So last  night, at dusk, we chased fireflies. Xander caught them with his bare hands while I held the jar and closed the lid after he gently blew on the firefly to keep it from escaping (Gary taught him that). As he looked for more, leaving me holding the jar. As I felt the insects’ little wings flutter beneath the plastic I remembered a muggy summer night at three of my boy cousins’ house when I was Xander’s age. It must have been summer vacation, we must have driven up to Ohio from Tennessee for a visit. My aunt and uncle’s house was large, many-roomed, and sat next to my grandparents’ house in an urban neighborhood. You could almost hold hands across the small strip of grass that separated the two homes, that’s how close together they were.

So we were catching butterflies, my cousins and I. I had a glass mason jar filled with clumps of grass that I had pulled from my Grandpa’s yard; my cousin’s held nothing. They didn’t catch and release fireflies, they murdered them. Their method was evil and simple: catch a firefly in your bare hands, throw it to the pavement, step on it, then drag your foot across the carcass to leave a phosphorescent green trail. They killed dozens before all the fireflies in two adjoining yards disappeared down the block.

As I was teaching Xander to let the fireflies escape after a few minutes, to watch them float upward and count the seconds before they lit up again, I remembered in a flash how I had, in a moment of trying to impress those rowdy boy cousins of mine, I had murdered at least two by mimicking their diabolical  methods. I felt awful about it (still do).

This weekend is/was the synchronized firefly display in the Smokies. It happens once a year, and I don’t think it happens anywhere else. They’re a species that flashes their tails in synchronicity (hence their name, synchronous Firefly). It only happens there, in the Smokies, which are about a 45 minute drive from where we live (you can read all about it here). I dreamed that we were able to go this year, but it always seems to work out that Gary is working when they’re flashing. Bummer. It’s beautiful and Gary would have a photographic/video heyday (we must try super hard and go next year!!).  Here is what it looks like –

On another related note, Gary and I have been watching Firefly, which for whatever reason we never watched before (avid Buffy fans that we are–our kid’s name is Xander, after all). Thank the Netflix gods that we’re finally able to watch all quirky witty 13 episodes, in order and at our leisure and whim.

Curse your sudden and inevitable betrayal!



Ed.: Guess what? We secured a spot this Friday for a campsite right in the swirl and the light of the fireflies. Can’t wait!!


5 thoughts on “Firefly

  1. Did not know about the synchronized fireflies—so beautiful!!

    I read your bugs piece a few posts down–in my 8th grade science class, we also had to do the “bug project.” I did photographs of bugs and got a not-so-good grade, as I remember…

    I think you and I just swapped places (now I’m back in Ohio, but was in Tennessee for a wedding over the weekend–Murfreesboro—where are you there?). It was a beautiful wedding…so much fun. Hope all is well on your end.

  2. Did you go to school in Ohio? I’ll bet it was state curriculum for 8th grade biology or something.

    We live in Knoxville, which is in the East, near the Great Smoky Mountains.

  3. The synchronized fireflies are amazing! I read stories about non-synchronized fireflies when I was younger, but I only finally saw a few when I was in Japan. I hadn’t been there very long when I visited a bar in another town. Walking between the bar and another teacher’s house, I saw little bits of light flickering above a stream. I wanted to stay and watch until I fell asleep, but I was urged on and away from the “mundane” sight. Hopefully someday I’ll get a chance to see more!

    As for Whedonly things, I have a few screen shots on my drive from my days doing extra work. I’ve lost my Angel screen shots, but I’m pretty easy to spot in one of the two episodes I did extra work on.

    I was such a bad law student . . . but I did have tons of fun while skipping my classes! *cough*

  4. Hello! I have just come to visit and I am so glad I did. You are a lovely writer. And a Tennessee girl where I have some roots myself.
    I grew up catching fireflies, stickin’ ’em in jars with holes punched in the lid. We never killed them on purpose but…
    What I do remember with great regret is the annual killing of land crabs which, once a year, would clamber forth from their holes down by the river and come up to the dirt roads and yards and even climb the screens of our porches (acck!) and the boys and yes, the girls, too, would smash and kill them with bamboo poles. Oh we were cruel and I hated it even then, but the bloodlust carried us through with it. Lord of the Flies- we all were, in some way, I think.

  5. Well, thank you, Mrs. Moon! I’m glad you’re here. Yes, ma’am I’m a Tennessee girl. Goodness me even though a ritual killing by bamboo pole sounds cruel and unusual, I can SMELL the excitement ya’ll must have felt, and the camaraderie (via blood lust, for better or for worse).

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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