Small Wonders: Life Intersects Insects

Dragonfly Ambassador

I’m guessing it had landed on my back some time before I walked in from cutting the grass. Or maybe it snagged the insect in its mouth just as I opened the door, and it flew into the house accidentally.

Or maybe, the dragonfly beating at the window over my desk had intentionally seized the opportunity for us to meet and chat for a good long while yesterday afternoon. I guess I’ll never know for sure.

I grasped it as I would a bird from a mist net, to protect the wings, and carried it out the front door to release it back into its world. But it chose to stay in mine, and would not leave right away until we had gotten to know each other a bit.

I hope it was not impolite, but I watched it devour an unknown insect, extruding the fuselage of some flying food I could not quite identify, then sucking it back into its mouth again, each time a bit less left, sometimes a leg or antenna spat out like chicken bones. It used its middle pair of legs with no small degree of dexterity to turn and control the morsel, while front and rear legs kept it on the temporary bar stool of my extended index finger.

So welcome to Fred’s petting zoo. These in-the-flesh (and chitin) encounters with the intricacies of living kind other than my own always reorient me to the small marvels buzzing around and within us all our otherwise-oblivious lives.

Sometimes, out of nowhere, life perches in our hand in all its veined and articulated detail. Sometimes, we are not too busy to be good hosts.

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Published by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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