Each evening at twilight the meadow comes alive. Fireflies float and dart, flashing in the air. There are more this year than we have ever seen before, they drift and flash by the hundreds across the field and around the house. They are like sparks ricocheting through the night. And for the first time, when I go out to climb the tree at night, there are a small number of fireflies there among the trees. They usually stay to the meadow. Maybe sheer numbers are driving them into the edge of the woods.
After roaming along the paths have mowed through the field I circle around the house toward the tree through the dark. A handful of fireflies are drifting along above the forest floor. A few others are floating through the branches above me, higher than I remember in past years, and when I am at the top of the tree (this is how I think of it, but as much as I’d like to be up at the very pinnacle of the thing, I’m only about two thirds of the way up, where the good branches run out) two or three glide among the branches around me. It would take a spirit of iron to not be delighted at encountering this company up among the branches.
One of them lands on the opposite side of a leaf about four feet away. It is completely dark now, really black out, and each time it flashes the entire leaf lights up in the darkness. It is a cool light, very different from when a leaf is backlit by the sun, which is a luminous green-gold. This is a greenish-white green, if that makes any sense. After the leaf has flashed eight or ten times, its little engine of luminosity detaches and floats off, drifting lazily downwards among the branches.
With each flash I catch a kind of shadow-glimpse of the terrain of trunk and branches beneath me, the briefest delineation of that abysmal landscape before darkness closes in again–like dropping a spark into a branch-filled well.