Traditions, Where the Heart Is

Because It’s Summer

I love summer. Truly, I don’t hate any season since moving home from Colorado, but summer and spring still reign as my favorites. Longer days, warmer nights, swimming, fishing, barbecues, 4th of July… summer is just hard to hate.

Though today is the summer solstice and technically the first official summer day, to me the first day of summer will never be a date on a calendar. No, I mark summer by the feel of the air, the warmth of the sun, the colors of the world, the first frog that chirps and the first lightning bug I see flash.

Those mark the days of summer.

One thing that I have never missed out on during a Missouri summer was catching lightning bugs. It has always been a summer tradition of mine whether solo, with family or friends. I must admit that the latter two are much more fun as I sit here remembering my 20 year old self with my best friend darting about the yard one June evening.

Past my elementary years, the game has always been catch and release… immediate release. However, I remember my younger years keeping the jar full of blinking lights next to my bed as I slept; what a perfect country night light. The next morning I would let them loose on the front porch and watch them skitter away to enjoy them again that evening.

Those were in the days without tablets or smart phones and my parents managed to keep me entertained with all sorts of things on the farm. There aren’t many memories I have indoors during nice days back then and I could hardly even be kept inside during thunderstorms. I only hope living on the farm can afford our children a similar type of childhood.

I will teach our own children the art of catching lightning bugs… because it really is an art. The only equipment needed are hands, a jar, some grass to put in the jar and a lid with holes punched in the top. The sensitivity required comes with the actual catching of the bugs.

You must have delicate hands to successfully capture a lightning bug without crushing its delicate body. The flashing parts are especially tender and require gentle handling. Thus, cupped hands with quick, but delicate, sweeping motions are best.

Raking your fingers tends to capture a lightning bug between the fingers, resulting in a squished bug. Clapping your hands together too quickly can also result in the same fate. This makes it all the more tricky when trying to capture these insects, but results in great memories of mason jars flashing in the dark.

I hope to watch our children from a front porch swing for many years to come as they dart back and forth across the yard. And I very much so hope that this inspired you to start catching lightning bugs as one of your own summer traditions.

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