A few months ago while filming a time-lapse near a pond in Perry, Georgia, I noticed movement in the still water in front of me. There, in the middle of emanating rings of motion was a dragonfly, fluttering in the water, trying with all its might to get airborne again. To be free in the air with graceful flight - to die in the water with clumsy might.
I found it ironic that this creature which came from the water was now drowning in the fluid of its birth and if it didn't drown, it surely would become a breakfast snack for a bass or brim.
I reached down to the water, offering my hand as a limb to safety and a second chance. The dragonfly gladly climbed on board, the water dripping from its bent and damaged wings.
Dragonfly is a very fitting name for these creatures. In Japan, the dragonfly is a sign of courage, strength and happiness and I definitely agree. They have always amazed me and always make me smile. I can't tell you how many times I have been working outside and take notice of one flying around me. When I'd stop moving, it would land close by on a branch or leaf, watching me, its head cocking in different directions as the large eyes examined in curiosity this human sweating in the sun. What was it thinking? Was it just curious? Whatever the reason, it was always good to know I wasn't the only one working and that even though we were very different, in a way, this small, fierce miniature dragon was noticing me and stopping to watch.
Another time, I was in a deep swamp near the Savannah River and noticed one working almost a perfect attack pattern. Starting out on a reed near the shore and then flying out over the water, diving low, angling sharply and then returning to the reed to rest. This went on again and again and again. Sometimes I wondered when a bass would come leaping out of the water to catch this aerial genius, but it never happened. Once, another dragonfly decided to claim the reed as its own. Mistake! Next, there was a dogfight in the air like something you would see in an old World War I biplane combat clip. Eventually, the trespasser was driven away and my friend went back to work. I never knew insects claimed territory, but this incidence taught me something new about the dragonfly.
But, back to my story: by now, the poor, weak dragonfly had partially dried out. It was still weak and it was now looking much better than it did when I retrieved it from the glass smooth pond. With renewed strength came awareness and I could tell that even though it wasn't strong enough to fly far, it was about to take off. Within a few seconds it took to a small breeze like a rowboat in an outgoing tide. But, it took a wrong turn, flying directly over the pond instead of moving to a reed or bush along the shore to recover fully. It fluttered in the air and it slowly dropped, lower and lower till it was just above the water. I thought to myself, "well, I tried," and soon the dragonfly was back in the water again. It was far away now about midway in the pond and I expected to see the surface break and with a splash, a bass inhale its breakfast. But it never happened. The rings in the water slowly drifted towards the other shore. Closer, closer...and then, a number of swallows noticed the flapping and rings in the water. Within a few seconds the dragonfly was gone and the swallow chirped overhead with delight as it continued to scan the water for more food.