Half staffed remembrance for the day our modern world was forever changed. I don’t understand hatred of this magnitude. While it’s easy to imagine outrage over poor treatment and poor policy, I find hatred over ideology hard to wrap my mind around. If anything would be anathema to a Creator, it would be this sorry state of humanity.
I’ve mentioned before the variable electricity I get here on the hill. End of the line, frequent power slams. Earlier this month, after a fire elsewhere on the line blew out a nearby transformer, my house was hit with a potent power surge. The result: my very expensive (for us anyway) European water-saver washing machine bit the dust, and as I write this, the ticking time bomb that is my refrigerator is literally ticking its death throes. We thought long and hard about replacing the washer but these new no-agitator machines may save water, but by reviews they do a poor job cleaning clothes. We’ve opted to buy a replacement control panel for our dead water-saver instead. I’ve a feeling madness lurks in that decision.
In the meantime, my husband and I discovered a new out of the way laundromat in a nearby small town. I remember those mobile laundry days from carting two people’s laundry several blocks in a bungee corded shopping cart, to dragging my little kids along on the weekend for a family-sized job that seemed to take hours. It’s just the two of us now and all in all not so bad with an hour and a half of crossword puzzles and conversation to share. Those jumbo machines make quick work of the job. For now this is fine. At least until winter snows make it otherwise.
The other evening we were returning home just as the sun was setting. In the sky all around us were tiny glinting needles of silver darting here and there. A full sky of them. And darting just above, the nighthawks. I must back up here to explain. The recent heavy rains inspired a last hurrah of mosquitoes to hatch — small, persistent, and painful little biters too. Nature isn’t about to let that bounty slide. Remember the drama of the spiderwebs I wrote about this week? This was expanded drama.
The sky was full of mosquitoes emerging for the night, the main goal to hunt down a blood meal. Hunting those hunters were the dragonflies, and hunting them were the large-mouthed goat-suckers or nighthawks. Millions of mosquitoes, thousands of green darner dragonflies, and about thirty birds all doing what they do best. As happens so many times, given where my husband and I live, we were in awe. There was nothing to do but pull over and take it all in for a while.
There are 98 species of dragonflies in my area, and 12 known species of darners. Some of these have wingspans up to four inches across. The oldest fossil records of them go back 250 million years, their ancestors had wingspans of feet instead of inches. They’re ferocious hunters in both larval and adult stages. The aquatic larva, or naiads, stay in this form for more than a year and are much larger than the adults. In that stage, in my opinion, they’re the stuff of nightmares — large enough to catch fish and frogs. I can only imagine the naiads 250 million years ago.
Clocked at more than 60 mph, and flying with all the control of a helicopter, the adults can zoom front, back, and sideways in all directions. I’ve always thought the way they fly to be the most curious thing about them. Being airborne hunters, their front legs fold inward (like us lacing our fingers together). This basketing allows them to scoop up small flying insects and shove them right into their mouths…eating on the fly, so to speak. They also have some of the largest eyes in the insect world and see prey up to 40 yards away.
To cultures around the world, the dragonfly comes with stories and myths:
- In Japanese artwork they represent lightness and joy. Its name Akitsushmi means Dragonfly Island and is another name for Japan.
- In some Native American cultures, dragonflies are the souls of the dead.
- To the Hopi they’re the harbingers of renewal after hardship.
- In the faerie stories of Europe, they used to be real dragons.
- In Norse folklore, dragonflies liked to pick out human eyes, sew eyelids shut, or attack ears and had names like Eye-poker and Ear-cutter. The softer side had the dragonfly as a symbol of the goddess Freya.
- The Swedes also said trolls used dragonflies to sew their clothes
- There was also a European belief if dragonflies swarmed over your head it meant the devil was weighing your soul. Not good.
- A Romanian folk tale says the dragonfly was once a horse possessed by the devil.
- The Dutch call them horse-biters.
- In South America they are called horse-killers. A reference to size?
- To the Vietnamese they forecast the weather.
- Germans have more than 150 different names for dragonflies. Evocative names like Teufelsnadel, Wasserhexe, and Hollenross (Devil’s needle, Water witch, and the Goddess’ horse)
My favorite is the Devil’s Darning Needle. I’d tell that one to my students on nature field trips. I’d explain the dragonfly myths of several cultures where these insects sewed shut the mouths of children who talked back and people who swore. I loved how my students all covered their mouths with their hands and looked around wide-eyed. Boy, sometimes I miss those school days. I was a fun science teacher. 😀
The nighthawks are a story for another day…
For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Clichés.
There are 46 entries to come.
Here’s a cliché for today:
A stitch in time saves nine.
Today is Author Marianne Stephens’ blog day with a post about the tragedy of September 11, 2001
Romance Books ‘4’ Us ~ The September contest is on, this time two winners!
I’m participating in Fall Into Romance — a month-long event hosted by The Romance Reviews. Hundreds of authors and industry people are participating and that means hundreds of prizes. Find my bit on my satellite blog: http://calliopeswritingtablet.blogspot.com/
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