No Lantern Needed

Chemically, it's bioluminescence, but it's still magical to me

Oh, hi! I’m Sasha, that RV-traveler who writes short stories about all the cool places and experiences on the road. If you’d like to subscribe, and haven’t, you can click here. 👇

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Heads up: this might sound a little different than my other writing pieces. That’s because I’m taking the advice of many of my writing friends who tell me, “write like you’re having a conversation with a friend.” Still, I edited about 90% of my words down or you’d be here all day.

This week, fireflies lit up the overgrown brush and spindly trees on the edge of our yard. It was the first time since around a year ago that we’d seen the sparkly green insects.


It was two, three years ago now. We hadn’t yet swum with the manatees, but we’d gotten through our first tornado watch in the panhandle of Florida and dipped into our first natural cold spring.

And this story, well, it’s twofold now that I think of it, and I’m sorry I’m rambling.

We had set up camp in a grassy campground about a mile walk from the springs we’d later swim in, despite it being much too cold for any local. 70° F, to us, was still fairly hot, and absolutely sweltering for the month of April.

The evening had begun to come upon us, the sun setting, and I was sitting outside griping and complaining about the mosquitos. Lordy, have you been to Florida in April? Holy hell, those dang bugs. So, anyway, there I was, swatting at mosquitos when I saw something flashier than I expected. Not a lightbulb, or headlights, but still bright and glowy. Hold on, you know I’m from Oregon, right?  Well, the only fireflies we have there are in books.

So, I wasn’t quite sure what they were.

And then, I knew. I very much knew as these greener-than-expected bugs flashed on and off as the dusk settled into the corners of our campground. I had expected the glow of an Edison bulb, but these creatures were much more glow-stick green.

I raced inside where Jeremiah was showering – there’s a theme here to my newsletters and bugs. I see a bug and when I go inside to tell Jeremiah, he’s almost always in the shower. You’d think all the guy does is shower while I look at insects. But like I said, we were hot in 70-degree weather. I insisted he get dressed and we quickly departed the motorhome. I didn’t tell him why, but he knew it was good from the way I urged him.  

The sky had fluttery sweet gentle lightning bugs. We held hands and watched them dance. They emerged from the ground all around us and bounced off the blades of grass lighting the air with magic.

Magic.

They really were pure magic. So often things that are new to me are paired with a sense of anxiety, but not with these friends who lit the path as I walked the dog that night. Just peaceful excitement. There was nothing bad that they could have warned me of; they were simply tiny creatures of the blueish dusk.

It wasn’t then that I decided, but rather about a year later, in Indiana at a no-lights campground (to reduce light pollution) that I remember telling Jeremiah I couldn’t see us settling down at a house in the future in a place that was devoid of fireflies. When life gives you two options and one of them is immersing yourself in a magical environment and the other is one without, it’s easy to make a choice. Choose the magic.

At this same firefly campground, we met a couple on a bike path, but Jeremiah and I were crouched in the brush, looking awfully suspect.

“Do you hear the owls?” The woman on the bike asked us, putting her feet on the pathway to halt her bike.

“Yes, yes,” I said, “Come look.”

I pointed into the trees, and then as she glanced into the tree, I said, “bend down.”

The woman and man overlapped their bikes on the ground and crouched with us in the damp edges of the path.

“Oh my,” the man said as he saw the outline of the large pointy-eared owl.

“There’s the other,” I whispered to them and pointed.

Two large owls called to one another in the thick bayou-type trees, dark not from the evening but from the shade of the thick plants, the sun piercing through to some of the lower palms.

We stayed crouched, then stood and swayed from foot to foot searching the trees.

“Thank you for sharing this with us,” the man said after a few minutes, “this is a gift.”

I grinned, toothy and all, and nodded, and we departed ways. I grabbed Jeremiah’s hand.

“Every day is a gift,” he said.*

It’s true. Every day is a gift. When you can, seek out the magic.  

Thanks for traveling with me,

Sasha

*We’ve since shortened the hokey phrase to EDIAG. We say it more than we should admit to.


Down the Rabbit Hole:

If you see beautiful lightning bugs, try not to walk through where they are. You’re probably stepping on future generations without knowing it. You can read more about the (accidental) dark side of firefly tourism.

Every year, there’s a lottery to win tickets to see the mating ritual of the fireflies in the Smoky Mountains. It’s incredibly limited, but it’s apparently amazing as over eight days the fireflies synchronize their flashing so the forest flashes in rhythm. One interesting part is that the date obviously changes and so it’s up to park biologists to use environmental factors to estimate the display dates.

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