ECSTATIC FIREFLIES | DIAN PARKER

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“Did you know raindrops are not teardrop-shaped, like they draw in cartoons? Small raindrops are nearly spherical. Larger ones are flattened at the bottom like a hamburger bun. Large ones are like parachutes. That’s how it can rain fish and frogs ‒ they sail down on rain parachutes.” I laugh.  “No, it’s true. In 1998 in London it rained frogs. And it’s rained fishes in India and New Jersey.” He looks out the window. “Only hamburger buns out there now.”

I said, “I hope we get turtles.”

Escaping T’s magnetic pull, I walk, with my notebook, out to the far field to write. Two white lawn chairs sit side by side in tall grass. Two solitary forms in a sea of green. A few nights ago we’d brought them here to watch the sunset. We’d sat with our shoulders touching, wrapped in long black, polar fleece capes (that we used to meditate in). Now the sight of the empty chairs arouses my love for him. Every little thing does. Two baby pampas grass he planted beside a circle of stone. A new pine bookcase he made for me as a surprise. How he carefully measured and hung my grandmother’s mirror on the wall. A magazine story he leaves open for me to read that had brought tears to his eyes. I only read one page and have to put it down. Is it because it’s well written? Because he was moved by it? I don’t know anything anymore.

I finally sit myself down and start to write. I only get in ten minutes before there’s rustling in the trees. His black cat followed me here but the sound is too big for the cat. The sound gets louder and closer. Maybe it’s an elk or deer. I decide to be still and wait. Eventually I hear voices, a man and a woman. I try to keep writing.

They don’t see me but I finally get a glimpse of them through the trees. I call out, “Hello!” He spins around awkwardly. “What are you doing?” I ask, trying to sound friendly. He’s carrying a white bucket with a handle.

“We’re collecting mushrooms.”

“But this is private land,” I said. Isn’t this a kick! Here I am wearing T’s pajamas. In the middle of the afternoon. In T’s field. Receiving guests! Suddenly the edge of the forest has turned magical. Two white chairs alone in a swath of green. Two strangers out of the woods carrying two white buckets filled with mushrooms. What else does this day have for me?

The man steps gingerly out of the trees and stands respectfully a few feet away. “May I show you the mushrooms?” I nod happily. He comes over and kneels at my feet. He opens the lid of the bucket. Slowly and carefully he opens the lid. I am aware how tenderly he opens the lid and return the tenderness. “Oh, they are beautiful,” I said. Tiny wrinkled caps in a deep chocolate color. “Where did you find them?”

“Under your big cottonwoods. Camille, come show the lady your morels.”

Another apparition appears. He’s in his fifties; she no more than thirty. Around his neck is a beaded, bone necklace. Both her ears hold one ornate silver earring. Her hair is dyed carrot orange. His hair is white and hangs past his shoulders. They’re wearing torn jeans. She has on a little tie-dye tee shirt that exposes her belly. I wonder if she might be cold.

“We’ve been coming here every spring for years. I confess.”

“Oh?”

“May we have permission to come next year and pick the mushrooms?”

I hesitate. Can I give permission?  “I’ll have to ask my partner first.”

They shake my hand and he introduces himself. “I’m Joe and this here is Camille.” She never speaks. He gives me his phone number and says to call him if it’s okay.  “I’ll not damage any plants. I’m only after the morels.”

I suspect he sells the mushrooms and say that. “I confess again. I sell them to fancy restaurants. And we eat them too. Don’t we, Camille?” She nods her head and looks down. She reminds me of the young deer that come to this field. I ask how they cook the morels. “Oh, fry ‘em up with butter, just like onions.”

They both thank me, she once, he many times. We say goodbye and they tenderly leave the way they came, back into the woods. Now I’m so full of this new story that if it weren’t for the early spring day and the tiny chirping birds all around me, I’d run back to the house and through a thousand kisses tell him about the mushroom hippies.

I stare up into tall trees and clear, blue sky. Two crows fly past, complaining in their insistent way. I laugh out loud but can’t contain myself any longer. As slowly as I can, I make my way back to his house. I want to look into those bright blue eyes, to kiss that lovely smile, to drink a glass of clear, cold water. I want to surprise him with this unexpected story because I know he will find it as magical as I do. I want to bring magic to him, tenderly and carefully. I want to have the grace to trespass in tenderness. Like the mushroom people, I want to kneel down in front of him and lift the lid to love. 

A few weeks later, late at night, we walk along a dirt road. The sky is awash in galaxies. All around, we see blinking lights. Hundreds of twinkling fireflies, matching the luminosity of the stars. Above and below are zillions of shimmering lights.

I ask T. if there is anything I can give him.

He said, “Yes. A planet. A lovely planet with eight moons reflected in your eyes.”

DIAN PARKER’S writing has been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. She writes essays, short stories, novels, color essays, art reviews and features, and often writes about the natural world. Parker ran White River Gallery, curating twenty exhibits, before the pandemic forced her to close. Parker’s travels have taken her to Morocco, Syria, Sinai, Jordan, Mexico, Greece, Turkey, throughout Europe and the U.S. Currently she lives in the hills of Vermont surrounded by forests and wildlife. In the wilds she has learned through surrender, love, and long hours of stillness, that everything is interconnected. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, she has long been studying writing with her mentor and friend, Baron Wormser.

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