There is snap-shot image from another time and place that has time-lapsed itself into my soul. It is an image full of a hundred different things entering my senses all at once. The small-town Illinois backyard at dusk at my great-grandparent's house would be heavy with summer humidity, the smell of earth, and the feel of soft grass on on my bare feet. When it would become just dark enough, I could see the fireflies ascending and illuminating the night. Their choreographed motion was both mesmerizing and beautiful - even more so when night would come, because their glow became even brighter. I would catch them in a mason jar and watch their light gather in an ethereal swirl of movement through the glass. After setting them free, it would soon be time to go upstairs and fall asleep to the sound of trains breaking through in the distance. I would wake up to sunlight flooding through the windows, the smell of eggs cooking in the kitchen, and the sound of the wood floors creaking from generations of footsteps that had walked through the hallways. While the glow that that filled the nights of the rest of my Gen X childhood would come mostly from video games or TV shows, I never forgot the glow of the fireflies. I never forgot those illuminated mason jars on those hot Midwestern summer evenings.
Sometimes, now that I am two thousand miles away and thirty-something years older, that place and time will call to me and I can feel my heart swelling with some sort of longing. Sometimes a breeze blows into the house and the earth smells exactly like it did on those Illinois nights - rain in the distance falling on farmland, dust being brought down from the atmosphere back to the earth, the hallowed wood of the trees, and the soft, sweet grass. Sometimes, late at night, when a train goes wailing by in the distance, I wake up and I think for a moment that I am a small child back in Illinois.
If you are Generation X, you were born into one of the most neglected generations in modern history. While I know many Xers who had good childhoods, I know many, many more who did not. The logic of the times included parental self-immersion which led to, and even required, self-reliance for Xers. The years that Generation X grew up have even been called the most anti-child era in the history of America - and this left Gen X with a pretty hardened edge. The zeitgeist took a wrenching toll on me, and athough my childhood was wrought with the same darkness and chaos as most Gen Xers, it was also full of many blessings and good moments that I cling to. Through all my growing-up years, the most meaningful thing of all was a steadfast undertow of a light - enough that the darkness could never completely overtake me.
I remember the Illinois dusk. The heavy, tired dusk in those days would hang over the streets, and the houses, and our hearts, foreshadowing a darkness sure to manifest in the coming years and decades. Yet, right in the midst of the enveloping anxiety that came as the sun would slip down below the horizon, a profound peace would come. A message would resonate within me, telling me not to be afraid when the dusk comes, and not to be afraid when dusk turns to night, because morning always follows.
On those summer nights when I would catch the fireflies, I would only keep them in the jar a short time - I wanted most of all to watch them fly again toward the tree tops. If there was a message that Generation X needed to be told in their childhoods, if there is a message that Generation X needs to be completely conscious of through the struggles of adulthood, it is this:
Do not be afraid, because the light always ascends. Do not be afraid, because the light always comes.
As the years went on, when dusk would grow darker and the dark of night would follow, the memory of those glass jars was enough light to sustain me....
Through the darkest of nights, I was given enough light to carry me, and that light was the substance of God.
Those fleeting moments of unbounded peace and joy stayed imprinted on my consciousness throughout my life - when the fireflies would fly upward, when their light would ascend. While we know that the dusk always leads to night, even the darkest night finally leads once again to the day.
Fireflies at Dusk.
(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved