Sunday, July 6, 2014


In 2009, my brother Ben of the Great Northwest posted a note on my blog, responding to my previous essay about hot summer nights. He was disappointed I had made no mention of our Ohio fireflies. To my surprise, I learned he doesn't have those harmless nighttime insects west of the Washington mountains.

I atoned by sharing a fireflies story that took place in July in the late 1980s. My doberman Baron was growing old, and like many over-the-hill males, he needed to go to the bathroom often at night. I was the one he always selected as "doorman" to let him outside and await his return.

That was a serious drought year. It was the year and the night of the day the peat moss in my garden had actually caught fire! The nights seemed even hotter than the days, and I had problems sleeping in the sultry air. And yet I fumed and fussed when an impatient dog awoke me.

As soon as I reached the back patio door, I forgave him. For there, at the edge of the tiny creek at the back of our property, an old weeping willow had collected all available moisture and coolness that was to be found. This, in turn, had attracted lightning bugs in startling numbers. I had never seen anything like it!

The interior of the willow's branches, drooping up and down from treetop to ground, were heavily lined with the light from those magical insects, like a Christmas tree in July. It was dazzling! I stared at that tree for what seemed like a very long time, until I realized my dog had returned and was sleepily leaning against me.

To this day, I have only to close my eyes on a hot summer night, and that magical tree reappears in my memory. For that, I can thank an aging dog who couldn't last the night without at least one "duty call."

Happily, this was story enough to please Ben of the Great Northwest, a younger brother I love very much. And I hope it's enough for you.