Odonata

The Dragon-fly by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

Although this season is inflicting a whopping dose of allergies on us sufferers – not to mention plenty of humidity – summer does its best to compensate for its discomforts with small enchantments. Works for me! Among them are the presence of dragonflies, which have long been my favorite insects, both as living creatures and attractive motifs on decorative objects. On the latter, Louis Comfort Tiffany certainly agreed.

Found on Tumblr, plate taken from ‘The Biology of Dragonflies’ by R. J. Tillyard. Published by Cambridge University Press (1917):

Dragonflyplate

My earliest recollection of seeing a dragonfly was as a young child, on the summer days spent at the farm of my great-great aunt. She had a sprawling, rustic property on the north fork of Long Island, and when my parents drove my brother and I out there for visits in July and August, it provided us born-and-bred city kids with bit of country-living experience. Now I can’t say that I’m a person who is totally comfortable with insects in general. Stingers scare me, and any creepy crawlers of the centipede variety are sworn enemies. I can’t with those things. But the dragonfly is cool, man; the flash of iridescent green or blue color, the huge eyes, the long stick-like abdomen, and those two sets of serious wings. A prehistoric species that has inhabited planet earth since forever, the dragonfly gobbles up mosquitoes and darts, zips, and flits through the sticky summer air … like a boss 🙂

I follow the wonderful Maureen Gibbon on Twitter. She is the author of “Paris Red”a novel about Édouard Manet’s muse Victorine Meurent. Maureen recently posted a tweet of a dragonfly that she was able to photograph perfectly. I loved it:

Dragonflies are most commonly seen near water and wetlands and the surrounding areas. In fact, their larval stage is spent entirely underwater. It is believed that the presence of dragonflies is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. Sometimes referred to as ‘darning needles” (and easily confused with the similar “damselfly”) dragonflies have carried mythical symbolism throughout civilizations. They’re associated with change, adaptability, and transformation. During their brief life span, they make their presence known with robust behavior of evolutionary dynamism: they hunt their prey while in flight, they migrate, they mate, they use their powerful vision to see at all possible angles except directly behind them, and with their agile flight can fly straight up, straight down, zig-zag, hover in mid-air like a helicopter, or go full blast at up to 38 mph. And they’ve been doing all this for 300 million years. Bow down to odonata anisoptera my friends.

Lotus and Dragonfly by Qi Baishi, 1953:

QiBaishi_lotus_dragonfly

Since keeping a dragonfly as a pet in a cage would be a completely weird and stupid thing to do, I’ve instead collected dragonfly-adorned items over the years to decorate my home. This pretty light-reflecting dragonfly sits among my potted plants in the bay window of my house:

IMG_7021

You can’t see the top, but this ceramic dragonfly piece is actually a bud vase. It’s a family heirloom that might have been accidentally lost if I didn’t rescue it to safety 🙂

IMG_7035

A very special plaque. My Mom purchased it and then hand painted it for me. It’s been hanging on my bedroom closet door for 14 years:

IMG_7027

6 thoughts on “Odonata

  1. Bill says:

    That was really interesting — I enjoyed that. Thank you!

    Apparently the dragonfly symbolizes adaptability and transformation — powerful strengths for a Muse to possess as she contemplates possibilities for change and growth.

    http://www.spiritanimal.info/dragonfly-spirit-animal/

    But, as for keeping one as a pet, I can certainly picture you casually strolling down Madison Avenue — one hand holding a leash connected to your airborne dragonfly, the other holding the world’s smallest pooper scooper 🙂 Yeah, I’m rolling with the image — not weird at all.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      I love that Spirit Animal website! Thanks for the link. And thanks also for your comments, especially the Muse “contemplates possibilities for change and growth”. We’ll see what the future holds 🙂

      Claudia

  2. scultore says:

    Dragonflies are our favorites too, here’s one in Bali https://www.flickr.com/photos/39159262@N05/4021395957/in/album-72157622670021685/

  3. Jim O'Neil says:

    & they even not only survive but prosper here in the sun-arctic!

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