Fireflies

During one particularly hot summer, I spent a lot of time outside.

It was our second summer spent at our house we live in now. My mother had decided on the most spectacular feature of our home.

“The firefly show,” she said.

She was, of course, referring to the hoards of fireflies that would come light up the woods that lined our backyard, forming a beautiful, twinkling constellation within the trees. It was indeed magnificent.

My brother and sister were both at a certain age where doing things like coloring on the walls and biting others in public was still forgivable. I had emerged from my room to go sit on the patio and watch the show with my mother. My brother and sister were standing clustered around the door.

“What’s going on?”

My brother had something clenched in his fist. He squeezed it and flung it to the ground, revealing a tiny bug with a half-lit tail.

I picked it up. The light stopped flickering.

It occurred to me that my brother couldn’t be the first little kid to kill a lightning bug just because he didn’t know any better. Then it also occurred to me that the death toll of fireflies had to be significantly higher than some other, insignificant bug less beautiful.

After all, no one has a childhood rite of passage to catch moths or gnats.

It’s because the firefly is beautiful that its light ceased; it is because the flower is beautiful that it is plucked.

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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