What Have You Learned?

pabu2Our dog suffers so on the Fourth of July, that it drains all the fun out of fireworks for me. A friend’s post on Facebook, too, made me reflect on how combat veterans with PTSD likely experience this holiday.

I have vivid memories of being a child running with a sparkler over the summer grass on our farm, and I remember, in my twenties, sitting on a lakeshore and watching a display that I have never forgotten (in fact, with a friend who was a Viet Nam veteran), but there’s such a difference between watching an hour-long, beautiful, choreographed display of fireworks, and what goes on each Fourth in my neighborhood, in unincorporated Edmonds. Booms and smoke and flashes for several days, and not just on the holiday itself. Being jolted awake at 1 a.m. by a huge blast last night — by the blast and by the dog going crazy — did not make me feel patriotic.

This morning, a lovely parade in our neighborhood, little kids on their bicycles, a whole menagerie of pets, flags, music; grilled chicken and potato salad this afternoon, watermelon — these are the parts of the holiday that can still make me happy.

Meanwhile, I’m rereading Louise DeSalvo’s amazing book, Writing as a Way of Healingand this morning I came across this advice about integrating our creative work with life itself:

“…we must think about the world, ourselves and others, and the subject of our work. We must relate what we are learning in our work to our lives. We must be willing to use these insights to change our behavior if necessary.” (100)pabu beach

It strikes me that this is all about consciousness. It’s so easy for me to let my journal-writing be a kind of holding at bay of what I’m feeling — which is exhausting — rather than an embrace of what I am feeling. So these are the questions I can begin with , again and and again: What do you know? What have you learned? How has that shaped who you are? Are you letting what you know shape who you are becoming?

Or, to borrow from Nietzche, Do I have the courage to become who I am?




4 replies
  1. Dawn Sully Pile
    Dawn Sully Pile says:

    I love reading your posts! Thank you for your consistency of writing. I rarely comment out of time (poor excuse, I know)…but how I resonate with today’s piece. GA legalized fireworks last year, as in firecrackers and more for anyone and everyone and yes, ok until up to 2 AM, I believe. It has, as you say, produced anxious pets and anxious people. As someone local wrote in a commentary, there is now no way for animals and those with PTSD or other conditions that need a good night’s rest to escape the sounds and the unwelcome awakening at all hours. Last night it was the same here, though I have to say that my neighborhood has been 99% good about creating noise early (nothing after 10). However,at 1 or 2 AM I and the cats woke up with a start that was disconcerting.

    I, too, had amazing and glorious sparklers as a child and then we went to the annual fireworks display by choice, to relish the beauty and designs. I, like you say so beautifully in this piece, want to live in the consciousness of others. It will not be perfect and there is no desire to diminish holiday celebrations but they can still be glorious along with practicing kind and generous mindfulness.

    Love that book, too!

  2. Joannie
    Joannie says:

    Thank you for this post, and for the tip about this book by Louise DeSalvo. I love fireworks visually, but the complete experience–the smoke, the boom–remind me of war. Every year, my own conflict. And then even in the city we have people lighting off fairly large fireworks, so there is noise and a fear of fires starting late into the night.


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