#14 My Re-Enchantment Story

Photo: A magnificent Flame Skimmer which seems to have been attacked, possibly by a bird. Although his wing muscles are exposed, he flew off undaunted.

First, one lone Great Mossy Darner. Within a minute, two meadowhawks and an unknown (I really need to learn the damsels) dancer on the short twigs poking through the pond’s surface. I sat and with my tripod (elbows on knees) began watching. The darner came straight at me, its  head on a direct line as its body cut right. The opposite of a ‘head fake’, the head reacting slower than its body. (The ocelli, their ‘third eye’, directly controls the wings, bypassing the brain. Dragonfly head: follow the body or fall off. Not much of a choice.)

I thought of other flyers, bees for example: slow, methodical, ambling in short bursts flower to flower. Wasps, erratic, like happy children, loving speed and power. Butterflies, delicate, their wings fragile, as if too many flaps might break them. They use their wings to move vertically, saving them on the horizontal. Grasshopper, such a ruckus! hysterically launching then crash landing, tumbling to a stop. Dragonflies, so powerful, controlled, and surgical in flight. Not one wasted movement.

Compared to darners, meadowhawks made more vertical adjustments. The Flame skimmers, always shockingly present) seemed directed in flight, in constant transit, on call.

A new Darner appeared, also male. Competition?  As if choregraphed, they tumbled and lunged and wove together a meter above the pond’s surface. Both their ocelli working, they vibrated from attack to retreat like nerves firing. To the south, a male Widow Skimmer spread on a sunflower stalk, the whites on its backlit wings glowing in the sun. (No ragged wings of the one I saw Sunday).  Then a Twelve-spotted skimmer perched on a twig four feet away. It stayed like the gift I always wanted. Between the dark spots on its wings (three on each, times four wings equals twelve total spots) in each white transparent space a strange shadow vibrated in dappled light. Three meadowhawk pairs oviposited on a moss raft, mid pond, and one pair of dancers. The distant widow skimmer didn’t move for twenty minutes, but then, neither did I.