Last week, during a business trip up to Knoxville, Tennessee, I stopped at a fireworks store and loaded up on firecrackers, sparklers, bottle rockets, roman candles, screamers, volcanoes and smoke bombs - in short, pyrotechnics of every description, including two large, very dangerous-looking pieces. I wasn't sure what to do with it all, but thought they'd come in handy on the Fourth of July.
Tonight, they did come into use - I put of a fireworks display at the Zen Center. It was the first night of our July sesshin, and although I didn't attend, I went over toward the end of the evening meditation and discretely asked the roshi if he would object to some after-sitting fireworks. He liked the idea (gunpowder in general and fireworks in specific, after all, are a Chinese invention, and what better way to simultaneously celebrate our nation and our patriarchs?) and immediately announced it to the remaining meditators.
So I put on a little show for the sangha. The rockets, roman candles and volcanoes were all duly impressive and functioned as designed, and the sitters got into it after a while setting off spare firecrackers and sparklers themselves. Some of the pieces even had Zen-sounding names: "Wild Geese" and "Cherry Blossom Whistlers," for example (I know it's a stretch, but give me a break). But I was most pleased with those two large pieces - they shot off 10 and 15, respectively, very professional-looking aerial displays - starbursts in the sky that looked like the real fireworks shows going on across the city, although maybe not as high. At $7.50 and $10 each, they were well worth the money.
Having effectively jolted everyone out of their peaceful, meditative Zen frame of mind with my pyrotechnics, I took off. Driving home, I saw the aerial displays of the Lenox Square fireworks, and pulled my car over for a few minutes to watch them explode from across the Ansley Country Club golf course.
Firecrackers, it's been said, are like squirt guns - they're only fun to the persons who have them. But I think I was able to share the fun a little bit. I still have a half shopping bag full of spare sparklers, firecrackers and various rockets - any ideas on what to do with the remainder would be appreciated.