July 4

I’m floating quietly in our pool looking into the sky. I like the sunset hour for swimming. It is so peaceful, so quiet. I haven’t heard the sounds of any fireworks yet. A covey of quail from the nearby hill behind our house fly over our backyard with a rush of wings. Our street is not named Quail Court for nothing.

After a while the evening doves I frightened earlier when I came outside begin to collect on the fence. They are waiting. I quietly slip over to the pool steps on the opposite side and sit still as a monument. One by one they come. Then several at a time, drinking cooing, quietly, peacefully interacting with one another. I am already writing this in my mind as I watch them. I never appreciated things like this when I was younger.

Two hundred and forty years ago, it was anything but still and peaceful. Only a couple of signatures graced the newly minted Declaration of Independence, and the fate of a new republic hung in the balance. There was often more bad news than good. A radical experiment in democracy was underway unlike anything the world had known before. Would it work? Could a thing as fragile as self government stand the stress it would come under in the uncertain days ahead? No one knew. It had never been done like this before.

In five minutes the doves are all gone. It is quiet. Another bird has passed by a few times. I see them sometimes this time of night as the light is fading. White rings on the ends of their wings, like designs painted on a plane. It dives quickly at the water, wary of me, but trying to steal a drink. I hear the first echo of fireworks.

Fifty years after we proclaimed our independence, on July 4, 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lay dying in their respective homes. They would pass within five hours of one another on the fiftieth anniversary of the day, as though special tribute was being paid to these two giants of liberty. Their old feud had been long forgotten and the letters passed between them in their later years marks one of the most incredible correspondences between two such luminaries, much less Presidents, in the history of the nation.

The striped bird comes back once more and lastly a small bat flutters around my head, sensing rather than seeing me, testing to see if it is safe to drink. It is safe. I am safe. I am secure here in the most stable democracy ever to exist. My peace was purchased for me by the blood of men and women I will never know, whose praises, for the most part, will never be sung. I am thankful. God bless America. Happy July 4th everyone!

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