Thinking of you this sultry summer night, I see fireflies. When I was six, I darted from myMidwestern front porch to capture them in a mason jar, poking holes in the tin lid with my father’s can opener. I didn’t understand they might be dead by morning. All I cared about was the light. Wanting to chase it, capture it.
I’ve learned more since then. Fireflies produce a cold light, a luminescence without heat, to attract a mate or prey. You did both with flash and sparkle. Brilliant mind, dazzling smile, fiery touch—with you, I was six again, all chase and capture. Only caring about the light, not thinking about what might be dead by morning.
The first time I saw Caravaggio’s painting Conversion on the Way to Damascus I, like St. Paul, was thrown from my horse, struck dumb by the light. I was standing in front of the painting in Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. I’ve learned more since then, about the life of the body, the nature of light, and Caravaggio—how he prepared his canvases with a pigment from the powder of dried firefly wings. Like me, all he cared about was the light.