Beyond the Industrial Image

Bright lights, big pipes - this oil refinery in Canada has no shortage of either. To my Midwestern eyes they resemble silos and fireflies, reminders of long-forgotten farms and bugs.

As a Nebraskan now urbanized by years of Boston living, I welcome the memories that Bill Grant's photograph evokes. Although I was raised in a city, the wide-open, farm-dotted countryside was only minutes away.

And fireflies - or lightning bugs as we called them - were a regular part of warm summer evenings. Perhaps my prolonged separation from such things makes it easy to see them in this otherwise industrial image. Absence, it seems, makes the eyes grow fonder.

Whether driving to visit relatives when I was young, or to college in Wisconsin when I was older, farms - and their silo sidekicks - were always in abundance. I even had my own silo once. While food for livestock is usually stored in these tall cylindrical buildings, the tiny knockoff that I had housed plastic cows and other accessories important to any toy farm.

One thing I never managed to obtain, however, was a firefly. But not for lack of trying, I assure you. What a treasure they always seemed to be - those flying bugs whose stomachs shined so invitingly in the black of night. No other insect could charm me as much.

I was surprised by how closely this picture mimics the fascinating light of those bugs.

But it was a different light - the fading light of the setting sun - that inspired Grant to take this shot. Had he waited much longer, there would have been fireflies, but no silos.

This expatriate appreciates the presence of both.

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