Some weeks ago my wife and I went camping near the Pisgah National Forest. We were in a campground that was gated and locked by 10:00 pm, and so we were denied one of our usual pleasures of camping. Namely, driving some of the Forest Service roads late into the night, looking for spots to stargaze and watching for wildlife as we cruise slowly along the dirt and gravel ways.
One afternoon we did take a drive toward a Forest Service road near a huge pluton called John Rock where a fish hatchery is located, along with a very nice visitors center. By the time we got there, it was dark. The sun had long since faded and set and we were unfortunately clock-watching so that we wouldn't linger too long and get locked out of our campsite.
I wanted to show Carole the terminus of a trail I'd once hiked to the summit of John Rock, and so we turned into the parking lot of the fish hatchery and I took the truck through the large and empty parking lot to where the trailhead was located. I showed her the signage and told her of nice backpacking campsites located along the way, beside the trail and in the forests beside small streams and bubbling springs, and of the fantastic views from the treeless summit of John Rock. And then we turned in the huge parking lot and started back to the bridge that would take us back to the Forest Service road and then to NC 64 and our return drive to the campground.
That was when we noticed the air.
The twin beams of the truck's headlights cut through the moonless dark. All around us were billions of insects. Above us. Beside us. Beneath us. The air was packed with flying, flitting, hovering bugs. They were, quite literally, everywhere. There in that low spot where the river cut down into the earth, these insects were dancing, living, speaking to one and all.
"It's snowing life," I said to Carole.