My earliest years were spent in Middle Tennessee. Murfreesboro, to be exact. We lived a few miles out Franklin Road, with vast stretches of farmland between us and town. Our small community centered around a youth camp and working ranch. It was a magical place for a young boy to actually be a young boy. Horses in our backyard. Six thousand acres to roam. A mountain to climb and camp. Rodeos every Friday afternoon during the summer. But the fireflies – those haunting, hovering flashes of greenish-neon light flickering just within reach – are one of the enchantments I remember most. The long, sticky summer days surrendered to the Tennessee evening air; and, just around dusk, the sky began to dance.
My friend Wil and I would chase a couple fireflies down and gently release them into our Mason jars, with a bit of grass stuffed in the bottom and tin foil (with air holes pencil-punched in) wrapped over the top. Even now, remembering, I feel a twinge of that boyhood mystery, when I was caught up in friendship and stories and twilight evenings chasing flashes of light across the backyard.
A few nights ago, we were in Tennessee visiting friends. As the sun began to settle, the fireflies appeared. And our boys, Mason jars in hand, entered the ritual. We were probably only thirty miles from the spot where my firefly memories are rooted, but I am aware that the years and experiences, the disillusionment and the knocks, the questions – and the joys too, have taken me a long way from those simple summers. Laughter comes a little harder, and cynicism a little easier. Friendship is harder work, love more fraught with danger and uncertain outcomes. The world can be scarier. I’m less naive, less trusting. I haven’t run barefoot at dusk for quite a while.
But. A lot has stayed the same. I’m still drawn to twilight space. Our front porch, the sun setting over Carter’s Mountain, tea in hand, is one of my favorite moments. Miska and I will talk or read or just sit together quietly and bid farewell to a good (or bad) day. Mystery is a friend of mine; whenever someone acts as though they’ve got life figured out, I find myself thinking they are full of the brown, smelly stuff. Thanks to Miska, I even like to dance (it isn’t pretty but it’s passionate). And friendship and love – those are high words in my book. I’m not sure I understand all that much about what they mean, but I’ve tasted enough to know I’ll fight for them – and spend my days chasing their glimmer and life.
I’m also drawn to twilight spaces in the soul. I find myself pulled to people and to stories where light and dark are vying for attention. I just had coffee with a friend who shared his three-year journey of brokenness and heartache – and his turn toward hope. That’s twilight, as I see it. And, amid our conversation, I almost swear I saw a few flashes of light dancing just within reach.