Tuesday, July 4th, 2017, I found myself free climbing the First Flatironette above Chautauqua Park in Boulder, following the voices of my comrades, eking out the rock cracks with my fingers in the fading light of dusk. The adventure had started with a mad dash from the BBQ at the house, pushing out bikes as fast as our legs would go up the endless hill to Chautauqua. After a brief check by the OSMP rangers to make sure we weren’t smuggling fireworks or booze into the park, we huffed our way up the next seemingly endless hill until we reached the base of the flatiron.
We were far from the only people in Chautauqua that night- it being a favorite place for many people to go on a normal day- but this day was the Fourth of July, and the best view of the fireworks on the front range was up. I changed into my climbing shoes- not strictly necessary for this climb, but I felt more secure knowing I had good rubber under my toes. It may be rated 5.2, but that still means it’s class 5 terrain- vertical.
There were a few moments wherein some serious mind control needed to be kicked in. Times when my evil little brain started saying, “Hey, Molly, you’re gonna fallllllll.”
And I had to say out loud, “Hey, shut up. I’m not going to fall. I am in control. Go away so I can focus.” Because all it really take is focus and mindfulness. It was also incredibly helpful to have a bunch of people on the route ahead of me so I knew where I was going.
We arrived at the top of the ironette about 30 minutes after starting, right as the last light of the day was fading behind the mountains to the west. As the dark began to settle in towards the east, we began to see the various fireworks shows of the front range cities. “There’s Louisville’s! Those have to be in Longmont. What’s down there to the south? Is that Lakewood?” And then the main show started, the fireworks out of Folsom Field in Boulder.
The first burst was exciting and then the following twenty minutes were… mediocre. This isn’t to say that Boulder puts on a mediocre fireworks show. It’s to say that whenever I find myself looking out over miles of firework shows, (which I always seem to do, whether it be from the top of Rattlesnake Mtn. in Holderness, NH, Peet’s Hill in Bozeman, MT, or the top of the First Flatironette in Boulder, CO) I always reach a moment wherein I’m underwhelmed. Fireworks just don’t really do it for me. The finales are always pretty cool, I’ll agree with that. But overall, if I didn’t have fireworks in my life, I know I would be perfectly okay and never really notice a difference.
Considering that cities have to budget approximately $1,000 per minute for a fireworks show, it seems like a sizable investment for something we could live without.
When the first fireworks went off, the sound of the explosion boomed and echoed in the mountains around us. One of my comrades said, “Gosh…it’s kind of erie. It sounds like bombs are being dropped.”
“Well, we are celebrating the day we declared war on England,” I said, stepping up to be the bummer in the group, “Fireworks are absolutely a metaphor for bombs and wartime.”
I’m sure that some people love fireworks. I’m sure they’re reminiscent of treasured childhood days in and idealistic America. I certainly have fond memories of the Fourth of July growing up in rural New Hampshire. It was exciting and fun. But when we step back and consider the cost and the implications, doesn’t it become important to ask ourselves, “Do we need to celebrate this way?”
I love the United States landscape, I treasure what our society might be someday, and I honor the many who have contributed. I look forward to celebrating in a way that reflects “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” At the end of the night, I felt like climbing a mountain was pretty good.