Firefly nights

I’m reading a poem about a firefly. It dispels the darkness with a blink, blink, blink but then with a flicker proceeds to take flight.  When the firefly is about to be snatched from the air, it loses a blink, its blink’s not there, and when  it feels trapped, its blink goes blank, and when its pursuer grasps and clasps, the firefly’s light shatters into shards, like stars that fall or diamond chips dulled.

I once knew girls who captured fireflies in jars. The jars were filled with clover and grass. When enough fireflies were caught, the girls would remove the bugs’ glowing tails and stick the tails on their thin fingers, and they would call them love rings, the glow of love wrapped around their fingers, glowing in the dark summer night , the light cutting through the warm heavy air, and I would tell the girls to let the fireflies free, let them loose from their prison jars, to think about how much it must hurt to be snatched from the air, to have their glow so roughly taken, to fly through the night with no light to guide them, and all for the sake of the glow of love, for rings of love,  just for that, just for that these lightning bugs would no longer flash their bursts of light as the summer thunder rolled like kettle drum rolls as the fireflies flickered and flared over the lawns of summers in the firefly nights when I was a boy and little girls trapped fireflies in rehearsal for dark heartbreaks to come.

Years later, on a summer night when I first moved to the country, I parked my car by the side of the road, near a field of baled hay, and watched on a moonless night as thousands of fireflies danced their firefly dance in the still July air, lighting up the hay-scented field with a glow that filled my heart with joy and my spirit with love and my eyes with tears to bear witness to such beauty.

And amid the lights one light shone brightest. Could it be the firefly queen? The original light?  All light came from her light and all light returned to it. Her light was the light of shards unshattered, stars ever shining, diamonds undulled.

If ever I see that firefly’s blink again I will not snatch it from the air, I will not make it lose its blinking beauty. I will not grasp and clasp. I will bask in the glow of its cool soft light. I will remember that love’s illumination  shines brightest when its flight is unfettered and free.


Are you lonely tonight?

I’m thinking of a word. The word is lonely. It makes me thinks of other words and phrases.

Alone…That lonesome whistle…All alone…Home alone…Left alone…Those lonesome blues…you alone…not by bread alone…the heart is a lonely hunter…I’m just a lonely boy…I think we’re alone now…the lone pilgrim… Lonesome is as lonesome does…Are you here all alone?…All by my lonesome….It’s a lonesome day…We are not alone…All the lonely people…Only the lonely…“Are you lonely tonight?”

I was  thinking of a word. The word was lonely. It made me think of other words and phrases.

And it made me think of Hank Williams,  singing one of the loneliest songs  ever:

A dream of foxes

When I drive home at night from work to my home in sort-of-rural western New Jersey,  I am reminded constantly that the area  — with its abundant open space, farm fields, deep woods, many streams and ponds, and its proximity to the Delaware River – absolutely teems with wildlife. I’ve seen black bears, weasels, coyotes, barn owls, pheasants, wild turkeys, ospreys, muskrats, beavers and the more typical suburban/exurban menagerie including deer (which are everywhere and which I’ve hit with my car three times in fifteen years), raccoons, skunks, rabbits, field mice, and turkey buzzards and hawks.

Sometimes it seems like I’m actually living on a movie set where they’re doing a remake of “Bambi.”

In recent years I’ve noticed a proliferation of foxes – every night it seems I see at least one fox scampering into the woods or running across the road, its gorgeous reddish brown coat shining in my headlights.

I assume the number of foxes fluctuates — the same thing happens with raccoons and skunks – as their number climbs to a peak level of sustainability and then plummets as something like rabies decimates the population. The foxes die off and then, for example, rabbits make a comeback. It’s like that song in “The Lion King.” It’s the circle of life.

Last night, that circle seemed more like a bright ring of light – it was one of those little moments with great significance, an encounter that seems so beautiful and meaningful in its simplicity and its providence.

It was nearly midnight. An adult fox trotted across the country road, illuminated by my harsh headlights and by the soft light of the waxing moon, and trailing behind the fox were three young foxes, each one about half the size of the adult.

As I watched them trot into the roadside brush, I wondered if the adult was the father fox, perhaps teaching his sons how to hunt, or whether it was the mother fox, heading back home to the den with her three little kits.

And then I wondered whether these foxes might be preying or might be prey, and then I silently began to pray that at least for this night they were neither, that they were simply a dream of foxes, a vision of foxes, a beauty of foxes, a heaven of foxes, an apparition on a night when I needed just such a miracle, such an omen, such a gift.