Fireflies at the edge of the forest

Bokeh light of firefly flying in forest at dusk, Prachin Buri, Thailand

These summer days drag on in ceaseless humidity. The wet clings to everything, drenching morning mists, and roiling by as evening gasps. I go out in the evening when the light gets slanted strange, the shadows narrow, and the twilight animals and nightshades turn their heads to claim a better view.

The sound changes in that liminal time, an evanescent shift. The cackling crows and skittering squirrels cease their endless noise and make room for the hoot owls and thrushes and timid deer. When the wind blows, if it chooses, the last-blooming honeysuckle rises, mingling with the musky perfume of treebark cooling after a long day’s sun, rises all around.

And on the edges of things, where the trees meet the mushrooms and the ferns brush the shriveling comfrey, fireflies twinkle into being, bursts of luminescent green-gold. “I’m here,” they seem to say. “I’m here.” And echoing, another, across the paths and twisting vines: “You’re here. I’m here.” Then together, from astride the quiet brook’s bank: “We’re here. We’re here. We’re here.”

Deep within me, tension unspools. Endless days crouched in chairs, spine soft, shoulder hunched, I must remember how to walk again, to climb, to catch my balance. The paths are clearer this year but still strewn with jagged rocks and those persistent roots. Eyes ahead, breath even, every step is closer to someone I should be until I must come back to who I’ve become.

In the forest, I have no name. I am no one’s mother, no wife, no daughter, no child, no worker or cook or caretaker. I am here to breathe, to bathe in verdant fronds, and show my gratitude. In the underbrush I count the flowers, number the leaves: each sprig was once a seed, and it landed here and flourished and grew. So many subtle shifts in vegetation–sprawling furry climbers, and quirky red and yellow mushroom caps sprouting merrily after the rain.

Time, too, slows and stretches, the shadows of tree trunks the only measure, the distance vanishing in the waning day.

Gone, for a brief moment, the strife. Gone the lamentations. Gone the tireless year and the worry in my bones.

Darkness pulls at the light, purpling the azure skies; the sudden flitting of bats overhead punctuates the sighing leaves, the snapping underbrush. And the fireflies signal louder, blaze brighter, unafraid of my bumbling through or the dog’s snorting and loping gait. I must turn back soon.

“I’m here,” I whisper. “I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.”

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