Nancy Roman

Dimming The Ground Lights

A few years ago – at this same time of the year, my husband and I went out rather late at night to relax in the hot tub. We went out through the garage, and our path to the patio was well-lit by the motion-detector light that was activated when we opened the garage door.

We were enjoying the contrast of warm water and the cool night air. The night was beautiful and quiet. And because we were so still in the shadow of the garage, the motion detector shut off the light.

We were in pitch darkness. Until we weren’t.

Our eyes adjusted to the darkness. The backyard and the woods around us lit up.

With Fireflies.

They were everywhere. Hundreds. Twinkling in the blackness.

It was breathtaking.

And if the light had stayed on, we never would have seen it.

I’m reminded of this fortunate spectacle today, because tonight is dark and quiet and as I walked the dog, I heard the coyotes in the distance.

And I’m aware of how much we miss because of the ground lights.

We are overwhelmed with stimuli.

Lights. Sounds. Too much video. Too much audio.

And they overpower the simple things that touch the heart.

So I am contemplating a few of the singular things that have awed me when I have turned down the volume, turned off the lights, and payed attention.

* When I was a little girl, I remember a day at the beach where I found myself lying all alone on the blanket. All the noises of the other kids playing seemed to fade away as the feeling on the sun on my skin became the only sensation in my body. I became aware of how my brain was connected to each spot on my skin. I could think about my right collarbone for example, or my left shin, and I could feel the hot sun on the exact spot I thought about. I was totally amazed at how precisely I could single out each cell of my skin. I think it was the first – but not the last – time I realized how miraculous my brain is.  (I still do that when I am lying in the sun – it’s ecstasy.)

* For me, one of the pleasures in a restaurant – (and please, please, give me a quiet restaurant) – is the simple luxury of a soft cloth napkin on my lap. The touch of it to my lips. And the crazy thing is – it’s so easy to do this at home too. Why in the world do I eat every meal at home with a paper napkin by my side? This is my new half-year resolution: real napkins. A blissful small kindness to my face. (And less waste.)

* The very concept of an orchestra is a marvel. What a genius a composer must be to take all those instruments and make them come together in such powerful harmony. Like taking chaos and creating world peace. But what moves me more – what enchants my soul – is the single instrument. Quiet down, all you resounding symphonies! Give me the lone clarinet in the early morning. The melancholy cello as the sun goes down. I am a soloist at heart.

* Today I paid my weekly visit to my mother. As usual, I did her laundry while I was there. As I was putting her things in the washer down in her cellar, I could hear her footsteps above me. Is there a sweeter sound in a quiet house than hearing the footsteps of someone you love? And what pleasure I find in folding her still-warm clothes. I love smoothing her shirts and nightgowns and towels – touching the items she touched and will touch again tomorrow.

* The whole world should stop when a baby laughs. And that smile! Did you ever notice that babies smile with their mouths wide open? Their openness is the full measure of their joy. But mostly when adults smile, we just turn up the corners of our closed mouths. How many years did it take us to learn to temper our joy?

I am going out now to turn out the lights and wait for the fireflies.



Photo:  Jerry Lal, creative commons usage through Flickr


  1. Nancy, thank you for returning me to a place of simple pleasures. I recently set my table and used cloth napkins. My girlfriends were hesitant to use them. the next time I will remind them to enjoy the touch of the cloth and to think about how much they must mean to me.


    • I think cloth napkins are an underrated pleasure. And so easy to indulge.


    • Great post…and yes, simple pleasures are the best. Have been using cloth napkins for a few years and it is great. Recently bought napkin rings and it adds another level of grace.


  2. All nice, but that paragraph about your Mom’s laundry hit home……


    • I just love doing my mother’s laundry. My own laundry is drudgery, but hers is a joy.


  3. Nice article, wow!


  4. This is lovely. Absolutely lovely. Especially about your mom’s laundry. I can feel the warmth and the love.


    • Sometimes my sister and I argue over who gets to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Visiting my mom was a great experience after driving six hours. She was always sitting in the kitchen waiting for me with the light on. I always stopped and got some ofvher favorite food. We would eat and go to bed. The next day I would clean the house and do her laundry. I miss my Mom more than I ever thought possible. She has been transitioned for almost nine years. Cherish the times you spend with your parents. It will be among your best memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mother is 93 now. I love her more every day.


  6. Hello Nancy,
    That was lovely to read.
    I’m with you completely about the orchestra! I love to hear them tuning up and then the tap tap of the conductors baton to still them before they start. When you hear all the audience chatter fade to nothing and then whoosh the performance begins. For me simply magical.
    Rae x


  7. Wonderful post. One of my favourite ‘activities’ is to just sit quietly in my yard and listen to the silence. There are moments (some short; some longer) when there is no traffic (we’re in the country), no people, no noises beyond the birds singing and the whisper of the wind through the trees. It’s miraculous (so are fireflies – on the solstice, we built a fire in the firepit and sat outside; at dusk, dozens of fireflies started blinking off and on in the forest. It was the first time my husband had seen fireflies, so it was a very special experience, and one we’ll repeat often during the summer months).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fireflies are just magical – how do they DO that????


      • I had one land on my lap once and it was soooo cool to see its little wings lying over its glowing ‘globe’. It’s surely one of nature’s miracles!


  8. Thanks for this lovely post! And I agree that we are beset with too many noises, lights, and distractions these days. They drown out the simple beauty that is all around us. This morning, we awoke to discover that our elderly house dog had an accident overnight. After cleaning it up, we opened all the windows for for obvious reasons. (This time of year, we usually keep them closed and the AC on.) All morning long, I’ve been marveling at the things I can hear through the open windows…the birds chirping, the sound a neighbor walking out her door, even a car driving by… just the simple sounds of our neighborhood. The sounds and the smell of the hot summer air remind me of my childhood!

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of my favorite “hobbies” is to lie on a lounge chair on our open patio. I am pretending I am reading a book – but mostly I am just listening to the birds and the breeze. And pretty soon I am asleep.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ray G

    When we had our house in VT, your mom and dad visited it once for a weekend. They were witness to thousands (not hundreds) of fireflies, presumably during the height of the firefly mating season. Ask her about it; she frequently mentions it (of course, only when a conversation leans that way).


    • Susan

      We could sit in the backyard at the old house on Center St and see fireflies (not thousands or ever hundreds), and of course try to put them in jars. In the middle of the city – it was a nice change. All of us kids out back – all the grownups on the porch out front. I miss those times when we were all together.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly will ask her about that night.


  10. wow! As usual your words have hit a chord in my heart that has made my breath catch. Thank you for the thoughts, the feelings and the peace that has come from this. As I watch our fireflies, or lightening bugs (as I called them as a child), I will think of your words. ❤ Cathi


  11. If you switch to cloth napkins, don’t worry about folding them. We use them almost exclusively, and every laundry I’d dutifully fold them. Husband and granddaughter couldn’t be bothered, so I put a pretty basket in the dining room and toss them in there. We just grab a clean one when we need it. If you must fold it, fold in in your own lap. Also, cheap kerchiefs from hobby stores make great everyday napkins, especially when they’re washed and faded to softness.


    • Great advice! My husband thinks I am a little nuts for wanting cloth napkins at every meal, but he thinks I am a little nuts anyway!


  12. jono51

    The part of country living that I like is the quiet and absence of light pollution. There is so much to hear and see.


    • We moved to the country thirteen years ago. We couldn’t imagine how much we would love it!


  13. Such treasured images this brings to mind!


    • The world is full of pleasure and beauty if we just stop to notice it.


  14. These are beautiful thoughts that have reminded me to slow down and savour life rather than rushing from one thing to the next as I tick imaginary boxes in my mind. Thank you.


    • There is so much out there that we just don’t notice because we are too “busy”. I am trying very hard to slow down and see and hear the beauty in small things.


  15. A great reminder for me to pay attention to the world around me. There is so much beauty in the world, but it is easy to get lost in thought instead of noticing it all. I think savoring these moments makes for a happier life!


  16. Christine

    When I was in school, perhaps high school or junior high, I forget which, I wrote a poem that was actually just a sort of stream of consciousness, describing all the sounds I was hearing at the time. I think I didn’t know what to write so I wrote what I heard. I think the TV was on, probably showing the evening news which my dad would watch each evening, it was snowing gently outside and the occasional car driving by would drive very slowly and it would make that crunchy sound that cars make in the snow. My dog was lying on the floor, every once in a while heaving a big sign, my mom was washing dishes and I could hear a faint clatter coming from the kitchen. I described all these things and ended with “it is here that I find my peace” – I received an A, it ended up being a simple solution to an assignment I thought was hard. Tonight I was slightly irritated by a little bug, the kind that can’t fly very well and flies around irregularly like a butterfly, but I was not in the mood to get rid of it. Then Tippy started chasing it, climbing over chairs trying to get near it. He was having so much fun, so I can’t bear to do away with the bug. The bug shall live to see another day.


    • Christine

      Cindy was heaving a sigh, not a sign – I think you figured that out.


  17. Reblogged this on The Writing Wave.


  18. This piece is a thing of beauty, Nancy! It hit home in many ways and actually calmed me down for the first time in a week. It took me back to when I lived at the beach and would lie on my bed listening to the water at night. It was my instant calming device.



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