Hello Little Beautiful,
Tonight while we were listening to our favorite radio program--I wonder if you can remember it now--you fell fast asleep on the couch. I got up, but you stayed sleeping. Your hair which seems so neat and tidy during the day always grows full and fuzzes out while you sleep, clinging to your face and sticking to the pillows and cushions as your head lulls back and forth with every deep breath.
I made tea, careful to keep the kettle from whistling and waking you.
It hasn't rained in at least two weeks, and the change seems to mark the true beginning of summer. The unforgiving recession of winter and the drastic overhaul of spring seem to end in a lingering ellipses, not an omission but a pause. Before the heat of summer comes to bear in full force, there is a short space of calm between the wet and the heat. Maybe its the weather's confusion, but it feels to me, like clarity.
The dark outside our door was a blur of shade and light. I sat on the threshold in my socked feet, watching the light flicker and dissipate as the last little notions of the sun's light disappeared from view. The trees loomed higher and fuller, taking to their shadows like partners in a dance. The lake breathed silent in the dark, resting from its day of glowing and sparkling surf. It was invisible, but I could sense its fullness. I could hear its continuously lapping calling out to all the little brooks and rivers, reminding them it would still care for them despite the dark.
You had been listening to the birds this morning, but now they were all silence. The sounds of active life--the whistles of birds in the canopy overhead and the skittering of squirrels in the underbrush all around--gave way to the passive sounds of nature--the full laughter of the trees as the wind spun its way through every branch, tossing every leaf, and the mysterious creaking moan of the woods at night, as if the world itself were finally breathing.
Into that world of content darkness the first little glimmer broke, catching my eye. To me, its flight seemed listless, bumbling its way through the void gap between our front porch and the trees. As quietly as I could, I stood and dimmed the lights of the house, turning off the porch lamp. With every light I put out, a new flicker appeared, dancing about the clearing. Everywhere the first little light flew there burned a new spark. Like tiny peepholes into a golden world, the tiny lights cut through the moaning, absent-minded dark.
The quiet mumbling of the radio turned to melancholy music, and soon I heard the patter of your feet behind me. You sat down next to me on the step, your eyes swollen up a little like they always get when you are sleepy. You pulled at the blanket snaked around your legs and covered yourself with it, draping as much of it as you could over my knee.
"Thank you." I put my arm over you protectively, and you rested your head against my chest. You fit perfectly against me, just as you always had. I brushed your wild hair down with one hand, still cupping my tea close with the other.
"This is the first time I've seen them. I was beginning to think I had made them up."
I rubbed your head again. "Well, they say that the number of fireflies that glow are now getting smaller and smaller. Fewer of them are developing lights."
"You can be a firefly without shining your light?"
"Mhm. But no one would really know, would they?"
"Are they burning out?"
"No. I don't think so."
"So, why are they stopping? What's happening to them?"
"Well, there are so many cities now with such bright lights that the fireflies can't compete. They think that if the world already has so many bright lights, why would it need more?"
You sat for a moment, pondering the thought. "Are city lights beautiful?"
I nodded. "On the right night in the right city, they can be the most beautiful lights in the world."
"Are they more beautiful than the fireflies?" You peered into the dark with your sleepy eyes, the whole of your small body warm and heavy against me. The lights danced in front of us, unaware of how we pondered their worth.
"They're different." I paused, regarding the lights from a new perspective. "Beauty is so much bigger than you could ever imagine. It grows and changes with every season and every hour. It's a paradox--both symmetrical and asymmetrical; you can find it anywhere from the dirt to the stars."
"Well, fireflies are bugs too." I smiled, setting my tea down on the boards beside me. "But there is something that preys on beauty, you know, that eats away at it."
"What's that?" Your voice was heavy with the lilt of impending sleep.
"The evil eye. Comparison." I wrapped you in my arms, pulling your blanket close around you. "The beauty of the fireflies is that they don't compete. They simply glow."
You're in bed now, sleeping comfortably, unaware of the beauty buzzing outside your window, and I thought to write this moment down for you. I thought that one day in the future you might come to a place where the lights were so bright, you felt dim in comparison. I thought it was possible you, my child all grown up, would start to see beauty as a standard to achieve and not a diverse wonder to take in. So I wanted to remind you. No matter what you see and no matter what you begin to believe, don't let your light go out. It's a wonderful gift. It's yours.
And to me, it will always be beautiful.
Love ever always.