Daily Archives: June 9, 2015

Can There be a Soundless Music?

fflies-Webster’s Dictionary defines music as ” vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” What if I remove the first part of the definition? Can there be a soundless music? Something that is combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression?I know some may find this challenging to understand, but I think this is a perfect description of Synchronous Fireflies.

It’s a symphony of light!

Have you heard of Synchronous Fireflies? They are special species of fireflies that can only be seen in a few places in the world. Amazingly, one of them is right here in western North Carolina–at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are tiny–the females barely the size of a grain of rice and not able to fly, the winged males only slightly larger.

Every June, for about the first two weeks of the month, this firefly lights up the night in spectacular fashion. Like Christmas lights that blink on, blink off, blink on, blink off, so that the blackness is pierced by hundreds of tiny yellow lights for several seconds and then all at once, they all turn off. Complete blackness. Perfect Synchronicity. Absolutely amazing…. and to me, a person who feels a deep intimacy with the natural world–a soundless music that fills my heart and makes my soul smile–in the same way music can. It is truly unlike anything in the world, and just about impossible to photograph. Sure, I have some shots of the tiny yellow lights, but this falls incredibly short of the emotions and sense of awe I feel when I am present to see the show.

This year I donned my backpack and hiked in 2 and a half miles to a campsite along the same river where all the people gather.  I wondered what I would see–whether or not the firefly show would be as impressive as in Elkmont. Well guess what? It was even better! Mostly because there were not 300 people –some with flashlights and loud voices and disrespectful attitudes.

I stood in the silence of the forest and was surrounded by this magic that brings tears to my eyes…. a soundless music that fills me up and leaves me with an incredible sense of awe. How do these insects do this? How do they communicate so perfectly? In utter blackness? In their presence I feel small.


One species of firefly

I highly recommend adding this to your Bucket List and then, more importantly, making time to actually GO. You need to plan in advance as the campground fills up and you are not allowed to drive as the road closes to all traffic except the trolleys. You can ride one from the Sugarlands Visitor Center for a small fee, but these too fill up quickly. To learn more, Click HERE, or to read more about magic in the night, click HERE or HERE. 

Check back tomorrow to read about 10 Things you Might Not Know about Fireflies.