Saturday, July 20, 2013

Night Crawlers

Oooooo.....they're not kidding when they say the outside holds a host of new observations and sensations once darkness descends upon it. For this reason, nature books often challenge adults to take kids on a night hike through the neighborhood. And so we did that, my grandsons and I.

With flashlights in hand, children cannot help but note things that are easy to overlook during the day. Distractions are minimal and the smug satisfaction of being up waaay past bedtime contributes to a conspiratorial camaraderie. A hint of danger lurks within the deep, dark backyard woods, keeping otherwise adventuresome little boys close at the side of grandma.....who, in turn, looks to fiercely protective Roxie (a German Shepherd mix) for her own half ounce of bravery!

But where to look first? There were spooky shadows to make on brother's face and some intense inspection of a cable box. It was up to grandma to steer us all toward things less obvious, yet far more fascinating!

Oops! Too late! They're gone!
Look quickly! Tiny insects "chill out" on top of bark until you shine a light. Then they scamper to hide in the blink of an eye - all of them!

We accidentally rustled a bush and observed a moth take flight from its protective cover. Does that mean insects hide beneath leaves? Well, let's take a closer look and see!

Those weird noises you hear only in the dark come, in part, from little brown toads. We found not one, but two clinging easily to shutters on the house. Later on, we'll look through books to find out why those little toes stick so effortlessly!

Upper left quarter - teeny tiny bright dot!
Firefly? I dunno. What do you think?

And then, at last! The errant flicker of a firefly - and his brother! Oh, and there's another! Was I actually quick enough to capture one in action here, or was that just the neighbor's porch light? Some things even grandma doesn't know -
secrets keep very well in the dark after curfew has paid visit and found only empty beds!

I did, of course, seek and receive parental permission for this late night sleepover adventure, and I do advise it, even for those who live by the "What Happens at Grandma's Never Happened" policy! When we came back inside, the boys insisted on calling mommy and daddy (11 P.M. by now!) to chatter on and on about the fun they had outside at night, bravely tiptoeing the line between the chill of excitement and the danger of darkness. They want to do it again and again and again!

And so we will - to just enjoy whatever it is that we see - "taking only pictures" (most of them very poor!) and "leaving only footprints" - heeding classic, wise advice to those who own respect for every living thing. Sure, we could have easily captured, imprisoned, inspected and released a specimen or two, but every creature has things to do and needs to get them done. Besides, we are well tutored in a benevolent way of living. Poems by Christina Rossetti are among our favorites, and we heartily applaud her admonition to:

Hurt No Living Thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat,
Nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.

And on that peaceful note I say, "Goodnight, dear friend. Goodnight!"

Repeat After Us. (1872). Hurt no living thing. Retrieved July 19, 2013 from


  1. Oh how fun! What an exciting night for them.

  2. This is so cool, what a great adventure your grandsons had! I bet they were so excited with their little torches, there is something so magical about being out late at night when you are a child! I can understand why they were straight onto the phone to talk about their adventure! :)

  3. Oh such fun and it brings back such wonderful memories for me as a little girl living on a big farm in Michigan... I loved brown toads!
    What a wonderful adventure for all of you and you were a very brave Grandma! Those boys are never going to forget this and you have to do it again -- especially in the winter when all of it changes from what they are seeing right now. Good Job Grandma J!

  4. That looks like a lot of fun! My kids would enjoy it a lot. I think they would take any excuse to play with a flashlight! You are teaching them so many wonderful things. I love that you take time for them this way, they will always remember it.

  5. You are the "grandma-est" grandma ever - what an adventure!!!

  6. These are some of the reasons we go to all the effort to take the grandkids camping - to move beyond their comfort zone and not enlist the aid of an app of some kind to find entertainment. We love our camp fires and watching the flame, reflections, and listening to the night noises. I have to sadly say I can't remember when I saw a firefly last. When I was a child on my grandparents farm, the night was lit up with them. Enjoy, enjoy. These are happy times that will not be forgotten.

  7. BOO!!!

    seriously this is fun stuff especially for kids. I felt as if I was along the walk with you ..

    Reminds me of the time when my boys were little and the middle one ( brents dad ) and a few friends caught a toad and a lightning bug ...fed the bug to the toad and then watched it light up inside.

    I felt bad for the bug but it was rather fascinating....

  8. What an awesome grandma you are! I could smell the dirt and bark. A great lesson on sheltering living things. First time for me to read the poem.

  9. I am definitely taking notes on your grandma adventures, and hope to use some of your ideas when my granddaughter and her unborn sister are older!

  10. Oh my, how fun and delightful! You sound like such a sweet Grandma :) What a great adventure.


  11. You grandma are a hug inspiration to me! When my grandchildren are older....this is how I picture the relationship. thank you.

  12. What a wonderful excursion! There is so much to discover after the sun sets. How brave your resident explorers were! I had the privilege of being with our grandson when he first discovered his firefly - how thrilled he was! How thrilling it was to experience it with him.
    (stopping by from Say It Saturday)

  13. Joanne is right -- you really are the Grammiest!

  14. So much fun! My kids would love this--if only I weren't afraid of them running into poisonous desert creatures. Too many spiders, scorpions and such in my area.

  15. I would love to do this with my little one...but currently we have a mosquito invasion and they are fearless...they attack no matter how much "OFF" you are wearing!!! But we enjoy watching the fireflies from indoors, again you are an awesome grandma!

  16. What wonderful and precious memories you are building. The outside seems to do that. Great writing of your recollection. I am sure they will treasure that memory for a long time. Thanks for sharing.

  17. I love that you didn't capture them, but just observed! What a great lesson for your grandchildren - that every life has rights!:)

  18. I love it. That is exactly how I teach my grand kids :) Better is be an observer.

  19. While camping, the grandkids and I have been on a number of ranger-led night hikes. It always amazes me how different things look and sound at night. But I haven't tried it at home. I'll have to do that.

  20. What fun the grandchildren have at your home. They must love comeing to see what they are going to do next.
    Mine are teenagers now but I can remember the torch nights looking for possums in the trees in our backyard. Also scary spiders and their webs.

  21. Good night also. It's 12:30 A.M. Best wishes, Linda

  22. What a great idea - a night hike! My grandchildren recently discovered the fun of catching fireflies and toads at dusk. After a week of this, my granddaughter convinced her father to sleep out under the stars with her on our driveway in sleeping bags we first bought when our son was 2.