Meditations on the Dragon Fly

Meditations on the Dragon Fly

Dragonflies are amazing creatures. As predators in both their juvenile and adult stages, dragonflies teach us that we must always act, and not sit idly by. Developmentally, dragonflies are unique in that they spend their young stages underwater, and their adult stages in the air. They are top predators in both air and sea, at least as far as the insect world goes. You’ll be hard pressed to find other insects that can snatch ants, bees, and wasps from the air and enjoy a leisurely meal on a fence post. This picture shows the other unique part of dragonflies: their mating. The male “controls” the female by gripping the area behind her head with his rear end. The male’s sperm is actually stored closer to his head, and the female will curl her abdomen around into a “wheel” shape to get it. The male generally holds onto the female until she deposits eggs with his sperm underwater, as you can see this female doing. I’m not sure what life lesson there is in this mating acts, other than to see something through to the end and hold on for all that you’re worth. Happy Monday!

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Dreaming About Butterflies

Last night, I had a dream.  About a butterfly in two different stages.  In the first part of the dream, I was searching in a garden for this chrysalis (butterfly pupa) that I knew was there because I had seen the caterpillars there a few days earlier.  I was hunting in this garden for these chrysalises, and my ex was watching me from a distance.  And I was like… trying to prove myself to him, that I could find them after all.

A few moments later, you know how dream time goes, suddenly, I look up, and there’s a tiger swallowtail butterfly flitting into the shrubby undergrowth of the forest up ahead.  I get up off of my knees and I go to follow it, and my ex says something to distract me, and the butterfly gets away.

And life in dream world moves on.

I remembered this dream as I was walking from my office to the nearby cafeteria to grab some breakfast.   My initial analysis was that butterflies represent change, and so, my subconscious was trying to tell me to change.

My second analysis pointed out that my ex… hovering, like he was, in the dream, and us very clearly having nothing to say to each other; this might mean that I feel like he’s holding me back in some way.

My third analysis, in writing the dream out just now, seems to point to this idea that we’ve gone our separate ways, and he’s watching from a distance as I move on.

But in any case, the butterfly is a symbol of hope, and change, and the option to start anew.  When you see a butterfly, either in real life or in a dream, it’s letting you know that you have a second chance.

It’s a Monday, and so, I think we all need second chances, right?  I do, on this Monday.  I’m trying to be productive this week, but honestly, I should start dreaming about predators chasing me down the street.  I need motivation.

The Spiritual Meaning of Butterflies

Ever have a butterfly flit across your path as you take a walk in the late morning?  What did it make you think of, with its little wings buoying it up into the air time and time again?  Was it flying with purpose, racing down the road to the next patch of flowers?  Butterflies can teach us a lot on a spiritual level, and given that I’ve been a nearly-professional butterfly watcher, I’m going to share some of my insights.

A black swallowtail larvae munches on some parsley in a garden

A black swallowtail larvae munches on some parsley in a garden, mimicking bird poop with its black body and white stripes.

First, butterflies can teach us that life isn’t always about being an adult.  In most cases for butterflies and moths, the adult stage is the shortest lived life stage they have.  Butterflies tend to spend longer as egg, caterpillar and/or pupa than they do as adults.  We can apply this idea to our own lives and make the life stage that we’re in now, the most important one.

Second, and along these lines, butterflies have two main strategies for dealing with the world around them: They either make themselves obnoxiously visible, in often gorgeous colors, or, in stark contrast, ridiculously hard to find.  Though some of these more obnoxious color schemes mimic more poisonous organisms, or indicate that they are, themselves, poisonous, the fact remains that more visible creatures have a higher chance of being picked off by some unsuspecting predator.

The ones that blend in, they play it smart, but at what cost?  It certainly may make mates harder to find.  But drab-colored moths and butterflies with bright eye spots may frighten away potential predators.  We can apply this duality within ourselves – which part of yourself do you want to camouflage?  Which part do you want to show to the world?  Putting on a brave face, like those butterflies with bright colors, may be a good strategy… but sometimes, you should probably just go ahead and fade into the background.  Have you dreamed of butterflies?  What colors are they?

Butterflies are also, for us, symbols of getting a fresh start.  Although adult butterflies may retain some memories of their caterpillar experiences, emerging as an adult butterfly is an iconic way to get a fresh start.  If you want to wipe clean your slate, you may want to visualize pupating, shedding all that is wrong with you, and then emerging as an adult butterfly, fresh faced and ready to return to the world.

Life Speaks: The Turkey

I’m sure  we’ve all heard it through the grapevine: The turkey was SUPPOSED TO BE our national bird!  But then it got replaced with the Bald Eagle, who spends half its time stealing lunch from other hard working birds.

Turkeys were almost wiped out, with hunting and other environmental stressors, at least in the North East.  But, they’re having a come back now.  I was lucky enough to both hear a turkey making its call and find one of his feathers on the same day.  There’s something almost eerie about the turkey call.

And turkeys in general.  They spend the nights in trees – some of the only times you’ll see them fly.  But wandering the woods at night or around sunset, and seeing a giant black… thing, in a tree, it can freak you out.

In any case, the Life Speaks posts are all about what this animal means to you.  Turkeys are tribal signs of abundance and thanksgiving (yes, I know, you could have told me that).  They are also, apparently, very good at predicting the future – they get a bit ornery when the weather is about to turn bad.

I think turkeys can remind us of the beauty of large animals in our forests.  They’re almost prehistoric, being so large and just… there.  I wouldn’t want to screw with a turkey.  I’ve tried.  It doesn’t end well.  But deer are pretty much, unfortunately, some of the largest “big” animals around now (no wolves, cougars, bears…) – at least you have to kind of look for Turkeys.

They also remind us about vanity.  The males are just like peacocks, calling and strutting and begging to get laid.  This can be a good thing (honor your body), or a bad thing (completely self centered).  As always, balance is important.

If you see a Turkey, sit and watch if you can.  Just observe the behavior.  They’re fascinating creatures.  Then give thanks to the gods for making such a unique bird (with the PERFECT quill feathers), and let the poor bird go back to trying to get laid 🙂

Life Speaks: The West Virginia White butterfly

The West Virginia White is a relatively rare, little white forest butterfly which only emerges for a brief period each spring.  It normally lays its eggs on native mustard plants, which manifest as spring ephemeral wildflowers.  You may know some of these potential hosts: two leaved toothwort, cut leaved toothwort, common rock cress, and others.

The West Virginia White flies in April and May; and its caterpillars feed through to June.  The caterpillars look a lot like those of the cabbage butterfly, however, they lack the yellow striping.  Eggs are laid singly on leaves, cemented to the surface and usually perpendicular, too.

They fly slow and low along the forest bottom, looking for places to nectar and to lay their eggs.  Anecdotally, they have been in decline due to deforestation, plant invasion, and other things – however, none of these have been shown, as there is no real evidence of previous population health.  The West Virginia White has been noted as “in decline” since the early 1900s.

These West Virginia White butterflies can teach us to take life slow, and to not believe everything we hear.  These little bugs have been fighting to hang on for a while now.  Go, you!  They also teach us to spread our resources evenly – by laying eggs, one at a time, unlike other butterflies in the same family.  Finally, they teach us to take risks – by surviving in often daunting spring weather (rain, wind, cold, oh my!)

The Meaning of Bears

Bears are kinda cool, in my book.  They’re relatively inoffensive, as long as you don’t get between them and their cubs, or them and some really, really good food.  There are a variety of species, and they eat a variety of things.  They’re not always bloodthirsty and angry and roaring.  They’re playful and inquisitive and intelligent.

If a bear is your totem, it could represent a good balance in your life – the ability to be curious and figure problems out, but also the ability to live a balanced and healthy life through your diet.  In addition, some bears hibernate.  A bear coming into your life (hopefully not in the, “I’m going to kill you!” sort of way) could indicate that you are in hibernation, about to emerge.

Bears also care very deeply for their young.  We say that someone is a mother bear, or that mother bears are the most dangerous creatures in the world.  With a bear as your totem, you know – or will know – how to hold onto and defend what is yours.

Protector of the family, intelligent, adorable AND omnivorous, what’s not to love?

From an AP News Article on Bears

Taming the Dragon

I recently acquired a juvenile bearded dragon here in Buffalo.  I decided I wanted to try raising a dragon as it may fare better under my care than did my leopard geckos.  In any case, I got it, and at first, it was as calm as could be – probably frightened out of its mind.

Anyway, we’re getting him settled in, and now that he’s got a little grasp of what is his – I’m not allowed in it!  My hand entering the cage, well, that’s just out of the question.  The little dragon will leap halfway across the cage to bite me(but my fingers are bigger than his mouth).  I spent all of the weekend trying to figure out the best methodology to tame the dragon.  I finally settled on a plan.

Whenever he hisses, I simply put a “green” into his mouth – he eats green onions, parsley, blackberries, etc – stuff high in calcium.  It surprises him.  And he can’t leap at my hand if there’s something in his mouth.  So he closes his mouth. Tears off the piece.  Calms down.

On Saturday, it took me three hours before I could get him to stay in my hand without wriggling or hissing.  On Sunday, he let me pet him a bit after about twenty minutes.

The Bearded Dragon is a desert animal.  Desert animals have a wide set of lessons from which we can draw.  The first is that of timing.  Knowing when to stay perfectly still and soak up the sun, and knowing when to sit in the shade can mean the difference of life and death for desert animals.  Similarly, knowing how to balance ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually can mean the difference of life and death.

Desert animals also learn how to find alternative sources of water: mist and dew drops after a rain, certain plants, certain spots.  We can take this knowledge from desert animals and apply it to our own lives: and start looking in different places for spiritual knowledge.

The dragon can be fierce, and makes an impressive display when needed.  But they can also be calm and still and gentle companions.  Similarly, we must have the same sort of convictions: calm until our habitat – our home, our family – is threatened, and then voracious, daring, and protecftive.

The dragon, to me, seems to be about balance.  A lesson we could all take into consideration.