Before I went to Iowa, fireflies were meaningless to me. Early last spring, my roommate bought a string of solar green LED lights and hung them on a tree. At night, they would glow in and out, simulating the fireflies lights. Living in Northern California for most of my life, it was easy for me to overlook this as a cheap gimmick. When my roommate installed them, I had a hard time finding the emotional pull they had for my roommate.
On my cross-country road trip last summer, I stopped for the night in Omaha. One of the locals invited me to a weekly Taco Tuesday event. The major difference in this event than others I’ve been to is the locals really make you work for the tacos. Locals ride their bikes on an old railroad tracks path paved into a bike path for ten miles ending in a outdoor seating restaurant that served cheap tacos. Luckily, at the half way point, there’s an oasis of booze called Margaritaville where you can stop, talk, and drink. I drove across the Mississippi River to Iowa stateside in awe of the flat landscape. By the time I got to the trail head, the sun was just starting to set and I was a bit worried I was going to have to ride in the dark. Much to my chagrin, the path was illuminated by fireflies. I gazed at the bugs, awed by their bright glow of hope. They seem to say, “winter has past, you can come out now”. Their presence allowed me to finally understand what many writers were talking about in those children books — a glow of summer.
I thought back to my roommate’s fake firefly lights hanging in our backyard tree. It was a representation of this kind of emotion where he would be taken back to his summers in Boston trying to catch them. I stopped my bike and tried to catch one. Although I didn’t have much success, I felt like a kid. I realized adults can have the empathy and nostalgia for a past childhood they never had.
And yet, I don’t understand how something as simple as a glowing green light could make me feel so happy. It set the setting, and for the rest of that night; they were the entertainment. It was more entertainment than any manufactured, designed, or advertised piece of media humans had developed. It felt pure, and in a way, the path I was taking was this magical journey down the rabbit hole. And appreciating these tiny things are why we live life, right?
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.”
― Robert Frost