We came from great distances to converge on this spectacle; from Idaho and Illinois; Michigan, and Massachusetts, Finland and France. I came too, though my journey took only an hour. Most of us arrived early to get a front row to this (BYOC) Bring Your Own Chair event. The aisles to get to the prime viewing location were dirt paths.
Some of the pilgrims to this once a year show were middle aged and wore MAGA hats. Others were tattooed millennials with “Bernie” stickers on their cars. As the sun set, we hurried our way down dirt paths to line up our chairs to face a most unlikely stage-a stand of trees in the Great Smoky Mountain forest. The trees, however, did not block the show, they were part of the show. We had not come to hear an orchestra or to watch a sporting event. We came from around the world to witness the mating habits of a most rare species-synchronous fireflies. This type of firefly is the only one in America that synchronizes its flashing patterns.
As darkness descended, a few fireflies started their dance. There was no discernable pattern at first, but as dusk gave way to the inky black night, the fireflies synchronized their ritual. For the first half hour I sat in rapturous awe at the miracle of nature I was witnessing. My thoughts, however, moved beyond these amazing insects to reflect on the creativity of their Creator. I was filled with wonder. The fireflies nurtured my faith.
After some time, however, I started counting how many flashes of light the fireflies made before going dark for several seconds. I was fascinated with the science behind the symphony of light. I was filled with the questioning form of wonder. I wondered, how the fireflies knew when to stop and start. I wondered why they are only in this part of the United States? I wondered because our minds were made to question and discover, learn and invent.
After a couple of hours, the show died down and I made my way back to the tent which was my temporary lodging and contemplated this most unique and inspiring evening. I reflected on both the sacredness and the science of it all.
Isn’t this a small composite of the world around us? Its filled with both Wonder! and Wonder? There is no need for faith to be threatened by science of for science to be threatened by faith. The scientific questioning mind is needed in order to create a better world. Scientists are now working on discovering ways to produce renewable energy so that more of us can enjoy this planet for a longer period of time. These efforts, however, are not in conflict with faith but aligned with the faithful’s call to steward the earth. We don’t have to check our brains at the door.
But while we are counting firefly flashes, looking under microscopes and splitting atoms; step back some evening in the middle of June and make your way to the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains. Bring a lawn chair and make your way down Jake’s Creek trail. Open your eyes as the night falls and listen to your heart sing to the rhythm of the synchronous fireflies.