One evening as I sat on a porch in West Virginia looking out into a darkening field sparking with fireflies, I noticed a glow on the porch railing. There lay an injured firefly, unable to fly, its magical light continuing to glow in faint bursts. With nothing to be done, I kept a sort of vigil as its beacon gradually slowed until it stopped altogether.
Then, I didn’t know the reason the firefly lights the way it does. I only marveled at their beauty, not pursuing why.
I’ve since learned about the secret flash codes of fireflies, beetles who produce their own light to communicate with others, often in courtship, and to signal predators to stay away, (even in my nearby park in Harlem.) You can read about it here.
Or, just watch these short silent videos (full screen in HD!), made by video artist Diana Lehr one recent evening in rural Pennsylvania after a rain, and enjoy the wonder.
And if you have your own field of fireflies, here is a haiku by Issa:
Don’t go firefly!
Even at night Kyoto
And another by Basho:
Blade of grass
a firefly lands
takes off again.