Baltimore Sun

What, that? It's just the everyday, ordinary amazing

A young lady from Florida came to visit me with my friend, her Aunt Phoebe, a couple of weeks ago and reminded me of things I take for granted.

No, not snakes, like the ones Phoebe's got swimming in her pool outside Orlando. She says they're harmless black water snakes that aren't even thinking about the swimmer. "I get out as many as I can," she promised for my next visit. "But leave them alone and they'll leave you alone."



And not like the baby copperhead I surprised while topping off some annuals in my side yard last month.


No, we're talking about fireflies. Lightning bugs. Beetles that flash helter-skelter through the night. Insects that dance in the dark and blend in the world after a hard day's night. All together now: She'd never seen fireflies before, and she was in awe.

Since they've left, I've checked online to see whether these little buggers live anywhere in her area, and the answer seems to be mostly no, although some bloggers claim an occasional sighting of a tiny blinking yellowish-green light when dusk turns to night. Depends on which blogosphere you're on.

Blink blink, the girl went, her eyes opening and closing in unison with the childhood delight of anyone who has grown up in Maryland.

"We would gently catch these in our hands or put them in a jar for a little while," said her aunt, explaining how catching fireflies was one of the joys of a Maryland summer. "We wouldn't keep them long. Wanna try it?"

The girl romped on my street, cupped her hands and effortlessly caught a bug. She peered into her hands and gave an amazed, "Wow!" as it went hello-goodbye, hello-goodbye.

Her joy was akin to that of a German friend who, when walking home from a village center through the woods told me to hush. "Quiet!" he said to me, and I, of course, obeyed. "Listen to that," he said, and I did, wondering what on earth was wrong with him.

"That's the sound we hear in American movies," said Helmut, taking in the raucous songs of crickets and tree frogs. "I always thought they were sound effects."

But the nighttime sounds are not the only pieces of normalcy I've taken for granted and have seen through others' eyes. A niece from Michigan loves our spring forsythia and plays a game using the golden plant. In the car, whoever yells "forsythia" first, when spotting one, gets a point, and at the end of the drive, the winner gets a treat, which I provide.


And last October, another friend and family from Germany were astonished at the gray squirrels that grace our lives with their scampers. The few squirrels in their northern region are red. Every time they saw one of ours, they pointed and yelled, "Squirrel!," which, for me, became somewhat daunting the 500th time. I adjusted, however. I managed. And in short order, I found myself doing the same. However, I have to note that yelling "forsythia" or "squirrel" makes for a very loud automobile.

I enjoy the discoveries of others. Through their eyes I see a different world from my ordinary one. The everyday things I take for granted fills them with a sense of adventure in discovering what my world has to offer, no matter how small.

Their joys take me back to my own childhood. A child catching a firefly throws me back to my neighborhood pack bringing jars out of our houses to hunt lightning bugs, like Tarzan, sort of. I was always Jane.

Last week, at a girls' camp in Catonsville, I made an allusion to Tarzan. The girls had never heard of him. "Is Tarzan related to Jay-Z?" asked the one who wants to be a paperback writer.