By Wordsmith Kathy Joy
Every summer, the woods and fields of Pennsylvania light up in a symphony of fireflies.
From the summer solstice into the second week of July, the twinkly wonders commandeer the forest for mating.
Our very own Allegheny National Forest is one of only a few places in the US where you can view the Synchronous Firefly; the other regions are the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
“Synchronous” refers to a rare phenomenon: the tiny bugs flash patterns in sync with each other. It’s like a string of Christmas lights hanging in the forest.
During normal summers, you grab a lawn chair and a cooler and head to the Tionesta Creek for Nature’s Light Display. You’ll need a jacket for the cool of the evening, and some marshmallows for toasting.
But not this year …
This year, because of COVID-19, the activities are restricted. You can watch the 8th Annual PA Firefly Festival on a virtual stay-at-home online link here:
Despite regulations, the lightning bugs will show up in wild, spectacular abandon.
Their light show is a whimsical mystery — and we can all use a little whimsy sometimes.
Recently I wrote a piece remembering a stand-up guy who died suddenly, 2 years ago.
I hesitated to publish it, protesting to another that I only knew Ron for a short time.
“But you’ve known Grief for a long time,” came the reply.
With that authority, I wrote the piece.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described friendship as “a sheltering tree.” What a fitting description of camaraderie at work: the shelter of a tree suggests the ease and familiarity of being around a person who provides leafy green wonderment. Ron Klonicki was just such an individual in our midst.
Today marks the second year since he was so suddenly and unexpectedly silenced by a faltering heart. We lost him on June 2, 2018. Ron died on a Saturday. That following Monday, we came into work and felt a jolt of shock and unbelief. It was hard to fathom, as Ron was something of a fixture on the 4th Floor, his office a friendly landmark as you passed through on the way to the conference room. Many in the MH/ID Department carry fond memories of Ron, a good-hearted, dependable, solid person. You could count on Ron to lend his expertise, tell a story, share his culinary skills and readily identify all kinds of flowers.
Ron was a Program Director for 30 years in MH/ID. His unflagging advocacy for persons with special needs, is still sending ripples into the community. Without fanfare, Ron showed us all how it’s done – he was fully immersed in meaningful work, while at the same time remaining engaging, relatable and terribly funny.
Ron’s legacy is his laughter – he was particularly good at recalling whimsical stories of his many travelling adventures with Carol, his wife. One of my favorite memories of Ron is the day he showed me how to download and use the phone app, “My Talking Pet”. When he showed me videos of his dog, “Jasmine,” talking in Ron’s own sped-up voice, it was hilarious.
For a quick minute I almost forgot he was a high-ranking administrator; we were just two people laughing at a video of a talking Chihuahua. Whimsically, Ron was never much for hierarchy or status. He made you feel welcomed in and valued your input. Just like a tree in the robust month of June has deep roots, wide branches, and full leaves, Ron provided lots and lots of shade for anyone in his realm of influence.
In the sparks of light emanating from Ron’s openness and curiosity, one can’t help but wonder what he’d think of the strange world we find ourselves in these days: re-emerging from “The Covid Spring” and stepping backward into an echo of civil unrest. Knowing Ron, he’d probably just roll up his sleeves and see to the next individual in need of housing or mental health services. He’d bring flowers to the office, and vegetables from the garden. In the shade of his big-hearted friendship, we’d share a moment of light and peace.
Fireflies are everywhere in June, in certain regions of the country. Not everyone gets this blessing, I am reminded by my jealous editor. Not everyone knew Ron either. Maybe this is why June’s unexpected symphonies of light are synchronous with heartfelt memories of special times and special people. I’m enjoying the unexpected and so grateful for a whimsical favor of these things offered to me right now.
Kathy Joy is making her co-workers happy with daily lunch jabs. She is also a favored speaker, editor and author with Capture Books. Find her seasonal Breath of Joy coffee table books on Amazon. But, don’t buy a knock off, cheaper version. Get the quality original.