Thursday, 4 July 2013

May the Fourth Be With You

It's the Fourth of July and I'm in Sonoma. Quarter to nine at night and it's still 30 degrees, with the warmest wind. I'm in a big open field, waiting for fireworks, and the fire department is spraying the dry grass with water in preparation. All around me are families, boys tossing around footballs, flirting with girls. There are little kids flying kites, and moms and dads keeping watchful eyes on toddlers who are running around and falling down all over the place. Most of the guys have open beers, and because it's Sonoma, there's no shortage of wine glasses too. Some picnickers are fancy - with chilled bottles of Chardonnay in silver wine coolers, others are drinking their red wine out of repurposed Gatorade bottles.

There are American flags everywhere - on T-shirts, on cars, as hair accessories - on people and on dogs. And fashion is a distinctly red, white and blue affair - one woman in front of me even dyed her hair to match. And there is a low level chant behind me: "Red, White, Blue! Red, White, Blue."

It's a fantastic setting for fireworks, and I love watching the happy family groups around me. All day I've been struck by what a family holiday the fourth is. It's about love of home - both on the micro and macro scale. I appreciate their unabashed pride in this country. As Canadians, we're so quiet about our patriotism. While I secretly, smugly believe that I live in the best country in the world, I would hardly ever say it out loud. Somehow it feels like it would be impolite or immodest, heaven forbid. But here, the patriotism, today and everyday, is just so open, so out there, and I respect that. And I love that all around me, I hear different accents - from all over the States, Mexico, Europe. I hear German behind me, and it does feel like a gathering place - whether for the huddled masses, or for tourists, I'm not sure.

A word about independence: it seems appropriate on today of all days to celebrate independent travel. I love traveling on my own, and I think everyone should take a solo trip at least once in their lives. Being on your own, you experience the people, the culture differently. I think you're actually more immersed in it, because you don't have your partner or group as a buffer. And your receptors are entirely set on input instead of output, and in today's busy world that's a remarkably rare occurrence.

I also love the simplicity of being on my own. There are no negotiations, no compromises, no one else's schedules and agendas or preferences or hunger to consider. That's not to say I don't love traveling with my husband or with friends, but it's different.

I'm also grateful to be living in a time and place where, as a woman, solo travel is safe, possible and widely done. I have received nothing but positive attention so far, and everyone I've met has been friendly and welcoming.

A final thought about independence: to me it means freedom. Freedom of thought, belief, freedom to love who you choose, freedom to marry who you want. It's a happy time to be in California - a bit more than a week since the abolition of Prop 8, and I see grinning couples of all stripes all around me. It's a happy place.

Oooh fireworks! Gotta go. Happy Independence Day.

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