Monday, September 10, 2007

3. Spirits of the Big Woods

(Early June)
On a clear night in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, my friend Peanut and I could see but few stars through the canopy of maple above our campsite. With every small movement a different star would appear through a different space between leaves and catch our eyes for an instant.

We walked out to the road. I kept seeing a bright flash between the leaves, but it eluded my scrutiny. As we walked down the gravel road, I held a candle that my dad had made. It burned inside a mason jar, which I held inside my wide-brimmed leather hat, to block the light from our eyes and cast it outward. In my peripheral vision, I kept seeing the momentary flash of light through the leaves.

We stood in the middle of the road, surrounded by dark woods. Stars shone above us. After standing there a few minutes, I finally saw the elusive flash for what it was: a firefly! It was not a distant star, but an insect a few feet away. What an illusion! It levitated smoothly and deliberately out of the woods at an even seven-foot height, and drew a perfectly horizontal 360° circle counter-clockwise around us. Then it floated back into the woods. I followed it with my eyes and saw: fireflies were all around us, and deep into the woods! As they glow on and off, they perfectly mimic the stars flickering through the leaves.

Imagine ancient people beholding this sight. How strange and mystical fireflies are-- little lights floating all through the woods. Indistinguishable from stars. Fairies.

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