NIGHT LIGHT at Grandma’s

June 26, 2017
Love of the Sport , Missouri , State Reports
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Lightning bugs at night offer a special invitation to explore nature after sunset.


By Larry Whitely

The warm early summer day is ending.

The bright orange sun slowly begins sinking to the earth.  It’s been a long, hectic day at work and I step outside to begin winding down.  I love watching sunsets and sunrises.

A lone whip-poor-will calls from the nearby woods testing the silence and is answered by another down in the valley.  Tall fluffy clouds gather on the horizon.  The bottom layer lights up in varying shades of pink and orange like a painter mixing colors on his palette.  Frogs begin their night time chorus and bats are diving for insects in the fading night sky.

As the darkness slowly settles I see it.  A tiny twinkling orb.  First one and then another until suddenly the summer night is bombarded by a myriad of twinkling lights.  I sit down on the front porch to watch the performance.

Gazing at the slowly pulsating lights, I travel back 60 years to grandma and grandpa’s farm.  As the adults sit around talking, we kids ran about capturing these jewel green sparks that pierced the dark and put them in Mason jars with holes punched in the lids.  It was a magical time racing about filling your jar.  Our eyes twinkled as much as the stars and laughter pierced the silent night.  I wonder how many other adults are outside like me right now and feel the stirring pleasures of childhood.

My mind also wanders to a special time one summer at our cabin.  An approaching storm was playing music on our wind chimes awakening me from a deep sleep.  The alarm clock by the bed told my sleepy head it was 2:30 a.m. as my feet hit the floor to go check out what was happening.  I walked through the dark cabin and looked out the windows into the night.

The blinking lights of fireflies were everywhere.  This night though, they seemed much bigger than normal tiny fireflies.  It was almost as if the window I was looking out was a big magnifying glass and I was seeing the insects much bigger than they really are.

Lightning bug-in-hand-can-provide-a-special-illumination-for-night-adventure.


I stood there in wide-eyed amazement as I watched them.  They were high in the trees, they were down by the creek, they were up by the road, and they were way down in the valley.  How could I see them that far away?  Maybe the sky was just darker than usual that night causing their lights to shine brighter.  Maybe they were brighter because they were really trying hard to impress their lady friends.  At the time I didn’t really care what the answer was, I was just enjoying the show.

As the storm approached closer, lightning lit up the dark sky.  It wasn’t streaks of lightning though; it was more like burst of light.  It was like there were now gigantic lightning bugs joining in with the smaller ones to add to this special night.

I don’t know how long I sit there watching, but eventually the rains came, the lights went out, and I went back to bed.  I lay there listening to the rain on the roof and grateful the storm had awakened me.  I drifted off to sleep thinking of fire lies.

The neighbor’s dog barks and my wandering mind takes me back to my front porch again.  I’m thinking how I took a nail and punched holes in the lid and put them on jars for my kids.  I hope they too have good memories of summer nights and twinkling lights.  Grandkids are now learning to enjoy this age-old mysterious performance, but instead of jars they use plastic firefly houses.  Kids need fireflies more than they need television and computers and so do adults.

As if saying goodnight, the tiny sparks blinked off one by one.  I get up from the porch and head for the garage.  I’m looking for a 60-year old Mason jar with holes in the lid.  

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