Tonight I sat on the front stoop after sunset, in that long summer hour when the turquoise dusk deepens to night, the hour when I can still see the daisies and the coneflowers clearly, when children and bicycles and dogs head home.
It’s the hour of fireflies, and tonight there must have been hundreds on my lawn, congregating under the low-lying branches of the linden tree.
I had planned to catch a movie on TV, but summer evenings hold too much magic. Once I caught that aqua backdrop, I was hooked. I sat down and decided to devote my full attention to the flickering fireflies, a meditation of sorts on the unpredictable ebb and flow of lights.
But my stillness didn’t last long.
I started writing metaphors in my head. I couldn’t help seeing in the fireflies the little souvenir flashlights we twirled and flicked on and off at the Barnum & Baily circus so many years ago, and remembering how hundreds of kids doing the same across the other side of Madison Square Garden created a black field of—you guessed it—fireflies.
Then I got up and caught one. And set it free. And caught another. And set it free. And then I followed one onto the lawn, where the grass had already cooled into delightful kisses on the soles of my bare feet. I walked slowly under the linden canopy among dozens of little flashlights.
I tried to photograph them for you. Instead, I framed an unexpected self-portrait: me in my brand new pajama pants, with a mismatched tee shirt, and the store tag still hanging from my hip. I loved everything about myself at that moment. I loved that I was outside in my PJs. I loved that I put them on hours too early. I loved that I forgot to cut the tag off (it’s still dangling as I write this). I loved that my shirt didn’t match. I loved the cool grass on my feet. I loved the feeling that the fireflies were my friends.
Somehow I had re-entered my ten-year-old self, rediscovering the freedoms of ten: the freedom of loving what I love, the freedom that comes from seeing only what is directly in front of me, the freedom of a perfect, simple summer hour.