Forces of Illumination


Savannah was still on the phone when she extended over her shoulder an invitation onto a boat leaving its dock in seven minutes to watch the fireworks.

Jackets in hand, a quickly gathered bag of walnuts in my pocket, as we exited out the door to lock up and I skipped around to the passenger side, I saw in the western sky a giant, unexpected comet with two tails faintly light up a very large portion of the sky, and a birthday candle streak of orange fell back down toward —what I had realized all at once — must be Vandenberg, hundreds of miles away.

I pointed up at the comet — the car already started — grasping for the words after “That’s…” as I had to peel my feet. We had to go.

Wishing I could dial four people all at once, having temporarily for a moment forgotten how my phone worked, the gleeful panic more like an emergency than a great coincidence, to see something so far away take up such a large wide swath of the sky, as if a nebula were forming right then and there, the spent changes of rocket fuel all white, lit up by forces of illumination I didn’t yet understand.

Through the windshield and passenger window, as we drove toward the harbor, majestically moving forward in the sky, they were two great rear views of parabolic curves. As we ran to the dock to board, those twin tails wisped away, only a bit less temporary than an eclipse.

“We can do that…” I tried to say.

Engineer a prehensile column of fire and bear witness to the elegance of its aftermath.

On the boat off-shore, just as my eyes had veered up, now here they found the reflection of the fireworks downward in the water more remarkable, more beautiful, more interesting. We both turned around, and I closed my eyes, noticing the slight difference in echo against all of the other boats behind us, a brilliant but unexpected method of location, moving the sails and rigging.



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