Saturday, June 23, 2007

On insect magic


Lightning bugs (or do you call them fireflies?)

Last Sunday, after too much Father's Day celebratory sugar at Grandpa's house, our child was actually awake when the lightning bugs made their evening show. It was a hot night, too; perfect for bugs of all types. As she was running around with her father positively squealing with joy, I realized she was beside herself.

There's even a philosophical tradition of this transcendent experience. Ex-stasis is from the ancient Greek meaning "out-stand": ecstacy, outstanding. (She is, of course, the latter to me; I am her mother after all.) Transcendence is somthing adults have a hard time achieving on their own without chemicals or religious woo-woo. So I was actually a touch envious of her happiness: they're just bugs, after all. Bugs with a touch of magic.

12 comments:

Joanna said...

That's an awesome picture. I'm going to try to take one like that, next time I go on a firefly hunt.

And, I know what you mean. There are the days when fireflies are just 'bugs'. And then, every now and then, I'll slow down beside a field on a summer night and be in wonder and awe at the sparkling in the grass. I love it.

Liz said...

Like Joanna, there are some days that I'm just bowled over by the magic of the fireflies... esp. the ones that have a more fluttery flashing pattern.

Once we went sailing during a full moon, and there were luminescent jellyfish in our wake. It was one of the most magical things I've ever experienced, but when you think about it, they were just aquatic lightning bugs. ;)

farm mom said...

Aden just discovered lightening bugs Weds night as we were pulling into our campsite that night. At first she was a little scared, but soon she became enthralled with her "flashlight bugs" and couldn't understand why they went away the next morning! :)

Nada said...

What a great photo! I've never seen them in Australia - don't think they are included in our nature register.

Your summer seems to be shaping up to be great!

Artemisia said...

Ecstasy, as you have pointed out, comes from the ancient Greek, but its further meaning is "to come out of one's self" -- the true meaning of transcendence. The Greeks were big on this idea, especially in conjunction with their Dionysian cult rites. Dionysus, the god of wine, was associated with rituals which allowed followers to become intoxicated & "come out of themselves" in ecstasy. The Romans adopted these practices and Dionysus became Bacchus. A totally hedonistic god!

Robbyn said...

Love the pic and love what you wrote about children's ecstasy!

I love rediscovering the wonder kids have in those moments, and it's one reason I hope we progress to being WITH children more rather than our society's tendency to herd them away from the crowd till they're older.

LOVE seeing that unfettered joy!

the Contrary Goddess said...

We're lightnin' bug people 'round these hills!

I love them -- always have.

meresy_g said...

We call them lightning bugs here too as well. I remember feeling that way as a child. Running around with a jar with sticks and grass in and seeing how many we could catch. I want to try that thing in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where the farmer flashes his headlights into a feild of fireflies and they respond all in unison. I'll let you know how it turns out.

El said...

Joanna, yeah. I think the world-weary relativism of adulthood can just be a drag!

Liz, you like the girls! They're the ones who just hang out and blink patterns. Kind of making pretty pictures, whereas the guys just blink one long Hellooo?

(oh and the first time I saw phosphorescence while sailing--I think I was about 8--I thought I was going to just die.)

Ang, good, I am glad to know I don't have the only 3-1/2 year old in the state who didn't know about flashlight bugs~! (Love her term!)

Nada, but I've never seen a kookaburra in one of my backyard trees! Summer is definitely here, so you must definitely be in winter.

Artemisia, thanks for the clarification. I know that some modern philosophers rejiggered the ancient notion of ex-stasis to try to understand "other-ness" but they knew they needed to disregard the "self" in the process. And again, usually nowadays adults can't do it unless drugs or high fevers or some kind of religious woo-woo is involved. Kids don't need such methods. Bugs will do.

Robbyn, I agree with you. I'm trying to expose my kid to all ages of people because, well, that is what the world is made of. And likewise, we tough adults can take some lessons from the smallest ones, too.

I love them too, CG. I am also glad to learn that someplace else calls them lightning bugs (lightneen bugs in this dialect) too; I was beginning to think I was nuts.

El said...

Meredith, you snuck in there! Okay, good, I'm not alone with the lightning bug nomenclature. LEt us know about the headlight trick.

Liz said...

Nope, not the girls... there are ones with different flash patterns that come out at different times of night. The really fluttery ones are out closer to midnight.

I always thought the girls hung out in the grass, and the males fly around trying to impress. In fact, I watched it happen a couple of times. She flashes, he comes a little closer...

Like Meredith, I was thinking of B.Kingsolver the other night, and flashed at the lightning bugs with my big Maglite. I think they liked me. ;)

J. Ben said...

This post is poetry. Thanks.