Once there lived a hummingbird who loved to gaze at stars.
She breezed through days, awaiting the rolling summer nights, which unfurled like fresh-paved highways.
"Hello, star," said the hummingbird one evening. "You are the loveliest sight in the world."
"I am not a star," replied the tiny light. "The stars are what you see hanging there above you, far overhead. The stars are not real. They are the past, the once-was, the no-longer. I am a firefly. We are the now."
"I never knew," marveled the hummingbird. "Tell me more."
And so the hummingbird and the firefly conversed until the dawn. The next night the hummingbird returned, and the night after, and after again. They talked of air and earth and all between, of stalks of wheat and distant thunder.
"How do you know so very much?" asked the hummingbird.
"It is not I, but the light within me, that knows," said the firefly. "Light knows. Darkness also knows. It is the spaces in between which do not know."
"I, too, wish to know," said the hummingbird.
The sixth night came, and the hummingbird questioned.
"That light you have, oh lovely field star...where does it come from?"
"It is called phosphor, and it is my birthright," answered the firefly.
"Might it be my birthright as well?"
"I should love for you to have it," said the firefly, "but to that question, I do not know the answer."
"Then I shall find out," replied the hummingbird. "In the forest there are caves with yawning mouths and dark bellies. Perhaps they will know."
And so the hummingbird left the field and the firefly. She flew into the heart of the forest, to the glade with the grotto gate.
"Tell me, lightless one," said the hummingbird, "how the firefly's birthright might also be mine?"
"I do not know," the cavern replied. "I am but the mouthpiece of a deeper tunnel, the darkness which lies under the mountain."
"Then I shall ask the mountain," said the hummingbird.
Mountains sleep, and so it took many days for the hummingbird to find one awake.
"Please help me, buried one," said the hummingbird. "How might I glow like the firefly?"
"Ask the light which slips and slides over the forest pool," boomed the mountain. "Only she would know, for she lingers on water, and water fills, but I erode."
The hummingbird found the light in her spring-fed dell, speaking to dewdrops and tender green shoots.
"Share with me, sun ribbons," said the hummingbird, "the secret of the firefly's phosphor."
"Why do you need the phosphor, if you have the firefly?" sang the water's gloss.
"Please, I very much wish to know."
"Your birthright is the seasons. Do you not feel them changing?" And the reflections said no more.
The hummingbird was tired, and so she returned to the field. Nightfall came, but no lights filled the darkness. For it is well known that a firefly's time is brief, and all now lay dead in the soft earth.
Alone, the hummingbird looked up at the sky and saw stars.
"We are not real," said the stars. "We only remind."
"I was not here," lamented the hummingbird. "I wanted my own light, so I left."
"We are not real," they reminded.
"I do not want my birthright," despaired the hummingbird. "I do not want the firefly's birthright. I only want the firefly."
"There is no firefly," replied the stars. "There is only the now. That is all there ever is."