It was so hot today that I didn’t leave my house all day. I usually take my dog June for a walk each day, but June is a pug and comes with a warning: Do not take me on walks on hot days or I will simply fall over in the grass for an unknown amount of time. I knew better than to walk her during the heat of the 95 plus day. But after dinner, while sitting on the patio, I felt a rather dry Scottsdale, Arizonian kind of breeze and I decided to venture a walk with June. She responded enthusiastically as I showed her the leash, so I decided to take an extended walk since we both had been cooped up all day. But halfway through our walk, the Heat-Pug-Warning kicked in. We would walk 100 feet and she would collapse onto someone’s cool grass, where I would wait patiently for her to cool down enough to walk another 100 feet. It was going to be a long walk home. As dusk came over the warm sidewalks and darkness sank onto everyone’s front yards, we were treated to unexpected front row seats to the grandest show of summer, the miracle of the lightning bug mating dance. I look forward to seeing them every year never knowing exactly when they will appear. The gradual absence of other summer creatures from my childhood like toads, bumblebees, turtles, and moths have kept me aware that could also become the fate of my beloved lightning bugs.
As kids, we amused ourselves on hot summer nights chasing them and temporarily trapping them in empty grape jelly jars full of grass. Occasionally I would bring them into my bedroom, where I let them loose to float magically in my room and into my dreams.
I didn’t realize that they were not the symbol of summer’s arrival in other parts of the country until we took my nephew who was raised in California to the Oakley drive-in years ago. As darkness descended and the movie began, he shouted out “Sharon, there’s a fire somewhere! Look at all the ashes!” What he saw was Cincinnati’s arrival of summer brought on by the twinkling of thousands of lightening bugs. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
I was grateful tonight that I was witnessing that same spectacle as we moseyed our way home. There are so many things we take for granted. Lightning bugs will never be one for me.