Patsy Cline had the right idea when she crooned these words.
If you choose an evening in summer when the sky is crystal clear, the moon rides high and the fractious breeze has soothed itself to sleep, the world becomes a magical place to ramble. And I’m not suggesting you trudge down streets in town with overhead lights flooding the scene, or along gravel roads where vehicles never cease their heedless rush.
No, I’m proposing you follow a well-worn cow path that winds through a meadow behind the barn, or perhaps meander down a grassy trail past a sighing field of wheat. Places such as these capture my fancy; places that are reflective and quiet.
Daughter Aliyah and I did just this the other night. It was a little after 12 a.m., and the farm lay silent as we stole across the lawn and paused on our bridge among the cattails. They’ve flourished this year with all the rain, leaving only a small space open where the creek gurgles through. A full moon glimmered in the dark ripples and lent a soft glow to willows that line the shore; their craggy tops set in sharp relief against the silver sphere above.
We hopped off the opposite side and wound our way through clover, its scent heavy and cloying, eventually finding ourselves in the cow pasture. Of course, there’s a certain risk involved when following a groove worn into the earth by cattle, particularly when sight is limited, and one is wearing pink running shoes, but these are trivial matters of no consequence on such a night.
Coyotes wailed off to the east. It was an eerie sound in the still of the night, but much friendlier than the dreadful hum of mosquitoes in our ears. After strolling past the oat crop, we ended by flopping down on a hill overlooking the yard. You can see clear up to the Fartown Hills from there and the lights of our neighbors winked across at us.
We lolled on grass damp with dew, and talked, and gazed at the stars until we began to feel as though we weren’t alone. Tiny flickering lights began to appear in the warm air around us and I told Aliyah a story of fireflies and her brother, Chris.
It was one summer, years ago, on a family visit to Manitoba. There always seemed to be plenty of lightening bugs in the countryside where my uncles lived (also ticks, but that’s another story with none of the pleasant overtones I’m trying to convey). Ten year old Chris happily bounded though the yard on the evening in question, collecting the bugs in a jar. These flashy little insects use their light to attract a mate, so around bedtime I called a halt to Chris’ interference in their search for love; I told him to set them free and come inside.
“But it took me so long to catch them all,” he protested loudly, “I don’t wanna.” He clutched the Mason jar to his chest dramatically and slowly edged out of arms reach.
Typically, the mom in me responded, “Those bugs will die if you keep them cooped up all night. Let them go.” I turned dismissively and focused my efforts on washing the rosy faces of his younger siblings before hustling them off to bed. A short time afterward, Chris dragged his sorry self through the living room and turned listless, empty eyes towards me.
“They’re gone,” he mumbled sadly, his voice trembling with emotion. I felt a pang of guilt as I beheld the stooped figure of my son, bent with untold grief, ascending the staircase to his room.
Maybe I should have let him keep one, I thought, closing the door to my own darkened bedroom later that night. Poor kid, he doesn’t ask for much. Mentally berating myself for crushing an innocent lad’s simple request for a couple of lousy bugs, I lay down.
Wait – was that a light I saw in the corner? Naw, couldn’t be. Hang on – there it was again.
It flickered right, then flashed left, and then two more joined in. Suddenly my room was filled with the blinking lights of fireflies!
Innocent lad be damned, that little varmint purposely released them in my bedroom! I hollered his name and the door opened a smidgen. A pair of small lips were pressed to the crack, “Well – you didn’t say where to let them go.”
Aliyah and I giggled on the hilltop as I painted her this picture, our folded arms for pillows and the fireflies and stars our glowing companions.
Times like these are hard to beat.
I go out walkin’…