Explosions in the sky have always fascinated humankind.
My Elders passed down a legend to me about lightning – Oh-mee-nee-s-koh – as originating from the west. We Cree on the James Bay coast live on flat tundra and mushkeg. We consider any rise in the land as a mountain. The stories that were passed down about Oh-mee-nee-s-koh described it as a living being who lived in a world onto its own in the sky. He or she wandered the sky and passed over our heads from time to time in the clouds that formed in the storms during the summer.
This being also originated from the high mountains of the west. These lands were described as being so high that Oh-mee-nee-s-koh could step off from the mountaintops and onto the clouds.
This year, my July 1st was full of explosions in the sky. My friends John and Colleen invited me to watch a fireworks display in Alymer, Ontario. The evening was festive with live music and all kinds of entertainment mainly for children. It was hot and sultry as we sat on the top of a large hill overlooking the fireworks launch pad. It was magical to watch the sun disappear in hues of red and purple over the surrounding lush forests and farmland.
When darkness fell and the stars popped into the sky to join a crescent moon, we knew the fireworks would soon begin. Suddenly, there was a loud burst and great flowers of flame shot up into the sky. These flowers and brilliant balls of light dazzled the audience with an entire spectrum of colours. The explosive sounds were almost deafening and echoed or ricocheted off the town behind us. The darkened sky lit up constantly with dramatic brush strokes of light that streaked and screamed across the night sky. There were “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd with every blast of fireworks into the heavens. It all climaxed in a crescendo of brilliant, colourful rockets that turned the dark sky into a kaleidoscope of shapes.
As I drove along in the dark on my way home, I noticed a huge storm front brewing. The lightning pulsated from one side of the horizon to the other and lit up the powerful anvil-shaped clouds in the distant sky.
As I drove on, it occurred to me that Oh-mee-nee-s-koh had come to visit me in the south and was running wildly on the tops of the clouds. It helped me remember all of those Elders that had talked about the power of lightning and fire. Decades ago when my people were very close to the land a huge thunderstorm, presided over by Oh-mee-nee-s-koh, often meant a refreshing break from the black flies and mosquitoes. It also brought rain to replenish the forests and tempered the heat of a summer day.
The explosions from the storm and the man-made fireworks of my July 1st also reminded me of humankind’s fascination with big fire. As part of our evolution, I think we have gone down a bad track in developing weapons of mass destruction having to do with explosions in the sky.
I am reminded of that fascinating book by Farley Mowat called And No Birds Sang, in which he wrote about his time in World War II living with daily bombings and explosions that tore his friends apart. It reminded me of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during that same war. The destruction that our fascination with big fire produces has developed to the point where our very existence on this planet is threatened.
It bothers me greatly that we have lost our respect for Oh-mee-nee-s-koh. We have enough nuclear weapons on this planet to destroy it many times over and we have allowed ourselves to be governed by leaders who constantly wage war. Perhaps we should remind them that our existence here is fragile enough without the real danger of nuclear conflict. These fireworks would be fatal.