A Firefly in the Livingroom

Do you think there is such a thing as coincidence? Or is life a series of well-timed, intentional acts?

There’s certainly plenty of evidence for the former. Lightning strikes, for example. However, you could also argue that lightning strikes result from storms, which are a scientific phenomenon that can be easily predicted. Maybe that’s one point for the latter. Of course, romantic comedies would also have you believe in perfect, serendipitous coincidence. But, romantic comedies are also shot on sets with actors and scripts. Looks like that is a draw.

But whatever your persuasion on this subject, I find that some events are simply more difficult to pin down, as either coincidence or fate, than others.

Take, for example, the other night. I’m walking with my mom around the neighborhood. We’re watching the sky darken with a storm, so we’re sort of hoofing it. We pass a corner when we smell it. Cigar smoke.

Okay, not entirely, unusual in itself. Actually, not really unusual at all, is it? Except for the fact that my grandfather (you can read about him here) used to smoke like a chimney stack. And his tobacco of choice was cigars. Add to the fact that I am always thinking about him around the summertime. At his old house, he had this beautiful porch where we could sit outside until the light died, unable to see each other’s faces but able to make out the red tip of his cigar. And of course, the fireflies that lit up the yard. He used to say, without fail, that they would arrive around the Fourth of July and then disappear shortly after.

So, when cigar smoke swept up our noses on our nightly walk, my mom immediately said it was Pop-Pop, stopping by to say hello. I agreed with her, and we rushed home before the oncoming storm could soak us.

Unbeknownst to us, we must have had a hitchhiker.

We walked through the door and plopped down on the couch, exhausted from our hurrying, but glad for it, as we heard the rain splatter on the window. Relaxing back, we heard a faint hum in the room. Looking over, we saw a firefly hovering over the coffee table. It hung in the air like a fairy and seemed suspended there. It was captivating and altogether strange.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who had seen it: our pet cat was all wide eyes and twitching tail. Not wanting him to eat our good omen, I captured the bug and took it outside. It sat on my hand for a moment and then drifted lazily into the air.

Now, you could say that a firefly followed us into the house and was almost eaten by a well-fed cat. And you’d be right. And you could also say that this was more confirmation of my Pop-Pop, who wanted to send us a sign that we’d recognize. And you’d also be right (at least in my book).

But isn’t that the beautiful thing? If it was intentional, then it was simply a memorable moment. If it was a coincidence, then it was also a memorable moment. That is, if my Pop-Pop sent it, then it’s meaningful, but if it simply attached to our clothes, then it’s adorable.

That’s why you can’t pin it down; it’s both intentional and coincidental. And I truly don’t see or mind the difference that I can’t answer my original questions. Because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what you choose to believe, and what “brightens” your day.

The Lost Art of Waiting

Like any patriotic American, I went to see fireworks last night. Burdened by blankets and not much else, we set out at dusk to watch the pyrotechnic display. We were a bit worried that we would not be able to find a parking spot or a seat on the lawn, but our fears were quelled when we scored both. Positioned comfortably in the grass, we watched the clouds roll in to cover the setting sun.

And, in a phrase, we waited. And waited. And yes, even waited. Until one of us had the good sense to check our smartphone and be reconnected to the civilized world. The clock read about 7:45 or so. When were the fireworks supposed to go off, you ask? Around 9:30, or so the website said that no one had bothered to check until we were sitting at the designated launch arena. So, we had about an hour and a half.

Now, I was in a bit of a state. As a self-identified bookworm, I am rarely ever without a book. Actually, I am known to keep spare books in my car for just such an occasion. Heck, I’ve read during a bridge opening, with my car set in park. (You have three guesses about who forgot to bring a book to this particular shindig, and the first two don’t count.)

Yes, in surprising fashion, I did not have a book. And even more surprisingly, my father did. So, he made out the best in this situation because I did not even have a pair of headphones or enough battery life on my phone to surf the web and still take pictures of the main event.

Of course, you have probably figured out that we made out just fine during this harrowing ordeal. We saw the fireworks, and it was a great show. But how did we survive the waiting?

Truly, I forgot how torturous it was to have nothing to entertain yourself with during the dull moments of life before you could pick up at the good parts. My attention span was flitting and fleeting, and I was squirming in my skin.

But I also forgot that it was as pleasurable to feel the grass tickle your chin and watch children tumble and fall for the fun of it as it was to read a book or listen to music. I forgot how satisfying it was to observe your surroundings instead of avoiding them. Just being has its perks instead of doing all of the time.

Not to be a begrudging member of our society, because I like the advances we have made in modern entertainment, but I wonder at the cost of having constant stimulation. Truly, I think there is an art to waiting in that you can find entertainment in your own head and not on a screen. And yes, for us shy people, the fact that you can look down at a screen while passing a person you may know without having to make small talk is a godsend. But when is it time to look up again? When will we put down the phone recording the fireworks instead of seeing them ourselves?

All in all, I hope to regain the lost art of waiting. Of making a game out of thin air. Of entertaining myself with thoughts alone. Of seeing fireworks behind my eyes long after they have disappeared into the night instead of saving them on a small disk for a shorter amount of time. Because this is all I will have in the end.