fireflies in the marsh

Last night I went for a swim at dusk, drifting waterborne while the full moon rose like an orange, fat and low in the sky.

Swimming in warm water, outdoors, after dark, is a little like being an astronaut in space (I imagine), only without the cold and threat of death and also without the suit. I drifted and treaded my way to and fro while the fireflies threaded their paths around, close, and the stars hid behind the cloud cover, above. At that distance from daytime, when you can’t really see the water anymore, the borders between air and water and light and dark dissolve, and soon you’ve ceased to know whether you’re swimming in the night sky or the night sea.

Driving back, I stopped the car, got out, and stood barefoot in cold grass at the edge of a marsh. The darkness brimmed with fireflies. It's a little cliché to describe them as stars on the ground, perhaps, but that really is what they were like, flickering to and fro through the long dark grasses. There is something celestial about their hovering -- and then something very oddly earth-like, human, even technical -- in how they flick on and off, just like a flashlight in a person's hand. One shy little bug stayed in the grass a less than yard away from my feet, winking just once or twice every five minutes. 

They were in the empty pastures too, an airborne drifting; or rather wingborne. Nature repeats its ideas in the best of ways: fireflies on earth look like constellations above, one set of lights fixed, twinkling, while the other has all the motion and flits about, blinking.

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