A living flash of light
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These Paleozoic-era fae have been a symbol of rebirth and change for thousands of years. Some cultures believe a dragonfly is a transition phase of a loved one who has passed away. Dragonflies’ giant ancestors first crawled out of the water and took to the air over the great forests and swamps of Pangaea during the “age of oxygen” 300 million years ago. Although we usually think of the dragonfly as the master of the air, most of her life is spent underwater. Eggs are laid in the water and hatch first into a nymph. This ugly little water bug slowly develops, molting several times as she grows, some species up to 8 years. When the nymph matures, she rises to the surface and learns to breathe air. Then she crawls out of the water and splits open her exoskeleton to emerge a full-grown dragonfly. Once her wings expand and dry, she finally takes to the air. Within only a few months, she lays her eggs, restarting the cycle of transformation and rebirth.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Today I saw the dragonfly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.
Merino wool, silk, soy fibre and ink on canvas. 40×40 cm.
Under a Mimosa Tree
The dewdrops hang on the bending grass,
A dragonfly cuts a sunbeam,
The moaning Cypress trees lift sombre arms
Up to skies of cloudless blue.
A hummingbird sips from golden cup,
In the hedges a hidden bird sings,
And a butterfly among the flowers
Tells me my soul has wings.
C. Wayne Smith Photography and Hobbit Productions – Low Tide. Click here for more on Facebook
Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky…
Dante Gabriel Rossetti from “Silent Noon” 1870
150 million-year-old Jurassic-period fossil with 7.25-inch wingspan
The Small Pond
Quietly and reluctantly,
the mouth of the spring
let go of the streamlet.
The tree shades cherish the breeze and the sunshine above water.
Just emerge from the pond
a delicate lotus bud did.
Perching atop it,
a dragonfly already enjoys
Yang Wanli, Chinese poet
Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.)
Lotus and Dragonfly (1822)
scroll, ink and colour on silk
Qing Dynasty artist Wu Guichen was also known by her literary name “Xiaoxian” (Fairy at Dawn). She was born in Jintan, China. As a child, she learned Yun Shouping’s boneless flower-and-bird painting technique from Pan Yijun. She often sketched flowers from nature.
(HINT: zoom in on the wings)
Living things tend to change unrecognizably as they grow. Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant? Flora or Fauna, we are all shapeshifters and magical re-inventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.
Diane Ackerman, From Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden