Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Ah, summer. Cookouts and swimming pools; hot days and lazy nights. And, of course, fireflies. Beacons of summer, the dazzling lights that dance among backyards and through fields. It’s no wonder that children and adults alike seek to capture the magic of fireflies by putting them in jars, gazing at them for hours.

As a child I took a different approach to fireflies. I would capture one in my hand, squish it, and smear its guts on my face so my cheeks would glow. Warrior paint.

I recognize what you may be thinking of me right now.

Honestly, it wasn’t until I was solidly into my adult years that it dawned on me that there was even anything wrong with that practice. It may not have actually even dawned on me. It may have been pointed out to me by my horrified husband. In fact, I thought everyone smooshed fireflies on their faces; I mean, how cool is it to run around on a summer night like a glowing warrior?

Sometimes what makes total sense to you does not, in fact, resonate with the rest of the world. Now, I can’t imagine my sister and I (yep, I’m bringing you down with me, sister) are the only two children in the world who have thought to do such a thing… in fact, there may be some among you reading who are scratching your head saying, ‘wait, there was something wrong with doing that?’ However, I recognize now that a more common practice is to take a more, well, gentle approach to capturing the magic of fireflies, mostly involving trying to keep them alive. It just didn’t occur to be back then.

If I could write a note to my younger self it would go something like this:

Dear Young Erika,

I appreciate your passion for the magical glowing lights of the fireflies, but please stop squishing them on your face. That’s not nice and it’s also kind of gross to go around with bug guts on your face. If you want to capture magic, there are better ways to do it.   

Love, Old Erika

Nowadays I still look for the magic. Not just in fireflies, but everywhere: in children, in trees, in laughter, in a cup of hot coffee or a glass of wine, in books. I just look for better ways of capturing it. As Roald Dahl said, “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in the magic will never find it!”

How can you (gently) capture magic? 


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.