Monday, June 23, 2014

Summertime, and the livin' is ...

One of my all time favorite songs is Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game, which has this wonderful line: caught a dragonfly inside a jar (although, to be candid, I'm partial to listening to Tom Rush's version). No jar today, but, using a camera and some patience, I caught this dragonfly, which I'm fairly certain is a female Common Whitetail Skimmer. Working on dragonfly (and damselfly) identification makes wildflowers seem easy. At least wildflowers do a better job of holding still (until the breeze catches them).

Common Whitetail Skimmer (female)
Common Whitetail Skimmer (female)       © harrington

Last night I finished reading a book that I'd like to share with you. I really enjoyed it, even though the author (Kathleen Dean Moore) lives on the "wrong" (West) coast (wrote the old New Englander from the East Coast). The book's title is Pine Island Paradox. It's a series, actually, four series, of essays in which she writes about the connections between us (humans) and the rest of nature. (That theme brings to mind another Joni Mitchell song, Woodstock, which has another great line: got to get ourselves back to the garden.) Maybe you've heard the Zen saying "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear?" That might explain why, shortly after I finished reading Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass, I discovered Kathleen Dean Moore's writing on the Center for Humans and Nature web site. More and more I'm becoming convinced that our ability to weave nature into our daily lives, whether they're lived in an urban or rural environment, is a critical factor in trying to live a happy, sane life. (See #3 on this 10 Ways to Boost Your Happiness list.) I'm also coming to believe that values will probably trump technology as we look for ways to live sustainably on a planet that's getting warmer and more crowded by the season. Anyhow, within the next few days, I'll be returning my copy of "Paradox" to our local library. I think I'm going to get my own copy so I can mark it up with marginalia. You might want to see which, if any, of Moore's books are available at your local branch. Summer is the season of "Summer Reading Lists," isn't it? And this scene, also taken this morning, looks to me like the essence of a sultry Summer day. It did have mosquitos to match before they're eaten by dragonflies.

Sultry Summer: Pond
Sultry Summer: Pond                     © harrington

The Vanity of the Dragonfly

By Nancy Willard 

The dragonfly at rest on the doorbell—
too weak to ring and glad of it,
but well mannered and cautious,
thinking it best to observe us quietly
before flying in, and who knows if he will find
the way out? Cautious of traps, this one.
A winged cross, plain, the body straight
as a thermometer, the old glass kind
that could kill us with mercury if our teeth
did not respect its brittle body. Slim as an eel
but a solitary glider, a pilot without bombs
or weapons, and wings clear and small as a wish
to see over our heads, to see the whole picture.
And when our gaze grazes over it and moves on,
the dragonfly changes its clothes,
sheds its old skin, shriveled like laundry,
and steps forth, polished black, with two
circles buttoned like epaulettes taking the last space
at the edge of its eyes.

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