Written by a guest author of Life’s Adventures (September 4, 2012).
Hot Summer Nights
It was a hot summer weekend night somewhere in the middle of Florida. Brothers and sisters had come together for a weekend of sharing tales, catching up, grilling dinner, and generally just enjoying the company of family. They had come together with their own families which put cousins together in the great outdoors of one of Florida’s many state parks.
Several young people ranging in age from 7 to 17 with nothing much to do. This was a time when there were no cell phones, no iPods, and no pocket video games. It was a time that parents would simply tell you, “Go play.” Young people in that time had to use their imagination and entertain themselves. This particular weekend they had each other for entertainment. So what do several young people in the great outdoors in the middle of Florida in one of the state parks do on a hot summer weekend night to entertain each other?
They catch fire flies!!
For the uninitiated, fire flies get their name from using a chemical mix in their bodies to briefly produce a spark-like light. It is used during their mating season along with pheromones to help find each other. They will “blink” in flight with the flashes coming at intervals of roughly 3-5 seconds apart. This makes for a great opportunity for occupying young minds that have come together away from the creature comforts they have become accustomed to.
All you need is a jar with a lid and a desire to catch more fireflies than the other kids do. If you get enough fireflies into one jar, they will almost create a lantern for you by blinking at different times. Running, yelling, the snapping of lids onto jars, and general sounds of excited kids doing something they usually would not do make for a great night. Each young person would manage to catch at least a few fire flies to create that “lantern” for use by their sleeping bag. One or more would have bragging rights to agitate the others with.
I can remember this night from nearly forty years ago. I was one of the kids that in fact did NOT earn bragging rights. I did manage to catch several of the fireflies but it was nowhere near enough to avoid the torment from the older kids that were able to best my catch. Being teased was not exactly a great ending to a night in the great outdoors and I vowed that it would not happen again.
The following morning, I decided to spend part of my day searching for the “night blinkers”. Since I now had enough light to closely examine these little creatures I knew what to look for in the daylight. After several hours of searching, I finally found that they liked the undersides of palmetto leaves. It seems they would spend their days under the leaves and then take flight soon after the sun falls. I could not pass on the opportunity to catch hundreds of these things so I would be way ahead of the game when the “hunt” with the other kids would start again.
Sure enough, the games were again afoot. I knew there was absolutely no way anyone would be able to even come close to catching as many as I had in the jar. I decided to sit by the fire and let them battle it out, knowing I would have the bragging rights. I could hear them running, I could hear them yelling, and I could hear the snapping of the jars. It was general excited play and banter among kids that were entertaining themselves as I sat alone by the fire, smirking to myself. When the night’s festivities were over and everyone was comparing jars I showed my jar and it was by far the fullest of them all. Accusations of cheating were heaped upon me and I was not given the honor of bragging rights even though I had the most fireflies and I did indeed catch them myself.
Every now and then I will think back to that weekend so many years ago. I think back to the fact that I sat alone and listened to the fun and the excitement rather than participated. I think back to what I believed was the objective, getting the most fireflies.
I ponder about life. We all have objectives for an end game of life. It can be to own a motor home and travel in retirement. It could be to sit on an island and enjoy the sounds and smells of the ocean. It could be to spend more time with grand kids. It could even be something as simple as sitting on the front porch of your home holding the hand of the one you love.
When I think about life, I can think back to that weekend. Your endgame does not matter. Just as my meeting my objective of catching the most fireflies ended in disappointment, meeting your objectives in life may have the same outcome. Do not miss out on the joys of life, as I missed out on great fun in the great outdoors, trying to meet your objectives. Thinking back, as I often do, has given me a better understanding of the old saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Life is not just a destination. It is a journey.“