Young boys learning to start a fire

Why I Bring My Son To Firefly

If my son does not wish for the hustle-and-bustle of what is often considered a traditional lifestyle, I want him to feel confident that this is okay.
“Are we going to play Firefly?”

This was my four year-old son’s initial (and adorable) response after receiving camping gear this Christmas. It was enough to let me know that he enjoys the part of our summer spent, nestled in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, at the Firefly Gathering. It was also a sweet reminder of all the special reasons his father and I have decided to bring him with us each year.

The Firefly Gathering is more than family-friendly. It has been an absolutely refreshing and peaceful experience, giving my son the gift of an epic childhood for days—barefoot, dirt-covered, and carefree. I often reflect on the image of his little legs run running with excitement down the big hill from our campsite each morning to “Firefly Central.” These are memories that I will never forget.

The sacred space that the gathering creates is the perfect opportunity to teach him life lessons that my husband and I value. These lessons are the reasons why we bring him to Firefly.

I long for my son to have a true respect for nature.

I appreciate that Firefly teaches skills for living “with the Earth.” Mother Earth and all of her beautiful offerings are a gift to us. Sleeping and living in a natural setting for several days provides the perfect element to show this to my son. Last year, a green heron mama lay with her eggs in a tree near the pond. Gathering attendees were encouraged to honor this, keeping the space quiet and peaceful. My son and I leisurely strolled around the pond each morning and, upon passing her nesting place, would say a special blessing for her. Now, we have made it a practice to offer special blessings to herbs before we harvest them and seeds as we plant them.

I hope that my son adopts the natural world and plants as valuable medicines.

Nature is incredibly healing to our bodies, from walking barefoot in the grass to breathing in the immune-boosting energy of the forest. Firefly reignited my interest in the nourishing power of fermented foods, herbs, and mushrooms. Much of what I have learned I am sharing with my son and we have taken new skills and practices home with us. My son will proudly tell you about his mama’s “healing teas” and describe just how delicious, and tummy friendly, kombucha is!

I desire him to honor his ancestors.

Our ancestors are all around us, in the trees, the air, and the water. I desire my son to be awakened to his ancestors around him and to learn more about those who walked the Earth before he did. The gathering regularly offers opportunities and classes to revere our ancestors, and after attending a program last year, I was inspired to create several activities for my son to connect with his elders. This led to some really delightful Q&A sessions with his great- grandparents.

I dream that he never stops learning.

We encourage “growing with the flow” of life in our household and we seek out many opportunities to enhance our knowledge of self-sustainability and deep connections with others. With bright blue and curious eyes, my son is soaking up all that he can learn lately. He sees his father and I learning and enjoys asking questions about it. His tender age is ripe for cultivating a zest for continued growth—-just last year at the gathering he learned how to identify and apply jewelweed to keep pesky poison ivy at bay and—likely his favorite lesson—-how to churn fresh milk into delicious maple cardamom ice cream!

I wish for him to embrace non-traditional lifestyles.

If my son does not wish for the hustle-and-bustle of what is often considered a “traditional” lifestyle, I want him to feel confident that this is okay. I hope that he creates a life for himself that is aligned with his purpose and passions. The Firefly Gathering weaves a rich tapestry of folks living harmoniously with the Earth, sharing their gifts, and genuinely living their dreams. This has truly been an inspiration to me.

I look forward to seeing the additional offerings for children at the Firefly Gathering this year. Marissa Percoco, Director of Youth Programs, and a mother who has attended the gatherings since 2009, is passionate about providing a good environment for youth of all ages. Her hope is that children will feel a sense of community and glean awareness of the non-human relation through activities around ancestral skills, nature crafts, plant walks, and bird language. Educational child care programs will be available for the tiniest of tots (3 years and younger) to teens, allowing parents the comfort and freedom to immerse themselves in a variety of gathering classes and programs.

Click here to learn more about Youth Programs at Firefly Gathering.


Firefly Gathering

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Lily Harlin


Lily is an artist, creator, and dreamer. Since a very young age, she has been immersed in the natural world and draws heavy inspiration from the wild. Though her medium changes frequently, Lily’s art and expression always incorporate an element of the organic and unpredictable. She got her associate in fine arts in 2023, and now volunteers at her school as a ceramic studio monitor. She hopes to open a studio of her own one day to have a place to teach and inspire others. In addition to doing commission work, Lily has been creating many graphics for The Firefly Gathering since 2019. Lily grew up in the Earthskills community from the time she was eight years old, so having the opportunity to grow and give back in so many ways has been incredibly fulfilling. No matter where she ends up, this group of people and ideas will always hold a special place in her heart.