Last night the twilight lingered long past 9:00. I stepped outside into the warm evening air and instead of turning toward the street I headed into the backyard and out to the gardens that face the meadow. It is not a large field, less than two acres on the assessor's map and further reduced by boundary incursions from various neighbors. The rank grass and remnants of wild apple trees slope into wet meadow before reaching the neighbors on the far side. It is flanked on the west and south by a screen of mature trees. The elderly owner of the field lives in Kansas but grew up here, and she keeps it undeveloped because of the fringed gentian she remembers from her childhood. There are very few of these flowers left in the field, but it is prime firefly habitat, and on Midsummer's Eve they were out in great profusion.
I have watched them in early summer ever since moving here in 2002. Cold evenings dampen their glow, but warm nights with the mist rising send them wisping through the air, over the tassels of uncut grass and through the branches of the apple trees. A few outliers may venture into the shadows of my garden but they avoid the lawns and other managed places, and when the field is cut their dance is done. Every year I hope that the mower will be delayed, that the old man with the tractors who lays the grasses down to maintain the owner's claim will postpone his passes through the field so the fireflies will linger.
This is a timed event, like sap rising in Spring and wild geese heading south in September. My garden path ends at a wrought iron gate with nothing but magic and wonder in the rank meadow beyond. I am loathe to leave when the faeries dance under the hazy stars. Long may they return.