This Memorial Day, I spent most of the day editing a family history for someone while my wife did taxes. (We had filed a deferment, as we usually do these days, since tax time comes right toward the end of her semester and my busiest work time.) And then this evening, we went down to the river that runs through our town to listen to frogs and look at fireflies.
The first time I saw fireflies, I was 15, staying with my dad in South Carolina for the summer. It was hot and humid, pungent with the odor of honeysuckle and the tiresome green of kudzu; but the fireflies were magic.
I don’t remember how long we’d been in Wisconsin before we realized that this is firefly country. Maybe it was even that first year. In any event, we asked around and found out that the best place to find fireflies is down by the water at dusk, in the grass and tall weeds. Ever since then, we try to make an annual trek to see the fireflies at least once every summer.
It’s not the sort of thing you can plan in advance, at least not in our family. For one thing, around this time of year it seems as if every other day there’s a thunderstorm in the evening. Then too, there are always things to be done. You have to hit just the right combination of I-need-a-break and seize-the-moment, pretty much at just the right time, so that by the time everyone is bundled up (in my case — I wear long sleeves and pants to avoid mosquitoes, and everyone else thinks I’m crazy) and mosquito-repellanted, computers put away and the like, it’s getting close to dark, but still light enough to walk down the path to the river.
This time we got there a few minutes early: time enough to cross via stepping stones to the small island at the mouth of the South Fork and walk up to the other end. There’s a kind of grotto with a waterfall at the head, and a swinging bridge overhead, that would be a fantastic place to get a picture of our family, if we can ever manage it. Tonight was too late (and we didn’t have anyone else along to take the picture), but it was very pretty nonetheless.
Hiking down to the river and back comes with more effort than it did 10 or 15 years ago — a reminder of age, and the need to lose weight and exercise more.
I also found that I don’t, apparently, have as much patience for simply standing and looking as some of my other family members do. Partly I think that’s because standing makes my back sore. (Another sign of age and lack of fitness.) It’s also probably because of my ADHD characteristics: never formally diagnosed, but no one who knows me well has ever contested that the designation fits.
There’s talk of doing this again. Maybe going early, so we can take better pictures. Maybe setting things up so we can record a half-hour or so of frogsong. I tell everyone that if I’m coming, I’ll need to bring a fold-up chair. They aren’t surprised.