Monday, June 22, 2009

Smitten by a Dragonfly on Sanibel Island

A dragonfly is a type of insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocata or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifacted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Even though dragonflies possess 6 legs like any other insect, they are not capable of walking.

The above, a definition straight out of Wikipedia, is certainly one way to look at these little critters.

But I prefer my own view.

Dragonflies were always a source of wonder for me a child spending summers on my Aunt's farm where a nearby creek seemed to be an unending source for viewing them. It fascinated me that this flying insect could make itself airborne with such light wings compared to its heavier body.

In those days we did not know the name, let alone this sophisticated information above, and we just called them darning needles.

But they came to represent those lazy summer days when we spent hours plucking cattails from the banks of the creek (we called them "punks") and letting our feet cool off in the swift flowing waters.

Now that I see "dragonflies" during most of our visits to Sanibel, though I know a little more, the fascination continues and is joined by a different delight.

Dragonflies are natural predators. Among their preferred meals are mosquitoes, and I am always happy to see the dragonflies proliferating knowing that that means there will be less mosquitoes on the Island.

And I am also enamored with all the symbolism a dragonfly engenders. They are associated with color magic, illusion in causing others only to see what you wish, and other mysticism. The are often depicted in Japanese paintings, representing new light and joy. To some Native Americans they are the souls of the dead. Faerie stories say that they used to be real dragons.

The Sanibel dragonfly does bring joy to my life on both the real and symbolic level.

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