Cold water swirled around my feet as I stood in the old kayak and paddled to the bank. Damp earth squeezed between my toes as I metronomically tied up the kayak and padded into a wall of darkness.
The track was familiar to me now, even in its blackness. I had started to like the sensation of grit abrading my feet. At the beginning it was spiky and sore, now it was like pumice.
I had been hunched over the computer for too long. I didn’t feel like running. The project circled relentlessly in my head. I forgot about the night; the complete darkness; the ground beneath my feet.
A wire suddenly whipped across my stomach. I gasped at the electric fence dangling at my feet. It wasn’t on. I fumbled with the wire and tuned back into my surroundings.
I reached the T-junction, the start of the run. The rain had cleared and the toads and cicadas were tuning their percussions. Whining, croaking, belching, clicking.
My feet switched between pebbles and grit, damp mud and the cushions of grass. Without sight, I felt my way forward.
Something caught my eye. A flash of light in the bush at my side. Another light at the top of the hill. Milky green lights. On, off. Was someone signalling to me?
But it was nothing to do with me.
I looked again and the entire track was flashing with a super-natural light display.
Hundreds of fire flies were taking to the air, flaunting their luminescent bums at their suitors in the scrub below.
The combination of rain and the jet black night had shaken these dreary beetles into dazzling dancers of the night.
I ran back to the ‘Abuelos’ (grandparents); our neighbours,
‘Bichos con luzes, como una fiesta!’ (Bugs with lights, like a party!)
Abuelo Angelito’s grin turned to a grimace,
“Soya”, he said. “They are spraying the crop remorselessly. For hundreds of miles there are no fire flies”.
In most parts of the world the night has been drained of darkness. Birds sing under the 24 hour luminescent glare. Fire flies are out-shone.
Here, the stars and fireflies light your way.
I know which one I’d prefer.