We kids called them "lightning bugs," and I have many a yesteryear memory of running around in the darkness at night with my siblings, catching those insects in jars and then turning the lightning bugs loose in our rooms at bedtime.
Not all my firefly memories are relegated to the years of my childhood. One of my favorites harks back to my middle years, to a canine companion--a stocky, German-style Doberman Pinscher named Baron.
It was the 1980s, and Baron was growing old, and it suddenly seemed he needed to go to the bathroom often at night. Guess who was always selected as "doorman" to let him outside and await his return.
It was a summer of heat and serious drought, and earlier that day, the peat moss in my garden had actually caught fire! The garden was charred!
In the sizzling steam of that night, I hadn't been able to sleep until well after midnight. As I finally drifted off, an impatient Baron awoke me. I fumed and fussed but did not have a choice; he had to go out in a hurry!
When I reached the back patio, I forgave him. For there, near a tiny creek at the back of our property, an old weeping willow had collected any moisture and coolness that was to be found on our property. This had attracted heat-parched fireflies in startling numbers, and the artful result took my breath away; I had never seen anything like it!
The interior of the tree's many branches drooped up and down from treetop to ground, and each branch was heavily and brightly lined with light from the magical insects. It was dazzling!
I stared at that tree for 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 appears in my memory. For that, I can thank an aging dog who couldn't last the night without a "duty call."