In early June (if all goes well) we will be heading to Arkansas near the little town of Caddo Gap where my grandparents once lived. It’s a beautiful slice of our country that I have loved since I was a child sharing adventures with my Grandma and Grandpa. The fun that I had was homespun and quiet, but it will forever have a special place in my heart.
My grandparents decided to live out their last days on this earth at a farm. They chose a spot not far from where my grandmother’s parents had lived and eventually died. I’m sure that residing and farming there had a very special meaning for her so she was happier in that place than she had ever been. Every single day was filled with maintaining the livestock and nurturing the crops that she and Grandpa had planted. When the evening came they sat delightedly and with gratitude on their front porch surveying the land and their good fortune.
Whenever we came to visit my grandparents would arise long before dawn to get all of their work done so that they might dedicate their time to being with us. Grandma would make special meals and take us on hikes in the hills behind their property while Grandpa showed us how to milk cows, harvest peaches and fish. Sometimes we even visited some of the neighbors who were sweet folk who seemed to have spent their entire lives isolated from the rest of the world. They entertained us with homespun yarns while chewing on tobacco and smiling with toothless grins. Grandma would treat them as though she was in the presence of the Queen of England and she expected us to show them the same regard.
We always had to travel to the farm in the summer because of school. It was brutally hot during the daytime hours and nobody had air conditioning in their homes. Few even had running water. My grandparents were considered the most well off in the area because of their modern conveniences like running water, indoor toilets and electricity. Neighbors would come to watch television or to borrow magazines and newspapers or just to sit in front of Grandpa’s big box fan. Mostly the people who live there enjoyed my grandmothers cooking and her generosity in sending jars of canned vegetables home with them.
After dinner when darkness came we always moved to the front porch where we listened to the nighttime calls of the animals and watched thousands of lightning bugs glowing in the dark. It was one of the most glorious sights I have ever seen. It was as though thousands of little diamonds were glittering right in front of us and above them was a heavenly vision of so many stars that there was hardly a space that was not radiating with light. It was a wondrous and beautiful thing to witness and difficult to describe in today’s world of electric lights that cloud our vision and hide the creatures who were once there in profusion.
I think about how glorious it was on those summer evenings and feel a deep tug of sadness that there are not as many fireflies as there once were. It seems that we have eradicated many of them, thinning their numbers by moving into areas where they once lived or using insecticides that killed them in great numbers. Ironically our own lights have also chased them away. Sadly this is happening all over the world, and while they are not yet an endangered species, they are trending in that direction unless we do something to guarantee that they keep living on our planet.
I suppose that most people would think that fireflies have little use and that there is no real reason to worry much about them, but the truth is that they feed on other insects like snails that harm crops and do great agricultural damage. When there are enough lightning bugs they keep the insect population in a healthy balance. They are way more than just lovely creatures of the night and they are warning us that we have real problems on this earth that we are avoiding at our own peril.
When the creatures of this earth begin to die, it should be a sign to us that we are in trouble as well. Violent weather events are becoming more and more commonplace. Drought is a worldwide problem that is way bigger than rising gasoline prices . Our most necessary natural resources are becoming more and more scarce as we continue to tear down forests and encroach on habitats that were once the domain of creatures that lived side by side with us in harmony. Just as we killed too many whales and buffalo, so too have we upset the balance of nature with even the smallest of creatures. We seem to have an insatiable desire for consuming too many of the natural elements of our planet without thought to what the consequences of our actions will be. We scoff and even laugh at the scientists and protestors who warn us that if we do not take very serious actions to save our earth we will face dire and life threatening situations. It won’t just be lightening bugs whose numbers will dwindle for our lack of foresight. It will be humans who will suffer irreparable harm.
We can celebrate earth day and plant a tree or a few flowers, but we must act as responsible stewards for this great gift that we have. We must protect and preserve enough of the land and the creatures that we do not continue to create a mass extinction of animals or plants like we have already done with so many species. It is our duty to take care of what we have and to take measures to conserve however we can. It will take all of us to ensure a future for all living things, including humans.
We can’t ignore the warnings whether they come from creatures or other humans. It’s time we watched and listened. It’s time we recreate an environment where those little glow worms will shine and light up the sky with hope. It’s time that we dedicate ourselves to making our earth well once again.