Maybe it was because I intended to read “Emergence,” a poem I wrote in honor of dragonflies at a local poetry reading, or maybe it was just because, but for the first time this summer, a Slaty Blue Skimmer landed on my shirt as I stood waiting for others to arrive at a trailhead on Tuesday. I placed my pointer finger in front of the insect and it slowly climbed aboard.
That’s not so unusual, but what struck me was that I was able to walk to my truck and grab my camera, use my left hand to take a photo as he remained on my right hand, and show him off to my friends–for at least fifteen minutes.
Of course, then I was hooked and so after returning to camp and taking a dip, I felt a familiar tickling on my toes as I sat on a lounge chair. The minute I moved, my friend moved, but only as far as the dock ladder. And so, I ran inside, grabbed my camera, and sure enough . . . he was either still there or had returned from a brief flight during my absence. Dragonflies do that–return over an over again to favorite perches in their territories.
I figured I might as well try again, but this time smartened up and used my left pointer, the easier to manage the camera with my right hand.
Ever so gently, he climbed onto it. Notice how you can see him using all three pairs of legs, well on one side anyway? They offered me a lesson.
For you see, I became aware that once he was settled on me or a leaf or twig, he pulled first one and then the other front leg up, rather like the draw-back position in karate, where you make a fist and pull your arm into your body. (I only know this because years ago our youngest took karate lessons until he was just shy of a black belt.)
What Slaty Blue (SBD) taught me was that he could stand on two pairs of legs and pull the front pair up, only using it when necessary to climb upon something or capture a meal.
My dragonfly and I . . . we spent a lot of time together. Even if he needed to fly off and twirl about in the air with a rival, or catch a delectable snack, he kept returning to my finger.
And if not my finger, then the top of a dock post. Those eyes–so brown. That face–so black.
And then there were the wings. Translucent and delicate with thin black veins. By spending so much time with SBD, I also noticed that a bit of the slaty blue coloration radiated from his body outward, as if that was his basal wing patch.
If you look at a Calico Pennant dragonfly, you’ll really understand the basal wing patch, that section of stained glass on the wing closest to its body.
I loved noticing that bit of coloration, but it’s the mechanics of it all that always astonishes me. How can an insect with such a chunky body fly with such thin wings?
The other thing about the wings is that they helped me with identification. Oh, not to say that this was a Slaty Blue for his coloring gave that away. But which SBD was I holding? My friend had a tatter on both hind wings. The one on the left was about a vein cell wide and the one on the right looked like a small chunk had been taken out of it. What happened? Prey or a run in with a plant or twig? I’ll never know, but I will know by those injuries that he was the one that liked to land on me.
Another, who was actually a rival, and perhaps a sibling, or at least a cousin, had a tattered forewing that looked a wee bit worse.
And then there was one I spied while kayaking yesterday and he had a pine needle stuck through his abdomen. What? But there it was and each time he moved, I could easily locate him.
On the same kayak adventure, an SBD landed upon a Pickerel Weed and as I watched . . .
he arched his back in a pose that reminded me of two things: 1. a move I’d learned yesterday morning during a Yoga in the Woods walk offered by Deb Nelson of the Greater Lovell Land Trust, and 2. His mating position. Was he in practice?
Would he find a she? She is so different. Her wings astound me the most.
My experience has been that there are more hes than shes so the guys better make their moves.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m in love with all dragonflies, but the male SBD is one of my favorites because his eyes remind me of my guy’s. And today, August 4, we are celebrating our 29th anniversary. So this post is in honor of my guy (even though he never reads these because he feels like he’s already lived them). May our journey together continued to be wonder-filled.