Saturday, June 19, 2010

Such a night

You know that
song by Dr. John, with the perfect phrase for, well, what it is: sweet confusion under the moonlight. Romance. Maybe, baby. The tremulous in-between. It was also in that paean to the possibilities of hormonal adolescence, Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes," with the orgasmic refrain, "I can't stop! I can't stop! I got lightning striking again and again and again and again...."

Which brings me to the fireflies.

Fireflies are more than part of June, they clarify June. Or looking for them does. Which I did last Saturday evening in Rock Meadow, with the light dimming, but lingering, like the last moments in the life of a lemon drop. This is the best time to see fireflies, in that dimming light, in which things happen. (And this time the music is the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Felix Mendelssohn. Because that's what it is, too. Fairy business.) Seeing a spark moving over the tall meadow grass in the half-light, or momentarily in the recesses of a bush. Not fire, though. A light without heat. There's science to explain it. Bioluminescence. Cold light. But never mind that. This is news. News on a summer night.

For a while it's a game of light-catching. There. Where? There! And because it has been a couple of summers since I saw them, and I'm always afraid their numbers are dwindling, it's a few steps along the path, pausing on the boardwalk, and light-catching another and another, even though stopping leaves you exposed to br'er mosquito, whose numbers never dwindle. And then the little amazement—living lights—starts to become a known phenomenon again, as the light drains down to a tablespoon and it's a night epic. Signals. The whole meadow is involved. The crickets are involved, always were, spooling and unspooling their time tickers. Take off your glasses and the flashes become pale sequins. Big as the seed-coins of the honesty plant.

Walking back, past the big dark trees and the little dark bushes, under the half-a-moon, which has taken almost all the light, it's a different night. Things in a simpler arrangement. Innocence seems to be the right word, but innocence not as a "not," but as the news that things are what they seem, basically. Whatever they seem.


There was a coda to the night. As we were getting ready for bed, turning off the lights, Matt peered out the window at the breezy, halfmoonlit night and said, "I kind of want to go out there." So we ended up sitting in a couple of chairs in the dark of the screened-in back porch, facing the moon as it slowly slipped down through the leaves of the big maple next door. And we talked, like a father and son on a summer night. What did we talk about? Night stuff. The idea that there's another surface out there, the moon. The even more amazing idea of stars. Carl Sagan, a favorite of Matt's, determining somehow that there are only five other habitable places in the universe. Monsters. What people believe. God? Nature? Aliens? How they wouldn't necessarily be Brainiacs. The Twilight Zone. Kurt Vonnegut. Doctor Who. And whether the fact we're so insignificant, but one-in-a-gazillion, means that we don't matter or that we matter even more?

June nights. Gotta love 'em.

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