Saturday, July 9, 2016


At the end of a lovely getaway weekend near Rangeley, Maine, we packed up our gear and headed down to the warm, sunny little beach near our campsite to sip coffee and say goodbye to the lake. We watched a Common Merganser paddle by with her string of ducklings chasing along, taking turns riding on her back, and laughed at their fluffy antics as they appeared to run across the water as fast as they could to keep up. And then Clay noticed a big green dragonfly on the edge of the water in front of our chairs. There was something about its wings...they seemed normal enough stretched out in the light breeze, but they were tender and fragile looking, and I realized this dragonfly was brand new. So we looked around the beach and sure enough we found another brand new dragonfly. This one, the one in my photo, was so new that it hadn't finished emerging from the body of its nymph form. Amazing!
Dragonflies lay their eggs in water and the eggs hatch into tiny nymphs that spend as long as 5 years hunting for prey and growing. As many as 15 times in their underwater form, dragonflies will outgrow themselves and rip through their own backs, molting into a larger size. Dragonflies undergo a different sort of metamorphosis than butterflies, it's more gradual and skips the cocoon stage. With every molt, the hump on their back gets larger - a hint of the four wings to come. But it's not until they climb out of the water into a warm and sunny morning, that they rip through their exoskeleton one last time. This time with wings! Spectacular flyers and hunters, with huge eyes that can see from any angle and wings that allow for a stunning array of maneuvers that has inspired our own methods of flight.

They only live in this final, winged form for a few weeks to maybe a few months before they die - 5 years in the water to get a few weeks in the air. This makes me think of our own life cycle. How many of us look back at previous decades of our life and realize that we'd never have reached any heights at all without those years of growth and the inevitable pain that came with it. Maybe it seems like a rip off - to live so long completely unaware of what it feels like to fly in the sunshine, only to be allowed to experience it so briefly compared to all that time spent in the dark. But not every dragonfly nymph lives long enough to grow its wings. The statistics are not in the nymph's favor. Gradual metamorphosis takes time, and time is doled out differently for us all. So. If you see a fully developed dragonfly, recognize what a rare treasure you have before you. See in them all the years of pain and ignorance that, miraculously, led to that one bright morning when they bravely left behind the only world they'd ever known, bursting at their own seams to find some new way of being. Their outer shell was shed for the last time and their final and most wondrous form took flight - displaying the glorious potential inside us all.

Photo: "Emerge", Rangely, Maine by Becky Robbins.

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