Jesse Gall

Posts Tagged ‘fireflies’

The Longest Day Of Summer

In Holidays on June 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Thousands Celebrate The Summer Solstice

If today seemed like it would never end, like the sun was beating down on you in a particularly horrific fashion; if the toils of the day extended in front of you like a growing desert and the hours stretched and stretched, never fear! You don’t have heat stroke, the day was actually longer than normal. At 1:16 ET in the afternoon, the surface of the earth was titled 23.4 degrees toward the sun, the North pole facing the sun more today than any other day of the year.  Uh. Yeah. So the sun was out a lot today.

Some interesting facts about the summer solstice.

1. Because it’s summer solstice here, it’s winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Wow. Logic does tend to be the most accurate predictor of weather these days.

2. The moon during the summer solstice is called a “Honey Moon,” referring to the fermented honey mead that was traditionally served during weddings that were celebrated on the summer solstice. A Honey Moon? To celebrate a wedding? Wait, I don’t get it.

3. Pagans used to hold bonfires to celebrate the summer solstice, couples jumping through the fire together. They believed that the height of their jump through the flames would be directly related to the height of their crops for that year. You know that makes sense. I have always heard that the world’s first basketball players were Pagan corn farmers.

Whether you are Pagan or not, the power of the sun is undeniable. It’s absence and presence plays a notable role in our emotional processes and it brings an energy that is unparalleled and unsurpassed. Beating with life and warmth, the sun is the heart of organic life and everything we know. Take stock in the holiday if you want, call it nonsense and see if I care. But if nothing else, take this opportunity to be thankful. Thank your creator, thank nature, thank whatever you believe in. Just be thankful and blessed. The sun is shining.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

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Exit Waiting and The Escape Code

In Humor, thoughts on June 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

There is one thing you can count on when you come to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge: you will wait in lines. Like sheep being herded off a mountain, people spend a majority of their time here just waiting. We wait with excitement for a roller coaster. We wait with wonder before the circus. We wait with frustration for the person in front of us at the buffet to step away from the macaroni and cheese we’ve been thinking about for four days. We wait and we accept that we wait. It is a part of life.

The tourism and attractions in Gatlinburg provide a main stage for the dance of waiting, putting it on display like a show. It’s unavoidable, seeing just how much we wait when you live in a town with filled with queue rails, riddled with traffic. But Jesse, what’s the big deal with lines? And haven’t we all read this column before? In about five hundred other places? What’s that you’re beating, Jesse? Is that a dead horse?

It might be, if I hadn’t gotten stuck in line for an hour and a half trying to get a trolley home from seeing the Elkmont fireflies. Fireflies are great and all, but, seriously, tectonic plates have moved faster than that line. Irritated at the Never Ending Line Of Glacial Speeds, I let my mind wander a little bit. Why was I so mad at this line? I just spent seven hours waiting in line to see the fireflies, and now I feel like I’d rather mulch in the rain than wait another hour. The logic didn’t make sense.

Could it be that the only thing we pursue with more vigilance than our own amusement, is a quick way to leave that amusement. Fans leave football games early to beat the traffic, despite waiting in line outside in the parking lot for hours. Throngs of people all pour out of venues, pushing each other rudely, all the time getting grumpier and grumpier, in the hopes to leave before everyone else. Valet was practically invented to fulfill this need.

Am I missing something? Does the person who leaves the earliest get a trophy or something? I don’t think so, otherwise I’d have at least two for the times I tried to go see Paul Haggis movies. Blech. But why, then, do we leave so rapidly and get so frazzled when we are forced into Exit Waiting.

Perhaps it’s in our human nature, to escape. Perhaps there is a code nestled in our cranial folds that forces us to flee as soon as we have satiated whatever particular thirst was tickling us in that moment. The Escape Code. We run from stadiums or blinking fireflies, and we do so with such vigor that any impetus results in flares of frustrations and rage. Unfortunately, the catch 22 is that the entertainment that draws that largest crowds also draws the largest exits.

There is only one way to avoid the horror of Exit Waiting. Be that guy who is always last to leave. People will think you’re annoying as gnats, but at least you’ll be happier.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

How To Treat The Out Of Doors – A Satirical Rant

In Humor on June 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

A frightening mentality scourges the cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, threatening to destroy the very values that define our American way: environmentalism. Beware! The mountains are littered with people who – hold on to something – care about the world they live in.

I don’t know what to do or where to turn. Everywhere I look, I see people recycling. Recycling! Can you believe it? I mean, right in front of me, just recycling like it’s no big deal. Like it’s the easiest thing in the world. How dare they! I mean you have a right to do whatever you want to do with your trash, but for goodness sakes just do it in private. I shouldn’t have to see that. What happened to the mindless waste and rampant consumption that defined the american life? What has this world come to?

The other day, I was tubing down the river and people were putting their cigarettes out in a plastic bag! A PLASTIC BAG! When there is a perfectly good river right there?! Unbelievable. That bag couldn’t have been used to freeze a whole dinner or carry an assortment of crafting items, but no, these environmentalist hooligans put their trash in it! How disrespectful.

I miss landfills and mining holes bored into mountains, when people didn’t think about pesky things like declining global resources or the stability of our entire ecosystem. It was almost as if there wasn’t a problem at all. I like those days! I miss those days! Bring back a time where our oceans weren’t depleting in front of our eyes and conservation only applied to making your liquor cabinet last an extra few days.

I do get rather worried about all this conservation and environmental go-green-hooplah, but then I realize that a majority of the world is on my side, gobbling up resources at a pace so rapid only blind denial could fuel it. I rest easy then, knowing that the environmentalists seem to stay in the mountains. Whenever I get anxious or shocked, I just remember that somewhere, at all times, something is being burned, chopped, poached, or extracted in the name of waste and then I sleep easy, remembering the American way.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Fireflies Like Flashbulbs Part Three

In The Mountains on June 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Where were we? Right, Gatlinburg. Sugarlands. Trolleys. Elkmont. Crossed a river. First firefly sighting.

I jumped back across the river, ecstatic to see the light show that had eluded me for so many days. I may have been too excited because on one of my more daring feats of river navigation, I slipped and fell into the river, butt first in between a few rocks. My foot slammed into a rock when I slipped, an excruciating pain throbbing from my big toe. I tried to shake it off because, well, I was sitting down in freezing mountain river water getting wetter and wetter every second. I stumbled not so gracefully back to the other side of the river, missing my sandals by a good twenty feet. Limping barefoot through the forrest, hoping none of these little green plants just happen to be poison ivy, I thought about how stupid the phrase “Walk it off!” was when it applied to foot injuries and then I made my way back to my shoes and then back to my camp.

It was about that time that I realized my shoe was very wet, specifically underneath my searing toe injuring.  You may have thought I was being dramatic about the toe. Nope. I looked down to see my big toe nail cracked in half, right down the middle making two cabinet doors out of my toe, blood spilling out onto my shoe and the path. I was leaving a small bloody trail. It was at this moment that I imagined a large bear twenty miles away, deciding he could use a snack after getting a whiff of that human that just slowed himself down. But Jesse, bears don’t just attack people! Um, have you seen The Edge??? If you haven’t, you should. Alec Balwin. Anthony Hopkins. A guy from Lost. Man-eating Kodiak bear. Brilliance.

Anyway, one of my friends saved the day with some BandAids and a pack of ice, so all was well as I finally sat down in my chair to see the show. It was about 9:00 in the middle of June and it was starting to look like Christmas. Five lights blink six times, all at the same time, floating just above the river, dancing will-o-the-wisps. Looking across the path I see four or five more of the flies, bobbing through the vegetation, blinking a dim blue light so faint it might not even be there. Like a wish forgotten.

It was then that the flashlights came back in the form of five ten year-olds, lying on their backs staring into the trees, lights pointed up like spotlights. I now have an undying hatred for flashlights that may never subside. You see, their pesky gazing flashlights kept falling, beams of red light assaulting my vision every ten seconds. I’m lucky I don’t hate ten year-olds now.

One of the girls in my group decided to be my hero and play light police, as she strolled over and politely asked them to turn their lights off or stop shining them in our faces. They actually stopped too. Who knew the best way to get a ten year-old to do something was to ask nicely?

When their lights finally clicked off, the fireflies were full swing. With this particular breed, the females sit on the ground, watching the sky for the best and brightest, quite literally. See, the males fly around above, flashing like an organic telegraphing system, blinking quickly six times in a row before disappearing into darkness for eight seconds. That’s what makes these fireflies so synchronized. The males all blink their six blinks at once, and then for a short time, the forest is empty in darkness. Not a light or a flash.

Then, like firing neurons, the forest is ablaze with sparkles and stars. Like looking into space, at lights so wondrous you ask yourself if they are even really there. The flies bounce like celestial yo-yos, kissing the world, gushing their pheromones into the damp and electric air, each fly competing for a nod from the female audience under the canopy. A morse code of awe, thousands of fireflies linger and gesture lambently.

Then, like it was never even there, it stops. Eight seconds of anticipation fill the space and you can almost forget there is a forest at all. You can sit there and stare into the darkness with such a rich and bridled expectation that you lose sight of the environment entirely. All there is, all there can be, is waiting. Waiting for the flashbulbs because for one second, when the first light flickers, signaling all the others to commence their illustrious illumination, it is possible to forget everything but those lights. Like cameras in an arena, they explode all at once and they are all that is. There is no worry, no concern, no anxiety, just unadulterated organic beauty at its best and most unleashed. Unfettered and free, this phenomenon is beyond any individual, forcing out any ego, driving out any semblance of self, making room for a honest out-of-body humbling.

It is among the coolest things I have ever done and I will never forget it.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

A Tiny Taste…

In The Mountains on June 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I’m working away on the final part to the three-part firefly series, but while I am I thought I might throw you guys a bone and show you a picture of the kind of things that I saw.

I didn’t take this picture, as I don’t have thousands of dollars of camera equipment that allow me to take pictures in almost complete darkness. But if anyone would like to send me a tripod and a camera that can take ten minute exposures, I’m happy to accept donations. Anyway, I didn’t take this picture. But it’s a good one.

You’re welcome.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Fireflies Like Flashbulbs Part Two

In The Mountains, The South on June 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm

When last we left our four explorers, we were desperately searching for a good viewing spot. Rushing river on our  left and an intimidating forrest on our right, we plowed forward for what seemed like forever. It may have only been a few minutes of walking but as we all know I’m carrying heavy things. Distance is relative to the amount of stuff your totting. Duh.

Having been on the 6th trolley, five groups of viewers had arrived before us which left the best spots about a quarter a mile down the path, a fact I would later be thrilled about. Eventually, we found a clearing on the left, out of view of the path but overlooking the river. A perfect place for the blanket, chairs, and my exhausted legs. Never let it be said that fireflies don’t make you work for it.

After relaxing for a short minute, staring off into the reeds and rushing waters of the landscape, I decided to investigate the river a bit more. Leaving my shoes on the bank, I lowered my feet into the river and grabbed ahold of a protruding rock, crouching a bit comically like a frog. Slinking forward on all fours, never lifting more than one limb at a time, I crossed the currents and rapids, seeking the shallowest parts to hop through. After a Spiderman-like voyage, I found myself looking back across the river I just crossed, letting my thoughts wander in meditation.

Let me just say, that if you haven’t crossed a river recently, you should. There is something indescribable, a oneness that connects deeply and dances like a child with your spirit. There is so much force in the world, so much natural power, it becomes almost impossible to maintain any sense of ego. Yes, I crossed the river. But I did so with an understanding that in some way or another, the river let me cross. An undeniable amount of uncontrollable variables led to safe passage across that river. I began to see that truth in every journey and slowly felt an admission of smallness ripple through my mind.

The sun was beginning to set, red-wrapped flashlights clicked on, and as I looked across the river, through the gentle mist back to my resting shoes, I saw the faint flicker of the night’s first firefly.

To Be Continued

Until the end, the Mended Blend

Fireflies Like Flashbulbs Part One

In Humor, Local, The Mountains, Uncategorized on June 13, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I did it. I finally did it. Nature opened her doors to me and through the lens of the synchronous firefly Photinus carolinus she showed me a light show reminiscent the night scenes in James Cameron’s Avatar. Three days of failed efforts have paid off, as every piece finally fell into perfectly in place. Not to say it didn’t take some effort and take some time.

Arriving around four o’clock, we camped out and played cards, chasing shade for four hours in the parking lot of the Sugarlands Visitor Center before the trolleys finally started to roll in around 6:45. Hundreds of people began to fall into line as the six brown and red trolleys puttered in to take us away to the Elkmont area inside the Smoky Mountains National Park.

Packed like a New York subway car, the trolley snaked through the mountains for ten minutes before arriving at 555 Middle Of Nowhere Drive. You’ll know you’re there when a park ranger sitting at a folding table hands you a piece of red cellophane to tape over your flashlight. Why red cellophane you ask? The fireflies prefer mood lighting for their mating dance? No. Apparently, fireflies hate white light and  I can’t blame them because, quite frankly, I did too. It kills visibility and completely impairs anyone’s ability to see these finicky flies of fire! I, like a smart person, chose to forget my flashlight in the car. Others could learn from me. More on the evil flashlight-holders later.

Our fancy cooler rolling behind us like a piece of airport luggage, the four of us moved on down what I would call a slightly paved path. What I mean by “slightly paved” is that I’m very sure this particular path was paved at least once. Probably around the same time pavement was invented. Needless to say, our fancy cooler had become difficult to roll.

I digress. So I throw the obnoxiously bulky cooler over my shoulder and the four of us continued on, pushing forth into the forrest just as the sun began to give it’s first appearances at setting. It had started to fade, the light. But the electricity still roared. On the left, giant trees and a rushing river, quick with punchy little rapids and huge rocks undressed by a shallow tide. The water had fallen miles and miles away on a mountain somewhere, probably yesterday.

On the right of the path, the forrest extended into a green darkness as far as the eye could see. A horizon made completely of vegetation, a wall of ferns and weeds and flowers and trees formed with force, a forrest so complete it only broke to reveal the few  rundown tucked away private residences that rest here. They were dirty and haunched places, no regard for cosmetic considerations. I almost judged these dirty houses. I almost judged these people for how they live among the fireflies. What a thought.

TO BE CONTINUED

Until the end, the Mended Blend

I Will Be Smarter Than A Firefly Today

In The Mountains on June 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Twice now these finicky little creatures have thwarted my efforts to see them in their natural habitat away from the cabins of Gatlinburg. I keep getting so close to seeing the buggers only to watch the opportunity slip through my hands right in front of my face. I feel like the Susan Lucci of the Smoky Mountains. I suppose in this metaphor that would mean that the fireflies are Emmy trophies and I need this Emmy!

It is the last day to catch the bioluminescence this year, and I doubt there’s a single person in this state who is more driven to see them than I am. I am prepared. I have my camera and I have my lawn chair. That’s pretty much all you need. So I guess it didn’t take to long to get this prepared.

Anyway…

I’ve checked the weather and it looks like a storm today from about two in the afternoon until six. Let’s hope it comes early or not at all. It’s supposed to be 80 degrees and sunny from about seven until sunset. That should be enough time to allow the fireflies to get over their seemingly undying hatred of all things precipitative.

I will see nature’s flickering lamp!

You’ll have to excuse me, fireflies make me wax poetic.

That being said, if I don’t update too much today, worry not. A deluge of material to come tomorrow!