The evening of the last day of May settled under a dense canopy of trees where I walked after a visit with friends. The private drive wound along the edge of Lullwater Creek in the old neighborhood of Druid Hills. The outlines of once grand mansions disappeared behind shadowy oak branches set against an indigo sky.
Around a turn the road dropped to meet the creek and a curtain of cool air hung a like a beaded doorway into a bedroom. My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness of the wooded glade when the first yellow-green glow appeared and faded. I stopped and peered into the trees with a feeling of hopefulness rising in my chest. Then another gentle light blinked a few feet away. And then two more across the road.
Fireflies. Or in the southern patios of my childhood - “lightnin bugs.”
I stood still and let the magic show begin. Soon flickers of light danced in syncopation rising from the ferns and amidst low branches. There was no discernable pattern and yet the flashes felt connected to each other. Like the promise of beautiful things to come when an orchestra tunes before the performance.
Blurred trails of luminescence soundlessly streaked the air.
I was a kid again in an enchanted forest. I could feel my loose limbs joyfully running through the backyard of my youth. I’d race towards one light only to loose sight of it as I drew close. Then I chased after another with fingers outstretched and a laugh in my throat. Unable to catch one of the delightful insects, I stopped. Motionless I gazed into the darkening light and let one of the fireflies reveal herself. I reached out and scooped the bug into my cupped palms. I sat down with a mason jar that I’d cradled in the crook of my elbow and placed the treasured specimen in it. Then repeated the same tirelessly until the jar became a glowing lamp and the show came to an end.
Like many of us, I learned to await the first fireflies of the season. They were a harbinger of summer and the freedom that it promised. It marked a time when the days would stretch out ahead waiting to be filled with bike rides, pool splashing and popsicles staining tongues red.
The walk along Lullwater Creek reminded me of signals we encounter that things are about to happen. A message sent in code that only the heart can unlock. It tells us to be open to what is to come. As children we intuitively discern these signposts. We feel them in our souls.
Yet as adults, so often we don’t see them even as they are right in front of us. We let those signals pass us by without notice. We blithely go our way ignorant of the grace wrapped in subtle moments. We discount the message. It is not for us. We have plans, responsibilities and a very long to-do list. We willfully turn our backs. We ignore them again and again until they come hurtling at us while we shift uncomfortably in the doctor’s waiting room. Or when the phone rings late at night.
Translating the message is easy if we give up resistance. The telegram may at first appear unpleasant: FIELDS BURNING. BARBARIANS AT GATE. CLOSE DRAWBRDGE. SEND MONEY. If we open ourselves and accept the vulnerability, we can hear the whispers. We can anticipate events to come as they draw close. Even as the darkness falls there will be heralds with torches lit.
Look for the fireflies. Pay reverent attention to them. They signal summer.
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