Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fireflies (Not Synchronized) In My House

This summer the fireflies have been putting on beautiful shows in my backyard almost every evening. It’s very easy to see how Victorian types may have mistaken these insects for fairies. Their bodies hang down from their wings and look, in the evening shadows, very much like little winged humans fluttering about, glowing.

Oddly, this summer—unlike any other summer I can remember—I’ve been finding fireflies inside my house. This isn’t a bad thing, really, because I’m not afraid of bugs. But it’s a bit of an inconvenience. Most bugs that I find in my house I just smash. They have their world, I have mine. They should stay in theirs. But for a couple of reasons I regard fireflies as kind of magic, so I don’t smash them. I carefully catch them—usually in a paper cup—and carry them outside and release them.

I give fireflies a break first of all because of their connection to the fairy world. Every time I see fireflies in my backyard I imagine myself as some Victorian British eccentric looking around and seeing a whole different world fluttering around behind my house, a world of fairies and magic and endless unknowns that all will be exciting to learn about and categorize and tell the rest of the world about . . . Those were the days. Arthur Conan Doyle even got involved in some of that stuff . . .

Another reason I like fireflies is because contemporary scientists who study ‘emergent order’ often look to certain species of fireflies that flash either all at the same time or in patterns. This is called phase synchronization. Scientists don’t know exactly how hundreds or even thousands of insects with no connection to each other manage to get their lights blinking at—more or less—exactly the same time. But it is supposed to be a remarkable sight. Entire hillsides or shorelines flashing like high-tech light displays and it is only fireflies doing what comes naturally.

There are some fireflies who do this here in America—like those of North Carolina—but mostly you read about this stuff happening overseas. I’ve read the most about such fireflies in Southeast Asia.

In fact, one of my fantasies is sailing along some coast on the way to Cocos Keeling and as the gentle evening breeze ghosts my little sailboat along, I will sit back holding the tiller, my girl will lean against me, and we’ll both look to shore and watch the fireflies putting on their amazing show . . .

Yeah. It’s a good fantasy because it’s relaxing and cool and also it’s a way of sorting out potential girlfriends. Not every woman you meet—believe it or not—finds such a fantasy inviting.


Almost predictably the thought that not all girls would be entranced at the thought of cruising along a Coral Sea coast looking at glowing bugs reminds me of a song.

Here are the lyrics to Jacques Brel’s famous [famous?] “Bachelor’s Dance” song:

The girl that I will marry
Will have a heart so wise
That in the hollow of her eyes
My heart will want to tarry

The girl who will be mine
Will have skin so soft and tender
And when it comes December
Her skin will be my wine

And me I'll love her so
And she, she will love me
And our hearts burning slow
For at least a century

Through the window of life
We will go as girl and boy
To become man and wife
To become one with joy

No, it isn't you
The girl that I will marry
No, it isn't you
The girl who'll marry me

The girl that I will love
Will have a house of grace
All painted white, and there my soul
Will find its hiding place

The girl that I will love
Will do her vigil keeping
And late at night she'll tell me of
The children that are sleeping

And me, I'll love her so
And she, she will love me
We'll make a present of our love
To us and destiny

And we will take the sun
To dress our love in gold
For soon our youth is gone
For soon we must grow old

No, it isn't you
The girl that I will love
No, it isn't you
The girl that will love me

The girl that I will marry
Will age with happiness
For she will have a fireplace
And all my tenderness

The girl that I will marry
Will age without a fear
And like the wine grow mellower
With every passing year

And me, I'll love her so
And she, she will love me
And we will write a song
For all the joys that used to be

And when we leave this earth
Our eyes still filled with love
We'll send a flower down to hell
And up to heaven above

Ah, won't she come to me
The girl that I will marry
Who will she be
The girl who'll marry me

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