With a deep breath and wide eyes, I pulled my car into the line of minivans and mid-sized sedans packed with coolers, hot dogs, and the laughter of happy vacation spirits caravanning into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I look around my own car, feeling slightly out of place. Me in my compact car, water bottle and journal on the seat next to me, and nerves fully heightened.
It was June 2011. It was peak season for synchronizing fireflies at Great Smoky National Park. This time, I was going to see them…
“Ma’am, do you have a reservation?”
I stared blankly into the sunglasses of a park ranger. You need a reservation to see nature?
“Um, no. No, I don’t have a reservation.”
“You’ll have to turn around then. The event is full.”
Where was I, a bluegrass festival? “Oh no, I’m just here to see the fireflies.”
“Yes Ma’am, everybody is here to see the fireflies. Follow the cones to turn around.”
I watched myself in the reflection of his sunglasses. Tears welled up in my eyes. He must have noticed them too.
“Tell you what ma’am. Keep going straight and take the first left. There’s a trailhead on the right. Couple people said they saw some synchronization up there last night.”
“Thank you,” I sniffed, and along I drove.
My feet hit the brown earth. It was a trail to my closure, and I felt vulnerable.
I reached the top of the hill and gazed out over the valley. Beautiful Smoky Mountains in full bloom. I sat down on a fallen log and took out my journal.
Here I am. Great Smoky National Park, where tonight, thousands of fireflies are gathering to share their beauty in unison. I hope with all of my might the fireflies bless me with this spectacle.
I almost didn’t come. Deep down inside, I didn’t want to come. I was afraid. I am still afraid as I sit and wait for dusk to fall. What if it’s not as magical as I have envisioned? What if it doesn’t bring me the closure I have been searching for? I was broken, but I am healing. Fireflies aided in my healing process. They remind me of strength, hope that someday I will be proud to open up and allow myself to shine, radiate, glow emotionally and physically. I’ll never feel helpless again.
When I learned about the synchronizing fireflies, I began to fantasize about being transformed and cleansed of sorrow in and among the fireflies. That once I reached this point, the story would end. I would write the final chapter. The finishing sentence…
As she smiled.
I laid my pen down, patiently awaiting the darkness, patiently awaiting the fireflies, patiently awaiting the future.
I waited…and waited…and waited.
The fireflies never came.
To Be Continued.