I grew up north of Dallas Texas in a suburbia hell called Plano: a concrete, strip mall jungle devoid of nature and trees beyond the contrived and manicured ones. When I married an Airforce pilot and escaped to Minnesota, Mississippi, Colorado, California and then Illinois, I learned how much I needed nature.
Fast forward twenty years and on my second marriage, we moved just south of Huntsville, Alabama to a small valley community where the foothills surrounding it signal the beginning of the Appalachian mountain range.
Home. My cells sighed in relief.
Soon after moving to Alabama, my troubled second marriage ended. And I found myself, like so many other Americans, uninsured. I was able to get my blood pressure medicine online but not the Clonazepam prescription that I have always used for my anxiety. When my dad died suddenly in the 90’s, my panic attacks began, and since then my anxiety had been an always present force in my life.
I turned to the woods.
Every single day, I would go to one of the half a dozen locations around me and spend a minimum of twenty minutes amidst the trees.
If only more people knew this, “Take twenty quiet minutes in nature.” Repeat.
At the end of the twenty minutes, the world has shifted back into place. Some days, I don’t think it’s working but when I skip days, I notice.
Ahhh. Nature. I get it. I need it.
The woods may suit me here, but I am not sure about the city. After moving around to so many places, I have realized that locations have definitive flavors, and Huntsville is not quite mine. With its omnipresent army military complex overtones (it is home to Redstone Arsenal, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile command and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command), it’s understandably not quite open-minded, accepting and quirky enough for me. I mean, sheesh, it doesn’t even have a decent vegan restaurant.
And so I look towards the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are just east of me, and I decided a couple of years ago to look for land there.
It took me almost a year to find the land and was quite the solo adventure. I was always alone on these trips, and navigating the area was quite a challenge. Several extreme panic attacks, getting my short Toyota Camry Hybrid stuck on a dirt road on the side of a mountain amidst the trees, pine needles accumulated under my tires, getting lost and finding myself on a cold, windy, icy day at the top of a 4000 foot mountain, each trip, I pushed my comfort level and asked, ‘please, let me in.’
And most times, the answer was a resounding ‘No.’ But it still called me. And I kept going back.
And I found it. That day I was with my visiting, college going, nature-loving son which was fitting and made me happy to pull up to my ten unrestricted acres complete with a Bog and feel a resounding, YES. This is it.
And so I bought it.
Now I am the proud Land Steward of ten acres on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina just north of Blue Ridge. I go once a month to explore and listen to what I should do with the Land.
I have put a 12×16 shed (aka cabin) on the Land, and last weekend, my newly found boyfriend/Partner/love of my life (everything is falling into place for me lately) and I headed there.
We were sitting out by the fire, and it had just gotten dark. And both of us saw this white light happily zoom down the hill towards us. I thought fox or other small critter at first, but it moved quickly and soundlessly. And it was not a pair of eyes, it was just one steady light.
We looked at each other and shrugged and went inside.
Where, out the window, going up the 100 foot hill, we proceeded to get a light show of these lights. Well, he did. Not me. I saw one more, and that was enough for me. I closed my eyes. I saw him looking out the window and he asked once or twice, ‘what do you think those are?’
They are not fireflies as they are not blinking. But they are zooming around, flying everywhere. This way and that. Up and down the hill. Past the window.
‘Don’t know. Be quiet. I’m going to sleep.’
And I did.
We asked a neighbor the next morning who looked at us as if we were crazy.
Fairies. Will o’ wisps. Bog lights. These thoughts were going through my mind.
When I got home, I started researching online and found an answer: blue ghost fireflies. They are only found in a two week period in the Smokey Mountain area of the US. They are a unique type of firefly with a constant glow that the males fly a foot above mature forest floors attracting their mates.
There are tours arranged to see this unique beautiful sight of a lighted night forest.
And I missed it.
Because I was scared.
Now that I know what they were, I want to return and see this amazing sight.
But by the time I am able to return, I will have missed that window this year.
And I cannot get it out of my head that I missed this because I was scared. Because my brain did not want to entertain the possibility of something ‘unknown’ that did not have an accepted ‘this is what it is,’ so I shut my eyes.
How many times in my life have I shut my eyes and not seen because I did not have a definitive ‘this is what it is?’
Let’s say these lights were something supernatural or otherworldly. Would shutting my eyes make them go away? No.
To embrace and look at life eyes wide open even if we do not have an answer. That is the trick, isn’t it.
10 thoughts on “Blue Ghosts: Are you Closing Your Eyes to the Mysteries of Life? by Caryn MacGrandle”
I actually have an odd experience that your tale reminds me off. I haven’t written about it out of fear of ridicule. But your post is so soothing. I can’t wait to read more of your posts. It’s like a mental massage.
Thank you for the kind words MiamiMagus. I would love to hear your tale.
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It’s kind of a long story. Don’t know where I should begin.
I normally just start writing and see where it wants to lead me. :) Feel free to email me. Admin at the df app .com
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Df App? Is that a web site?
Hello Caryn, I do hope you get to see the whole light show of your blue ghost fireflies. What a wonderful environment you live in now. Yes, I do agree with you that fear often stops us from seizing the moment, but at the same time, without this emotional response, we would not know when we are in danger and there are times when we do have to take the flight option as quickly as possible. In less extreme circumstances, somewhere inside us, there is an awareness that knows the difference, and I must confess that sometimes I forget to tune into that myself, so thanks for reminding me. I have, however, discovered that placing my left hand on my heart, concentrating on my breath, and then asking that my mind receive wisdom from that place slows me down, creating a calm center from which I can make a decision. I find simple but meaningful personal rituals can make life easier when there is no tangible threat. Your ritual about where to live has found you the right home.
Iona, very good point! And very good personal ritual! I intend to try.
Love your story Caryn. Myself I’ve also been doing the dance between needing certainty and being more comfortable with the unfamiliar. I think as we become more comfortable with the unfamiliar we expand our personal growth, our risk taking abilities, to be able to take those necessary leaps of faith that’s sometimes necessary to hear and listen to that voice inside that gives us our next step. Sounds like you’re well on the way of your journey. So much growth, expansion you’re incorporating your life. BRAVA!
Thank you Karen. I think so many of us at this juncture are incorporating that growth and expansion. So Grateful to you Karen and the work you have done and are doing.