Glow worms create stirring starry night

It was nearly 10 p.m. when Becky pulled into the driveway.

“You should see the stars,” she said as she rushed in from the garage, her eyes bright and excited. “The sky is clear and full.” I grabbed two flashlights, pulled on my boots and we walked out the front door. I don’t need much of a reason to look at the night sky.

It takes longer than it used to for our senior eyes to become sensitized to the dark, so we used flashlights and careful steps to find our way from the house to the crushed-stone driveway. Our night vision had adjusted by the time we walked out from under the canopy of trees and emerged into the open field near the road.

Even without the moon we could see the variations in the darkness that defined familiar landmarks and helped us find our way.

Becky was right. The sky was clear and full of stars.

One of the many blessings of living out in the country is a dark sky. If we look north and through the gap the road makes through the trees, we can see about 25 miles away a slight white glowing from greater Indianapolis.

The few neighbors around us rarely have their outdoor lights on, so mostly it is pure nighttime country darkness, a stargazer’s dream. When we got to the road, we looked up.

The Milky Way stretched a line faintly across the sky providing a fuzzy contrast to the sharp bright stars arrayed around us. At one time, I did reasonably well as an identifier of constellations, but that is a skill that I find needs to be rehearsed, and I have been out of practice for many years now.

Still, I recognized the W shape of Cassiopeia which I took as a happy coincidence since G-kid Atticus and I recently had been discussing Greek mythology in the context of his homework assignment.

Ah, Cassiopeia. Another of the many examples of human beings convincing themselves they are on a par with the gods and being punished for it. In your case, for your selfish egotism concerning your beautiful hair. You know, maybe I will track down my constellation book and do some reviewing.

As we were first walking out to stargaze we were aware of tiny lights here and there across the field and near the ground. I assumed they were fireflies (“Lightning bugs” is what we kids called them), but as we stayed out there we realized the lights weren’t flying around.

We also remembered it is September, after all, and lightning bugs are pretty much over for the season. We got down close to the ground to inspect and discovered we were seeing glow worms. Wow. The miracles never cease.

I have since learned that we weren’t totally mistaken about thinking they were lightning bugs. Glow worms, it seems, are firefly larvae. Female fireflies lay their eggs in moist soil after mating. Glow worms hatch from the eggs and feed until the end of summer. They overwinter and emerge in spring feeding on insects, worms and snails until they eventually transform into adults.

Then the cycle starts again. The miracles never cease.

Once we knew we were looking at glow worms, we saw them everywhere. Tucked between blades of grass, lighting the underneath a crumbled leaf, flickering on a dark tree root, glowing on a bare patch of dirt. They were scattered across the land like fallen stars.

After a while, we headed back to the house, back to our life inside, thankful for the stars and the glow worms. Thankful for the wonders of the night.