They walked together silently in the apple orchard that cool June night. It was a good season for the fireflies and the two wanderers were delighted at the wild profusion of scintillating, hovering living lights. As always, the beetles slowly converged in a space between the wanderers and the tops of the trees, aligning themselves and synchronizing their signals. In a few minutes their bioluminescent glow formed into a lambent quote, different from the ones on previous nights. Their lights spelled out “Thou shalt say a thousand things, and saying them a thousand times over, thou shalt still have said nothing.”
“Hawthorne?” asked the boy.
“Who else?” smiled the father. “That’s a pretty fine quote, don’t you think?”
“Well, for fireflies,” the boy grudgingly conceded. “They flash their lights to find a mate, don’t they?”
“So I’ve heard. I’ve also heard tell that they use their lights to attract prey.”
“Mates and prey: aren’t they one and the same? And the poor beetles go through all this trouble merely to die shortly afterward.”
“It’s their nature; but how beautiful they are while they’re here, despite the reason. To them it is a grim struggle for temporary survival or procreation, but to us their lights are things of intangible beauty. Things are always beautiful when you look at them from the outside, when you’re not the one involved.” The father smiled and studied his son from the corner of his eye. “And surely even you must agree that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.”
“So you say,” the boy muttered. “Yet so many others, they tell me love is like death and that death is nothing… but I don’t know what that means.”
“That’s all right,” the father said, putting his arm over his son’s shoulder and watching the fireflies leisurely disperse, “they don’t know what it means either.”
And father and son walked away into the darkening night.