Time moves on, whether we want it to or not, and while I'm still deeply immersed in grieving, it's important that I continue to write, continue to encourage fellow gardeners, and otherwise celebrate what is truly good in this world.
We're over halfway through FARCH, that interminable time that starts on 1 February and ends usually at the end of March, but sometimes not til May or June, if last year was any indication. We've had an oddly mild and not-really-winterish winter, and whether that means we'll have an early, easy spring or something quite different, who really knows.
The big metal and glass dragonfly on my home's back deck reminded me that I had a story to share with my readers. When I was a little girl, I was afraid of dragonflies, because my father teasingly told my sisters and me that these winged beauties, also called devil's darning needles, would sew up our lips if we were rude or saucy. I bought that tale...for a little while.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered the absolute beauty of dragonflies and damselflies, and how gentle they are, going on about their own business, not stinging or harming people. I became besotted with them.
It's certainly easy to see why dragonflies inspire artists from potters to silk creators to stained glass artisans to jewelrymakers. They're like living jewelry, with their gossamer wings, sometimes iridescent with flashes of colours, and their fascinating shapes and sizes.
I collect dragonflies to a certain extent--I don't have thousands of them, but I have some nice pieces, from pewter and copper jewelry to stained glass to silk scarves to pottery. I like to sit down by the pond on hot summer days and watch the dragonflies and damselflies perform their acrobatics. They're benevolent, benign, and beautiful.
They're also a symbol of rebirth, of death into life, of hope. There are many tales told about dragonflies 'visiting' or greeting people after a loss. At this time of year, of course, there are no dragonflies to be seen in Nova Scotia, except the artistic ones.
A friend shared a story with me recently that is popular on the Internet; a story called Waterbugs and Dragonflies, by Doris Stickney. This book is subtitled "Explaining Death to Young Children" but I think it's a good story for us adults to hold to our hearts, too.
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to loose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.
“Look!” said one of the bugs to another. “One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?” Up, up, up it slowly went …even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn’t return.
“That’s funny!” said one water bug. “Wasn’t she happy here?” asked another… “where do you suppose she went?” wondered a third.
No one had an answer. They were all greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered his friends together. “I have an idea. The next time one of us climbs up the lily stalk he or she must promise to come back and tell us where he went and why.” “We promise”, they said solemnly.
One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.
When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come over his body. His movement revealed long silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings. The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly he found himself up above the water.
He had become a dragonfly!!
Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.
The dragonfly remembered his promise:” the next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.” Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…
“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least I tried. But I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me and where I went.”
It just so happens that my beloved Lowell, who left me so suddenly 5 weeks ago today, also loved dragonflies, and had also been told the same 'sew your mouth up' tale by his grandparents. In his memory and his honour, I'm going to collect MORE dragonflies of various sorts and create a window of colour for him, facing the ocean, his favourite view.
And when the dragonflies come to see me this spring, I will greet them and be comforted.