Friday, July 13, 2012


When we were at Bells Mill Park recently,
we could barely walk two steps 
without encountering dozens of electric-blue dragonflies.
They seemed to alight on every blade of meadow grass they could find.
Unphased by the heat, 
 they demonstrated an amazing ability to hover in the air,  
to fly forward and back, and up and down. 
According to Sarah Zielinski's blog "Surprising Science"
in Smithsonian Magazine online,
the dragonfly has been doing just that 
for much of its incredible 300-million-year history.
Imagine how exciting it would be to find an ancient fossil
imprinted with the outline of a dragonfly.
A photo is the next best thing.
Scroll down on this next link to see a dragonfly fossil
that is over 150 million years old, found in Bavaria Germany :

Here around our house, dragonflies are plentiful too.
They particularly favor a shepherd's hook we have for hanging plants 
and an iron US Calvary picket I bought from an antiques dealer.
If I were superstitious, I might wonder why the dragonflies
seem to always be at hand this summer.
Some people would see their arrival as an other-worldly sign.

In American popular culture, 
the dragonfly has been described
as symbolizing an ever-widening range of qualities 
from death to strength and self-realization to power and purpose.
But much of what is said to be dragonfly symbolism appears to be apocryphal.
The reality is much richer.

I found this fascinating web site
 that documents dragonfly references in art and culture:

The author is Ron Lyons, who identified himself as a 10-year volunteer
for the Chula Vista Nature Center in California..
It appears the web site may have been last updated in the 1990s,
but it is full of well-researched and well-documented information.
For example, one source cited by Lyons 
informs the question about dragonfly symbolism: 
"An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols 
by J. C. Cooper pg 56 1960 
(reissued from 1931 with a slightly different name)
- can share butterfly symbolism of immortality and regeneration 
- Native Americans - whirlwind, swiftness, activity 
- China - summer, instability, weakness 
- Japan - national emblem of the Dragonfly Island, 
also irresponsibility, unreliability"

The idea of regeneration is about the only symbol 
connected to current pop culture;
I doubt many would want to claim the idea that dragonflies 
also symbolize irresponsibility or weakness.
But China's idea that the dragonfly symbolizes "summer"  
sounds like something we could all agree with.

The Lyons site also confirms 
that dragonflies are important symbols 
in both the Zuni Indian and Japanese cultures.
For more details about dragonflies and their meaning in Japanese culture,
this web site is also very good:

Plus there is a photo of a bright red dragonfly.

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