Finding Time for Life's Tiny Blessings

Finding Time for Life's Tiny Blessings

A swarm of bright little bugs inspire a busy mom to recall what's important in life.

Jennie Ivey and her husband George are awed by fireflies

“You look stressed,” my husband, George, said, peering over my shoulder as I typed furiously on my laptop. The glare of the computer screen was hurting my eyes, but I had a newspaper column to finish, plus some changes in a book I was writing due to my editor soon.

I barely had the time for either between making health-care arrangements for my elderly mother and staying on top of our three teenagers’ jam-packed schedules. Stressed? I guess you could call it that.

“Well, I’ve got just the thing for you,” George said. “Firefly season is here, and guess what? Elkmont Campground had a cancellation. I nabbed the campsite for us. We can get away from it all.”

An impromptu camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains? Really? “You actually want to load up all that stuff and head for the woods?” I asked.

There had been a time when I would have been psyched about a weekend in the Smokies. We live in middle Tennessee, just a couple of hours away from the nation’s most-visited national park, and had spent many happy weekends there when the kids were young.

We took wildflower hikes in the spring and basked in the beauty of the changing leaves in the fall. We waded through cold streams and hiked mountain trails, and encountered the occasional black bear. But we hadn’t been back to the park in years. Who had the time?

Firefly season was the one thing we’d never witnessed. Of the more than 170 species of fireflies in the United States, Photinus carolinus , the ones that appear in the Smoky Mountains in early June are unique.

They’re the only species in this hemisphere that synchronize their flashing light patterns. For two weeks every summer, the fireflies put on a show. Then they’re gone.

George persisted. “We’ve always wanted to see the fireflies. Now’s our chance.”

I turned away from the computer and rubbed my eyes. “Well, I suppose I can bring my laptop...”

The kids opted out. “I’ve got my summer job,” our 19-year-old reminded us. “I have plans with my friends,” our 18-year-old protested. “I can’t miss my baseball game,” said our 16-year-old.

George wasn’t having any of my excuses though. Thursday night we loaded our pickup truck with camping essentials. Groceries. Sleeping bags. Firewood. Raingear. Flashlights. The list went on and on.

Could this trip possibly be worth all the trouble it took to get ready for it? Please, Lord, I begged, my stress level is going through the roof! Make sure I have time on this trip for my e-mail, my work...the important things.

We arrived at the campground near Jakes Creek early on Friday morning and spent the next couple of hours hauling water and gathering kindling. The second we finished, I rifled through my purse for my cell phone.

It had been hours since I’d checked my messages. The illustrations for my book had been all wrong and I’d been going back and forth with my editor. I finally found the phone and flipped it open. No service!

Well, at least I could check my e-mail. No, I couldn’t. No Wi-Fi in the wilderness. It had been so long since I’d gone off the grid that I’d forgotten what getting away from it all really meant. I was marooned.

I opened my laptop to do some writing. It wouldn’t turn on. I forgot to charge it! Of course there were no outlets at the campsite. I put it away. So much for the important things I had to do.

It was a weird feeling, having nothing to keep me busy or even distracted. How was I going to fill the time until darkness fell?

Too bad I hadn’t brought my iPod. Or that stack of magazines I’d been meaning to read. Or at least brought the bank statement along so I could balance the checkbook.

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