Today’s Savvy Saturday gives you a small snapshot into how my brain works.
Last night, a good friend and I were roasting marshmallows over a huge bonfire with her family. Her father was a master fire-builder: he had placed three log segments, each several feet wide and quite tall, on three of the sides of the fire. On the fourth side, he had lain entire dry branches from trees they had pruned with one end on the ground and the other end balanced over the large back log. In the middle on the ground were smaller logs that he had shoved in from the front.
By the time that we began roasting marshmallows, the fire roared red and hot, licking up the sides of the large logs, blazing yellow and blue along the tops of the longer branches, and turning the area in the middle into a furnace of bright coals. Constantly, red sparks shot up from the center of the fire and turned curlicues in the air before vanishing into the dark star-strewn sky.
Gazing at this, my story-telling brain kicked into gear.
“What would it be like,” I asked my friend, “if in another dimension – ”
“I like questions that begin ‘in another dimension,’” she broke in with a mischievous smile.
I grinned back. “In another dimension,” I continued, “what if the sparks shot up by fires like this were actually alive? Creatures of some sort? How would they view life, as they shoot upward from the fire that birthed them and dance for their few brilliant seconds on Earth?”
My friend considered this. “Good question,” she said. “But I don’t think they would die after they go out,” she said. “There would be two stages to their lives: the first bright, wild infancy stage, and the second calmer, wiser stage.”
That made sense. “They’d probably be some sort of helpful insect,” I agreed. “Firebugs. After their first wild dance of life, they’d settle down into a gray or brown form and would live in the soil, eating the dirt like earthworms and making it richer. They’d probably live for a few months.”
We watched the fire for another few seconds.
“I think, though,” I added, “when even old firebugs are threatened or made angry, they can revert back to their former stage for a few seconds. That way, they could burn anything that attacked them, and signal to their fellows that danger is at hand.”
“Ooh, real fireflies!” my friend exclaimed.
“And different woods would probably make different species of bugs,” I said.
“Of course,” she replied. “Some would probably burn brighter or longer, and some would be larger or smaller.”
“Some would probably fly mostly straight, while others would dance in loop-de-loops wherever they went. And they’d probably smell of their respective woods when they glowed.”
“Mmm,” my friend said, inhaling deeply of the scent of burning wood and closing her eyes.
“Children would probably go out and collect them in jars,” I said. “It would be a bit more dangerous than firefly hunting in this world – if you make the bugs mad, you could get hurt. But that wouldn’t stop young boys and girls from trying to fill a jar with real live sparks that would fly in curlicues for your amusement. And,” I added as an afterthought, “it would actually be helpful in the winter. They’d probably heat the jar they were in and help keep your hands warm. Kids in rural areas might have a winter job of collecting and jarring firebugs then selling the jars to cold passersby for a nickel or dime apiece.”
“I’d have done that when I was a kid,” my friend said.
We sat and watched the fire. The sparks continued shooting and circling upward, blazing fervently as if they knew they had but seconds to dance before they had to grow up.