Memories of firefly

Tonight is exceptionally dark. With few students here, I have turned-on only half the lights in the guest house. I am reading Hardin’s classical work, the Tragedy of the Commons. The night is setting in and the cool breeze is flowing past my ear. I look out of the window and notice a firefly. I had not seen a firefly in years, but the one in my memory has a far more intense light. Its bright brilliant, burning image has stayed with me all the time. I go out with a jar, and tenderly put the little firefly into the jar. It is blinking continuously, giving an alarm signal to its mate. I look around for signs of other fireflies but see nothing. I get back to the guest house, go to the balcony and sit on the wall. A white vest, that someone had forgotten to take in, hung on a clothesline waving in the night breeze like a bat on a branch of tree. I close my eyes, trying to remember, when I had last seen them, and where it might have been.

I could think of the scene in my mind, but was unable to recall the time or place. There was a huge water body in the midst of a rainforest. It was winter. The night was so dark that I couldn’t see my feet when I turned-off my torch. Hundreds of fireflies drifted over the water body. They were everywhere, on the trees, off the leaves, on the ground, off the ground. Their glow reflected in the water like a shower of sparks. My eyes still closed, I steeped myself in that long-ago darkness. I heard the wind with unusual clarity. A light breeze swept past me, leaving strangely brilliant trails in the dark. I opened my eyes to find the darkness of the winter night a few degrees deeper than it had been.

I twisted open the lid of the jar, the firefly flew for a while from one direction to the other. It seemed not to grasp its new surroundings. It hobbled around, catching its legs on nearby table. It moved to the right until it found its way blocked, then circled back to the left. Finally, with some effort, it mounted where I was sitting and crouched there for a while, unmoving, as if it had taken its last breath. I wondered if I disturbed it, or it disturbed me. I put off the light and studied the firefly. The wind continued sweeping past the two of us while the numberless leaves of the tree rustled. In the darkness, neither I, nor it made a move until darkness faded to the dawn.

 

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About Vardhan Patankar

I pursue reef and marine mammal related research with a critical eye and a fine-tuned appreciation for weirdness. I am particularly fascinated by marine life that exists within coral reefs, but observes life outside the reefs with just as much wonder and amazement.
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