I wanted to do something Fourth-of-July-y this Fourth of July. I stumbled across a web page announcing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence at Ringwood Manor at 2:30 pm.
Ringwood Manor is the site of an eighteenth century ironworks and a manor house built in 1807. The grounds include meadow, a pond, and woods. I regularly see osprey, merlin, and wood duck. Antoinette and I used to pick black walnuts there, and stain our hands orange with the spicy, fragrant nut husks that daddy would drive over to help us to get the shelling done.
I went first to Skylands Manor, just two miles away. It was a spectacular sunny day with an intense blue sky, and I saw no birds. It's all the more remarkable that when I came up here the other day, a day of mist and completely overcast, seeking comfort over my medical woes, I practically tripped over all the birds I saw, including the primary colored ones, all right next to each other: goldfinch, bluebird, and scarlet tanager. And a bear!
I did hear one bird today and I knew what was, but I didn't know what it was.
I have cognitive issues. I know I am dyslexic, but there's something else going on too, and I don't know the word for it.
Here's how the cognitive issues worked today: I heard a bird, and I knew that part of my brain knew exactly what bird it was – and my conscious mind had no idea. Nothing. Blank slate. Then, I said, out loud, "This bird sounds like a belted kingfisher and it is a hairy woodpecker."
Why didn't I know it was a hairy woodpecker till I said that out loud? No idea. I often understand things by saying them out loud, or writing about them. Until I do, it's just a big wad of glowing, multicolored stuff.
I am a spaz. I would call myself a "luddite" but I'd have to move up several centuries to qualify.
I am afraid of technology.
Today I felt a sudden, inexplicable urge to do something I have never done before. Attempt to take photographs to convey to others how beautiful the woods are to me.
Facebook friend Anna Siemienowski Brzuza mailed me a camera *five years ago.* Today for the first time I attempted to take photos, just for the sake of taking photos.
Picture one is my attempt to communicate, via a photograph, to other people, how beautiful the woods are. I like this photograph. I think it worked.
Picture two is one of the plantings at Skylands.
Pictures three and four are a wall of boulders with moss and trees. Again, just so beautiful. I don't know why the two photographs are different.
Pictures five and six are an attempt to show the black, pebbly bark of a persimmon tree.
Now, here is the good news. Let me emphasize: GOOD NEWS. FOURTH OF JULY GOOD NEWS.
I walked downhill from Skylands toward Ringwood Manor, and I saw something I'd never seen before. A traffic jam on Sloatsburg Road. This is a wooded road that is usually empty.
My first thought: some horrible accident.
All these people, these hundreds of people, were sitting in this dead still traffic jam, because they had driven up here into the woods to attend the reading of the Declaration of Independence at Ringwood Manor.
I started crying on Sloatsburg Road. I'm crying now.
A hot, beautiful summer day. Could have gone swimming. Could have stayed home by the grill. Could have gone to a ball game.
Drove up here, to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud.
Wall to wall people. Cars parked on grass. Staff overwhelmed. "Legalize the Constitution" and "Ted Cruz 2016" bumper stickers.
I love my country.
Men in authentic eighteenth-century costume, carrying authentic eighteenth-century muskets, what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the second amendment, mingled. They handed out wooden "guns" to the kids and trained them in their usage.
"If you don't have a musket now, don't worry," the handsome man with the resonant voice said. "There will be attrition, and you will soon be able to take a weapon from a fallen comrade." Whoa. Let these kids know how their rights were won.
A man up ahead of me said to the woman he was with, "I'm embarrassed to ask you this."
Of course I listened in. I thought maybe he'd ask about unusual sexual proclivities, or body odor. No. "The Bill of Rights came *after* the Constitution?" His voice was urgent. He really wanted to know. She really wanted to explain. It was great.
The rebels tried to rile up the crowd. We were to pretend we were eighteenth-century colonists. When they asked if we were ready to lay down our lives, to kill and die, I raised a peace sign. "Can't we work this out amicably?"
The guy next to me, who kept yelling things like "Behead the king! Indict Hillary!" shot me a dirty look.
By the time the reader got to the end of the Declaration of Independence, I was ready to go fight. That's what that document is – it's pro-war propaganda. It gets your blood boiling.
"Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." I cried again.
Our country is beset by a Political Correctness that hates the West, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and that blames America first.
We are addicted to a substance, petroleum, that entices us to get into bed with people who have vowed to wipe us out.
Sometimes things look dark. Sometimes things *are* dark.
The other day, Julie Davis, author of "Happy Catholic," introduced me to this quote from Thomas Merton.
"Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences."
Freedom is sometimes snuffed out. But the spark never dies.
God Bless America.