This year, I spent the 4th of July weekend with a friend up in Estes Park, which is relatively close to Denver, but feels like a world away. It’s deep in the mountains, elevation just over 7,000 feet.
Estes Park is one of my favorite places. The scenery is spectacular, with mountain peaks so high they still had snow, even in July. But down in town, the weather was balmy, for the most part.
There was a brief, but heavy, rainstorm on the 4th, and even some hail. We were staying at the Stanley hotel (inspiration for the Overlook hotel in “The Shining” and no, I didn’t see any ghosts).
After the rain, I went out on this lovely veranda, and there was this spectacular rainbow, forming a vivid, perfect arch which traversed the entire valley, huge and breathtaking and perfect.
I fumbled in my purse for my camera, then remembered it was back in the room. I took utterly inadequate photos with my cel phone, which almost completely failed to capture the moment.
So I just stood there and appreciated it, savoring the colors against the mountains, lush with unending trees. I watched until it faded, melting from the sky.
Later that night, there were fireworks over the lake. We sat on that same veranda with a handful of strangers who were smart enough to find our little haven (more public areas were crowded with families and couples).
On the 4th, when you attend a fireworks show, you are almost always surrounded by people you don’t know, everyone leaving the comfort of their homes to venture out into the darkness, to sit next to strangers and make “ooh” and “ah” noises, to celebrate the birth of our country, to appreciate the beauty of the moment.
We watch fireworks, invented in China in the 12th century. Mankind discovered a way to create beautiful — but achingly fleeting — fire in the sky.
Sitting there in the dark, snuggled up next to my friend, I was once again amazed by the blazing crysanthemums of sparkling light, the way I was as a child. Fireworks have a way of bringing out the kid in almost everyone.
The next day, we wandered around the many unique shops in Estes Park. He bought me many lovely gifts, but the most precious was a spectacular handmade Kaleidoscope. I have always wanted a truly beautiful, well-made Kaleidoscope.
Looking through it, turning the wheel and watching the gorgeous patterns and colors, I was delighted — and again, it was like being a little kid. I was so excited by this object that creates light, color, and patterns that are completely unique, and will never be repeated again.
Today I marveled over the similarities of these experiences.
We live in a world where we spend so much of our time on computers, in front of television sets. We are surrounded with war and fears about economics. We worry that our children are getting a crappy education, we worry about our jobs, our relationships, our families. We have addictions, pain, suffering.
But we have rainbows, which give us moments of beauty we have to savor, immediately, in the moment, because we can’t press “pause.”
We have fireworks, which bring strangers together to share a moment, to see beautiful fire in the sky — technology that’s hundreds of years old, that never fails to delight even now.
Monks and deeply spiritual folk meditate, to be present, to be here, in this moment — not worrying about the past, or anxious about the future, but simply being right here, right now.
Rainbows, Kaleidoscopes, fireworks — these are moments of beauty that we must be present to fully enjoy, because this exact moment will not come again.
Enjoy this moment.