Light in a Jar

Note: I stumbled across this older post whilst looking for something else, and I thought it might be fitting for a chilly December night. This is merely a comment that I made on a nostalgic piece that Margo shared on “That Little Voice”, so there’s no real structure, just reflection. Enjoy.


The memories spilled in on this one, Margo, especially the summertime flashbacks. My parents would unceremoniously shove us out the door in the early morning, allow us briefly back in the house for refueling around noon, and then there was more shoving, with no expectation that they would see us again until nightfall or someone did something stupid that required medical care.

We spent the entire day using our imaginations, aided now and then by something interesting we found in our rambling travels, creating universes in wide-open fields or deep in the woods or near a frog-croaking pond. There was something fundamental and right about taking what little you could find and infusing it with the magical elixir that children have, a star-touching investment in what-could-be that the young have (or at least used to have) before the young become older and the doors start to close and the valiant adventures become wispy, dissipating.

I still remember the frogs at the pond, burping wetly, a signal from the King of Pondlandia that we must now rush forth and confront the ne’er-do-wells from that other group of houses down the road, all of us waving finely-crafted stick swords and dying noble deaths full of romp and circumstance. Or playing “King of the Hill” around whatever pile of dirt or gravel or tires we chanced upon, engaging in that unfairly-balanced competition wherein whoever was on top of the pile basically stayed there, whilst the rest of us tumbled repeatedly back down the hill, screaming and laughing and not really caring if we banged a knee or tore a shirt, developments that would not bode well when we finally staggered home.

And then there were the quiet moments, safely back at home, lying in the yard, clutching our Mason jars full of lightning bugs. We would stare up at the sky, simply breathing, our bodies tuckered out for the evening, but our minds still buzzing with the fires that had been stoked by possibility. Each star was yet another adventure, another opportunity, another chance to be King. We hadn’t yet learned that there are only so many kings, and that those stars were much further away than we realized.

Still, even though I am now somewhat long in tooth and decidedly short on possibilities, the fever dreams we embraced, back yonder, are still with me today. I know that the stars are far, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t reach, and I briefly catch the faded lightning bugs with my jar, and I name them, remember them, and I tell their little secrets in my writing, my stories that are often absurd and surreal. And then I let the lightning bugs go, blinking their way towards another child, lying in their yard, looking up, dreaming…


Originally published in “Bonnywood Manor” on 06/08/16. No changes made, as it wouldn’t be fair to tinker with a spontaneous moment in time, even though the editor in me was itching to do so. Story behind the photo: The desk where I sit and type each night, remembering and imagining. And that bulge in the curtains, near the floor, is probably Scotch the Cat, staring out the French doors and doing the same…


25 replies »

  1. This is really lovely, Brian! How enchanting childhood was then, and how we didn’t realise it!!
    I remember the first time I saw lightning bugs, (as an adult moving to Colorado after I was married), and how charmed I was! I’ll never forget it. And watching our little nieces trying to catch them. Ugh, so adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful. Evoking memories of a simpler, better time. I’ve never actually seen a lighting bug, they don’t have ’em out here. My house neighbor (who has now moved) was raised in Ohio or Iowa (tend to get those mixed up. Sorry) and she had some in a jar. They winked and blinked and were enchanting. And if you’re wondering if she was somehow magic, having made bugs live for decades and in this climate…they were faux lighting bugs. They LOOKED real enough…but they were electronic. Mystifying.

    Your .lovely post brought back a memory of mine own…we were all growed (over the age of 21) and were visiting my parents who lived in Blanding. None of us had married (yet) and for whatever reason the three of us got together for a few days..maybe the 4th of July or something. It’s horribly hot in July in Blanding, but the evenings? Oh my goodness. My parents had a stone walk leading to their front door, with three steps at the street. I remember lying on the hot (warm) stones in the dark, staring up at more stars than I’d ever seen in my life (Blanding, in some areas is or was free from all that stupid ambient light that ruins star gazing for those who like it). As I stared up at the stars, I got the sense of my own un-importance for the first time, and just how minuscule my problems and life really were. It was so peaceful. Thank you for the reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, the stars at night when you get away from the city lights. Nothing compares. It’s astonishing how many people have never “seen” the stars, since most people spend their entire lives in urban areas and they have no idea how it is to be in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and simply look up. It can make a poet out of anybody. Assuming they put their phones down long enough to really enjoy it…


  3. This reminds me of summer vacations spent on my grandparents farm, the frogs, the lightning bugs, watching my brothers play kind of the hill (not my cup of tea). Tell me, did you have sweet clover growing by the garden fence?
    Lovely memories, Brian. Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brian, how nice that you would mention my memories and relate to your own. My first exposure to lightning bugs was in Oklahoma also, on summer nights, playing with neighborhood kids in my grandmother’s yard. Not only woul we put them in jars, we would also take their ‘lights’ off and make lightning rings. Terribly cruel, but nonetheless appealing to a 9 year old!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll ignore the torture of the wee bugs and just say this: It was an honor to be able to bounce off one of your own posts, as you have a lovely way of telling stories that I find quite fetching…


  5. Beautifully nostalgic. Your words swept me far away, and I like that a lot. I’m constantly writing in a dream world lately, and contemplate the stars, and my own universe inside.
    Anyway…you tingled my insides. It was nice.

    Liked by 1 person

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