Something has been on my mind, something I read somewhere not long ago – I don’t remember where, maybe Nova, or one of the airline in-flight magazines. The article was about the lightning bugs disappearing.
That’s what we called them where I’m from. I like it better than firefly and I wouldn’t even consider ‘glowworm’, not even for its double w.
So I’ve been meaning to bring it up. It seems like something we should be worried about. First it was the bees, now it’s the lightning bugs.
When I was a kid growing up, bees were everywhere: in the spectacularly flowering wegelia bush at the side of our house, in the morning glories that climbed up and down the chain link fence of the backyard dog pen, in the little dandelion-freckled empty lot that abutted my backyard to my best friend Lisa’s, where we shagged fly balls or just lay in the sun making clover flower necklaces and tiaras.
Now they’ve gone. The article said “quietly and without fanfare” but I wonder if somewhere there isn’t a clearing, or maybe a little league field that has fallen into disuse, the ground swarming with bees getting into formation, the drones yelling out orders, the queen up on a podium telling them good luck, and Godspeed.
I always expected my childhood to recede away from me, but I was not ready for it to just fly off like this. I suppose I should have been ready; after all, I was the kind of kid that used to lie awake expecting the lightning bugs would come for me, demanding accountability for all the hundreds of lightning bug cousins who ended up in empty peanut butter jars with holes punched into the lids, or smeared Lord of the Flies – style, at the end of my yellow plastic Wiffle ball bat.
I’d imagine them massing together on my window screen late at night, silently pulsing at me in and out, maybe in tune with the gossip of the frogs and locusts. It was a vision with the sinister appeal of rough justice.
What would they want? I wasn’t sure but the certainty of their eventual arrival never left me. You’d think I’d be relieved at the news they’ve all flown off, no more to fear their silent, waiting judgement. Maybe they are busy lighting the way for the bees – who are travelling only at night for reasons of their own – but I don’t feel relieved. I feel worried.