16, Number 90, April/May 2013 The Mysterious Light by Jean Cyrus
When I was seven or eight years old, I remember there was much talk of a mysterious light that many in our neighbourhood reported having seen. “It was hovering near that pond, across the field from your house,” a neighbour told my father.
There was a lovely pond at the end of this field, one to which all the young children were drawn, especially in late afternoons when the frogs would be chorusing in full volume. Willows encircled it almost completely, and cattails flourished there. Marsh marigolds lent their golden hues to the picture. It was over this pond - or near it - that the ball of light had been seen floating, hovering and suddenly disappearing.
No one seemed to know what it was, but mothers cautioned their children not to go near the pond at dusk, and certainly not after dark. “It is unnatural,” they said. “It cannot be good.”
As children, we were very curious, of course. For many evenings, my brothers and I stood as close to the pond as we were allowed to go, hoping to catch a glimpse of “the light”. At the same time, I, for one, felt a little apprehensive.
“Are you scared?” I asked my older brother, Mike. “What if it is really connected to ghosts, as Mrs. Misak told mother?”
“Or if it punishes you if you did something bad?” my younger brother, John, piped up.
“Nah,” Mike replied. “They’re saying these things just to keep us from going to the pond. The light isn’t dangerous.”
This was my older brother, and he must know, I thought, but a tiny doubt still remained.
Then one evening - we saw it. “Look,” Mike excitedly exclaimed, tugging our arms. I gasped. A round, gently reddish ball was flitting up and down, and darting from side to side. It was the light! Suddenly, swiftly, it disappeared.
We stood side by side, silent, scarcely breathing. It had been an indescribably wonderful moment for the three of us. Nothing so ethereal and beautiful and playful could be evil, I thought. Mike was right. Yet no one could explain it.
It was many years later that I learned that this fascinating light which my brothers and I had seen during one of our evening vigils was the mysterious will-of-the-wisp, a marsh gas, a phosphorus light hovering or floating at night on marshy ground, and resulting from the combustion of natural gases. But to me, it continues to be an enchanting and mysterious little friend that paid us an unforgettable visit one summer evening.