Luminescent Anticipation

I am quite delighted to share that FIREFLY GALAXY, a favorite nature story from my portfolio, is a little closer to becoming a children’s picture book. I can’t tell you all the details yet, but I am feeling luminescent with joyful anticipation.

Once upon a time when I was a child, I actually had very few experiences of fireflies despite that I lived in firefly country. Minnesota, with it’s abundant lakes, wetlands, regular rainfall, and warm summers, is historically perfect firefly habitat. However, much of the southern half of Minnesota is now either farm field or urban landscape, and fireflies are sensitive creatures—the lampyridae canaries in the coal mine. They cannot survive in places where chemical pesticides and fertilizers are present, where lawns are manicured, or where city lights illuminate the night. For all these reasons, less and less of my home state (and less of the whole world) is hospitable to the delicate firefly. During childhood, I remember only a few moments of firefly magic—a handful of bright sparks punctuating the dark.

I stay up later now, and my husband and I like to walk, so I’ve been a little luckier about firefly sightings in recent years. My first experience with a galaxy of fireflies came several years ago on a late night stroll along a lake with a wide border of tall reeds and grasses. A thousand tiny, star-like flashes sparkled above the darkened lakeshore—a dazzling constellation all our own. I knew right away that I wanted to write about the experience, and so FIREFLY GALAXY evolved over the course of 2016 and 2017. It’s my husband’s favorite story from my growing collection, perhaps because he lived the inspiration with me.

After writing my firefly story, I did some research for back matter and realized that a marshy park in our suburb might be the perfect place to spot fireflies. Fortunately, it was then late June again and within the approximately four week span when fireflies hatch from their larval underworlds and emerge into luminescent flight. We headed out that night to walk the boardwalk through swampy cattails and purple loosestrife.

As the sun’s embers dissolved into horizon, the firefly nightscape awoke. It began with a flish-flash here, a twinkle there. Then spark by spark, the night began to flicker, glitter, shimmer, and glow. We felt like we were walking through the milky way.

We have returned for this magical early summer event many times now. We have also found a nearby wooded park that is home to even more species of fireflies. We feel lucky to share our suburban landscape with so many of these mysterious and unique creatures. Still, I am always conscious of their fragility. Fireflies—abundant though they seem in certain settings—are one well-lit street or polluted drainage ditch away from local extinctions.

So when luminescence flits and flashes, I wish the fireflies well forever. And I wish that today’s generation of children (and the next and the next) will share in the wonder and joy of firefly galaxies lighting up our summer nights, our hearts, and our imaginations.

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