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Drew: Feb 22, “Dragonflies”

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I am struck by two different wonders.  The first is the wonder of a new place, which is expected.  A foreign tourist sees ordinary things with interest, snapping pictures of houses, farmers, traffic—even squirrels—with an excited fervor that at times alarms normal people.  But of course to the tourist these “normal” things are actually very new and different.  We see large houses built three meters in the air on posts like stilts. We wonder.  We watch a man in dress clothes riding a skid around a plowed field by holding on to an ox’s tail.  We wonder.  We take a picture.  We try to capture the sensation of walking through the streets of Hanoi, dodging the torrential din of motorcycles driving through a maze of uncontrolled intersections.  We wonder how to get the best picture without being flattened.  This is all very wonderful—noticeable because of its contrast to the foreigner’s lifestyle and environment.

            The second wonder that strikes me is not one of contrast but rather ordinary beauty.  A long strand of tissue caught up in a breeze gracefully spirals toward me through sunlight.  I catch my breath.  I wonder.  Through a dark tunnel of trees one of my teammates is silhouetted against clouds of dust backlit by sunlight.  It is beautiful.  Events like these happen all the time, anywhere, and one certainly doesn’t have to be in a foreign place to see wonderful things.  But being a traveler is being an observer with the permission to spend your time observing, which does offer many opportunities to notice.

            Just a few afternoons ago we were stopped at a Cambodian Buddhist monastery with plans to spend the night.  Often the monks are very hospitable and will insist you sleep in the prayer hall rather than on the grounds, even if you have a tent.  After assuring them the grounds would be fine, we began setting up camp.  We were in no hurry since it was still before five o’clock.  Jim’s tent was laid out and we were just fitting the poles when I began to notice small dragonflies lighting on the folds.  I looked closer at one.  It had a fly clutched in its front legs—still trying to buzz—and was steadily chewing off its head.  As I watched in wonder, the fly came open like a tin can, as if the head were on a hinge, and the lucky dragonfly supped (or whatever they do).

            I had never seen anything like this.  I was amazed.  We stopped our intentions for the tent to watch a while.  There were many dragonflies, none longer than a toothpick, hovering and alighting, suddenly still with folded wings.  The flies were also buzzing about, and when a fly would land near a silent dragonfly, it would take to the air, aim, rear back, and dive like destruction bent on a bear hug.  It happened quickly.  Sometimes the fly would escape, sometimes it wouldn’t.

            We sat and watched at least three flies pinned by dragonflies and then clutched away to where they could calmly chew off their heads.  The spectacle was both wonderful and terrible, and I was reminded of my gratitude for not being a part of the terrifying insect world—and that most insects I’ve encountered so far are smaller than my hand!  Not only that, but I was also reminded of what an amazing and fascinating world exists literally under our feet; all around us we are free to discover small wonders every day.  I have seen many dragonflies in my twenty-odd years of memory, but this was the first time I had ever seen a dragonfly catching its supper.

            Soon the crowd that was watching us watch dragonflies had grown considerably, and we realized it was time to start making our own movements toward supper.  We finished pitching the tent and dug out the Frisbee for an effort at non-verbal interaction to engage our curious friends before we crouched over our boiled rice and bananas.  But of course, that wasn’t meant to be…

2 Responses to “Drew: Feb 22, “Dragonflies””

  1. The Fueledbyrice Crew Says:

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    …Check out Nakia’s “Trickling Stories”…

  2. Tracy Says:

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    I was picturing that in my mind while reading it, amazing… Wow, i got so much information from every FBR, each with a totally different approach. Nice!

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