'Dragonflies don't begin with wings'

A couple years ago, I woke early one morning and took my dogs for a walk.

Crossing a wet soccer field nearby, I happened to look down and was surprised to see a perfectly still dragonfly, its wings glistening with dew. Fearing it would get trampled if it stayed there too long, I gingerly lifted and set it on my hand in hopes the sun would dry its wings enough to fly again.

We walked around that way for nearly 30 minutes, me catching the aurora colors of its transparent wings wing as the sun warmed them, the dragonfly maintaining perfect stillness.

And then it quivered. It walked around my hand for a moment, and flew away.

I'd never held a live dragonfly before then, much less been a morning perch for one.

The moment was exquisitely beautiful and fleeting. It's possible it had just been born. Is it possible we both had?


By Chris Heeter
August 19, 2009

Dragonflies don't begin with wings.

They begin underwater
on the bottom
in the sand or mud or rocks.
Eating most everything that fits in their mouths.

The larvae eat and grow
until some instinct tells them to climb through that ceiling of water;
break the surface onto a blade of grass or a rock;
and to hold still.
To dry up, let their backs split open, and emerge.

From a water being to a sky being.

Swooping, hovering, diving.
Radiant in sunlight,
translucent wings, multi-faceted eyes, bright brilliant colors.

In truth, we all have wings.
And we all call crawl through the muck at the bottom.

The journey comes in believing there is life above what we can see.
And the trust of holding still, even feeling split open
in order to try our wings.

Chris Heeter, a wilderness guide, poet, speaker, and life coach, runs The Wild Institute .

Image by audreyjm529


steven said…
hello kathleen your beautiful story reminded me of a morning walk that i took in the company of a dragonfly which perched itself on my elbow - so sideways - for the whole tiem. it was blue bodied and gorgeous. i transferred it to my fingers when i sat down. i always wonder what these little creatures are thinking or why they've chosen to land on us kathleen?!! there's something going on isn;'t there . . . . steven
darsden said…
very cool picture
Oh My Goddess said…
They are remarkable aren't they.
♥ Braja said…
I love dragon flies...they are such ethereal little creatures...skimming across the surface of water and bringing summer with them....
Alix said…
I had a bit of a shiver myself. The story and poem really grabbed me. Thank you!

I love the tenderness of your heart!
Derrick said…
Hi Kathleen,

Where've you been hiding lately?!

You were very lucky to get this experience. Their irridescence is beautiful.
ellen abbott said…
Very cool creatures. We had one be born from our little pond. I was mucking it out one spring and saw the larva and carefully saved it and put it back. Later, I saw the empty shell where it had climbed up a stalk of the swordleaf and emerged.

I've had damselflies land on me, my boat, my paddle when out on the river. And once a huge butterfly landed on me when we had made camp and stayed for about 30 minutes before it flew away.
Mimi said…
Beautiful post.
You're truly at one with nature to do such a thing.
Reminds me of that song "flying without wings"- sometimes I do that, just feeling so happy, closing my eyes and about to burst with happiness. Then I'm flying- it's such a lovely feeling.
"We are each of an angel with just one wing, and only by working together can we fly."
Ribbon said…
That's absolutely beautiful!
I've learned something here today and thank you for that :)

best wishes
Ribbon said…
PS... I've often tried to photograph a dragonfly, but have never been successful.
The fact that you held one I think is wonderful :)
Kathleen said…
@STEVEN: I have no doubt about it. And I feel truly honored with nature steps out that way to make itself known. What a lovely story you shared! Thank you.

@DARSDEN:Thank you!

@OH MY GODDESS: Remarkable, to be sure, and so ancient feeling. Like being visited by very very old beauty.

@BRAJA: I love that image of dragon flies "bringing summer" with them. Perfect!

@ALIX: What a kind thing to say! :) My heart's felt a tad tender these past few days. Glad you enjoyed Chris's poem. She's amazing.

@DERRICK: I've been working on saving the world!
;^D But I've done what I can and I'm just trying to save me at the moment! I certainly was lucky to have had that extraordinary moment.

@ELLEN: That's amazing! Having a butterfly perch on you for 30 minutes!!!! Do you suppose it was modeling for you? Did you take the hint? I love that you saved the dragonfly. They are so precious

@MIMI: Thank you for saying that. I have so loved the natural world all my life -- and I feel so blessed to have those extraordinary moments in it. What an amazing sensation you've had there, one to cherish. Thank you for sharing about happiness. So good for my soul to hear about it!
Kathleen said…
@RIBBON: They are such magical creatures, aren't they. Perhaps you need to pay a visit to Northern Minnesota, where I have no doubt you'd catch your long-sought-after photo! They're fly with abandon at dusk, but I've photographed them landing on fellow kayakers mid-day!
Lydia said…
Oh, I love this post. You had, and were, a blessing.
Kathleen said…
@ LYDIA: Wow! Thank you for that. It certainly felt grace-filled!

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