Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Every year after the Fourth of July Fireman’s Festival, I do a strange thing. I wait a day or two until all the rides and the concessions have been packed up and put away, and I go to the grounds and try to imagine that a festival had so recently been there.

On Sunday night of the festival—the last night—our family stays late for the fireworks. Usually we sit down at the edge of a large tent at the main eating place and watch the fireworks together. By my slowed-down standards, this is a heck of a good time. The lights of the midway, the smell of the food, the darkness, the teenagers ambling about, the leftover heat from the day, the good feeling of shared experience, American independence, family togetherness, the smell of French fries, community under the tent, the festive weight of the air—all these things combine for a delicious feeling, bittersweet at the same time because the feeling cannot last. Fall will come, the teenagers will go away to school, winter will come, some of these people will be gone from the earth, and nothing can ever be repeated exactly as it was.

So I return to the grounds to wallow in this, to take stock of it, and to try to imagine how it could recently have been what it was but is not. Early morning may be the best time to do this. The early morning after a nighttime festival may be the prime wallowing time for those so disposed to it.

This year I determined to record it.

Early evening Sunday I went about with my camera recording scenes, people, lights. I played the last two games of Bingo with my son Jefferson, photographing him in the warm and cozy light of the tent—a perfect moment in time.

Snap, snap, snap I went again, all over the festival grounds, recording it as it was so that I could record it, for you, as it is, and demonstrate for you the competing miracles of being and not being, and the terrible nature of change.

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My friend Charlie and I have agreed to meet, in the coming eon, at the site of the small brick patio next to my house. We were sitting there late one evening a couple years back—drinking coffee and looking up at the stars—when we decided that sometime during the thousand years of peace we would return to earth and meet at this precise place and marvel at how it had been, and how we had been then. We would be celestial beings, but in full possession of memories, knowing well how it was during the time of our humiliation. This present earth would remain for a thousand years subsequent to our change, we knew, being destroyed only later and replaced with a new earth. For a thousand years, then, the precise coordinates of any location on the current planet would be known. We would certainly know where this porch had been, and we would come here. And we would marvel and ask ourselves:

Is this really the place where we once sat, marveling and wondering at the stars? Was this truly the site of a wooden house in which the greater part of a man’s life was played out, where he loved a woman, raised a family, shared joys and shed tears? Is this truly the place? Could this really be it? We know that it is—we know that these are the precise coordinates—yet it does not seem possible that it could have been here. It is all so different. We are so different. And yet—confirm it—this is the place. We sat precisely here in wooden chairs in our bodies of humiliation, staring up at a world that was then so foreign to us.

I finish now with a photograph of this coordinate. It is know among the celestials by a name other than that given it by mortals. They know that we will return here. I believe that, since Charlie and I made a pact here and that we shall one day be seated at the right hand of God, it may well be a grand event. I want you to see how it is now. Look at it and remember it, for you shall see it again as it shall be, from the perspective of a future change soon to be spoken of in the past tense.

Present; future; past. What are these? Stare at this photograph and sear it into your mind in case you one day wish to find out.

© 2006 by Martin Zender