have not already) that you are a creative, imaginative writer. I do enjoy reading your blogs. Hope the foot is better. My husband has referred to my skin as "fish belly white" so I can identify with Dumptruck's "pasty white man leg". LOL

    1. Hey Maureen! Thank you so much, that's so sweet of you. Dumptruck is always validated when other folks are also blindingly white :D

  4. So glad to hear your foot is well enough to take you back to the AT. Thank you for taking a zero to frolic at our house! We loved getting to know you all and hope it won't be the last time we get together. Our home is always open. Be well, be safe, but most of all be fun! Irene and Tom

    1. Being at your house was like being at home, it was so wonderful. Thank you again for everything, now and always!