Tag Archives: wild child

The Firefly Kids

From Thomas S., outside Chicago:

Many years ago, my brothers, friends and I ventured out almost every hot summer night into the wilds of Haynes Park in Wilmington, Delaware. Our mission was capturing fireflies for a neighbor, a DuPont chemist who helped crack the code of chemoluminescence that would eventually lead to glowsticks. The adults in the neighborhood affectionately called us “the firefly kids” but we considered ourselves “science adventurers” as we explored the wilds of our neighborhood city park. EDC-Glowsticks

The park was aglow almost every night. We came to know every square inch of it, and also  managed to find every poison ivy plant, discover every knee-skinning rock and get bitten by every mosquito. But we were supremely happy and we captured lots of fireflies. Even at such a young age, we were fascinated by their cold light, and tested whether their light gave off any heat by placing the bugs on our tongues. We had no fear because those lightningbugs were our friends and companions. Continue reading


Gathering Wonder – Dedication

For my parents –

They lived and loved together for nearly ninety years, and fed us wonder when we were very young.

Silent Sparks is dedicated to my mother and father, who lived to the venerable ages of 95 and 99, respectively. And they were five years old when they first met.

H&V 2010 vignetteThey showed me how to appreciate the natural world. I grew up a wild child, roaming free. I swam under sparkling waterfalls, wandered through mysterious hemlock forests, and slept beneath brilliant night skies. Early on, I got hooked on life’s diversity. They loved to learn about my scientific adventures with fireflies. So when I decided two years ago to write a popular book, they were especially delighted.


Author, capturing wonder (ca. 1956)


I’m writing this post during the darkest days of December. Just a few weeks ago, my Dad exhaled his last breath. He was ancient, but he was never old. He used his iPad to keep up on world news, and days before he died he completed the Sunday New York Times Crossword, in pen, as always. Dad Skyped daily with relatives and friends –  although scattered through space, these  lifelong friends showed up for daily  visits in his living room.

Though my parents will never get the chance to read Silent Sparks, I will remain eternally grateful to them for the gift of wonder. So that’s why I dedicated this book to them.