“A dark night, lightened up by thousands of glowing fireflies… It’s magical…”
― Ama H. Vanniarachchy

I sat outside last evening celebrating the spring of my sixty-sixth year. I was happily enjoying a cigar and a dark and amber adult beverage while an evening breeze was being kicked up by a distant thunderstorm. Far away according to my weather app, the storm was close enough to cause the “rain” frogs to break in to a calliope of croaking “music” and my puppy dogs to escape to the shelter of my home. As I watched a rising thunderhead moving south of me I saw a small winking light in one of our black walnut trees…followed by another. It was a “blink, blink” followed by a second “blink, blink” in a code I did not understand. “Lightnin’ bugs” had made their early May appearance.

Late one evening several decades ago, a late-night, spring thunderstorm had knocked off our power just long enough for our thirty-year-old pump to lose its prime. I made the dark and scary trip down to the spring my pump fed from and began the process of priming it. Our old pump was located above a cistern created by the previous owner in the 1950s to catch the spring water escaping from under a very large oak tree. As I bent over and tried to concentrate on priming rather than my fears, I felt I had company. Expecting to find a bear, bobcat or vampire eyeing me as a meal, I instead beheld an eerie sight as fireflies began to awake from their winter hideaways and flash their little mating signal. “Come here. I am ready for you to find me. It is time for us to propagate the species.” Not very romantic but we are talking about fireflies and I don’t think they know the words to “You Light Up My Life….” What made their emergence eerie was the fact they had risen to no higher than three feet above the ground and were all blinking in sequence with each other. I was amazed and just a bit fearful. Twenty-eight years later, they still make their appearance in early May but I’ve never seen their group emergence since. A once in a lifetime occurrence? If it was, it was worth it.

Most of us have memories of fireflies. Before computers games, Play Stations, IPads and adulthood we ran barefoot through the early evening dew as twilight fell, an old canning or jelly jar at the ready, trying to see how many fireflies one might gather between supper and bed time. Did you let yours go? I have a memory of our young daughter, Ashley, no more than four or five years old, running and laughing with Linda-Gail while they filled her jar. I had punched breathing holes in the canning lid the same way my grandmother had punched holes in mine so my brother and I could chase the flashing lights through the privet hedge behind her house. As the most dreaded hour of the day approached, bed time, Ashley refused to part with her lightning bug filled jar, intently watching them as she bathed and later when she curled up with them in her bed. When we checked on her later, I found her still awake and grinning like the “Cheshire Cat.” She slowly pointed to the ceiling and said, “Look flashing stars.” A decade later during a college visit, I found that she had glued florescent stars to the ceiling of her bedroom and I could not help but remember and smile.

After I saw my two lightning bugs, and in spite of my fear of the local bear who periodically tears down my fence and steals my trash, I could not curb my curiosity and walked to the backside of my yard bordering the stream. I had hopes I might see the lightning bug’s group emergence again. There was nothing but darkness and disappointment to greet me, not the silent chorus of lights I was hoping for. Maybe tomorrow night.

Disappointment was short lived. My thoughts wandered to Ashley and my red haired little monkey, granddaughter Miller. It won’t be long until she will be old enough to chase lightning bugs on her own. God, please give us the energy to be able to chase them with her.

More nonfiction by Don Miller is available at

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