Saturday, July 19, 2014

Glow On

Recently, on a lovely night in North Carolina, I was at a cabin on a private lake with my husband, the caretaker of the cabin, and Carson, his ten-year-old family friend. I came to North Carolina for one thing, and one thing only, observing fireflies; or as they’re called in these parts, lightning bugs.

The only fireflies I have seen in the past were of the cartoon type. You know, the little bug with a light bulb butt. I’m here to tell you, there is no light bulb. But, oh my, do they glow. Fireflies are winged beetles with bioluminescent lower abdomens. Their size can be up to one inch, although the ones in northwestern North Carolina are half that size. They are found in warm, humid areas and are nocturnal. Since I do not live in an area where they would be accustomed to hanging out, I have never seen them. Thus, my mission this summer was to experience these little fairies of the dark. While I would not normally travel during the summer vacation period, it is the only time they are visible. You see, all this glowing is related to mating. Ah, but of course. Mating is taken care of, eggs are laid for the next season, and they die. Sad, but true, as is the fact they are diminishing in numbers due to light pollution and pesticides.

On this night, with Eastern Whippoorwills singing in the background, I was able to view the various green and gold glows of these lovely fairy-like bug-a-boos. Some would flash with a quick pulse, like a match going out. Others kept a steady glow; like shooting stars as they streaked from here to there, and back again, around the grasses, brush, and trees. To my astonishment, Carson quickly caught one as it flashed on, then placed the little bugger in my hands. I briefly cupped my fingers around so we could watch the light show up-close and personal. I hadn’t even thought about trying to catch one, let alone hold it! It was a moment of magic. That was the topper of the trip for me as I proceeded to get my glow-on.

While every North Carolinian I talked to was amazed I would travel across the country just to see lightning bugs. These conversations all sparked similar thoughts, as in: What other things do we have that you don’t? What things do you have that we don’t? And my favorite, I’ve forgotten just how special some things are. On this day, I want you to consider the magic happening around you every day, and night, in your own neck of the woods. Or, perhaps you need to venture beyond. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to get your glow-on!
Firefly w/glow photo courtesy of Terry Priest