When I was twelve, I visited a Native American museum in Taos, NM. On one wall was a circle of wood. On it, written in a spiral that culminated in a crude print of a dragonfly, was a description of the role that dragonflies played in the lives of warriors of this tribe. I wish I could remember the tribe. Basically what the spiral said was that the warriors tattooed dragonflies onto their body for protection. It said that when dragonflies feel threatened, they fly very close to the ground and beat their wings so that the dust from the dirt swirls around. This enables them to dart off to safety, effectively escaping their predators. I couldn’t tell you about anything else at the exhibit. But what I can tell you is that I have felt the absence of this tattoo on my body since reading this. Almost twenty years have passed and I still feel naked and unprotected. I’ve planned it out in my head a million times but have never taken that next step. Someday I will.
With this piece of art, an obsession was born. Dragonflies intrigue me. I have a huge collection of dragonflies that ranges from art prints to stained glass pieces to greeting cards, etc. The list goes on. Matt has gone as far as to say, “Slap a dragonfly on any piece of crap and Devon will buy it.” Thanks, Matt! But seriously, I can’t resist a dragonfly.
My interactions with dragonflies have been limited though. I’ve watched many a dragonfly flit by and have watched in happy awe. At Squam this year, I was walking along with Matt and a dragonfly landed on my shirt! It stayed for half of the walk to the dining hall. Very cool.
But a big experience happened a couple of weeks ago at one of my client’s houses. They have a pool and while dipping my feet in, I noticed that a number of bugs had made the unfortunate mistake of ending up in the pool. I saved a couple of ladybugs and then I noticed the dragonfly and just about died. I was so sad. Since they didn’t have a pool skimmer, I’d been using a styrofoam floaty tube to wrangle them in. I worked for a while at pulling the dragonfly closer and eventually got it close enough to gently lift it out.
Carefully, I placed it on my hand (in what I would realize later was an upside-down position). I sat with it like that staring for a good five minutes. I had never seen a dragonfly up close before. What a luminous creature! Its wings had a gossamer sheen and it’s eyes! Oh my god, its eyes! They glow. They radiate light. They reflect. Amazing! And its little face looks like a pansy or a monkey (another serious obsession)! Unreal!
As I sat there staring at it, I realized that its body was very very very slowly expanding and contracting and repeating the motion. In and out it slowly went. Realizing it was alive and that I’d saved it from drowning was such a powerful moment. I brought it over to the table and set it down. I finally realized that it was upside-down and I carefully turned it over. As it breathed in and out, sometimes fast enough for me to realize that it was panicking, I separated its chlorine covered wings. As they congealed again, I would separate them again.
When I felt it had dried enough, I transferred it to a leaf and found a good hiding spot for it to recover. I checked the next day and the leaf remained, empty.
I’ll never know if it escaped but in my head it did. And my dragonfly obsession? A million times bigger.
Here are a couple of images and a couple of videos of the beautiful creature.
The hiding place!
Notice how fast it’s breathing (watch the end of its body).