This post was supposed to be about fireflies, but none of them showed up in the pictures. It was the Fourth of July, and all the neighbors were trying to burn down the suburbs with their flatulent display of pyrotechnics. The shrieking of culturally malformed American children added to the noise pollution, and the rockets red glare turned my quiet yard into the eye in a storm of bangs, sizzles, booms, and pops.
One especially loud bang must have scared or excited the fireflies, because they all lit up at once. The Pink garden was illuminated with a hundred tiny flashes of light. I gasped. I wish I had a picture to show you. The wonder of fireflies is their elusiveness, their silence. The way a lingering dinner conversation on the patio is punctuated at dusk by the phrase oh look – fireflies! And everyone is suddenly five or twelve, and playing the game of spotting the next one, and the next.
Silence and darkness are vanishing species, close to extinction. You have to travel far from the city and the suburbs to find them. Children who grow up in the city literally never experience either silence or darkness. I wonder what effect this has on us? What is all this light and noise doing to people?
I think the only reason I’ve “succeeded” as a counselor is because I like asking questions, and I’m not really attached to answers. I find it more interesting to continue expanding the range of my curiosity than to assemble a catalogue of answers. Silence and darkness are the places where questions arise, where there are no bright lights or loud voices shouting the facts. They are the places where you can get lost.
Gardening at Night by REM captures that feeling when it is good to be lost; our local college station down south when I was younger played a live version that started with Michael Stipe saying “this is the one about the dogs” and then singing in a completely unintelligible mutter. Which was great. Hearing the lyrics years later kind of ruined the song for me. I liked it better when I could imagine all the mysterious wonderful things he might be saying. I liked being lost, in the dark, in the silence.
Gardening at night is mostly looking. Luckily on the Fourth, we had a huge rainstorm after one and a half weeks of drought, so the neighborhood didn’t burn to the ground from the arsonists all around me. I had some fun with the camera, walking around in the dark and taking pictures of things I couldn’t actually see, looking at the garden later on my laptop. I had hoped by random fortune to catch a firefly in one of the pictures, but they all remained hidden, mysterious, invisible outside of the moment when they flash, then disappear in silence.