Of ash trees and fireflies

Morning prayer begins as always, coffee in hand, legs tucked under. Cocooned in the worn down of the sunroom sofa I close my eyes. Without seeing, I sense the gentle sway of the ash tree’s branches towering over my garden. The sunlight flickers, waxing and waning with each playful movement the leaves make in their morning dance. Not even the heavy, humid Philadelphia summer air can stop these leaves from dancing in the breeze. Behind prayer-closed lids, I soak up the flickering light.

The ash tree that towers over my back garden is estimated to be close to one hundred years old. Her leaves are delicate and number five to seven in each shoot. How can one tiny leaf dancing in the breeze cover the mighty sun, causing its light to recede from my view? How can my eyes, closed as they are, see the swaying of the tree?

Last night with eyes wide open I gazed into a different garden light show. This is July in Philadelphia and into the pitch black of a late-night sky, light shimmered all around me. Not just the starlight above, but out in front of me, light flickered before the stand of giant thuja trees. Fireflies. Or as my New England mother always called them, June bugs.

Bursting on the scene in late-June and lighting up the night sky all throughout July, fireflies welcome us to summertime with an invitation to linger outdoors. They beckon us to slow down and watch. Will we notice the wonders of our incredible earth? She is filled with delicate ash leaves mighty enough to block the sun’s rays, and tiny insects powerful enough to light up the inky sky of a summer night.

What do the trees and fireflies know of suffering?

We have endured another long winter of exile. The isolation, grief, and fear brought on by long months of pandemic living have marked us. During these long months we have also known other trials and heartaches, some spoken, many left tucked secretly inside. We have been schooled in our own frailty as well as our own resilience. Hard seasons have their way of kneading these lessons deep into the clay of our beings.

The people of Israel also knew times of exile and were given this promise by the prophet Isaiah to assure them their exile would not last forever.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

Today, the trees clapped a message of hope for me, echoing last night’s song illuminated by the light of a hundred tiny fireflies. The God who fashioned this world out of nothing is still here. He is still at work making old ash trees dance and fireflies light up the sky. If the trees and the fireflies still bow before him, surely, we can trust our exile won’t last forever.

The whole world shouts praise and brings the Creator glory. Can you hear their song of joy?

Hope and peace are waiting here for you. Just open your eyes.




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