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Dragonfly perched on a stalk of grass overlooking a pond

The Circle of Life is Ironic and Tragic Sometimes

There was this dragonfly, but he wasn’t a dragonfly just yet. He was just a larva . . . but he knew that he was a dragonfly. So here we are, a non-dragonfly dragonfly realizing his about-to-be-“a dragonfly”-ness.

So our friend, the larva, who knows he’s a dragonfly waiting to happen, is floating around in a large pond. It has a shallow pier on a shallow end on the pond. Lots of growth around that pier.  The larva-fly finds some protection in the vegetation in the shallow water. . . a place to break out of the larva-casing . . . to become a nymph. “I’m a dragonfly!! Not a nymph!!”

“Crap, now I’m a nymph that’s out of the water. What are these things looking at? They’re big. Don’t eat me. Ok, when do my wings come out?” The big things, by the way, is a group of gang-affiliated teenagers that are in a day-treatment program that has taken a nature hike. That these kids are tough as nails is an important detail.

Nymph-fly has large eyes now. He can see all sorts of new things now that he’s out of that little casing. The casing was a good thing though, it was home for a while. “Woah, my tail’s unrolling??  I thought it was just going to grow out.”

“Wonder where those wings . . . WOOAAAHHH these things unfold?? How the heck can I fly with these little things . . . ooohh, looonng wings, GASP! 4 of them?? Boink! Bendy legs, nice. Now I’m a dragonfly! Ug, a dragonfly that can’t take off yet! Don’t eat me.” Our little friend is evolving quickly on the pier now. One of the bigger kids, a 6’2″ 280 lb 17-year old with stab wounds on his chest and hands got a stick and picked up the nymph to put him on the pier. I’ve never seen him so gentle. And I wouldn’t get the chance to again. But I digress.

“This wind sure is cold . . . can’t really move these wings yet, they feel too heavy. Why are these things looking at me? They sure are big. These wings really need to dry off. Dry thoughts, fly away safe; dry thoughts, fly away safe. . .” Now our gentle giant is actually giddy with excitement waiting for the dragonfly to dry off and fly away.

“BZZZZ!! They’re ready! So long folks!” And just like that, our friend the dragonfly zipped through the sky, snacking on mosquitoes and gnats. . . doing circles in the sky, buzzing close to the ground, soaring up high and jigging this way and that against the sun. Really enjoying just being a nimble, dry, dragonfly . . . all this just before being snatched out of the sky by a little yellow bird that had probably learned to fly a week earlier.

The whole circle of life witnessed by staff and clients at a behavioral treatment center for high-risk youth while on a wilderness field trip. It’s absolutely true, every bit of it. Our gentle giant was killed a couple of years after finishing our program. I like to think that his dragonfly experience helped him live a good couple of years before his death. I know that at least one of the younger kids who looked up to him in the program changed his course in the program (to cooperative instead of defiant) at the same time that his bigger, older friend did.