05 March 2012

The spirit of dragonflies

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. 


  1. We do have dragonflies in our garden today. Happy to 'share' them with you Jodi.

  2. I had never heard about this sewing business. How scary. I am glad you overcame your fear and appreciate one of our world's beautiful creatures. An excellent idea about collecting the dragonflies. I hope each one helps you through your grief.

  3. How glad I am that I shared the Doris Stickney story with you!
    We shall sit by my pond, too and marvel at them this summer.


  4. I love the story. In my "neck of the woods", as a child, I was told that the Devil's Darning Needle would sew up my EARS! Maybe that is why I now have two hearing aids!

  5. Dragonflies are so beautiful and I think as you create your window for them, and add to your collection, you will find comfort there. Take care, dear one.

  6. The Dragonfly story is beautiful - there are many (too many) times I would have found comfort in those sweet words. I have been following your blog for a while now and its wonderful. You have the best thoughts and wishes from me.

  7. Sweet posts - Dragonflies are definitely a beautiful "wonder." Sorry to hear of this sudden loss. Yes, a collection would seem to be in order. Much Sympathy, Jodi.

  8. Jodi dear, I am devastated at your loss. I too have been away for what seems like weeks in a distant city spending my time at my sister bedside as she lay dieing. Now I only have my husband who has pretty advanced dementia/Alzheimers and all responsibility rests on my shoulders and. just like you, although he is there physically, I have no-one to talk to and share all those day-to-day things that were so much easier to deal with if someone else just 'understood' with you.
    This morning was the first time in months I have spent half an hour in the garden and found a little solace.

    Weeding is magic for the soul.

    My sincerest sympathy . . . Arija

  9. Thank you for sharing the story! I never appreciated drangonflies so much until other bloggers published photos which revealed their charms to me. I hope to see some dragonflies in my own garden this summer, and I will think of you, Jodi.

  10. Dragonflies and damselflies remind me of lazy childhood summer days. They are beautiful creatures and sport so many incredible iridescent colors! I remember a sweet day last summer when a damselfly sat on my finger for about an hour while I read a book by the lake. Magical moments...

  11. Jodi what a perfect story..thx for sharing it meant a lot to me and now when I see my beloved dragonflies this summer at pond side, I will think of all my lost loved ones who are now found!!

  12. I too love dragonflies. I'd never heard the "sew up your lips" story. What a lovely story about the water bugs and dragonflies, to help you through your grief. Keeping you in my prayers and thoughts, dear friend. <3

  13. Jodi girl .. that was a wonderful story and comforting.
    What changes that are beyond our control,that we must go through, can make us feel so defeated and sad .. but there is a little string of hope in each one os us that ties us here and keeps us going and eventually will light up our lives again .. sitting by the pond .. listening to the birds and insects and watching those beautiful little creatures .. well I think Lowell will be sitting there too with you some how .. and you will feel that comfort again.
    Your dragonfly collection is beautiful ! May you find more that make you smile : )
    PS .. may you here those wonderful Spring Peepers too !

  14. I love that dragonfly story. That metaphor gives me great comfort too.

    When I was a kid, someone told us that the black dragonflies could kill you. I still remember one landing on a friend, and the rest of us ran screaming our lungs out. We thought she was a gonner.

  15. Dear, dear Jodi, I haven't been by to visit for awhile, and after reading your first sentence I went back to read your last two posts. My deepest sympathy on the loss of Lowell; he sounds like such a wonderful man, so full of life and love. Your tribute to him was beautiful and so moving.

    I loved the story of the dragonfly. My friend Beckie (of Dragonfly Corner) lost her youngest daughter--also my goddaughter--in an auto accident 7 years ago, and she, too, has found comfort in dragonflies, since her daughter always loved them. She has quite a collection of dragonfly art and jewelry now, not to mention the real beauties that show up just when you least expect it in her garden. May their gossamer wings grace your garden often this year and bring you comfort as well.

  16. What a lovely story - I can see how you found some comfort in it. Take care Jodi. *hugs*

  17. Jodi, I am glad that you are continuing to write for it will be your comfort as you need to explore your thoughts and feelings. You have a wonderful audience here for your writing and you will receive great support. I have not heard the story of the sewing of lips. Stay strong.

  18. What a beauiful story Jodi. I have never heard of the sewing of the ears and maybe a good thing too because I have always been a little afarid of dragonflies, but not blind to their beauty :)

    I read about your loss and I felt pain in my heart for you, but you are a strong woman and every time I see a dragonfly, I will think of you. I hope your window collection will bring you peace and I think it is a lovely memory to your love.


  19. Jodi: It is in the visit of the male cardinal that I feel touched by the spirit of my Dad who left many years ago. He loved that bird and its infrequent visits seem to occur when I most need a pick me up. I know the same will be true for you. Hugs.

  20. glad i stumbled on your blog. lovely story and am sorry about your loss..

  21. Oh wow! I forget that it isn't spring everywhere. Snow? Oh my! Although we could have used lots more of it to fill our water wells back up. Maybe you can send some of your moisture this way and I can send some of my sunshine that way? Blessings to you.


  22. So sorry for your loss. The dragonfly window will be a wonderful tribute an memory. I much enjoyed the story too.


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