Strange days indeed.

I’m driving home on a warmish 4th of July night, heading down the hill on I5 from Vancouver. The highway’s like rush hour with everyone going home from celebrations, and headlights and taillights fight it out with hundreds of rocketbursts in every direction.

And through it all a slivermoon* rises like scorched gold, far too big to be true.

Glassland’s a crazy place to be on the fourth. Unlike east-coast towns (even California), fireworks aren’t banned here. Instead, they’re even more celebrated than the holiday they celebrate.

My parents’ block in Vancouver is pretty typical: Neighbors band together to buy and set off massive arrays of fireworks, and not just the safe groundlubber kinds. They bring rockets that shoot 200 feet into the sky, flaring out glittering chrysanthemum tongues. Zip guns that shoot sparks and flames over the roof. Synchronized send-offs and firepictures and music.

On my parents’ little winding street there are perhaps six such groups tonight, and our lawns and cars are littered with shrapnel. There are maybe 20 more around the neighborhood. It’s a gorgeous, glorious thing, being surrounded by fireworks and listening to the kids ooh and ahh.

We bring chairs and blankets from the house and set them on the front lawn, watching everyone else’s fiery bounty. I know this probably costs these groups hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to set up–bursty-big rockets aren’t cheap–so I feel a little guilty at the free ride I’m getting.

At 10 o’clock I remember I have work in the morning, so I hug everyone goodbye, brush the debris from Cherrybaby’s windshield and carefully back out, threading the car through a maze of exploding cherrybombs and rockets and poppers. I wonder if they’re setting off fireworks in Afghanistan, but figure it’d be too much like talking shop.

And so now I’m driving down the freeway, hypnotized by the near-rythmic rocketbursts reflecting in the glassland rivers, and sighing at the gorgeous city lights over the bridge. I really want to pull over, set up the tripod and camera with a good compressing telephoto, capture that wonderful slivermoon with three or four explosions reflecting in the river.

But I left the cameras at home, and the best Derrick the Droid can do is catch dark, swirly blurs that mean absolutely nothing, like the shot below. (More and more I long for Gigi the iPhone–Derrick’s a nice guy, but using a DroidX after an iPhone is a bit like dancing Swan Lake in cement overshoes)

And you know what? Once I set aside my anxiety over capturing all this, I realize that I’m probably enjoying it more. The downside of being a photographer is that I’m always, always framing the next shot, looking for the angle that nobody else will see, trying to find my angel eyes.

Without a camera, I can just relax, let the angel eyes flow in naturally, and make a memory. That’s kinda cool.

*Slivermoon’s what I used to call an early quartermoon when I was a kid. I still like the term, even though most people assume I’m misspelling “silvermoon.”