Saturday, July 02, 2005


I hit a firefly coming east on the Thruway. It struck the windshield, flared like a match with green flame, and then faded, leaving only an ordinary bug spot on the windshield. I felt almost as if I had killed a fairy. I had taken some light from the world.

Fireflies seem magical to me because of their ability to create light. I've read scientific principles behind bioluminescence, but it doesn't erase the magic. Light is miraculous.

One night last summer, driving with Keith and Graham, I remembered having earlier seen fireflies along River Road, especially thick at the corner of the field by the hedgerow. Since they live in Detroit and I’ve never seen fireflies there, I suggested we stop. We pulled to the side of the road and Keith turned off the headlights. The fields, tall grass and hedgerows sparkled with fireflies. Above in the sky, the constellations moved too, but so slowly, we couldn't see the motion.

I held my breath and watched Graham’s face in the darkness. "Do you see the fireflies, Graham?" I asked, "Aren't they pretty?"

"Yeah," he said, but he didn't look or sound excited. Not like I was.

There seem to be fewer people enjoying and fewer fireflies than there used to be. One night a couple weeks ago, I saw one firefly in the cedar outside my house. One is not enough. If there aren't at least two, there won't be more.

But in the fields out in the countryside, there are still fireflies. Maybe I just don't get out in the summer’s night fields enough. Perhaps I need to go out and count the fireflies, see if there are as many as I remember.

Tonight, coming home through highway construction, I came upon a truck holding a huge globe of light. Beneath it, several men wearing masks were ripping apart the pavement. Dust and dirt filled the air. It cascaded away in a fountain, lit by the strange globe of light. I wished I could have set up a tripod and recorded the scene. But the line of traffic and the narrow rows of cones prevented it.

The strange light and night scene touched a deeper spot, and again, I wished I hadn't hit the firefly. Recently, Keith told me that Graham suddenly said he remembered stopping to see the fireflies. He’d sounded happy about it. I released an inner breath I didn’t know I was still holding. Maybe I passed the torch. Perhaps someday, cupped in his hands, Graham will show a winged and living light to another child.

Mary Stebbins

For Keith and Graham

050701b, 6-28/29-05 (Midnight in the hospital emergency room)


peacorpus said...

Yes, they are magical, aren't they? I was trying to remember if a story about the Philippines' national hero Jose Rizal was about a firefly, but then I recalled it was a moth, trying to catch the lamplight. I guess things like the firefly will seem to be some kind of magic or a miracle if I saw them here. It is so sad that even butterflies and dragonflies are a rarity here in the city now. But we do have a butterfly farm which is something of a haven to visit. I hope to share with you more about this later.



no, you didn't kill that "torch." it struck your windshield, not the other way around, right? it was probably that it had been hurt somewhere and before the magic and the miracle of it is totally lost, it had allowed you, and Keith and Graham to see it before it said goodbye to this world. it seems to me that you somehow had a glimpse of "neverland." Oh, and I hope everything is alright with you all since it says here that you were in the emergency room of a hospital?

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

So nice to hear from you, Pea! I was in the hospital with my Mother who was having severe chest pains. It was not her heart. She is not better yet. But we are working on solving her problems. I was up all night and very tired.

When we drive at high speed through farmlands and fields (the road cuts through), we are speeding through the fireflie's territory and they can't fly fast enough to avoid us, so I feel responsible.

Do you have fireflies in the Philippines?

The butterfly farms sounds wonderful! :-)

peacorpus said...

I suppose we have fireflies here, but since I live in the city, it will probably be a long time before I can get to see even one again. But I know of stories and tales that have them so I suppose they have existed here somewhere. I surely will let you know and probably write about it if ever I see some. Or even one.

Yes, the butterfly farm in Marikina is a delight. I took my kids there and it was beautiful. And equally beautiful how somehow the sight of them flying around you can make you feel serene and
at peace with yourself. They even let you feed them, would you believe that?! They like bananas. There are only a few species when we were there but I'm sure they have added a lot at this time. I will try to get information and pictures about the farm (actually, it is just a small garden like place but it is beautiful, with a small lake, etc.)

I hope your mother gets better soon. I wish I still have mine at this time when I can really use all the motherly pats and hugs I need.

Will write soon, promise.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

We have butterfly houses and gardens here, too. Very nice! Different butterflies emrerge at different times so it is important to go again!

Maybe they should have firefly gardens in the city!

Pam said...

Last night Herb and I each
rescued a firefly -- they're both huge and numerous this year -- and toted them outside. Kinda hated
taking them out for it was fun having them flying around blinking. But such a good feeling when they
crawl up your finger and take off into the night.
And they are the bugs with the most equanimity, I think. Close rival would be the box elder with his stunning scarlet patches and
utterly unafraid tolerance of human fingers placed in his path to crawl upon.

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