Pam Stone | Take a moment to enjoy the wild

June 22, 2014 

Rare Butterfly

Jaret Daniels, a biologist with the Florida Museum of Natural History, holds an endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly before releasing it into the wild on Elliott Key, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Biscayne National Park, Fla. A collection and captive breeding operation, begun in 2012 in an effort to save the butterfly from extinction, has shown initial success. Over a thousand butterfly larvae have been produced at the University of Florida and adult butterflies and larvae have been released into the wild in an effort to increase the population. Each adult released are numbered with a permanent marker for identification. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

WILFREDO LEE — AP

Glowing, glowing, gone ... is the term I read online to describe the plight of lightning bugs around the world.

Taking a moment to lean idly against the gate to the big field, on a recent moonless night, my heart swelled to see, at least here on the farm, the blinking of countless fireflies scattered throughout the undulating hills and woods before me, like a string of Christmas lights tangled over the landscape.

Fire flies, at least to me, always evoke a feeling of childhood ... the eager abandonment of all things interior on dew soaked summer grass beneath bare feet as we chased and contained dozens in a glass jar, only to see them perished by the morning ... the earliest attempts of a life-long human habit, I suppose, to lay claim to nature and own it, despite the consequences.

But when one, namely this one, manages to step away from a screen, whether it be email or television, to simply stand outside, at night, it is overwhelming the amount of life, teeming about us, of which many of us are quite unaware. The gathering storm to the south that was already bruising the evening sky an hour before, was now assertively approaching, with a welcomed rising wind to keep mosquitoes at bay, and behind me, I heard the familiar, repetitive call of a whip-poor-will, and, to the west, in one of the pin eaks, a great horned owl made the atmosphere even more ominous. A couple of bats careened overhead, and a dragonfly lingered for a moment on the water trough.

I have surely noticed fewer butterflies this year. It is a worrisome fact that bees are disappearing as well. But I am heartened to see the fireflies that are too numerous to count all around me.

We don’t spray chemicals on the farm, perhaps that is why, and, knowing they cannot thrive amid light pollution and urban sprawl, we count ourselves blessed to live on a country lane devoid of street lights in an exceedingly rural area of the Upstate. We weed by hand which is why everything is perpetually slightly overgrown until covered by another load of mulch, and our front lawn, (at least that’s what we call it) is composed of clover, crab grass, invasive wild strawberries and yet, when mowed, leaves an impression of a soft, uniformed, blanket of green.

I remember once touring an English country home in Hampshire and being told that it was customary in English gardens, no matter how grand, to keep a bit of it untouched and wild.

“Why?” I had asked, my eyes skimming over the meadow-tall grass and Queen Anne’s Lace that had been left, unmown, in enormous, romantic, circles beneath towering oaks.

“For the fairies!” came the reply.

I loved that answer and have happily proclaimed that, during incessant spring rains when the grass grows as quickly as a young boy’s during summer holidays, it will host a bumper crop of fairies at twilight.

And may they have a squadron of fireflies to light their way.

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.

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