Friday, June 10, 2011

The Light Within: Fireflies & Moontowers

At dusk on an unannounced evening in early summer, a firefly makes its magical appearance. Like mobile lighthouses, they flicker with a mesmerizing syncopated rhythm. Almost instantly I am captivated in the moment anticipating the next appearance of these insect illusionists.

Even though they appear annually, their appearance feels as random as the magical appearance of a shooting star. I feel special, as if chosen to witness this event at this particular moment. If I had been rushing somewhere and not paying attention, I would have missed it.

The firefly has the genetic ability to make its own light through bioluminescence. Because bioluminescence usually occurs in marine life, the random witnessing of these little bugs in the throes of their mating dance has even more magic. If you have ever been lucky enough to catch one, you know that the lightning bug has not exactly been blessed with beauty; it’s beautiful because of the light it emits.

On a recent visit to Austin, Texas, I thought about fireflies in the disjointed context of viewing a somewhat unknown city treasure: The Moontowers. These not-so-attractive moonlight towers, barely noticed by residents or tourists, have a rich history that designates them as an official state archaeological landmark and part of the National Register of Historic Places. Like many cities in America in the mid-1890s, Austin erected thirty-one of these towers to provide artificial light to some developing areas of the city. Now, only seventeen remain due to "construction, errant vehicles and other unfortunate circumstances." Austin is reportedly the only city left in America that has these artificial moonlight towers. [Visit for more details]

I was reminded of fireflies because something that appears nondescript becomes beautiful when sharing its light. I love that as humans, too, we flicker our own light, through our eyes, our energy, and our spirit. We can feel inspired to bask in this light amongst loved ones and complete strangers, if we are open to witnessing it. This sentiment reflects in the light of poetry by Sufi Poet, Hafiz [translated by Daniel Ladinsky]:

With That Moon Language
Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

We can all seek to connect to such light in ourselves and others.