The leisurely evening faded into night as the sun recessed in the distance, advancing shadow replacing summer's illumination. A family reclined in their backyard, where wooden stumps form a circle around a warm glow smoldering in a fire pit. An assembly of shadows dance in the surrounding woodland to the chorus of crackling embers. Near to the enclosing trees laid large shrubs, where children sought after tiny yellow lanterns hovering above their heads. One young girl raced after a firefly, her hair streaming behind her. Her cupped hands snapped as furtively as alligator jaws, trapping the glowing fireflies between her palms. She waited for her next quarry, hands outstretched like the jaws of a Venus flytrap. Snake-like limbs snapped forward, ensnaring their prey in a cage of fingers. Through her clasped hands, she could see faint beams of sporadic light, and felt tiny insect legs scampering across her palms, searching for a way out. As they scuttled through crevices, she gently corralled them back into her hand, like a shepherd herding an escaped lamb. A sidelong glance revealed another, and the girl tiptoed over to the faint glow, her breath held in anticipation. The sheer delight of catching fireflies urged her onward; her fingers opened just long enough to accept the new firefly into her collection, but not long enough to let the old fireflies escape. Satisfied, she opened her hand to survey her catches. Their tail-ends lit up and illuminated the night, searching for partners. She left her palm open, offering freedom. One by one, the fireflies departed into the night, their lights still radiant with hope.
The Lanterns of Youth
October 26, 2011