Full Moon and Fireflies

The best time for a full moon hike may actually be a few days beforehand, when the moon rises earlier.

But there I was on the night itself. I was impatient, because it was June and this was the first chance I’d had this year to stay overnight at the primitive campsite by the Skunk River. So I left my tent as soon as the mosquitoes lost their appetite, around 10:00 PM. The moon was still behind the trees, so I carried a small flashlight.

But that was all I carried. There was no one else in the area on a weeknight, so I left my clothing back at the tent, not even carrying a towel.

I walked the 300 yards back to my car and then all the way down the dead-end road and back. Once out from under the trees, there was enough light to turn the flashlight off. I left it off when I returned to the trail through the woods, the better to see the fireflies as I traversed this familiar path.

Each firefly that came near was briefly brilliant enough to light up my body and the trail. But their promise of lighting the way was illusory, for each firefly soon veered away and then extinguished its light.

Their transient constellations brought to mind the campfires of the Elves that led Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves off the road in Mirkwood. As they drew near each fire, it was kicked out, to be replaced by a new one further away, until they were lost. And that would happen to me too if I let the fireflies tempt me away from the path.

Or were the fireflies in fact illuminating the true path, and it was the well-worn trail leading me astray?