Three Cheers for the Fourth!

Welcome to the Fourth of July, our annual celebration of the people, by the people, and for the people. Today is a glory hallelujah kind of day, our most friendly, liveliest, and folksiest holiday, a jubilant reflection of our American spirit.

In this disputatious time, we take this day to shift from partisan squabbling to honoring the transcendent ideals that built this country: freedom, equality, justice, courage, and sacrifice.

On the Fourth we engage all the senses: the warm, pungent bouquet of grilled food, the dazzling crash-bang-boom of fireworks, and cheerful music from the bandstand. Fluttering high overhead is the most important if quietest element—our flag, the greatest living symbol of what we the people are all about.

The Stars and Stripes—its constellation set in a deep blue night and vibrant alternating red and white stripes—imbues the day with the welcome ingredient of timelessness. Our flag is a nonverbal beacon that telegraphs our country’s ideals—past, present, and future—and the point where we come together as one: E Pluribus Unum.

Usually admired from afar, the flag deserves a closer gaze. In the beginning the thirteen original states were represented by a circle of stars; as the number of states increased, stars were duly added, culminating at fifty in 1959, with the statehood of Hawaii. The alternating stripes, seven red, six white, represent both the previous thirteen colonies and their United Kingdom homeland. In the flag you can trace our country’s genesis.

Over time, the flag’s colors, designated by the Continental Congress in 1775, have inspired different interpretations. Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress, asserted that white signified purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; and blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice. As ours is a free country, others have assigned various meanings for the red, white, and blue.

Red has been freely associated with passion, spilled blood and the sweetness of victory. As a gardener, I know white is the absence of color, creating “holes” in the garden if not careful. But, representing the sky, it suggests hope, the freedom of spaciousness, and divine influence. Blue evokes eternity, loyalty (“true blue”), and tranquility: its deep, unchanging quality is a perfect home for our everlasting states.

You can cultivate Old Glory right in your garden, recreating the tricolor with vegetables, fruits and flowers—food for the body politic, beauty for the collective soul.

Capture the flag in arrangements of red, white, and blue blooms. For red, choose from salvia, petunia, geranium, and impatiens. Best bets for white are zinnia, petunia and sweet alyssum. Blue, rarely encountered in the land of flowers, is a color coveted by gardeners. Try petunia, lobelia, verbena, and morning glory. Let freedom ring in your flowerbed.

Or fly the flag with vegetables and fruits. Natural candidates for red are tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries. For white, choose from cauli?ower, leek, and white sweet corn. Tasty choices for blue are blue potatoes, eggplant, Tuscan kale, and purple-blue beans. Freedom is delicious.

After the smoke clears from the fireworks finale, and we pack up our picnics before heading home, remember our flag is still there. As it waves above you, wave back, because the flag represents you, your family, and all of us in this astonishingly great land of ours. Three Cheers for the Fourth!

A version of this article appeared in the St. Louis Dispatch, The Allentown Morning Call, the Altoona Mirror and the Casper Star Tribune.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 4th, 2019 at 1:42 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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