Fireflies and Blue Jays / by Deborah Clague


I grew up in St. Norbert, the southernmost suburb of Winnipeg, Canada. My childhood home was across the street from a forested park in which I played nearly every day as a child. I could even be found there at dusk and the early hours of night. It might not seem safe to me today, to be this solo kinder adventurer, but back then I enjoyed exploring and living primarily through my imagination and instinct (which, it could be argued, I still do today but with the added insurance of adult wisdom). My mom still lives in my childhood home and whenever I visit I take the dogs for a walk through that same forest, down those same paths. I marvel at how much smaller it feels and how much my perspective, figuratively and literally, has evolved over the years.

There was an experience I had underneath its canopy a few years ago that has stayed with me. While I'm sure a scientific explanation can be found, my mind, at this time, refuses to believe it was nothing short of supernatural. Magic tends to happen in the dark and on this night, I needed a breath of fresh air hoping that it would help ease me into the sleep I had been sorely deprived of. It had been a hard week. Specifically, the time in between my father's passing and funeral. The time where one remains in denial at the loss but the reality of its permanence starts to set in. I took his dog, Reggie, a 90lb lab-cross, for a late night walk. As we made our way through the stillness of the forest, I noticed something caught in his thick, black fur. It was a firefly. Before taking it off, I stared at it for a bit. I hadn't seen a firefly since I was a pre-teen and they lit up the campground we were staying at while on vacation in Montana. I had never, EVER, seen one in this park. I would have remembered it. I would have made a point to regularly partake in this show of nature if I had. As it flickered, I noticed a few more and then the forest became alive with them. It was surreal. I felt it was a sign. A farewell from my father perhaps. The bioluminescence of the insects acting as a beacon to remind and reassure me that life is, indeed, beautiful and that he would never be too far away. 

He hasn't been. 

It is now 2017 and I have not seen them since. Not at any hour. Not in any season. I have, however, noticed some new creatures frequenting the area near my childhood home. Like a pair of blue jays that have nested nearby. They are beautiful birds and not uncommon but I don't recall seeing them around these parts before ...