Dragonfly

New day. Opening window blinds to a flood of sunlight. Glimpse of pines, grass grown tall overnight (how??), weathered wooden deck railing, old white rocking chair, large cement pots draped in long ivy vines, new tendrils waving, geraniums blazing green and red, interspersed with spiky brown starbursts—oh, time to deadhead.

Within moments, scissors in hand, reaching for exposed bones of skeletal blooms, crisping, decaying, red petals shriveled, let loose, bled away, spent…

—Oh! Hello. Didn’t know you were here, Dragonfly.

Swapping the scissors for the phone-camera…

How close will you let me get?

—Surprisingly.

You’re small. Maybe two-and-a-half inches. Not like the first dragonflies I ever encountered in my grandmother’s yard when I was a child. Enormous things, terrifying… “They won’t hurt you! They eat mosquitoes”… good thing I didn’t know the old Scandinavian folktales then, how dragonflies come to weigh people’s souls, doling punishment on the bad, stitching children’s eyes closed for telling lies. Instead I learned to see the beautiful in the strange. Living sticks of metallic blue, iridescent gleams against the sunlit grass, darting any which way, impossibly. Air acrobats. —You’re very still. Not blue but yellow with bold black stripes. Clinging to a deadhead. Wonder why. Can’t cut the dying bloom away, not while you’re on it, Dragonfly. Won’t disturb you.

Returning later: You’re still present, resting on a green leaf.

Why should this feel so reassuring?

Maybe because the symbolism of a dragonfly is usually positive. You’re said to be bringers of light, restoring joy when it’s waning. Just as those bright geranium blooms are waning. Many new buds are already evident. Growth from within. The ability to change, transform, adapt—that is what we humans say about you dragonflies, as you begin life submerged in water (most of your lives being lived there) yet you eventually take to the air and learn to fly. By then the time remaining to you is short. Seems you make the most of it. Maybe you are harbingers of the soul. Not in judgment, but in self-realization, mental and emotional maturity, acceptance. A call to wisdom. A recurring word for me, of late.

Whatever motif lies written in iridescent ink on dragonfly wings, my grandmother knew it was good: You eat mosquitoes. You will not hurt me. You’re helpers. Protectors.

Sitting so still, amid decay juxtaposed with new growth… an inexplicable stab of delight, vibrant little messenger from nature, oblivious of your mission, perhaps, of nudging, not judging, human souls toward our own betterment … oh, and do you know? Could you know? In human lore… geraniums represent unexpected meetings.

16 thoughts on “Dragonfly

  1. Dragonflies have special meaning for me as a widow. Shortly after Dave passed one landed on my wedding ring. Always a delight to read others who appreciate these beautiful creatures

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  2. So many words to savor in this post: “Growth from within. The ability to change, transform, adapt . . . an inexplicable stab of delight, vibrant little messenger from nature, oblivious of your mission, perhaps, of nudging, not judging, human souls toward our own betterment . . . bringers of light, restoring joy when it’s waning.” Just like you, dear friend. Thanks for bringing light and delight and delicious words to this new day.

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  3. I didn’t know the Scandinavian folktales! Yet, your appreciation of these ephemeral creatures belies those tales. I loved reading this today. I spent some time dead heading my hanging baskets this morning. Didn’t see a dragonfly, but I did watch an inchworm “measuring the marigolds.”

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    • Those folktales are pretty gory! A Swedish translation of “dragonfly” is “hobgoblin.” I get it … but they’re truly benign, fascinating creatures, and as soon as I got over my fear of them as a child I found them very compelling. I don’t see them all that often here so it was a real treat to find this one lounging in the geraniums. Found one with orange wings (Eastern amberwing) on my front door wreath – a male choosing an egg site for his mate. Have never seen one before. They are definitely luring me into entomology. I can see that inchworm in your marigolds quite clearly …

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  4. Wow, your words always bring me joy and are also thought provoking! Your second sentence hooked me and I never wanted to stop reading. I love your use of 2nd person! How you talk to the dragonfly and ask him/her questions, and how effortlessly you weave in your childhood. I love dragonflies, also. Your details are vibrant; I felt like I was there with your dragonfly and you.

    I connect with these words, “I learned to see the beautiful in the strange.” Fortunately, I learned this, too and passed this on to my daughters and students as I’m sure you have. I love, “Whatever motif lies written in iridescent ink on dragonfly wings, my grandmother knew it was good.” Now, your words about your “air acrobat” help us in our regrowth. Thank you for sharing your goodness and light as your grandmother shared with you.

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    • What an uplifting response, Gail – thank you so much! Writing in second person was a last-minute choice; the post was almost done when I addressed the dragonfly directly. Then I thought: Wait … what if I address it directly, all the way through … which felt right. I so appreciate your words and am delighted to know that the post resonated with you so. It’s a ray of sunlight in my day. 🙂

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