Fireflies, Tourists and Poverty

Yesterday I was walking through Tompkins Square Park and I saw my first firefly of the season. It made me smile and think of childish days, of chasing after fireflies in the night with my sister. It was vivid. And then I noticed the trees and all the leaves, the wet smell of the dirt, the flowers that had bloomed but were sagging under the absorbed water weight. And then I saw a man sleeping on a wet park bench. I am not sure I would have seen, I mean really seen, any of these things without the firefly.

I really love to travel. To see new things. New cultures. New adventures. Perhaps that is why my Mom thinks I am insane. I am going scuba diving in Antartica. Pretty crazy, but there are fireflies under that ice and I want to capture them in my mental jar. And tourism is wonderful because you look at everything with new eyes. Like a child. Everything is slightly different, strange, and strangely insightful. Your brain recognizes new patterns, has more to process, and it can be captivating. The trick is to get more than a cursory view, but to actually emerse yourself enough to see what really is going on.

As I walked through the park last night, I had long ago stopped seeing New York City with tourist eyes. I had long ago taken for granted Tompkins Square Park and the homeless people around me. And all at once, the firefly ignited a great sense of urgency, of fear even, that I am missing it. That I am walking past life, not through it. And so I am going to take a more active look around and explore. It is too easy to take things for granted and forget about the serious things, the things that bring meaning to our lives. Sometimes you need a tiny light in the dark to wake you up.