Lightening In A Jar

Summer is one of the best times of the year to make photographs. Everything is exploding and shouting, “Look At Me!” From children on the slip-n-slide in the back yard to men speaking mysterious Y-chromosome code around a gas grill; from ladies in flip-flops and bright toe nails to sunglass clad faces splashed with freckles; from mountains wrapped in melted green crayons of every shade of forest and ever and logan and hunter to grand floral displays arching up to the sun and greeting the bees with welcoming petals. Everywhere, everywhere, the world is showing off her photogenic nature.

Yet if there is one thing that says summer to me more than anything else it is fireflies. My daddy called them lightening bugs and he taught me how to poke holes in the lid of a mason jar, just as people have done since the invention of glass canning jars, so I could keep them alive and bring them in the house to live.

When I was a little girl I envisioned a night light made out of one of those large jars filled with lightening bugs. They would flicker their magic glow on the walls of my room and chase away all the monsters that would come prowling in the night. There was no question in my mind that those tiny bugs who had somehow captured a drop of lightening in their bellies were filled with powerful magic!

But the precious drops of flickering charms never lived long in a jar. I suppose lightening could be contained in their little abdomens but a mason jar was too much like a prison. I could have just as easily kept a box of stars or a bowl of sun.

As a grown up, I have tried several times to photograph the tiny flying sparks of arcane wonder but it never works out like it should. The flashes always end up looking like dust on the prints or they never show up at all. Perhaps they are like fairies that can never be properly photographed. I content myself in the summer with photographing the roaring waves of life from the sun’s first crest over the ridge till his duck behind the other side. On those summer evenings when the lighting dances on tiny black wings in my yard, I put down my camera.

Some things are just too beautiful to photograph.


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