I noticed the other evening just before dark the lightning bugs flickering here and there. To me, like the robin heralds spring, lightning bugs announce summer. When I was a child, some summer nights my brothers and sister and neighbor kids spent hours catching lightning bugs in glass jars. I remember the smell of peanut butter from the jar my mother had washed out for me to use. We poked holes in the tops with butter knives or screwdrivers so the bugs could get air. The idea of catch and release hadn’t occurred to any of us. Letting the bugs have air suited our most advanced thinking!
We ran around the yards following the bugs’ flickering, talking and laughing, sweaty from the humidity of southern summer nights. And then talking more, sitting on sidewalks or porches as the hours of summer nights slipped away. We built forts with scrap wood, using rusty nails and old hammers, found four leaf clovers, hunted for snakes, caught crawdads in the ditch at the end of our street, played army with sticks, and attached playing cards in the spokes of our bikes to make motorcycle sounds.
One night specifically, I remember lying in bed watching the lightning bugs flickering on and off at my bedside table until I could wonder no more and fell asleep. Doing things like catching lightning bugs spurs connection to wonder. And wonder spurs more wonder, until we wonder our way into many possibilities. Play can do such, letting us explore, discover, and experience the earth, eventually gaining awareness we would not have without the play.
Recently, I read that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates restricted the time their children could use the technology they had invented. According to what I read, Gates’ children were not allowed to have cell phones until they were fourteen. Apparently, they knew the potential deadening of wonder that their own technology could affect.
I am thankful for the inventions that came out of their extraordinary brilliance and creativity. I’m using their inventions as I write. I even found the article about their restrictions for their children by using their inventions. However, I’m more grateful for the memories of summer days and nights. Those experiences let me use their inventions instead of being absorbed by them.