Write It Down

lightning bugs, fireflies,field, meadow,childhood,memoir,Blue Ridge Mountains,North Carolina,Deb Trotter

Write it down. Write how it feels to fly away.

“Write it down,” grandma said, as we the freed lightning bugs from the mason jar. “Write down in your heart, how it feels to fly away.”

I know how it feels to fly away from home. But sometimes I want to go back.

Writing this memoir is the magic carpet that will take me there … back home to the Blue Ridge.

I recall a moment long ago when my life was so full and free that I trembled at the joy of it. Only three years old, I stood all alone in a grassy field behind my Grandmother’s house … my eyes closed, my skin quickening to the touch of dew on the tips of my fingers. Captivated by the succulent smell of towering grass, I rooted my feet to the rich earth and marveled at the plaintive call of a whippoorwill.

I never tired of solitary moments like this one. Even as a small child I understood nature’s effect on me, its euphoric power … especially when I came to a favorite place like this open field.

I stood there in, wrapped in the comfort of the familiar, in the knowledge that I knew this place and it knew me, and we were friends. Had I known what weightlessness was — or floating — I’d have told myself that this must be how it felt. This soft, light happiness in me.

It was then that I heard the barking … somewhere in the vacant distance. A dog. It sounded so sad.

As the barking grew louder, I had this odd fear that the field was expanding … then contracting … then expanding once more. It was alive, I was sure of it. The field was alive.

A strange panic gripped at my chest. Everything was so vast … the sky so dark. But something … a voice from inside my heart … said, Wait.

The constant chatter of the crickets and bullfrogs disappeared. I felt the silence, so sudden and unexpected … and then I heard the world … everything nearby and everything far away, saying to me …

Don’t breathe …. Don’t breathe just yet … Wait. Wait for the magic.

I realized my legs were trembling. My fingers burned, straining to hold still. I was afraid to move, even an inch, until … finally, I allowed myself to breathe again. I open my eyes …

And there they were, in the blackberry twilight.

Hundreds upon hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of lightning bugs. Pulsing. Twinkling. Everywhere. On the grass, in the bushes, on the leaves of the friendly old trees. I could see them up against the sky, transforming from winged miracles into soft, yellow stars.

And instantaneously, I understood what life was … the air and the dew and the mountains … the grass and the trees and the sky … the crickets and the bullfrogs … and most especially, the lightning bugs. The lightning bugs … and me.

And oh, how my soul glowed … how my heart ached, with the gift of unexpected knowledge … the knowledge that the world was a big mixing bowl of souls and creatures and plants, stirred gently by the hand of love. And I was part of it.

I wanted to hold that feeling and never let it go … for the longest time, that’s what I thought I was doing when I captured Lightning Bugs in a mason jar … saving the magic I’d experienced … until that night I forgot to let the them go.

I’ve forgotten what I said to Grandma then. I only recall my tears … my guilt, and I told her that I didn’t want to catch the Lightning Bugs any more.

“It’s all right, honey,” she said. “What you need to understand is that we’re only meant to keep something we love for a little while. And then we have to let it go. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bug or a person. No one can hold onto anything forever. Now … go see how many Lightning Bugs you can find.”

I stopped at six. Six little Lightning Bugs. Catching them was easy, because they would settle on a person’s hand and simply rest there. They weren’t afraid at all, which I interpreted as a good sign. I began to name them as I put them in the jar. Then, Grandma and I sat down in the grass and marveled at them for what she called a good long while.

“It’s wonderful what God can do, isn’t it?” she said, as she stood up with the twinkling jar in her hands and passed it to me. “I want you to do something for me, Debbie.”

I remember that exactly as she said it … I want you to do something for me, Debbie. I’m not sure whether or not I answered her. But I am sure about what she said next.

“Write it down,” grandma said, as we freed the lightning bugs from the mason jar. “Write down in your heart, how it feels to fly away.”


Personal photo, private collection of Deb Trotter. Background field image courtesy of Fotolia.
Photomontage © Deb Trotter 2013
Raised On Love – My Blue Ridge Memoir

“Raised On Love. Dreaming of Lightning Bugs.”



6 Responses to Write It Down

  • I LOVE this piece of art! :)

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Deryn! I love it too. I wanted to capture the wonder I felt at the age of 3, amid all those lightning bugs.

  • Patti Winker says:

    Wow. I can ‘feel’ this story. Wow. That’s about all I can say. Speechless. And for someone who is verbose, that’s saying a lot. THANK YOU, Deb, for this incredible story.

  • Debra Eve says:

    Hi Deb, just answered your comment on my site, but wanted to pop over here in case you didn’t see it. Love what you’re doing here and your digital art is amazing. Just reading some your entries suffused me with nostalgia. I’m also reminded of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who I’ve been reading about this week. She wrote her “Little House” books in her sixties to capture a world she realized was fading. By then she was living in a city, dealing with a sick husband, trying to make ends meet… It’s wonderful you’re capturing your childhood here!

    • Deb says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here, Debra. Your own site is a gold mine of inspiration.
      I had no idea Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her sixties when she wrote the little house books. Having seen the series on tv, I guess I assumed She was younger when she penned her story. I need to make a point of reading those books — don’t know why I never did before.

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