On the Fourth of July Heather and I drove up Catawba Mountain to the annual celebration at the Hillery’s Farm. As we ascended, the mountains rose up and down in the distance like blue whales swimming through the mists of the ocean.

Children, chickens, and dogs roamed the grass in front of the house as we pushed open the gate and parked in front of the barn. Under the drifting tendrils of the willow tree, someone had placed old wooden church pews around a table, draped in a red cloth. Wine bottles glowed in the fading light. Cows grazed in the meadow beyond.

A flurry of animated conversation met our ears as we walked into the house. People sat on the porch laughing and eating, under a chandelier of drying garlic braids. Women sat with their babies, nursing and talking animatedly. The food was plentiful, hardy and fresh from the garden: salted potatoes, savory chicken, homemade bread, salads, pies, roasted vegetables, fruit cobblers. There was homemade ice cream too.

Out in the field, the children clustered around a neighbor who had brought his potato canon. Bam! Potatoes shot out of the gun with the sound of a cork lifting from a wine bottle and soared into the far corner of the field. We all applauded.

Soon it grew dark and fireflies glimmered around us. We settled on blankets on the ground to watch the fireworks show.

The explosions elicited fountains of fire. Intricate veins of red, gold, blue, and green rained down, glorious, and then disappeared. Some shot high into the sky, like shooting stars. We lit sparklers and danced through the yard, running and leaping, drawing flaming words in the air which vanished a moment later.

Late that evening, after most everyone had gone, we settled around the campfire. Black darkness cloaked our heads and shoulders, and our faces burned in the brilliant light of the fire. I looked around at my friends – bright eyes, ruddy cheeks, honest expressions. In the presence of the fire, they were natural, child-like, free.

These moments flame out in glory and then disappear. Our lives pass quickly, and then they are extinguished and we rest in the ground.

But, if the old stories are true, that is not the end.