Al Batt: Summer and fireflies — lightning in a bottle

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

Have you ever found yourself standing in the aisle of a supermarket and staring at a shelf weighted down with an overload of choices?

I’ve been there and will be there. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s me. The number of products aren’t paralyzing, but they can be overwhelming. Choices are good, but too many choices are confusing. I tend to buy the same things, not always because I’m committed to a brand, but because it simplifies things. It streamlines the shopping process for me.

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The average supermarket carries around 40,000 products, while Aldi, the eighth-biggest retail brand in the world, stocks only 1,400 items. Aldi seems to be doing OK.

  We all make poor choices. Who hasn’t picked the wrong line at a supermarket? What we figured to be the fastest, often turns out to be the slowest. We’re not particularly gifted when it comes to making choices.

We’re lucky to have grocery stores that are as good as they are.

My wife and I were picking mulberries in our yard. I sang this ditty, “All around the mulberry bush. The monkey chased the weasel. The monkey stopped to pick up his hat. Pop! Goes the weasel!”

A robin protested our actions. He complained loudly. I put words into its bill, “Stop eating my food! You can go to a store and get your food. I can’t.”

The bird had a point.

I recall back in the days when I wore patches with clothes on them. Mom repaired my jeans with patches that couldn’t be destroyed. I think they were made of titanium.

I’m a big believer in setting goals and was even as a boy. I’d begin each day hoping to find a stick with only one end or an ant the size of a cow. My methods weren’t always the best. I turned over rocks in the hopes of finding such a gigantic ant. In my naïveté, I expected an ant of that size to be found hiding under a rock smaller than its head. I was a hopeful child.

Our place had plenty of rocks for me to check out. Rocks were the best crop raised on our farm. The glacier brought them. The only reason the glacier had left the scene, was that it had gone to get more rocks.

Incredible things were what I’d looked for.

We find what we look for. I found incredible things.

Conspicuous bursts of light flew at night.

They were fireflies or lightning bugs that used bioluminescence to attract mates. Burnout is a real problem for a firefly. I read once that Minnesotans tend to call the beetles fireflies, while Iowans are more likely to call them lightning bugs. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I’ll be listening to see if it is. No matter what you call them, when a chemical called luciferin (the same Latin root as Lucifer) inside their abdomens combines with oxygen, a chemical reaction occurs that creates spectacular, flashing lights. Fireflies produce a cold light with nearly 100 percent of the energy in the chemical reaction emitted as light. An incandescent light bulb uses only 10 percent of its energy for light, with the other 90 percent being lost as heat.

There were nights when a storm knocked out our electricity. We’d be without lights, but the fireflies kept theirs.

I ooh and aah when I see them. They cause me to grin like a basket full of opossums. Fireflies are nature’s fireworks.

I remind fireflies that the last one to turn in should switch off its light.

I had more energy than anything else when I was a lad, so I became a chaser of the lighted beetles. I captured fireflies and put them in a jar. I’d punched holes in the jar’s lid and placed some vegetation inside.

I went to bed just as soon as it became dark so that I could lie in bed and watch that glowing jar sitting on a small table that I used as a desk.

I fell asleep to the silence of the mysteries of nature. Lightning without thunder in a bottle.

My mother released the fireflies outside after Morpheus, the mythical god of sleep and dreams, had beckoned me.

That was a good thing. I no longer needed them. The fireflies illuminated my dreams just as they did the real world.

I have no choice but to watch fireflies whenever I see them.

They make me happy.

Happiness is a choice.

Watching fireflies is an excellent choice.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.