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Saturday night I sat on the front lawn with my family and watched as Herriman shot off fireworks from the rodeo grounds.

Herriman doesn't skimp when it closes out Fort Herriman Days. Detonations echoed off the mountains until the dog howled in the kitchen. The entire neighborhood was strobed in nuclear colors of crimson, bullion, emerald and cobalt.

From our yard we heard the mortars cough. Seconds later the sky would explode in a dazzling moment of creation. I like the big ones best. They tear open like a thought in the head of God.

We let my 2-year-old granddaughter stay up. It was her first fireworks show. As the night tore apart overhead, she ran to each family member and pointed up.

"Boo," she cried, awestruck. "Boo."

Boom. Damn right boom. Boom is the magic of life. And the show doesn't stop when the lights come on.

I tilted my head a few degrees to the north. In spite of the street lights and fireworks, I saw the tail of the Great Bear, Ursa Major.

The Big Dipper reminded me that we are specks in the biggest firework of all. Fifteen billion years ago, the Universe unzipped in an instant of pure light. It's still exploding. Countless galaxies like brilliant shrapnel race apart at incomprehensible speeds. Eventually, they say it will collapse back in on itself and die. Explosions breed impatience, which in turn breeds a dangerous obliviousness. We rarely understand that we are fireworks in our own right - how we also sparkle, flash and die against the black screen of eternity. Scattered on the lawn is a fireworks set in motion by my wife and me.

In less than a blink of eternity our daughters have bloomed into dazzling explosions of their own. They've triggered secondary explosions. One just blazed past me in Elmo pajamas.

My own explosion, set in motion more than half a century ago, has reached its zenith and begun to fade. Soon it will sputter out altogether. Eventually, even those who witnessed its erratic rush will be gone. We're too busy looking at our watches to realize that every second is its own burst of brilliant color. With the right tilt of your mind it's possible to see a 30-year career go by like a skyrocket, every punch of the clock a spark in a tail that's gone before you know it.

But we're a show in a show inside a show. Our trajectories are colored by the pinwheels and star shells and echoes of all the booms that went before us.

If we pay attention, maybe we'll be bright enough and loud enough to make the oohs and aahs of those we love last long after we're gone.