Day 183 Neon Yellow in the Blue of the Night

June 10, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th years where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

Another seasonal benchmark has appeared. The lightning bugs are out. It must be close to summer.

More than 60 years ago, Baltimore’s Lyndale Avenue was alive on a warm summer night. Everyone sat outside on their row house front porches. Residential air conditioners hadn’t made their debut yet for middle class families. We children ran around on the sidewalk catching lightning bugs—we did not call them fireflies. Our laughter hung in the humid air, background sounds to more serious adult conversations on the attached porches. We carried clear glass pickle or jelly jars with holes punched in the lids. Although we were warned to be careful, adults allowed us to carry these glass jars in the dark since plastic jars too were not in common use. 

We counted and recounted our catches as we challenged our friends. “If I catch more than you, you have to give me half of your popsicle tomorrow.” When our parents called us inside for bed, we let all the insects free and hurried to wash our hands from the stink the bugs had left on our hands. I remember the night when a boy down the street showed us his collection but he did not let them go free as we had. He began crushing them and showing us his glowing hands. That he would hurt these wondrous creatures sickened us and I remember my mother yelling at him, telling him he was cruel. Maybe he grew up to become a scientist. In any case, I hope he grew a gentler attitude toward nature.

Tonight, David and I went outside to catch some lightning bugs. I held an empty jelly jar while he caught them.  Our eyesight is not as good as when we were children and there did not seem to be as many as I remember from years ago. I hear that human light pollution may have interrupted the rhythm of their communication with their light signals that are also used in mating. After I photographed our catch, the bugs regained their freedom. I’m glad that my mate has a gentle attitude toward nature. 

My gift today is a jar of lightning bugs.

> DAY 184: Ignite Baltimore

You can find links to my other posts on this project here:

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