The sliding door creaks open onto the back porch where we step, bare feet padding across the wooden planks. He is turning off lights that spill outside from the house, and the warm navy-blue air closes around me when the last one is extinguished. Summer is palpable on my skin – the humidity wraps each limb in thick velvet. He points out into the clutch of trees, masses of leaves and bark that appear as great bulky shadows in the night beyond the reaches of the porch. My eyes take a moment to adjust, and flecks of gold glitter start to appear at random intervals. Fireflies.
I inhale sharply at the flood of a memory from childhood, spinning around in my grandparents’ backyard in rural Ohio. Firefly magic is no less enchanting now, 30 years later and humbled by the rush of decades. Their lights blink across the backyard and we stand quietly, nightcap in hand. Our combined energies luxuriate in this darkness. It was a long, tough winter for my head and heart, and I feel anxious to shed layers. To let the wind and elements hit my skin and clear the air that surrounds me.
There is a sensory quality to the experience of summertime. Certain inputs make us pause in our hurried tracks, our furious busy lives coming to a halt at the sharp smell of campfire smoke. The metallic buzz of cicadas. The deep pink of sunset after a thunderstorm. Petrichor – the heart-stopping smell of the earth when rain comes for the first time in a long while. Petrichor. The earth exhales.
Summer gives us the time and space we need to stretch our winter-worn limbs and let wildness sink back into our veins. The longest days of the year encourage further voyage into the backcountry – there are forgotten dinnertimes, extended bedtimes. Sunset comes as a surprise when the days seem endless. Night is but a wink of darkness before the next cup of coffee.
The fireflies in the backyard come and go. My eyes grow weary of the scan and I know it’s time to sleep. I am at once restless and exhausted – so many miles to cover in summertime, while the earth is soft and welcomes my frantic footfall. I am in pursuit of release. It will come to me, across miles and months, perhaps under a flash of lightning, or the hazy wash of the Milky Way. The glow of fireflies is a start. Summer is here.