Almost 3-years ago I was working in my garden when I noticed a dragonfly perched on an arbor hosting the vines of several Clematis plants leading into my backyard. I watched him frozen in my position for several minutes. I was afraid that if I moved he would instantly fly away. When I finally began to slowly step towards him to get a better look I expected him to disappear. But, he did not. He remained atop the arbor, pointed in my direction and gave me the eerie sensation of being watched. I remember smiling and thinking to myself that I must need serious therapy if I really thought it possible that a dragonfly would stalk me. But, as I continued to move closer to him he still remained in his same position.
I began to rationalize his behavior – perhaps he landed in this spot to die? Maybe he was eating something I couldn’t see? Or, maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t scared of me (for whatever reason) and this was a simple game of chicken between us? I quickly evaluated the situation; I was bigger than him, I could run inside if he charged me, I had never heard of a deadly dragonfly bite, and he was “squashable.” Considering myself the one higher on the food chain, I continued to approach him and yet he still did not move.
Suddenly, I could walk no farther. My feet had hit the base of the arbor and my face was no more than a few inches from his. He wasn’t dead nor was he even injured. He sat starring down at me, occasionally fluttering his broad wings and adjusting his head and large eyes left, right, up and down. He was clearly observing me.
He was beautiful. So many gradient shades of blues and greens mixed with the iridescence of his wings. I don’t know how long I actually starred at him, slightly bewitched by the way his coloring danced around his body depending on the angle in which I titled my head and the refraction of the sun light bouncing off his body. I just remember for those moments feeling very happy, excited, energized and full of purpose. It was as if suddenly, everything in my life had extra meaning and I knew in the depths of my soul that I was here on this Earth, at this time and in this place for reasons far beyond my immediate understanding, but more importantly, for reasons I did not feel I had to know.
I felt a surge of immediacy and need to do something “important”, but I had no idea what that was. But, oddly enough, I also felt at peace with myself even though I was and am still learning to feel completely comfortable in my own skin.
I heard something buzz past my left ear and shook myself out of my mini-trance to spin around and identify the sound. I thought it was surely a wasp, hornet or one of those elephant-sized bees that love to feast on my purple coneflowers. It was actually none of the above. It was another dragonfly that swooped in to join my new friend nested on my arbor. This second dragonfly was not nearly as interested in landing and hovered above the seated dragonfly as if to say, “you’ve been here long enough. Let’s go!” At that point, they both flew into the air but remained stationary like helicopters only inches above my head. After completing several orbiting sweeps around my body they flew away and I was left standing there feeling amazed at what I had experienced and quite special that it had happened to me.
Over the next several months, similar situations continued to occur. They would happen frequently enough that others would notice and comment about the unusual magnetic draw I have for dragonflies. Whenever I would go outside one would appear and follow me about the yard. Within minutes a second dragonfly would show, then a third and sometimes even more. They would not fly as close as the one I experienced on my arbor, but it was evident that they were circling me and we were not just coincidentally co-habitating in the same space at the same time as me. Even more perplexing was the fact that dragonflies usually live near water (their larvae known as “nymphs” are aquatic) and I do not. No lakes, rivers, streams, pools or ponds are near my house. In fact, dragonflies would zip past my car while I’m at a stoplight in the middle of a concrete, busy street only to immediately return to my windshield and hover right in front of the driver’s side – directly in front of my face – starring at me as I waited for the light to change.
To most people, the dragonfly is just another insect. But, to many cultures the dragonfly represents much more. In Japanese culture the dragonfly is admired and respected so much so that the Samurai used it as a symbol of power, agility and victory. The Chinese associate the dragonfly with prosperity, harmony and consider it a good luck charm. To the Native Americans, dragonflies commonly represent swiftness and activity, but to certain tribes they have deeper associations. The Navajo believe they symbolize pure water and tribes like Zuni, Hopi and Pueblo regularly use dragonflies in their pottery, art and jewelry because of their reverent power. Many Native American tribes believe that dragonflies are personal “totems” – an animal or other natural figure that spiritually represents a person or as Ojibway scholar, Basil H. Johnston, defines it as “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being.”
In some European countries the dragonfly represents a less-positive symbol. Some call it the “Devil’s Needle”, “Ear Cutter”, “Snake Servant” and “Horse Stinger” due to stories that Satan sent the dragonfly to Earth to cause chaos and confusion or the perception that they stung horses and healed wounded snakes because they had been seen around these animals when they appeared to be afflicted. Even some Swedish folklore depicts dragonflies as creatures that would check on the bad souls of children who tell lies and adults who curse. Supposedly, the dragonfly would punish them for their sins by stitching up the eyes, ears and/or mouths.
For the metaphysical followers, the dragonfly can symbolize our changes in perspective regarding self-realization, understanding the deeper meaning of life, the ability to look beyond the surface of a situation to comprehend deeper implications, the emergence of new power and poise associated with maturity, self-discovery, removal of inhibitions, sight past personal limitations and appreciation of making the most out of life.
Whether it is coincidental or a real sign from something or someone much greater and more knowledgeable than me, I must confess that I can prove a correlation between the significant changes in my life (personal and/or professional) over the last 3-years with specific, high-traffic dragonfly periods of time. Whether the dragonflies are preparing me for a bounty of goodness or warning me of hard days to come, I welcome them and always look up to the sky for them whenever I go outside. Luckily for me, the dragonflies are back again this summer and regardless of what they bring me I’m ready because as I learned that day when I met my first dragonfly, every experience I endure inches me closer and closer to understanding my true purpose and regardless of what that happens to be – it is special.