Yesterday morning, as I sat in my chair looking out the sliding glass door, a dragonfly flew full speed (I assume…I am not an expert on dragonflies but it seemed pretty damn quick) into the door and dropped to the balcony below. It shocked me for a brief minute as my anxiety spelled out scenarios of insects attacking but then I remembered the time I briefly interned with a crappy company in a big glass building. It was while I was there that I learned that birds routinely fly into the reflection of blue skies on glass buildings and the sidewalks below these buildings are often host to their dead little bodies with people stepping over them on their busy way to work as corporate slaves churning out the profits for the select few. Sigh.
So after the dragonfly encountered the false sky reflection in my window and I had recovered from my invasion anxiety, I contemplated it while it lie there, presumably dead. I remembered the time I went fishing with one of my closest friends and how excited she became when a dragonfly landed on the end of her pole. “Oh look!” she exclaimed, “A dragonfly! That is good luck.” Having never heard that particular rural myth before, I reconsidered the dragonfly – an insect I had never really thought about before then. I came into my appreciation for insects late in life and, while I loved butterflies and have always considered them sacred, I spent a lot of time on my grandmother’s farm growing up and was the kind of kid who burned ants with sunlight, salted slugs and pulled the flashy butts off fireflies to make pretend jewelry for myself. (God forgive my little rural ass.)
As my mind traveled down the memories of insects past, the dragonfly on my balcony suddenly flipped up and then zoomed away. I was happy. And not just because that meant I didn’t have to go pick up a big dead insect and discard its carcass but because it lived and, for a brief moment, it brought me to some of the memories that I treasure most…fishing with my friend, getting sweaty and grubby on the farm, chasing fireflies. And just as I was lost in contemplating these memories further, another dragonfly zoomed into the second half of my patio door – the side covered in a screen. But this time, rather than slamming into the door and falling, the dragonfly landed gracefully and clung to the screen, slowly beating its double set of wings and seeming to be settling in for a little rest.
Over the course of the next hour, I contemplated this new dragonfly a little more deeply than the first. Rather than bringing up fears of insect invasions or memories from the past, I became curious and studied it as it hung on the screen less than three feet away me. I could see its damaged wings with pieces missing and its huge alien eyes. Occasionally it would curl the lower half of its body outward but otherwise it stayed perfectly still and I started to feel all voodoo about it. Some people believe that when we die, we are reincarnated into other forms of life, including insects. Was this dragonfly here for me? Was it someone I knew? Was it Mom coming to stare at me because I called her “fucking bitch” in my last post?
I didn’t consider any of these questions seriously (at least not for very long) and eventually googled all about dragonflies; learning the one clinging to my window screen was a female because she had little dangly things on the end of her tail for cutting plant matter when she laid eggs. I learned that she spent her days eating mosquitos (bad bitch) and had a lifespan of approximately a month as an adult. And that is when I suddenly realized my dragonfly probably wasn’t hanging out with me to rest a spell, like I had thought, but had probably landed for the last time when she found this space next to me. She had, most likely, come here to die.
Over the course of the next several hours, I watched Ms. Dragonfly closely and there were signs of life even as her legs started to curl under her one by one. I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between this and the days I spent watching my mom approach her own death. I couldn’t help but contemplate my own approaching death and the parallel of flying off to a quiet place to be alone and to find peace and rest while life ebbed. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, a little encouraged and a little blessed by the experience. Mine is not an exciting life these days but it’s a contemplative one lived, not through so many grand experiences of my own, but through the exploration of even the smallest of moments that allow me to be transported into all of the possibilities of existence. And as I gently removed Ms. Dragonfly from the screen this morning and wrapped her in a tissue, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to her for sharing her last moments with me.
“What though the radiance that was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” ~ Wordsworth