In a dream I dive off a pier into a lake. I am not a strong swimmer, but today I dive with ease, surface quickly and skim along the water’s surface like Olympic racers do, in a rhythm that is easy and strong, fast and even. I can see fish and plant life below the water without the usual struggle to float, breathe, stroke. I skim along the surface effortlessly, amazed at my new ability of “swim flight.” I travel a great distance this way, speeding along the water’s surface with a breathless wonder. And I feel confident and peaceful. Is this what it is to fly?
On the familiar drive I make all summer to the cabin, from south to north, there seems to be a shift today. Passing over the Blatnik Bridge the harbor is bruised purple with curly white caps, stirred up by a north wind. I imagine the hawks and other broad-wings as they begin their long trip south, likely flying overhead, taking the same path to the south shore. There is a vibe of endings and beginnings, students returning to campus at the Universities in Duluth and Superior, the RVs heading south towing boats to be docked for the season. Summer has changed its palette from green to yellow, tinting the road ditches along 13, with golden rod and tansy, the tassels on tall grasses weary and bent.
Today as I walk Roman’s Point the deer flies don’t buzz my head, the breeze has the steady coolness of early September. I take the spur to Lost Creek, note that the mobile home has come to rest on the gravel pad prepared earlier this summer. The sand beach is cleared of forgotten flip flops and overturned kayaks, the water clear and still, no swimmers have splashed here for days. It has a vacant stillness of the off season. It is just me, the crystal water of the creek, the choppy waves of the bay and undisturbed sand.
I feel a tap on my shoulder and resist the reflex to flick away whatever has landed. Out of the corner of my eye I see the blue-green iridescent wings and orange mouth of a dragonfly. I sense the thin lacquered black legs dig in slightly, gripping the fabric of my shirt. I hold still, can see its fragile wings spun of filament. I decide it is a damselfly, from the upright position of her wings. I am glad for her visitation. I don’t disturb her as I walk up the hill away from the water, down the gravel road, back to the cabin. She rides on my shoulder the quarter mile to the end of our driveway. The next time I glance over, she is gone.
Dragonflies reflect light that give color to its translucent wings. Some Native peoples believe that dragonflies represent the souls of the dead, and that their energy spirit bring an ability to live in both water and air. The Spirit has helped me see the qualities I needed during this period of metamorphosis, and provided natural gifts to instruct me.
Dragonflies and damselflies are metamorphosed from nymphs, born in water to become airborne in a maturation process that takes two years. Their presence can signal a period of transformation that is beginning or ending.
The dragonfly on my shoulder honors the transformation I have undergone from child to grandmother and reminds me I can start again on a new cycle of growth.
I feel different in my body, lighter and free, maybe like the damselfly feels when she takes flight for the first time. She no longer has the cumbersome body and short legs of immaturity that require her to live under the weight of water. I also sense the light has changed, know that darkness will come, but will take the spiritual gifts of the dragonfly to reflect light for others.