Heat rises. Unfortunately. So tonight I find myself on the balcony of my second story apartment since the air outside is much cooler than the air within. My optometrist would scold me, for the setting sun’s light is too dim for writing.
And yet, I feel compelled to write because I suddenly realized what it means to grow up. It’s about loss of innocence, but it is also about learning the fine arts of selflessness and hope.
The fireflies of this hour in late June do not stick around forever. Like the daffodils and honeysuckle I adore, so too are the fireflies a fleeting phenomenon. Too often I remain holed up in the house ignoring the reasons I came back to the place of my youth in the first place: Fireflies and daffodils. Honeysuckle and childhood dreams.
But tonight I came outside. And I viewed the fireflies locked in the mating dance of time eternal.
I remember many nights as a child when the adults relaxed in the porch swings while us kids scrambled to catch our fireflies. I don’t know the motives of other young children engaged in this endeavor, but they must have one, for tonight I hear the merry laughs of a new generation in pursuit of the elusive firefly. I can only offer my motive.
I wanted the fireflies to stay with me forever. Not realizing that I was sentencing my blameless captives to an untimely death, I took as many as I could find and catch. I thought capturing meant preserving the beauty and joy of the moment.
It is only with age and experience that we come to realize that by taking the fireflies into captivity, we have destroyed, rather than preserved.
For fireflies die in captivity, without having the opportunity to participate in the mating dance. By capturing one summer’s fireflies, I prevented the existence of another’s.
Children don’t yet understand that sometimes loving means we must let go of our selfishness. To truly hold a firefly forever, you have to let it twinkle on in the summer night and begin to trust that there will be fireflies again next summer.
It’s a difficult lesson to learn, because for ten or eleven months of the year, there are no fireflies to be seen. Oh, how I could have used the sight of even one during the bleak days of January! But alas, fireflies are summer creatures, meant to live free and light up the skies for a brief time before the world fades back into darkness once again.
So much in our world is like that. “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” There is a honeysuckle time, a daffodil time, an unafraid little cottontail time. There is each lifetime, and none exactly coincide.
And all of them are fleeting. There is always another blossom to smell, another firefly to catch, another thing to say to a loved one. There may be a time for everything, but those times don’t last forever.
And so we must learn to trust: Trust that somehow the Velveteen Rabbit is Real, and living quite happily as a bold little bunny in the neighbor’s yard, ignoring my presence as he finds something tasty to eat amid the grass. Trust that somehow our loved ones know, wherever they may be, all the words we never said. We have to trust. We have to wait, in joyful hope, for the coming of a future summer evening, when the fireflies will rise again from the grass and light up our lives once more.