The Summer of Heartsick Mountain, by Ellie Shechet

Summer in the Heartsick Mountains,” by Ellie Shechet. In The Highlighter #111.

Ellie Shechet returns to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where she grew up, after last year’s wildfire (#95), to find out what’s happened to the Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly, whose population has plummeted in recent years. “You start noticing things in a different way when you know you’re going to lose ’em,” a firefly expert tells her. This brilliant piece is about the magic of fireflies, their association with childhood, their importance across various cultures. It’s also about how humans have brought the Photinus carolinus to the brink of extinction. Mostly, though, this is a reflection on growing up and leaving your hometown — and losing as much as you have gained. (22 mins)