While searching for historic parade images in our local library, we came across these beautiful photographs of fireworks. Taken in 1976, they capture a quality of ephemeral beauty and celebration that sweeps our nation (and backyard celebrations) each year.

As a child, I was fascinated with fireworks for their patterns and colors. I watched in awe each July 4th as the displays brilliantly lit up the sky before fading away. Back at home, I reimagined their shapes and recreated them with paper and crayons. Maggie has been decorating our house for weeks now and will, I am sure, come home to paper and crayons the same as I did so many years ago.

As the holiday approaches, we all look forward to days filled with cooking, laughing, and celebrating with friends and family. My neighborhood’s 4th of July parade is followed by the annual Kids vs. Adults Baseball game, a cookout, and a grand fireworks spectacle to conclude the day’s events.

A few years ago, I came across a lighthearted story about fireworks—in a book that now escapes my memory. The tale is about the power of laughter and called “The Three Laughing Monks.” Here is the story as best I can remember:

These three laughing monks used to travel from village to village in China. They were poor and without worldly goods or fine clothing, but were full of joy. In each village where they stopped, the monks would sit in the marketplace and laugh, and before very long everybody would be gathered around them, bellies shaking and tears running with the intensity of their laughter.

When one of the monks died, a tremendous crowd came to see the burning of his body.

Somewhat shocked by the fact that his two fellow monks were still laughing, people began to prepare the body to be put on the funeral pyre.

The two monks interceded, however, saying that their friend’s dying wish was that his body should be left in the simple, tattered clothes that he had always worn.

As the flames licked the pyre and the clothes began to catch, tremendous explosions were heard, and from the pyre arose the most wonderful fireworks display ever seen. The monk had hidden fire crackers in the folds of his garment before he died. All the people of the village, along with his fellow monks laughed and laughed and laughed.

Happy (early) Independence Day weekend,


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