yesterday evening, weary from the fierce, unpredictable heat of early summer, a persistent cough, and peevish five-year-olds, i slumped into the passenger seat of my car after work, a sweaty, disheveled mess. as night fell, i waited for the kind ladies of my saturday class to whisk me away for our date with fireflies. we drove to a vast park, bright with reflected light from the city sky and walked on a dim path around huge grassy fields cooling in the breeze. it smelled like the summer nights in suburban texas when i used to visit my grandmother.
we reached the appointed place and waited to be led by yellow-clad volunteers (mainly diminutive old gentlemen) down the wooden staircase and into the forest. small groups lined up as they were called (this event required tickets, kindly applied for and shared by one of the class members), and then we were ushered into the darkness. we walked a paved path along a creek lined with tall grasses hushing us in the wind. one at first, and then a few more, we picked out cool sparks flashing in the grass. the gentle flickering of their lights reminded me of a cat purring, relaxed and friendly.
i watched as fifty-year-old women pointed with excited whispers, "there's one! there's one!" we were left behind as we took our time enjoying the silent show. we even cupped a few in our hands until they flew away. at last we entered the forest and were taken to the black silhouette of a small building, a firefly house. inside in complete darkness were thousands of sparks flying and glowing. it was like being inside a campfire when nothing is left but embers: dark shapes revealed by the lights that blanket them.