Out of the water

Summer storm passes
leaving debris in its wake.
I open the door

to investigate
and discover a creature
there on the threshold

Dragonfly resting
weary, heavy-laden wings
—what ARE those patches?

Curiosity
drives me to investigate.
I learn that your name

comes from your luggage:
Carolina Saddlebags.
What do you carry?

Ancient traditions
abundant superstitions
folklore taking flight.

Symbol of wisdom
messenger between the worlds

born underwater

to rise new, transformed.
Your stories go on and on,
tired traveler.

My phone’s search engine
resolves one more mystery
from a day ago:


That red dragonfly
—the first one I’ve ever seen—

may have been your mate.

So otherworldly,
that darting scarlet body.
I caught just glimpses

for it never stilled.
Now I learn red dragonflies
are believed sacred.

A slight fluttering
of your strange saddlebag wings
seems to validate.

To me, you are rare.
Pleased to make your acquaintance
here on this portal

this dividing line
between shelter and tempest,
living and dying.

Take your repose, then.
I ponder birth and rebirth
as I close the door

where I discover
my husband’s baptismal robe
hanging up to dry
.

*******

My pastor husband doesn’t like to dry his robe in the dryer. After a recent baptism, he happened to hang it here on the door where the sidelight flooded it.

I’ve seen many dragonflies in my life, but this is the first Carolina Saddlebag. I hope to get a photo of the male, which has a brilliant red body and a violet head. That might be a feat; I read that they don’t land often. The female on my threshold soon regained her strength and flew away.

The sightings on each side of the portal filled me with awe—the word that chose me this year. More reminders to stay open to it every single day, not to miss it.

As a lover of symbolism…well, there’s enough here to last me pretty much forever…

The post is written in haiku, as dragonflies have spawned infinite haiku and inspiration in Japan where they are considered harbingers of life, prosperity, courage, happiness, strength. They have also represented the emperor and immortality. In Native American tradition, the dragonfly is a symbol of resurrection.

Special thanks to the Slice of Life community at Two Writing Teachers for also spawning courage, inspiration, and strength through the writing and sharing of stories. To teach young writers how to write, we must write, and by writing we discover infinitely more about the world and ourselves.

24 thoughts on “Out of the water

  1. Fran, I am so glad that I read your slice while listening to Enya. There is such a sense of the awe flowing through your haiku sequence. Your quote, “stay open to it every single day, not to miss it’, is powerful. You are always open to life, finding symbolism where your eye takes you, and researching the pieces to open your mind to a new wonder. I hope you are soaking in the sunshine (not too much heat) and nurturing your soul.

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    • Enya – perfect background music for the ethereal! Airy and free…like the dragonfly itself. I’ve been so thankful for the phone near at hand to research something while it’s fresh. It’s a conduit for awe, in its way – within moments I knew the type of dragonfly, unexpectedly connected the bright red one from the day before as its counterpart, as it had captivated me. I love following threads of interconnectedness. This in itself nurtures my soul. I am enjoying this down time and trying not to think too much about summer vacation ending in a few weeks – and I hope you are continuing to savor as well, Carol!

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  2. Fran, This is such an inspiring post. I’ve long believed in special moments given to us by nature and it seems here, you’ve received a very special gift. Your chance meeting with the beautiful Caroline Saddlebag Dragonfly inspired you to write a beautiful haiku story documenting both your awe and your encounter. I’ve never seen one of these creatures either, and she is beautiful -as I am sure is the male counterpart. I hope you do have a chance to photograph and share it with us. On another note, I’ve never thought about writing haiku as a story – and, I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your writing today.

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    • Many thanks for your lovely response. That male dragonfly is such a brilliant red, so unexpected; he seems a creature out of a fantasy novel. I hope I can get a photo. Delighted that you enjoyed the haiku format! The syllabication definitely helps me stay concise, and something in the rhythm appeals to or dovetails with the pattern of my thoughts. I enjoy tinkering with the form.

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      • I fight with staying concise as well and perhaps that is why I like Haiku as well. I will have to try an elongated haiku format to tell a story. I do wonder how accepting others are of this, however. I recently found that people are either strict haiku form adherents or very accepting of more syllables (American Haiku) – so accepting in fact that they don’t even consider a traditional form. Food for thought!

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  3. Beautiful. All of it. I especially liked that you referenced your word of the year, “awe”, and made this connection. “Exhilaration” was my chosen word and I haven’t made a connection with it lately. I’ll be sure to be on the look out for one now though, after reading your post. Thank you.

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    • Thank you, Kara. I am beginning to think “awe” should be my whole-life word now, instead of just one guiding word for 2021; I want to keep pursuing it, looking for it. Here’s to “exhilaration” – what a word – and more to come!

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  4. I especially loved this post! Because my totem is the dragonfly. One came to me in a salad, already passed. I never bought another salad from New Seasons, but the dragonfly rests under a plastic dome. As if to keep me company and guide me one day across the Rainbow Bridge.
    I have several dragonfly stories, each marking a change, a new chapter in my life.
    Thank you for all the wonderful stories you share.
    Jill aka PDXDragonfly

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    • Jill, I knew there had to be a great story behind “PDXDragonfly,” and there is! I can envision that salad adorned with the deceased dragonfly but I cannot imagine it being served – good heavens. They’re certainly major symbols of transition. Fascinating to connect them to new chapters in life. Chasing threads of life’s interconnectedness is one of my favorite pursuits – hence a lot of the stories I write. Thank you – and your dragonfly.

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  5. Your post. Wow. Here we are, right back in awe. I’m so very grateful for how the world brought you these symbols, juxtaposed so well, but that you took the time to think and wonder.

    What’s more, you found the time to search for the sacred. You take on storms and shelter, birth and rebirth. This dragonfly sat on your literal threshold, the baptismal robe signals the figurative one. So much at play here- this dragonfly a messenger between this world and the next, as an abundant (that little word again!) superstition, as “folklore taking flight.” Makes my storyteller heart flutter. And now, I’ll be off to search and learn more about dragonflies…

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    • Thank you for this gift of your words, thoughts, and storyteller heart, Lainie. For me, awe is so closely connected to the sacred, and without the sacred…what have we to hope for, live for? This could be another post, even a series of posts perhaps…and as a little city girl, I was terrified the first time I saw a dragonfly at my grandparents’ rural home. The legends across cultures are absolutely compelling. The creature is revered in Asia with such beautiful symbolism, and in Europe there are horrific connotations. I confess that learning of a dragonfly as a “snake healer” is so intriguing, speaking of a storyteller heart…

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      • Funny you should mention – it seems like so much of what I’ve posted lately could be parsed out into posts upon posts. As for me, I know I’d love to hear more of your stories about growing up. Your fear of dragonflies as a city girl reminds me of the time my mom saw her first crow – she called them “big black chickens.” =)

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  6. I’m so glad I stopped by today to read your haiku story. I have so much to share but will only say that dragonflies hold such a special place in my heart. One such moment came shortly after losing my Dave a dragonfly landed on my wedding ring. So yes messenger between worlds for sure! Thank you for once again inspiring me

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    • That dragonfly landing on your wedding ring is amazing, Christine; it makes me think about collecting dragonfly stories in connection with awe. Thank you for your words and for sharing this beautiful moment!

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  7. Fran, as I read through your post a second time, a passage from a book about Thoreau came to mind: “As a naturalist, he looked for hard, empirical facts. As a poet and Transcendentalist, he sought the significance of those facts.” Like him, you’ve done both. Thank you for sharing with us!

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    • Tim, such a great quote about Thoreau; what an honor to be linked to him! I’ve long loved his work. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from him (and I find myself speaking it all too often): “The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise…” Hardly a day passes that I don’t think of that line (which leads up to loving your life, of course, and having a quiet mind). True confession: My connection to nature and contemplating its mystery – its constant, coded messages of awe, really – didn’t develop until I began writing on a regular basis. Just one of the many astounding discoveries. I mean – I knew my grandparents lived close to the earth; they were farmers and gardeners. They knew so much; they could “read” nature. I know now that they planted the seeds for my late-blooming naturalist leanings. What a gift of a comment – thank you!

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  8. Fran, I love every sweet haiku you wove here in telling the story of the dragonfly that needed a reprieve from the storm. Everything about your post is beautiful, the words and images, the light shining on the baptism gown. One of my favorite tings you wrote was at the bottom about Slice of Life: “To teach young writers how to write, we must write, and by writing we discover infinitely more about the world and ourselves.” Truth! Thank you for inspiring my writing.

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