Four years ago, after I folded the magazine, two friends asked if I wanted to join them on their annual trek to the Smoky Mountains to watch the Synchronous Fireflies. With nothing but a deadline-free schedule staring me in the face, we loaded up and drove to East Tennessee where we pitched our tents, weathered storms, hiked up to breathtaking vistas, and witnessed one of nature’s most beautiful and mysterious nods to itself.
There are only two places on earth where Synchronous Fireflies appear: One is in Southeast Asia, and the other is at a specific spot in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains National Park each June. Apparently the firefly has an adult lifespan of 21 days, and this lighting display is their gift; three weeks to shine and leave their mark on the world. So at dusk we joined others who had come to quietly witness the phenomenon, made our way into the forest, sat down in a clearing and waited.
Then the show began. Little green lights started blinking randomly, like an orchestra warming up, getting in tune while waiting for their conductor. All went black, then, in complete unison, six green blinks followed by six seconds of darkness, then another six blinks moving in waves across the clearings. It was a miraculous two-hour silent symphony with thousands of members performing in perfect time. And as I sat there overflowing with awe and wonder, glowing Blue Ghost fireflies—cousins to the synchronous ones—encircled me. It was holy, and yet another reminder that, contrary to my belief, I wasn’t the one in control. At all.
Fireflies have always been my favorite memory of summer, reminding me of lazy evenings when I sat outside with my dad watching them light up our backyard. And I’ve carried the tradition into adulthood, perching myself in a chair each night eagerly awaiting the show. My home now seems to have an abundance of them, like they know where their biggest fan lives.
This week brought the last of the year’s fireflies—the few late bloomers who nonetheless finished their life’s work with grace and beauty. Last night I gave them a standing ovation for a life lived well and with purpose, and quietly acknowledged another summer coming to an end. As I walked back inside, I wondered if my life span were comparable to those fireflies’ action-packed few short weeks, was I using that time to shine and leave my mark on the world? Was I using my gifts and not squandering them?
I hope everyone had a relaxing and renewing summer, and took time to sit outside and be inspired by nature’s little lightshow. And now onward into Fall we go, maybe even armed with a sense of purpose and a big smile.
Category: Note From Lydia