A Generation of Fireflies by Emily Bengels

A Generation of Fireflies by Emily Bengels

After a productive and laughter-filled rehearsal, a few of us choir members stayed around talking about how fragile and precious life is. We laughed, reminisced, and did what FUUFHC folks do: we care for and about one another. Then we stepped out into the June night. The evening still smelled of the recent rain, and I felt very present, very grateful. Then Harry turned our attention to the grove of trees out back; they were aglow with fireflies.

 I don’t mean one or two fireflies. I mean a symphony of them, each one twinkling with its own unique pattern. It was a teddy bears’ picnic of fireflies, a silent June jamboree, a moment we all reveled in. (In case you’re curious, yes, cell phone flashlights joined in with the blinking festival.)

 I thought about the Hebrew phrase “l’dor vador”. Literally, it means “from generation to generation,” but it is more than that in weekly Shabbat services. When people say or sing “l’dor vador,” they talk about passing on traditions, passing on culture, passing on love. It is the idea of our being a link in the great chain of eternity. 

 Every year, I keep note of the date of my first firefly sighting. This year’s visit was the earliest I have recorded, but it reminded me of outdoor gazebo concerts in my childhood when my sisters and I would dance around pretending we were fireflies. It reminded me of summer nights catching the bugs and letting them go, just thrilled to make physical contact with such a magical being. It reminded me of linguistics classes analyzing the maps of the terms “lightning bugs” and “fireflies,” and it reminded me of listening to Noa and Justine recite a poem about them for Music Sunday. Each year, the fireflies return. Each year, I’m a little older. My place in the life cycle shifts, but the seasons are constant in their flow.

By now, it’s trite to say that this has been a year like no other. Sometimes even this pandemic world doesn’t feel quite real. Then I think about the magic moments we have shared singing in the field. A few days ago, we burst out into song as a piece of milkweed sauntered by. I was suddenly the child dancing with the fireflies again. I was suddenly the kid jumping up to catch it. I was also the adult sharing the wish-fluff with my friends as we kept on singing. Moments like that one are so deeply real and transcendent. The connections we have made are real and enduring. As a community, we have come together and are stronger for our adversity.

 Soon we will be returning to our beloved Old Stone Church. I am so impressed with the efforts of our Buildings and Grounds people and everyone who has worked to make our spiritual home ready for whatever comes next. The spiffy new cushions and crisp, clean paint make our welcoming community even more inviting! 

 I wonder who will walk through our doors in the next months and years. What will they ask about this era of our history? Will they want to hear our Story Cores? (We have about an hour worth of oral history footage already!) What will they bring to the community? What will we pass on?

 One thing I know for sure: some June night, another group of wonder-filled people will look out on that glowing grove. I hope they feel as connected to one another and to the universe as we all did last night. And as for all of us, I hope we remember to take time to savor the moments of awe that nature, friendship, and fellowship all grant us.