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My Turn: Catching fireflies engenders reverence - not disregard - for our environment

  •  Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things th

    Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things th

  •  Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things th

    Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things th

  •  Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things th
  •  Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things th

Last month, this paper printed a list of 100 things to do during the summer (Your Life, Sunday Monitor, June 8). It was a diverse and inspiring list. It encouraged readers to stretch beyond a typical summer routine and experience some of the things that make Concord and our state unique and interesting.

I am part of a group of friends who are attempting to do all 100 activities, or a near equivalent. There are a few that I’m planning to substitute, but catching fireflies and frogs are not among them.

I appreciate the letter by Joanne Harrison (Monitor Opinion, June 15) who accused the list creator of “a certain lack of environmental awareness and sensitivity,” but I take a complete opposite view on this topic.

As a child, catching fireflies in my grandparents’ field was part of my summer tradition. I have deep and fond memories of venturing into the dark meadow, watching for the quick, bright green-white flashes among the fronds of goldenrod, clover and grasses. The trick was to dash to the source of the flash before it flew away. Then I would carefully grasp the vegetation on which the insect was perched and shake it over my open mayonnaise jar to deposit the firefly inside. Slap the lid on to block escape, then on to the next one.

How many to catch? The number varied, but I always got a few. I usually stopped when in the process of putting one firefly in the jar, others escaped. This law of diminishing returns seemed like a good guide.

The lid was poked with small holes so the fireflies had plenty of fresh air. A sprig or two of vegetation was added so the captives had something more than the smooth sides of the glass to crawl on. And yes, I knew they were wild creatures, now trapped in my jar. I knew they were now in my care, and I took that responsibility very seriously. My goal was always to return my visitors alive and well, back to where they came from the next morning.

My parents did not discourage this activity, in fact they knew that I would eagerly go to bed after catching fireflies and placing the jar next to my bed. After “lights out,” there was a special kind of light – a bit of the wild meadow right in my own bedroom! I watched the flashing lights of my visitors until I couldn’t hold my young eyelids open any more. Drifting off to sleep, I dreamt of spending hours, days, years happily exploring the meadows and woods of my childhood and beyond.

These types of experiences were among the myriad youthful explorations that helped me connect with wildlife in a personal way and to learn about “environmental awareness and sensitivity.”

Though I’m sure the fireflies would have preferred to be out in the field all night, I’m quite certain the brief interruption in their routine did not cause them harm. I also know that the time provided a huge benefit for me. I learned to observe, care for and respect other creatures. The reverence that I gained for these tiny beings expanded to a passion for the Earth and lifelong work to help protect it.

On a recent night, I repeated my childhood routine, partly inspired by the Monitor list. Catching fireflies keeps my childhood memories fresh and provides an opportunity to slow down, observe and appreciate one of the amazing creatures whose habitat overlaps with mine. Encouraging, rather than discouraging children to have these kinds of experiences and to develop meaningful and respectful connections with the natural world is really an essential part of summer in New Hampshire.

You don’t have to tackle all 100 items on the list, but I encourage everyone to prioritize a few things that inspire, add meaning and enhance our connection to and appreciation of the natural world.

(Ruth Smith lives in Canterbury.)

Ruth, This is Larry, one of the fireflies you caught one summer in your grandparents meadow. I got free when you opened the jar to catch my cousin, Bennie. Unfortunately, you squished him closing the lid. Bennie had 300 children, Ruth. Worse, you dropped the jar upon hearing the ding-ding-ding of the ice cream truck. All the fireflies in the jar died in a few days, including Bennie's wife, Bertha. Thelma and I took as many in as we could, but the majority of their 300 kids became Wards of the Forest. Most were later eaten by woodpeckers. Not as endearing a summer for them, Ruth.

Please tell me you're being sarcastic DL . . .

Dead serious, HD. Tough part was scraping up the $200 for this Dragon(fly) software that translates my wing rhythms into English.

Thank you Ruth, for this enlightened, well-reasoned column.

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