When I was a kid…
When my daughter was seven she was enchanted by a solitary flickering firefly out in the field behind the barn, and she raced after it, skipping along with the dog as the firefly slowed weaved its was across the field that beautiful early summer evening.
I told her she should have been around when I was a kid. Then you’d see hundreds of them floating and bobbing in the evening twilight.
One night when she and grandma were driving back from an aunt’s house, she made grandma stop the car so she could move a huge toad off to the side of our country road. She didn’t want it to get squished by a car.
Grandma told her of a time when grandma was a little girl and there would be so many frogs on the road after a summer rain that the police would have to close the road to traffic. She said there were times when you could not even see the road for frogs.
Forty years ago, when I was an adolescent, I was helping my grandfather cut-and-split winter wood. One of the logs we had was so large that I remarked to my grandfather that the two of us wouldn’t be able to get our arms around its circumference.
He smiled and said that when he was a teen, he worked for a logging company in what’s now Algonquin Park. He said that most of the trees then were so large four grown men together couldn’t get their arms around them. Now you have to go to B.C. to see a tree that large.
When the last carrier pigeon died in the early 1900’s, old-timers talked about their childhoods, when it would take 20 minutes for a single flock of carrier pigeons to pass overhead. Some talked of how they could block out the sun.
In the early 1800’s, if you came across a herd of buffalo on the North American plains you would have to wait a day for the herd to pass before you could continue on your journey.
Cree elders remembered the days before the arrival of the White Man, when it would take three days for a herd of buffalo to pass. There would be buffalo to the horizon in all directions.
Melville tells of great pods of whales that numbered into the hundreds – schools of fish that stretched for miles.
And so it goes, passed down from generation to generation, all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Magic tales of the great herds, or of vast flocks of birds, or forests that were Biblical in size and diversity, stretching to the horizon, in all directions – covering entire continents.
Gen 1:24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
P.S. The fireflies, after a long absence from our valley, have returned this year. We have seen at least 100 in the last two nights. Perhaps all is not lost, just yet.