The Summer of the Lightning Bugs.

18 May

When I was growing up, summertime in the mountains of Saluda, North Carolina, meant catching lightning bugs after dark. To some they are known as fireflies, but ever since I’ve been coming to the mountains since I was a kid, I have always called them lightning bugs.

When the summer nights rolled around, I’d go into my grandmother’s kitchen in her mountain house and find a jar for lightning bugs, which often turned out to be easier said than done considering all the different things that could be found in my grandmother’s kitchen. Though it would seem like finding a jar for lightning bugs was easy, in my grandmother’s kitchen, the one thing you were looking for was often the one thing that you couldn’t seem to find. Most of the time I just used a regular mason jar and then poked holes in the lid using a knife. That way the lightning bugs couldn’t escape, but it would still allow them to stay alive.

Catching lightning bugs is a lot like looking for shark’s teeth or pieces of sea glass on the beach. You’ve got to let your eyes adjust to your surroundings before you can focus on your goal. When searching for lightning bugs, that goal is a flicker of a greenish-yellow light that can be found anywhere from the right of an old tree trunk or to the left of your hand that’s clutching the mason jar, waiting for the moment when you can open the lid and put your treasures inside.

When I first started catching lightning bugs, the only thing I really understood was that I had to wait until it got dark to catch the bugs that light up when you cup them in your hands. In those days, my mom or dad would come along with me to hold the jar so that I could focus fully on spotting the lightning bugs. Once I caught one, my mom or dad would be right behind me with the lid already open so I could put the lightning bug inside. Sometimes, however, I’d get tricked. I’d think that I caught a lightning bug, but then I’d open my hands a little bit to place it inside the jar, but my hands would be empty. Even though I got frustrated when that happened, I’d turn back around and keep looking for the green flicker that was my sole connection to warm summer nights in the mountains.

Even when I got old enough to carry the mason jar and look for lightning bugs by myself, the experience held the same excitement as the early days. I’d eat my dinner as fast as I could, and then my eyes would dart from the window to my one of my parents, eager for the go-ahead that I could go outside to catch lightning bugs. When I reached the age where I didn’t have to have one of my parents go with me, I developed my favorite spots around my grandmother’s house to catch lightning bugs. My favorite spot was the “mini garden” right above my grandparents’ house that had 3 bushes in a row, flowers dotted all around, and a bench off to the side of the grassy area. This was one of my favorite spots because even though it was part of the yard, it seemed secluded in its own way. Plus, since it was a grassy area rather than gravel or pavement, I could comfortably sit down on the ground and look at the lightning bugs that I had caught. For me, the evening of catching lightning bugs was over when I was tired and yet completely content. I didn’t base the length of time that I was outside on how many lightning bugs I caught. If I did that, I probably would have stayed outside until my parents would have to come get me for bed. I never cared how many lightning bugs I was able to catch. As long as I had one, I was happy.

For me, one of my favorite parts of catching lightning bugs was after the whole experience outside was over. Then, I’d get to curl up in bed and place the jar of lightning bugs on my bedside table. When my mom or dad would turn out the lights, I’d star at the green flicker in the jar that meant life, looking at the simple insect that had the power to hold my childhood concentrate for hours outside. And after one last look at my lightning bug treasures, I’d roll over and let the hum of the cicadas rock me to sleep, anxiously awaiting the next evening to arrive so that I could once again, however briefly, catch a little bit of magic.

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10 Responses to “The Summer of the Lightning Bugs.”

  1. Anita S May 18, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    What a lovely story! I’ve always been intrigued by fireflies — I’m from Texas — but never tried to catch them. Living in the suburb of a big city, I don’t see them as much, and sometimes I really miss living in a more rural area.

  2. littlemissreject May 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    So sweet

  3. artizenimages May 19, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Brings back memories! I used to see them often in Long Island but have not here in AZ.

  4. belasbrightideas May 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Wonderful. Here in Hawaii I sorely miss lightning bugs. Enjoy your summer!

  5. Linds May 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Beautiful. Love, love love.

  6. Barbara Sinclair Holistic Health June 12, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I hope I see lightning bugs when I move to Asheville! Sure don’t see them in NYC! 🙂 Nice article!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Lightning Bugs « Romancing the Bee - June 17, 2012

    […] The Summer of the Lightning Bugs. (lifeintheblueridges.wordpress.com) […]

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