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Image by Toan Phan
The fireflies ebb and flow, like the stars would if our universe turned out to be contained within a giant snow globe, snatched from some cosmic mantelpiece and shaken for the first time in millennia. They congregate among the shadows of looming trees and then break apart, then come together elsewhere for another two-minute meeting. Some sparkle like soft holiday tinsel, others shine bright like a beacon for those lost at sea. We watch this from where we sit on the only manmade structure they approve of. It’s a tiny suspension bridge in the middle of the woods, built for hikers and the occasional bike, and it holds us hovering amidst the silent night air. We are social on our way to the bridge, and on our way back from it, but while we are here, we stay quiet.
These enchanting whites and yellows and could-be greens are only visible to the adjusted eye. Thousands upon thousands of them, blinking and glittering, envelop us in a summer blizzard. Someone gasps, and I am surprised that her faint expression of astonishment can dodge between all the sporadic gold that flies between us and find a path to my ear. The air above us and below us is very spacious. There is plenty of room to hold the many flares of tiny beings, flashing their calls into the sacred night.
The bridge spans a wide stream of soothing shallow waters, and here the July fireflies gather en masse. We have not told anyone; we have kept the forest nameless for fear of invasion. Sometimes, we ourselves feel like invaders, but the fireflies do not pay us mind and we begin to feel welcome. We arrive at the mouth of the trail without flashlights and wander into the midnight dark until subtle wisps of radiance seize our attention and guide us to a brighter place. Then, we crawl out to the middle of the bridge and sit quietly. We are awed by the twinkling lights.
If word got out, we fear headlamps, camera shutters, and pale blue phone screens might come in search of something to covet, a magical experience tailored just for humans. And the human eye would readjust until it could no longer see the dazzling luminescence all around it. The fireflies would leave, in search of the bygone days. So, we sit still and forget ourselves, convening on the only manmade structure they approve of, watching endless numbers of lightning bugs find love, their tiny hearts sending bursts of collected sun into the blessed night. We go every year, just after the 4th of July, and the fireflies always outperform the fireworks.
John Guillemette is a writer from Connecticut, although he feels at home wherever there are trees. He has recently returned to the University of Connecticut and hopes to further his education after he earns his undergraduate degree, but he also reminds himself often that some of the best lessons are hidden in the smallest things, so he will not hesitate to watch an acorn all day if he feels it might be rewarding.