Posts Tagged With: night sky

Flying Fire

While camping with my young family in North Carolina I experienced something truly splendiferous for the first time.

English: Campfire with sparks in Anttoora, Fin...

Campfire with sparks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A campfire worked itself into a steady quiet burn. Smoke spiraled lazily from its center. The day settled out in a tired wash of well-worked muscles. Each kid, except for the three-year old who was asleep in the tent, had a stirring stick inside the fire. Not that the fire needed stirring, but kids seem compelled to play with fire, literally and proverbially. They’d ignite the end and then, sparkler-like, draw designs in the air until the flame died out. Then they’d spin smoke signals, tendrils of nothingness joining in the spiral from the center of the main fire. This game could go on for nearly an hour until we called bedtime. Until then, we let them play.

My eyes followed the line of smoke upward as it wove itself among the dense canopy of leaves. No breeze of any kind disturbed the disappearing trail of grey. The trees stood completely still and quiet. The coolness of the air began to settle in around our feet. I leaned back on the large log I sat on, hugged my arms to warm up a bit and looked up to see the stars. Nothing surpasses starlight’s intensity when out camping somewhere far from city lights.

The overhead leaves and branches obstructed the view of the night sky, except for a patch here or there. My eyes searched to find familiar constellations, but the sections of sky I could see were too small. Then movement caught my attention. The leaves weren’t moving and yet they seemed to move. I asked my husband if he’d heard of a meteor shower happening. That caught his attention. He sat down beside me and looked up.

I pointed to the patch of sky I’d seen moving. “There,” I said, and “there, and there.” A meteor shower for sure, but without the streaks of light. These stars resembled embers in a fire, a quick flash of light that would disappear then quickly reappear as another flash nearby.

“That is not a meteor shower,” my husband said definitively. “Those are fireflies!” He laughed. “Come here, kids,  you gotta see this!”

common eastern (USA) firefly. Français : Photi...

Don’t let his looks fool you, this little guy can light things up and get a party going.

What? No. That’s not what fireflies look like, I thought to myself. Those lights are in the distance, high up in the atmosphere. And yet, I looked again, maybe he’s right.

The excitement and shift in his voice elicited instant obedience. The stirring sticks dropped to the ground and they rushed over to where my husband sat. He pointed skyward.

“Do you see those lights in the trees?” he asked the kids. “Watch. See those flashing, moving lights? Those are fireflies.”

“Cool!” The two of them said in tandem. “Can we catch them?”

“Don’t be silly,” I said, “they’re way past the tops of the trees.” But as I said this, the lights drew closer to us. Sure enough, the small group of lights flitted about lower and lower in the branches and then began to spread out and disperse. They didn’t fly close enough for us to see any details,  we simply admired their on again off again glow.

The kids ran and jumped and spun around under the disappearing blinking bugs. The air around us felt magical somehow, as if the sky itself had reached down and christened our camping spot with traveling starlight. Tinkerbell herself couldn’t have cast a better spell.

I’m pretty sure we floated off to sleep on a cloud of wonder and awe.

The cleverest of magicians and the finest of artists, Gaia, the ancient Greek goddess of earth,  surely weaves her incantations and her brushes with panache and skill. Better than stargazing and better than a meteor shower my first experience with fireflies put a smile on my face that lasted several days.

Thinking about it even this many years later makes me want to believe in magic.

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Categories: Fun, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Answering the Call of the Wild As Best I Can

Nature calls. No, not the way you’re thinking.

Let me rephrase.

I’ve heard the call of the great outdoors, the mountains, ponderosa pines and dirt trails for a couple of months now. It’s been a long while since I’ve been out among the wild things.

I’m anticipating some nature time here soon. Just thinking about it relaxes the muscles in my back and brings a smile to my face. Ahhhh….

English: Young female cones on Ponderosa Pine ...

Did you know the bark on a Ponderosa pine tree has a vanilla scent to it? You have to get up close and personal to really pick it up, but it’s there. And the needles and pine pitch? Mmmmmm, there’s a smell to enliven the soul and rejuvenate the senses.

Getting away from the light pollution of the city, up into the mountains, allows a view of the night sky that’s always there, but not always visible. A spectacle of magic and mystery, uncountable stars emblazon the night sky like so many scattered gems on a black velvet cloth. That alone gives pause for some seriously deep contemplation and introspection.

Hiking slows the pace of the world down to manageable proportions. There’s time for savoring details like a scattering of quarter-inch flowers, or the sound of a small stream making its way downhill, or the varieties of green.

Birds accompany every activity up there, especially morning goings on. Mornings and birds are inseparable and a perfect combination, like hot chocolate and whipped cream. Every pip, cheep, chitter, whistle, peep, and song adds to the delights of the day.

Cooler air. Ah, yes. Getting off the desert floor up into higher country provides a welcome and much-needed respite from the flirting with 100’s temps we’ve had here. Just the mere sound of wind making its way through the pine boughs brings relief. When the actual breeze brushes past carrying snatches of songs from all the trees I feel renewed, baptised and reborn.

I think I sound lovestruck. Infatuated. Irrational.

Probably true.

Toronto racoon at night. Toronto, Canada is no...

The reality is:

  • I don’t sleep well while camping. I’m jittery and nervous of the great outdoor’s night noises.
  • At the first hint of daylight I’m outta the tent and building a huge fire and heating a pot of water.
  • Some of the other campers will be noisy, annoying, silly and clueless.
  • There’s probably some fire restrictions if not an outright ban.
  • Mosquitos and I don’t get along well and will be battling it out every evening.
  • After a few days of bliss I’ll be happy to return to the valley of heat, dust, flush toilets and long hot showers, pillows, beds and internet connections.
  • I’ll wax nostalgic about the mountains and nature until the next time I get to escape.

English: Old growth Ponderosa pines in Lost Fo...

The other reality is:

  • I’ll love it while I’m there, itchy bites, dirty hair, sleepless nights and all.
  • The hills are alive with the sound of music and bugs and crazed campers and beauty.
  • There’s no separating the good from the bad.

So while I’m packing up the flashlight, camp chair, bug repellant and sleeping bag, I’ll also bring along a pen and notebook, a camera, my hiking boots and my decent attitude.

I’ll leave my iPod and earbuds at home though. I don’t want to miss nature’s playlist.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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