It is September, and people are saying good-bye to summer. I started saying my good-byes a few weeks ago. I listened in the mornings and noted that the only sounds were from the crickets and hoppers. I felt the absence of the song birds’ serenade. I saw birds leaving in flocks. I observed that the leaves were subtly beginning to turn, and that vines in garden were turning brown as they yet bore their ripening fruits. I started saying my good-byes when I noticed these things. But they weren’t good-byes filled with sadness, but rather filled with gratitude. It is when things are departing that they can be the most appreciated.
So it was for me a few years ago when we took a walk in the evening on the last night of the fireflies. It was a walk like any other, a chance to enjoy the peace of a late summer’s evening and let the dog stretch and run. But as we walked through the damp tall weeds, we saw that the fireflies lay among them by the dozens. Their small dimming lights flickered among the flora all around us. Some of them were blinking and some held their lights steady. There was a stillness about each one of them as they lay there, motionless, all but spent except for their fading lights. We looked to the fields on the east and west of us and saw not a single firefly in the air.
We walked out into an ordinary night and found ourselves in the last night of the fireflies. The fireflies have been gone for a couple of weeks now, and I do miss them. But in the evenings, as I note their absence, I do not feel as grateful as I did that night when the fireflies lay as sparkling, dwindling embers in the dewy weeds. Even the gratitude I feel when I see fireflies for the first time every summer is only akin to that feeling.
The fall is full of changes and good-byes. Here’s hoping that all of our good-byes come to us gradually, so we have time to experience them with a beautiful gratitude.