Throughout the summer I am delighted by the dragonflies that flit about our backyard. I enjoy watching them in their graceful aerobatic dances. With their transparent wings and bright blue coloring, I get a little fanciful about their existence. To me, they are like the cousins of that mythical creature, the fairy.
Once every summer, there are a few days where there are a great number of them flying about. Late yesterday afternoon, the backyard was filled with them. I stood in awe as they zipped around. It's a pretty spectacular sight to see. Without knowing the scientific "why" of such a large gathering, my imagination spun its own story.
Once upon a time, a little girl fell in love with swimming. Her parents would take her to a nearby stream on warm days and let her splash about to her heart's content. When she was old enough, she spent hot summer days with her friends, cavorting in a country creek natural pool near her home. Oh, the joy she knew.
She dreamed of someday having her very own pool in her backyard.
One day, she was laying on her back on the sweet cool grass, gazing at the summer sky with clouds that became fluffy white dogs and graceful flying elephants. A bright blue creature with gossamer wings, fluttered past her. She watched as it darted to and fro.
She was entranced with the creature and ran for her butterfly net. She chased it about, never quite fast enough to ensnare it. Finally, she managed to swoop in and caught the creature. She quickly turned the net upside down on the ground. She watched as the creature tried to find a way out.
Finally the beautiful but strange creature became still. It looked up at the girl with its huge eyes.
"Please let me go," it said in a very small tremulous voice.
The girl was amazed that the creature could speak.
"Why should I?" she asked.
"Why shouldn't you?" it replied.
"Well first, tell me, what are you?" she asked.
"I am known as a dragonfly. I can fly as fast as 20-38 miles per hour. You humans call us many things. We have been called Devil's Darning Needle, Ear Cutter, even Snake Doctor because we are said to follow snakes around and stitch them back together if they are injured. Some folklores say the devil uses us to weigh people's souls. Others have said we are Eye Pokers. Some Native American tribes use our symbols to represent swiftness and activity, and for the Navajo we symbolize pure water. The Japanese say we are symbols of courage, strength, and happiness."
The girl told the dragonfly that she thought it was the loveliest creature she had ever seen and she wanted to keep it forever.
The dragonfly's head drooped sadly.
"If you do, I'll only die for I must fly in order to live. If you let me free, I'll grant you one wish," promised the dragonfly.
Not a cruel girl at heart, she didn't want to see the pretty creature die so she thought about what she truly wanted more than anything else in the world.
"Someday I would like my very own swimming pool so that I can swim anytime I want to," was her wish.
And she lifted the butterfly net to release the dragonfly. As it rose in the air to dash away, it turned and said, "Thank you. You have been kind and someday you shall indeed have your swimming pool. But it will not happen because I grant you a wish, but because if you truly desire something, you will do everything you can to obtain it. Just as I did to gain my freedom." And with that, the graceful and wise creature took flight.
Years later, she did indeed finally acquire her very own swimming pool. Each summer she was blessed with the presence of bright blue dragonflies. She liked to believe they were family members of the dragonfly she once caught and released so it might continue to live and they visited her each year as their way of saying "Thank you."
I learned that a dragonfly's life cycle depends on water as it either lays its eggs on a water plant or right in the water. They feed on annoying mosquitoes and gnats that are often found around water. So it's my pool and the darn insects that it attracts that lures the dragonflies to my backyard. I'm grateful to have my very own flying pest exterminators that help make my time in my swimming pool more enjoyable.
But deep down, the presence of the dragonflies in my backyard are a symbol of the fanciful dreams of a little girl from many summers ago.