Nostalgia Night was held by the League of Women Voters on July 31 as part of the Green Issues movie series focusing on environmental issues. The two films shown were Paddle to the Sea, based on an award winning children’s’ book, and Horatu, a film about how the Japanese are trying to save the firefly population. Attendees were asked to remember summer nights watching fireflies or canoeing in a local river.
The Book “Paddle to the Sea” by Holling C. Hollings is a true gem. Written in 1941 and receiving the Caldecott Honor Book award, it is about a young first nations boy who carves a canoe with an Indian and hopes that the little canoe can reach the sea. Under the boat he has carved the words “I am Paddle to the Sea. Please put me back into the water.” He lives near Thunder Bay in Canada and places the canoe on the top of the hill hoping that in the spring when the snow melts it will go into the river and the great lakes and eventually reach the ocean. Over a period of four years, the canoe travels through the great lakes, the St. Lawrence River and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.
Children who read the book learn a great deal about geography, economics and nature. While the wooden canoe called “Paddle to the Sea” is the main character many humans engaged in activities on the water save Paddle and help him reach the sea. In 1966 Bill Mason, a Canadian naturalist, artist, canoeist, conservationist and film maker, decided to make a film about the book. The film has incredible photography accomplished without the help of CGI and follows Paddles story from Nipigon country in Canada through the Great Lakes, over Niagara Falls and out to the sea. The film received an Oscar nomination and is truly a visual treat.
The second film was about the efforts of people in Japan to save the fireflies. Horatu, or fireflies, are an important part of Japanese culture. Children who graduate from school sing a song about the firefly. People have firefly festivals and outings to see fireflies. Japanese legends say that the souls of fallen soldiers reside in the light of the firefly. They also see fireflies as the symbol of passionate love in art and literature.
Why should we care about fireflies? Other than the joy they give us as a part of beautiful summer nights, the presence of fireflies are an indicator of the health of the environment. Fireflies can only survive where there is clean water free of pollutants. City lights and outdoor lighting can cause them to not breed. There is a decrease in firefly populations and scientists are trying to figure out why this is happening.
There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies and each has its own flashing pattern. In the Great Smoky Mountain National Park there are fireflies that have synced their flashing. You can buy tickets to see this unusual event although they are quickly sold out. There is something comforting about watching the flashing of fireflies on a beautiful summer night. What is your firefly story?