There was passion — and in some quarters, panic — in the pyrotechnics New Year's Eve in Cranbrook.

There was passion in the pyrotechnics

In my view, dear people of Cranbrook, the irruption of fireworks around the city at the stroke of midnight, 2020/2021, was an unprecedented community celebration, illuminating the black winter night from the ground up, as if my neighbours and fellow Cranbrecians had been stocking up on fireworks for weeks to make this pyrotechnical statement of love and resilience and rejoicing.

On and on the fireworks went, announcing that we have come through this past swamp of a year with our spirits intact, and while we haven’t made it completely through the swamp, the end of the swamp — or is that better phrased the edges of the swamp? — is in sight.

Twenty-twenty took on a symbolic persona all of its own, more so than any other year I can think of, and while there are years where worse things happened, like, say, 1945, or 1336, I can’t think of a twelvemonth that has been anthropomorphized like the one just past — a drooling, ponderous, hulking ogre of a year, bent on turning us against each other, impoverishing us, weakening us, killing our joy, sickening us; and why, we ask, why? Because of our hubris?

Let that question remain unanswered for now, I say, but let us learn from it nonetheless. That’s what that ring of fireworks around the horizon of my neighbourhood said to me on New Year’s Eve — “So long, 2020, you shambling beast, we have come through this together, you tried but failed, because we are in this together, and we are stronger now because we came through you united in purpose and direction, and while we know that 2021 will be no picnic, as our fireworks light up the Cranbrook night, and that “pop-pop-pop” cuts through the winter air, and as we all come out onto our porches to bang pots and pans together, and as we all shout ‘Happy New Year’ to each other across the streets, in the midst of all the cacophony we can hear that joy of having weathered the collective storm.”

In my view, it really was unprecedented, a New Year celebration fraught with spontaneity and significance, the likes of which I have never seen before in my admittedly limited experience, and because of that literal and metaphorical brightening of the dark winter night, I feel so much closer to you all, dear people of Cranbrook, as if the extra effort taken to put up Christmas lights this year because of the pandemic and how our town was illuminated both literally and metaphorically — meaning from the heart, dear people of Cranbrook — signified that the New Year’s Eve fireworks were indeed a culmination of the celebration of the light that shines within us all.

But there is another view of this whole fireworks thing, and that is the view of Bowser the Hound, and I use that name to represent all of Dogdom, or rather, that province of Dogdom which we know and love here in Cranbrook; all those dogs who share our lives with us — our furry friends, our animal companions — who also have shared 2020 and all its vicissitudes with us (if not our political or economic pain, or other concerns unique to humans), in some cases more intimately than our friends or family members; even so, they have been there with us, and there for us.

But, for poor Bowser, a ring of fireworks that runs on and on for at least half an hour on New Year’s Eve is not an occasion for joy, it is an occasion for dread, or uncertainty, or a confusion that could spark panic, much like, say, a sudden bombing attack on Cranbrook from the air could spark panic in me, and make me subject to the same kinds of physical reactions — shaking, shivering, mewling, howling, cowering, seeking shelter under the bed or in the arms of a loved one, wondering if my time was up.

I was feeling pretty good about Cranbrook’s city-wide spontaneous fireworks demonstration — made even more poignant by the fact that the RDEK will be banning the sale of fireworks for the upcoming wildfire season (an aspect of the future — the 2021 wildfire season, that is — looming just over the metaphorical horizon, but we’ll cross that metaphorical bridge when we come to it). But I know this about Bowser the Hound’s reaction to the New Year’s Eve fireworks because, though I’m not a dog owner (or is that better phrased “a person owned by a dog”?) — I’m more of a cat person, and cats seem to face such portents as a fireworks display with more equanimity than dogs — several people I know posted on social media about how their dogs FREAKED OUT on New Year’s Eve because of the fireworks, and not only that but the dogs FREAKED OUT again the next night when the dear people of Cranbrook set off their left-over fireworks, and even again the NEXT night, when they set off the very last of their fireworks.

And though the knowledge that Bowser the Hound had been freaking out over the fireworks didn’t really diminish the feelings of love and solidarity I felt with you, dear people of Cranbrook, I nonetheless was, strangely, reminded of New Year’s Eve, 1942-1943, which I have read about, at the Battle of Stalingrad, when the German army was surrounded by several Russian armies, and things certainly did not bode well — for the Germans, I mean — and at the stroke of midnight all those Russians started firing guns in the air to mark the New Year, and the Germans could see, 360 degrees around them on the horizon, a fireworks display lighting up the night, and however they felt, I’m sure it wasn’t love or solidarity, but rather dread, uncertainty and confusion.

In any case, I’ve forgotten all the points I’ve set out make, except that the fireworks display in Cranbrook on New Year’s Eve lifted my heart, that I felt sorry for the dogs and I hope they recover their equilibrium, and that 2021 will surely be a year we can all meet head on. Peace.

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