Lightening Bugs on Red Hawk Road

Reading Time: 6 minutes

“Want to go for a walk,” said Buddy.

“Sure,” said SB.

We’d share a quite fine meal, the four of us, meant to celebrate, prepared with care and love from tender  hands and heart. We’d eaten on the veranda, a Texas hill country wind blowing down the small arroyo that allowed Lone Man Creek to meander and fall a half mile away. The moon was low and bright and big and the city shine of distant lights of Wimberley, Texas barely glowed above the undulating hills between us and them.

Walking up the steep incline that led from the house to the road, we were a foursome who have been friends for a very long time. It’s odd who comes together and stays together. The four of us share a belief in something much bigger than each of us. The four of us each house the Holy Spirit. We have a similar, shared life experience;  we have each parented three sons to whom we have labored and loved and worried over and shared our fears and hopes.

We are also lucky as we love each other.

With a flashlight or two, like kids leaving the house after dark, we were two sets of bad knees, three with wine in their bellies, and two with I’ve-born-three-children bladders, out for a jaunt in the unusually cool spring air.

Once at the top of the ridge, we turned right to follow Red Hawk Road to the downstream dam. The four of us stopped at exactly the same time. There in the rocky scrub of mesquite and huisache were a thousand blinking lights, fireflies looking for mates.

“I’ve never seen them like this before, not since my childhood,” said Silent Bob.

Instantly we were transported to decades ago, each of us in the places we grew up, Sherwood, Longview, Houston and St. Louis, an each of us with strikingly similar memories of lightening bug evenings.

“I used to pinch their lighted butts off and put them on my ring finger,” said Becky, now with the knowledge that her wishes for a mate to marry and love would come true.

“Tell that story again, Janet, of why you heard the lightening bugs declined along the Gulf Coast”, said Buddy.

I don’t want to tell it. It was a reasonable explanation from a county extension agent that involved the collection of lightening bugs so that the compound they produced could be researched. Luciferase is used all the time in medicine today, as a detection technique. Just like the lightening bugs use it to signal for mates, its used in experiments to signal, well, whatever you design for it to signal.

I just don’t know if its true.

We humans like neat and tidy solutions. The older I get, I know there aren’t very many of those really, neat and tidy solutions. Biology certainly rarely gives those. And as much as we’d like to think that we are truly the center of the universe, we humans aren’t. It’s not always about us. I have no idea if the decline in lightening bugs has to do with climate change or the use of DDT. I don’t know if it’s a million baby booming kids putting them in jars and selling them to the medical center or because we mostly live in the city. Maybe it’s all of the above. Or none of the above.

I do know this, they are back.

At least on Red Hawk Road.

“Remember the night about three weeks ago you got the golf cart stuck in the back pond overflow? When you went to get the tractor, your mother and I saw them. Not as many, but enough.”

I missed them then. I shouldn’t have. I was too centered on solving the messy problem of being stuck in the mud.

We followed the asphalt as it released its heat to the cool air.

“It’s always a little bit cooler right here,” said Becky, “feel it?” as we passed through the little microenvironment that was probabaly a combination of sinking air and lay of the land.

“You think it’s haunted,” she smiled in the dark.

“Are we only as old as we think we are?” I consider, as I turn this over in my mind.  The idea of haunted places is a parcel of childhood.

Perhaps in the middle age of life, we have time to ponder again, what we know and don’t know about things that extend beyond our senses but with more data to bring to the experience. The four of us have made it through the rigors of child rearing and that no longer clouds our thinking, so we have more time to wonder what lies beyond the veil.

“I’ve had two unexplained phenomenon,” says Becky. “Do you believe in ghosts, Janet?”

Becky describes the two events. One is her husband waking her at the moment of her mother in laws death and he telling her that his mother told him good bye. The other is a place, where she and others,  felt a sense of evil or foreboding so strong that it made them all choose to leave and divulge the reasons later. I knew this event. I was one of the others.

“Well there is little doubt that evil exists, no matter your religious leaning,” I said.

I considered that if my senses were those of lightening bugs or the plants that grew just yards beneath my feet, I would see with different eyes, the chemicals that wafted through the air around me on this dark night, that signaled all sorts of communication, a communication tailored to organisms not human.  Because I do not have the ability to see the way some of biology sees, doesn’t mean it isn’t real or doesn’t exist.

Silent Bob says nothing. I wonder what he is thinking. Men aren’t apt to talk too much along these lines.

“We are praying people,” I say, “I don’t see how we can believe in prayer and not believe in the supernatural.” I go over where my mind has been on prayer and how often I do it and how it’s changed since I first knew of lightening bugs.  Prayer is very different than  Ouija boards and tea leaves, but you have to have spent some time considering them to know the difference. My only foray into Ouija boards as a  young girl scared me to death. My grandmother read tea leaves. She was  neither a happy or kind woman. Neither of those activities brought joy to my soul like prayer does. The existence of real communication of the soul to the creator, like the truth of lightening bugs at the farm three weeks ago, doesn’t rest on my perception or observation. Some things are just really true. For now and always.

The lone headlights finally reached us and the neighbor stopped his car. Becky, the charming Southern belle oozing out of her, leaned over to peer into the passenger side window and rested her elbow on the window. I bet she did exactly this same thing at fifteen growing up with her three sisters in Longview.

“I love that Fun Guy,” she says to the neighbor.

“You  mean Stan?” said the neighbor. Even in the dark it’s plain to see he’s a little confused about the fun guy that Becky is referring to. They may or may not have many fun guys on Red Hawk Road.

“You know,” Becky beams back, “the Fun Guy. The FUN guy.” She emphasized the fun part so that he understands her.

The confusion lasts another sixty seconds until she finally says, “You know the one you gave me,” still leaning into his car door, like a flirty teenager.

I had crossed my legs standing straight up to keep from peeing all over Red Hawk Road, I was laughing so hard. We all were.  Displayed on their veranda was a beautiful shelf fungus that the neighbor had given to Becky a couple of days ago. She was wanting to let him know how much she was enjoying it.

It was a simple matter of whether one pronounced a word with a southern drawl that made the g less like a j and more like guh.

It all boiled down to communication.

Back in bed, later that evening, my leg draped across Silent Bob, I rested my heart and prepared my mind for sleep. It is a beautiful world we live in. I long to know more of it, to take care of it, to appreciate it. It’s quite astounding to realize how much of all of that relies on communication of all sorts. This world, our hearts, works through communication.  There are all types going on around you, in you and by you.

Learn what you can.

Be of open mind.

Test what is real.

The truth, whether of the natural world or beyond it, bears the scrutiny.

And on the nights or walks given you, in simple pleasure that generates it’s own kind of peace,  enjoy the fireflies and fun guys.

Fireflies1TSPhoto from Tsuneaki Hiramatsu and the beautiful article from the Smithsonian

Clemson loves fireflies!

2 Responses

  1. It is interesting how a conversation can start in one subject and develope into something totally different, but the best thing is when the conversation is with good and loved friends.

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