Summer Lightning: June 6, 2002

It is late, and I am last to bed...

The date marks for me a beginning. I knew the next morning a little more about a very uncertain future: I would write every day. Eight years later, two books of such morning fragments recorded, I’m going to try to convert them (some or all) into digital format, include color pictures, add some today’s perspective commentary, and hope that this will lead some place worth going. The first two installments (including the preface from Slow Road Home and this piece) are up at Scribd. Once again, I’m not sure where I’m going. But there’s a kind of reliance on the stars we can see when we’re lost, and all who wander are not lost, Tolkien tells us.

The fireflies, by the way, were stunning last night. I woke near midnight. I sat on the steps alone.

_______________________________

It is late, and I am last to bed, past the usual time. I step out onto the front porch into the cool, sweet air of early June, and sit on the top step quietly as if not to disturb the wildlife, whose nocturnal day I am entering.

The pasture grasses just beyond the maples are in full flower and their pollen smells like midnight bread baking, while Goose Creek sends up wafts of spearmint, wet mud and turbulence.

My eyes soon learn to see in darkness and I am aware of soundless flashes of summer lightning, and stars overhead. My night vision comes and goes with each flash and pause and flash. Rising from the dark field on the fragrance of grasses are tens of thousands of lightning bugs. Put them in a jar, shake and see them illumined with the cold translucence of memory. They pulse and rise above the field in counterpoint to the tempo of the clouds, signaling ancient syllables that we could understand, if we were more often still, less hurried, and more at home in our own pastures.

Gravity pulls me down and I lie on my back, on cool stone horizontal, before a mock-infinity of space, wondering what is my place in this world of men and of words? Do I deserve to be so blessed among Earth’s teeming humanity? What must I do in the warmth of this gentle epiphany that is revealed to me tonight and how should I then live? Maybe I will try to find the words in the morning, after the house is quiet again and the fireflies have gone to bed and the world smells of heat and ozone and toast.

Published by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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1 Comment

  1. Your words express the beautiful magic of fireflies in these Blue Ridge mountains in a way that is simply breathtaking!

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