By Liz Summer, I Start Wondering Columnist
The sultry air thickened as the hot and humid evening sky darkened. The sunset turned the wispy clouds improbably garish shades of pink and black. I was enjoying this sunset sitting next to a tiny, wild and unkempt “Walden’s Pond” – a natural pond no larger than a backyard swimming pool. The evening chorus of frogs started up and my dogs romped enthusiastically. All was right in the world. Then the onslaught started – familiar high frequency buzzing followed by unmistakable biting and itching.
Mosquitos were disrupting my pleasant musings and sunset gazing. But part of my agreement with Walden’s Pond is to let it be – to learn to embrace what is. To appreciate the connections of not just the cute and friendly, but also the darker side of Texas wildlife – mosquitos included! At that moment though, it was tempting to start planning a chemical counter attack….
The next morning in the brightness of a fresh day came a brilliant reminder of the magic of watching and learning. The morning air was filled with hundreds of dragonflies – blues, greens, yellows, reds, spotted and unspotted. Jewels all, celebrating the morning sun with their aerial acrobatics. Of course, here is the answer! Dragonflies love mosquitos! The flight of the dragonfly, after all, is as top gun as the most highly maneuverable fighter jet – turning on a dime to catch mosquitos and other small insects in mid-air.
In Texas, we have over 100 different species of dragonflies. Common names include such wonderfully evocative names as Skimmers, Meadowhawks, Pondhawks, Pennants, Darners, Cruisers, Spiketails and, my favorite, the Shadowdragon. Interestingly, most species of dragonfly exhibit sexual dimorphism. This means that it is possible to tell if a dragonfly is a girl or a boy simply by looking at its coloring or shape.
But this morning, instead of reflecting on such textbook knowledge, I looked up and really paid attention to the limbs of a dead oak tree. Decorating each branch, at the very tip, was a dragonfly. It was as if the tree were in full bloom, but instead of a flower, each branch terminally blossomed into a dragonfly. Each was facing into the wind, ready to take off at a moment’s notice. Sailing into destiny.