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The Season of Fireflies

The Mystery of a Summer Night, Edvard Munch, 1892

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens. (Eccl 3:1)

The fireflies have returned! A couple of summers ago my husband and I noticed the woods behind our house were twinkling as if decorated by Christmas lights. We enjoyed this nightly show for a little over a week. Then it stopped. We still saw the random firefly on summer nights, but nothing like the extravaganza we had for those few days.  Last summer we again noticed the concentrated firefly activity for a couple of weeks. As it turns out, fireflies put on this two-week show as part of their annual mating ritual. So this summer we have been anticipating the big event. Our evening walks have revealed a lone firefly or maybe two, but no large gatherings. Until last night! Once again the trees took on a magical shimmer as the Lampyridae courtship was in full swing.

It is part of our human nature to look for patterns and rhythms of life. We do not look for constancy as much as predictability. There is something very satisfying to see a cycle completed and know what comes next. Whether it is the summer spectacle of fireflies or the return of swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano or simply the transition of winter to spring to summer to fall, we are reassured by orderly transitions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these seasonal transitions lately. Sometimes they are so smooth you don’t even realize they are happening. It has been three decades and I have progressed from newlywed to a new mom to mom-of-many to empty nester all in the seeming blink of an eye. I have progressed from being the parent taking care of a child to the child taking care of a parent.

Even Holy Mother Church offers a seasonal rhythm to our spiritual life. We flow from Advent to Christmas to Ordinary Time to Lent to Easter to Ordinary Time then begin the cycle anew. Every iteration brings both familiarity and newness. It is like reading a book as a child and rediscovering it as an adult. The storyline is the same but the understanding deepens and grows.

Something to ponder tonight as I enjoy the fleeting season of fireflies.

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