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Firefly nights and fireworks

Homeward bound on the dark ocean, the first loom from a lighthouse is as reassuring as the dove carrying the olive branch must have been to Noah on the ark. It’s the sign that home is on the horizon and safe harbor is close at hand.

In the warm darkness of a summer night the first firefly carries that same comfort. As our eyes adjust, more fireflies begin to sparkle, some as high as the treetops, as if mimicking the stars.  The fireflies are welcome companions to New England summers here in Maine. They appear when the evening is finally warm enough for their courtship and they dance at the edge of the spruce forest just as Longfellow described in “Hiawatha”: these “little, dancing, white-fire creatures.”

Stories say that the Wabanaki, resourceful people that they are, employed the fireflies to light their way through the forest. They would place daubs of moss, spruce gum and maple sap in the crooks of trees so the fireflies would congregate, creating living “lanterns” to mark the path through the woods. Sap consumed, they would fly away, leaving nothing but the memory of their sparkle. What an image!

This week, the fireworks compete with the fireflies in their own dazzling show above the harbor. The bursts of color high in the dark sky bloom with our anticipation of long summer days and warm nights, bursting with the sense of a Glorious Fourth, right here and now, creating memories that congregate along the paths of our future lives.  Pyrotechnic fireflies, the fireworks are a fast-forward version of the majestic sweep of the lighthouse beacon. In the afterglow of memory, they too will call us to the places like Spruce Point we know, if even temporarily, as home.