by Sandy Sela-Smith © 2004
Jenny, my sweet puppy, and I met Darla the Dragonfly on a strangely cool Florida morning…strange because it was near the end of April, and April is almost always very hot and humid and this particular morning it was not only cool, but it was dry. Just a short time before, the weather had been getting hotter, and it seemed as if the cool weather was gone. A wind was puffing soft breezes around us and I was very sure it would be the last cool day until the fall. I wanted to go outdoors to feel what seemed like an unexpected gift of a breeze and fresh air before it left us.
Even though she is a dog, Jenny and I both know that she is more than what most people think of when they think of dogs. Jenny has her way of talking with me. She talks to me by the way she tips her head, by the way she taps me with her foot and the way she barks. Just like babies who have different cries…Jenny has different barking sounds that let me know when she is hungry, when she is thirsty, when she wants to go outside or when someone is about to come to the door. She knows the sounds of other people’s cars and different barks to let me know who is coming. She has a special bark to let me know that the water deliveryman is coming at least five minutes before he comes to my door. Jenny knows when I am happy and when I am sad. If I have been working too long writing at my computer, she comes and taps my foot to let me know it is time to stop. All I have to do is look at her for just a little while and I can tell what she wants me to know. That is what can happen when you really get to know someone.
Jenny and I began our walk around 8:30 that morning. Some days Jenny picks the shorter walks, but this day, she seemed to want to spend more time looking at tiny wild flowers and chasing squirrels that squawked at us as we passed by. We were breathing in the fresh air and enjoying our wanderings that took us the long way along the winding paths, through the trees and beside the picnic areas.
My dog and I were both hungry for breakfast as we headed up the first flight of stairs and began to ascend the second flight on our way to my third floor apartment when Jenny jumped back in surprise and then pulled at her leash to get a closer look at a large green bug sitting on the fourth step. I held tight to the leash to keep her from hurting the beautiful flying creature and moved us both to the edge of the steps to continue our climb to the top floor.
After unleashing Jenny, I grabbed my camera, headed out the door and back down the stairs to see if I might have the good fortune of taking a photograph of the Dragonfly before she flew away. As I turned the corner, there she was, this lovely green being with radiantly golden wings, just sitting there. I walked down to the second floor landing and then got as close as I dared, to make sure I would not frighten my new friend and began to study her wings, her back, her head and legs. I asked her if it would be OK for me to take a picture and she didn’t seem to mind. In that moment, though I can’t tell you how I knew it, I knew that her name was Darla. I had never seen something as beautiful as she.
I sat on the second step and quietly watched…but Darla remained very still except for her golden wings that lifted and fell gently as puffs of wind blew through the breezeway. I watched her for several minutes but her body was motionless. I was not sure what might cause a dragonfly to just stand in one place, not moving at all when wind blew against her or when a human being sat down beside her.
I carefully placed my hand down onto the cement step just in front of Darla. I inched it closer to her to see if she would like to check me out. But she did not move. I continued to keep my hand there for quite some time. It surprised me that she did not even try to step backward. That made me wonder if she was all right or not. It seems that most animals will try to withdraw if people get too close to them.
In the past, I have seen hundreds of dragonflies soaring through the air so many different times. I often went out on the balcony of my apartment three floors above an alligator pond and jungle-like forest that goes on as far as the eye can see to watch birds and pond creatures. On warm days it was not unusual to see a dozen or so dragonflies flying above the pond and past my balcony looking like tiny helicopters speeding through the sky, flitting and darting around faster than hummingbirds, but in all of that time, I have never seen a dragonfly just sitting there without moving for so long.
The darling dragonfly’s back leg was stretched back and her long tail looked like it might have been harmed, but I was not sure. I had gone back to see her without my glasses and it is hard for me to see clearly without them, so I could only guess what might be happening. Could she be very weak and afraid? Might she be injured and unable to move? Is it possible that someone stepped on her leg or her tail and she couldn’t fly? Is she very old and preparing to die? Is she very young and is afraid to fly? So many thoughts were in my head. I wanted to be sure that the she was all right; but I, also, didn’t want to do anything that might hurt her, so I just waited. And then this very still dragonfly lifted her front leg and gently wiped it across her very large eye. I smiled with delight and thanked her for moving so that I could see that her little body was working just fine, but, now, I wanted to see her more clearly.
I decided to go back to my apartment to get my glasses and when I returned, she was still there, in exactly the same place as she had been all along. But with my glasses, I could see here even more clearly than before. I could see Darla’s eyes and was able to see that she was actually looking at me. I was even more amazed at how beautiful she was. I was pretty sure that she would not understand my spoken words, so I decided to talk with her by using my thoughts…it is more like opening up your heart and mind to really good, loving thoughts and sending the message of those thoughts from my head to hers, from my heart to hears. This is how I talk with Jenny and she with me most of the time, although she has been around me so much and me around her that we know each others’ sounds. Darla had never been around me and would probably not understand my sounds. After sending thoughts to Darla, I asked her to tell me anything she thought might be useful to me. We just looked into each others’ eyes for a while, and I let my heart and mind open to whatever she might want to send to me.
I began to study her delicate body. It was so amazingly beautiful. She had three pair of legs, the front two were shorter than the middle pair and the back pair was the longest of the three. Her green body was clear enough to be able to see what was on the inside of her. I could see her what looked like her lungs and the other body organs. It was like she had absolutely nothing to hide. She was just her beautiful self. I kept talking with her all the while.
I looked so closely at Darla’s wings. They shimmered in the light as if they were made of spun gold. Nothing I had ever seen looked so beautiful. I took several pictures of her wings, but the flash from the camera went right through her delicate wings and all I could see was the cement instead of the gold. I was disappointed because it seemed as if the magnificence of those wings was lost. Picture after picture, the beautiful shinning wing became just a blur to the eye of the camera, and the gold could not be seen. In one special moment, Darla lifted her wing, just a little and I took another picture. Not until later in the day was I able to see the wonder of those wings in that one picture I took when she shifter her wing just enough to let me see what I had been unable to see before.
Though my camera could not capture the shimmer of her wings, I was amazed at what did come through when I looked at my photographs on my computer later in the day. There, on my large computer screen, was a something that I was unable to see in the camera lens or with my own eyes because of the shimmering light that reflected off of her wings. Darla’s wings had a pattern that was so perfect. I could see that each of the sections of her wings was made up of tiny shapes that were all interconnected. Each shape was made by tiny fibers that could get bigger or smaller by stretching or by relaxing. When each one worked together with the rest of them, her wing could change shape and they could tip and flap so very fast that when she flew all someone could see is the light flashing off of them. When she flew, the patterns could change to let her wings lift her up or let her change direction so very fast. All the parts of the wing were important and each one, connected to all of the other ones had to work together to let her fly.
Darla was teaching me so much by letting me look at her wings. Even now as I write this to you, she is teaching me. After taking that picture she and I talked with each other in our minds and hearts, without words. Most of what she said seemed to be going into a place that I could not hear in my thoughts, but I knew that I was listening to her anyway.
After we talked in that silent way for a while, Darla lifted up her front leg and tapped the cement step several times. She repeated the tapping again, and again, as if she was giving me a signal and then she held her leg up in the air. I noticed the distance between her leg and the step and thought that there might be just enough room for my little finger to slip under her leg without touching her. As soon as I did that, Darla rested her tiny hand on my fingernail.
I felt my heart open with delight and I thanked Darla for trusting me enough to touch me. She remained there for quite some time. It was as if she was sending me messages, and picking up messages from me. As carefully as I could, I held the camera in my other hand and took a picture of this special meeting between Sandy and Darla.
And then in what seemed like an even more magical moment, Darla placed her other leg on the other side of my finger. Still standing in the same position she had been in from the very beginning, she had allowed me to get close enough and then she hugged me.
After some time in this hug, Darla took a step closer to me and brought her second pair of legs to my finger. She carefully grabbed a hold of me and then lifted herself and her back legs to fully climb up on me and let go of the step. I could feel her tiny feet moving on my skin trying hard to find her balance.
I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to feel her little feet walking on my finger. I could feel the delicate little hands and feet shift and grab making sure they were snug as she took each step. She had tiny fibers on her legs that helped her hold tightly as she walked so that a puff of wind would not blow her off or send her tumbling down onto some hard and damaging surface. She seemed so trusting, like a little baby when it reaches out to hold the finger of its mother to help in lifting up or in walking. I wanted to be very careful to not disturb Darla. In a few minutes, I gently lifted my finger into the air and held Darla up close to my face so I could see her and she could see me. She turned around on my finger and I couldn’t take a picture as I had before, so I just held the camera in the air and shot a picture hoping that I had been able to catch the image.
Sensing that the picture might not have been the very best, I began to take a second picture of her completely on my finger when I lost the grip on my camera and it started to fall out of my hand. Even though I held my finger as still as possible while grabbing the camera with my other hand, Darla must have felt the shift in energy. And she flew from my finger, up into the sky and into a very beautiful oak tree that grows next to my building.
At first I felt very sad thinking that I must have scared her away…but as I connected with her in my heart-thoughts, she told me that she used the energy from my quick movement to re-supply her with enough power to lift up and fly away.
I wished her a good flight and a good life and as she flew, I sent heart-thoughts to my new little friend letting her know that it was OK for her to share with all her other dragonfly friends what she had learned from me, and my heart heard her tell me that she would be pleased if I told human beings about her, as well.
I told her that anytime she wanted to know something about herself or someone else, whether that someone was another dragonfly or a human, or anyone at all, she could go to that place inside her heart where it is possible to connect with heart-thoughts and she could easily sense what filled the heart of the other. From that inner place of trusting and loving, it is possible to learn far more than you ever thought you could know, and sometimes you can discover that the heart of the other knows how to love and respect you and that they are safe to trust. If you let yourself sit very quietly for a while, you can know so much more by just sensing if you can talk with the others’ heart like Darla and I discovered.
After saying good-bye my heart was so filled with happiness that I had the good fortune to be right there when Darla was there. And if I had not had the time that morning, I would not have spent that magical hour with Darling Darla the Dragonfly
The next afternoon, when I took Jenny out for her afternoon walk, a beautiful butterfly that looked just like Darla flitted past me and landed in a bush very near. I tipped my head as if to say hello Darla, and she flew up high into the trees as if to demonstrate the power of her magnificent wings. Maybe it was her way of coming back to say thank you. Even as I write this, my heart can sense that it was Darla. She wanted me to know for sure that when she left it was not because she was afraid that she would be hurt. She knew that even though I had moved quickly to save my camera, at the same time I was careful to not move in a way that would bring harm to her.
Later on, I wanted to learn more about dragonflies, so I looked up the word on the Internet. I came across many web sites about dragonflies and began reading. I found out that there are over 6,000 species of dragonflies and that they are the fastest flying insects in the world. I found out that each of their big eyes is made up of 12,000 simple eyes. Like butterflies, they start out as an egg and then hatch into a worm like creature called a Larvae. But that is where they and butterflies differ.
While the butterfly lives for a while as a caterpillar and then weaves itself a silk cocoon, like a sleeping bag and then they slowly change into a butterfly, the dragonfly emerges from its egg in the mud or in water with a hard shell-like skin covering it up. In time it grows and can no longer continue to live and grow in the little hard skin, so it breaks through the skin to grow again. The new skin becomes hard and shell-like as protection while the dragonfly-to-be grows again and then breaks out of its old confining skin only to do the same thing again and again. Sometimes they will go through as many as 16 little breakthroughs until they are finally ready to make the last one. They change from looking like a worm, to an almost fish looking creature, and each time they look less and less like a worm and more and more like a dragonfly, but not until the last time do they begin to use their wings.
Before the final breakthrough, the dragonfly actually waits for the very best time to climb out of the water and get on to dry land. It waits for a warm sunny day when its wings can have a chance to dry. If it picks a day that it thinks will be warm but a storm comes or wind begins to blow too hard, the dragonfly can easily die. So it waits. Sometimes they might get impatient and come out during a storm, but the chances are very high that if they do, they will die.
When they break free for the final time, usually early in the morning, they emerge as a complete dragonfly. When they first come out they are very weak and helpless. They need good weather to dry their wings, something that can take several hours to happen. So they need to find someplace that is safe while they dry out. As their wings unfold, the tiny veins fill up with their kind of blood…and they stretch them out in the sun to dry.
Darla was stretching and drying when I first came upon her. I had forgotten something until just now. When I was sitting on the step, silently talking with Darla, a neighbor came out of his apartment with his very big dog. Because he saw me sitting on the step, he took the back steps to get to the ground level to take his dog on a walk. Had I not been there, I am very sure that his big dog would have thought Darla was a fun toy to play with and would have likely put his huge paw right on top of her.
I wonder if somehow, Darla might have talked to Jenny to let her know to come home from her walk right when she did so that a person, who knew how to talk to dragonfly hearts, could protect Darla. Perhaps we all have connections with the hearts and the wisdom of everything around us, even if, until this very moment, we hadn’t though about it before. Now, that is an interesting thought!