#26 My Re-enchantment story



This is the same dragonfly from post #15, but I’ve learned something new.

Looking back to that day sitting on that dock watching dragonflies that day in Colorado wondering since it was a man-made pond which looked to have dropped in volume lately, and a two-meter swath of mustard colored moss formed the border between the deep green middle of the pond, and the steep shore. This moss seemed to be an algae bloom forming over the warmer water in the shallower edge of the pond. Cyanobacteria are often associated with algal blooms, turning the water toxic. Some cyanobacteria become airborne when breezes sweep across the pond’s surface. The erratic darting of the dozen darners patrolling the surface of the moss carpet in wide circles, suggested that they were hunting gnats too small for me to see. What if they were also pulling bacteria from the air with their wings? Recent advancement in microscope technology has exposed researchers to the nano-structures on each dragonfly wing. These ten billion ‘fingers’ trap air-borne bacteria with such a tight grip that the bacteria destroy themselves trying to escape.

One darner flew too close to the surface, the algae catching its left front wing and pulling it down. I was able to bring it to shore with a long pole. I delicately freed it from the algae and cleaned its wings which I didn’t know at the time, were covered with the tiny corpses of dangerous bacteria.



That Native Wisdom is directly related to ‘enchantment’ is something I’ve ‘known’ regardless of my ability to explain it. I recall early discussions about the different proposals to “Protect Greater Canyonlands”. On hearing Jonah Yellowman tell stories about the area with such impact and depth, I thought that this is different. Protecting this area is no longer just about scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, and biodiversity, it’s about all that Euro-Americans can learn from Native people about sacred places and indigenous knowledge. “It is time”, I kept hearing over and over, the truth of which grows greater and greater.

The entire environmental community coalesced around the Native Proposal which became Bears Ears National Monument.

I struggle with ‘cultural appropriation’ because I was accused of it while creating a class for college students. Lately, however, I’m more comfortable acknowledging my need to better understand this native knowledge, as it is definitely “enchanted” in the same way that our white patriarchal culture is ‘disenchanted’.

This past Monday was Indigenous People’s Day and like everyone, I saw dozens of references, all of which were important to me. This one stood out. John Trudell says something important that we all need to incorporate….that we all have Native Roots. So many of our current problems result from the fact that those of us in power have cut ourselves off from our roots. Re-connecting to our deepest roots is how to ‘re-enchant’ our lives, and a giant step in human survival.



Earlier this summer, I noticed something struggling in the center of a Rabbit Brush bush. A grasshopper seemed tangled in twigs and leaves. Although I don’t need more grasshoppers, I reached in to help it. I discovered that it was being held in the grasp of praying mantis. As I was working on this book hoping to understand my dragonfly dream, this creature jolted my memory of the book, The Mantis Carol, by Laurens van der Post. I only recalled that after a mantis appeared in a dream, one appeared physically to the now-awake dreamer. I rushed out to the library hoping to find that book but couldn’t. Last month, I found a copy of The Mantis Carol on our son, Louis’ bookshelf in Virginia and re-read it. In short, Martha Jaeger, an American psychologist has many dreams in which a praying mantis appears. While searching for meaning from professional colleagues across the world, she was sent one of van der Post’s books on the Bushmen of the Kalahari. She read it feeling of she’d been there already and “noted with a sudden inrush of hope all that I’d written about the praying mantis, how….it still was, the god of the Bushmen of southern Africa.” For months, she and van der Post corresponded about her dreams, agreeing to meet on his next trip to America. After many unrelated stops, van der Post arrived in Houston, Texas where Jaeger met him at the train station. At her house, as she turned to unlock the front door, “……she drew back in alarm, gasping. ‘What on earth is that sitting there?’”

“I looked”, van der Post writes. “There in an attitude of profound contemplation, as if waiting for a temple door to open, sat a large Praying Mantis.” She had never seen one before.

Somehow, this book plays a key role in understanding my dream. What if this statement from the Mantis Carol applies to my dream?

“First, there was one great fact of the history of human imagination to be taken into consideration of all this. Everywhere at all times, in all cultures, in all races of which we have record, when the greatest meaning, the highest value of life men called their gods of god, needed renewal and increase through life on earth, it began the process through a dream.”


Photo: Broad-Bodied Chaser/Monk’s House/Rodmel, England.
Today, I was writing about being at Monk’s House, where Virginia Woolf lived with family and friends, where her ashes are scattered. I realized exactly where they were scattered because in this enchanted world, an amazing dragonfly, a Broad-bodied Chaser, flew circles around it. (Dragonflies carry the souls of the dead, so this makes sense.) There was more to it today, as I thought back to the situation. I realized that Virginia Woolf may have something for me today. As I thought about what that might be, I recalled her short story, Kew Gardens. This story is her stream of consciousness about people visiting a particular flowerbed in this famous London Garden. A man and his wife walked by the flower bed, the man recalling years before when he spent the day trying to convince unsuccessfully, his lover to marry him. At one point a dragonfly appeared. “And my love, my desire, were in the dragonfly; for some reason I thought that if it settled there, on that leaf, the broad one with the red flower in the middle of it, if the dragonfly settled on the leaf she would say ‘Yes’ at once. But the dragonfly went round and round: it never settled anywhere.” How did that dragonfly ‘know’ that that man and woman should not marry? I only ask because in my enchanted world, dragonflies bring messages from the inner world, from non-ordinary reality. Perhaps that’s what the dragonfly in Virginia Woolf’s story was doing, bringing a message from the inner world, a message that the man in the story didn’t like.