Fireflies

Earlier in the week my wife and I sat outside in the coolness of the evening, watching the sharpness of the silhouetted trees fade in the twilight. The spring peepers had long gone; lately a bullfrog has taken up residence among the lilies in our small fish pond. Idly, I glanced across the back fence to the neighbor’s garden. Suddenly I saw them, small ethereal flashes rising up through the darkness—the first fireflies of summer.

When I was a boy, fireflies marked the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. My sister taught me how to pinch off the bug’s lower abdomen and smear it on the base of my finger to make a ring that glowed softly in the darkness. A boyhood friend and I would catch fireflies by the hundreds and keep them in an old glass Mason jar. Together we would lie on the grass to watch their tiny beams flash like miniature lighthouses in the summer dusk—the final moments of their ephemeral existence.

Later, as an adolescent, I would read about fireflies. There are several varieties in North America, and two theories as to why they flash in the darkness. One is to attract a mate; the other is to warn potential predators of their unappetizing taste.

Last night from the front porch I watched our granddaughter and her friend run in circles on the soft summer grass. Her mother had lighted sparklers for the two of them. Like pixies they giggled and danced as they twirled the tiny sticks flashing with fire—ephemeral fireflies that burned briefly in the darkness, and then in a flash were gone.

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