Night of the Firefly…

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

  I often stand in the backyard of our suburban home on steamy summer nights looking into the night sky.   The twinkling of the stars in Orions belt , the smudge of the Great Nebula , Castor and Pollux straight overhead traveling together into forever.   The moon is a sliver, sharp and bright.  Sirius,  the DogStar, shines like the finest diamond in an obsidian setting…  My older brother and I learned the constellations as boys, knowledge that he and I treasure to this day.  It is knowledge that can make a mere human feel small and insignificant in God’s grand scheme. So vast is the universe, so wide, so deep, so powerful, so infinite…How could I possibly mean anything to the One that created all this? 

Fireflies and night skies...

  As I enter my 50th year of life, I can tell you thru experience, that we do matter in all this.  Too many things have crossed my personal trail that tell me this to ignore…and this night is no different.  Tonight the evidence is my goofy German Shepherd, Hans.  He has discovered that the small specks of light flitting about the yard are not only fun to chase, but edible as well.  Hans feels that this is the most noble of all purposes, and pursues the Lightning Bugs with the enthusiasm that only a German Shepherd can.  Jumping, twisting, hopping, and flailing, he focuses only on these self-illuminated morsels of meat…(Iknow…Yyucchh!)  Hans’ ability to filter out distractions and focus so intently on one small detail amazes me…His Sire, Blitz, has the same ability, and it serves my partner well. 

Even now, at 10 PM, the neighborhood is full of the distractions of summer.  The neighbor kids are firing off bottle rockets, there’s a backyard bonfire that smells of cedar, the Doberman down the street is barking at something.  But Hans focuses on his firefly safari…

   I recall learning how the Lightning-bug works years ago.  I try to explain the process to my four-legged friend.Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, glow to lure prey, discourage predators, and most importantly to attract mates. The characteristic green-yellow glow produced by a firefly is the result of a chemical reaction that takes place in the insect’s abdomen.  

The rate  at which female fireflies produce flashes is the key to attracting a mate. To understand why this is so crucial, it helps to note that the common name ‘fireflies’ does not refer to a single species of insect. Instead, there are many species of fireflies, many of which are glowing in the night sky at just about the same time in just about the same places.

So each species needs a way of distinguishing itself from the others if males and females of each species are to locate appropriate mates. Thus, the flashing rate and wavelength provide a suitable way for different species to send out different signals.

Firefly larvae are capable of bioluminescence like the adults. For this reason the larvae are sometimes called glow worms. There are over 2000 species of fireflies, worldwide. These insects are found in woodlands and moist grasslands.  As I hold forth on the subject, Hans looks at me as though this information is altogether missing the point of Fireflies.  And maybe I am…

Once again, my dog is able to focus and show me something in its most profoundly simple way.  I just have to focus my A.D.D. riddled mind on it.  In all of the distractions, the most important thing to him is a swarm luminescent insects.  And in all the distractions of the Universe, we are the central pre-occupation of the Creator.  The technical understanding of the inner workings of the firefly serve as evidence of purposeful creation, but, I reason, if God put so much detail into a bug’s guts, then I must mean something to HIM. 

  Hans is finally worn out from his hunt and he curls up at my feet…Thanking him for his instruction on the nature of things, I scritch his forehead.  We’ll sit here for awhile yet while I say “Thank you” to our Creator…

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