Noticing the Signs
Today my granddaughter and I saw a most unusual sight in the backyard. A red dragonfly landed on what looked like a dead stick, part of a tree I can’t name. The banner picture is not mine. Credit is in the notes. Neither of us had time nor awareness to capture the image. What made it unusual is that we have not seen a red dragonfly, or any dragonfly, in our backyard before. Furthermore, when my Mother died two years ago, so many of us were visited by dragonflies. Let’s face it, this isn’t science. I call it the mystery. So, when we looked out we both said aloud, great grandma, and we were delighted with the little skip of joy that arose in our hearts.
This gentle experience is only meaningful for us. If you saw the dragonfly, it may be just a dragonfly. But when we see one, we think of my Mother. I thought about the different ways we make meaning and how something as simple as this little event can make a day bright. And I remembered: I associate my former husband, who died, with eagles who seemed to gather that day. And at a friend’s sudden death, who loved owls, how one showed up at the entrance to her gathering and stayed for the entire service.
I find it curious and wonderful and mysterious how we can make meaning out of events that have no roots in what we call science but that are somehow healing.
When I went through cancer a red rowboat was my talisman, so to speak. I can’t explain why; my artist friends painted red boats and captured beautiful images of red boats and I simply found solace in my red boats, large and small. In fact, I have one, close at hand that is dear to my heart. The photo doesn’t do it justice but you get a sense of it.
And I had folded cranes, 1000 of them, folded by a friend and her friends.
These things that we give meaning to don’t have magical powers but they can be deeply meaningful to us. And because of that, just like the dragonfly today, they can lift our spirits, even remind us that we are bold and brave and can do courageous things when we need to.
I have a special box of candles, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. Every Friday I light one for a faraway friend who is ill. They are traditional Japanese botanicals, made from plants since 1892, and it is one way for me to pause and focus for a few moments on my friend.
These small things have no conflict with science. Rather they exist in the realm of healing, not cure.
I suspect that you too have some small items, or rituals, nature and otherwise that you view with tenderness. They matter.
When I think of the dragonfly, it has been about 18 months since I saw my last one and I may never see one again. But today, I received the perfect gift. The unexpected visit from a red dragonfly, in the company of my granddaughter Sophie.
1:) With thanks for the banner photo by Robert Shiflet on Unsplash
2:) Small things mean a lot, and in the end, there are no small things.
3:) Two lines from a Rainer Maria Rilke poem that give us pause for thought. “Love and death are the great gifts that are given to us; mostly, they are passed on unopened.”
4:) “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson
5:) Thank you for taking the time to read these musings. I enjoyed telling you about it. See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy
Trudy what a beautiful post. Yes, I think many of us have something so dear to our hearts – when one of my best friends died, an owl flew right across the front of my car, perched in a tree and looked at me.
I had, of course, stopped the car, and realized that Glen had died. I felt he had come to say goodbye and that image is etched in my heart. For me, thought, death is usually about scent. When my grandmother died my room was filled with the smell of cinnamon. It was 5 a.m. and I woke up, again knowing she was gone. With my dad it was cigar smoke – and the list goes on.
Thank you for this beautiful story dear Pat. It is most kind of you to share it. So much we can’t explain. With love, Trudy
There were a couple of swallowtail butterflies which caught my eyes on the day when your Mother passed away. Big black swallowtails were flying in front of me and lead me to my house. It was so impressive and stays in my heart. Since then I haven’t met such a beautiful butterfly dancing.
Thank you dear yoshie for your memory of my Mother’s passing. I didn’t know about the Swallowtails. How special this story is to me. I appreciate you telling it today. With love, Trudy
Trudy, a beautiful and touching reflection on how we give meaning to the experiences in our lives. I have my own story about my mother’s passing and seeing butterflies in many places, sometimes in unusual places. Thank you for this reminder of those very special moments in our lives that move our hearts.
Thank you dear Connie. Butterflies are a beautiful symbol of transformation. Thank you for writing about seeing them and associating them with your mother. It is inspiring and comforting in our lives to have these moments of significance. With love,trudy
Thank you Trudy! Living in a new place as I do, I am assaulted (lovingly) by wonder every day – though my parents did little to instill that in me as a child. My favorite Rachel Carson quote is this one, and I think of you whenever I read it: “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.”
Oh Margaret…how I love that quote and I had forgotten it. Thank you for this gift of reminding me. And I am flattered, to say the least, to be associated with such a wondrous wish for children. I had a good fairy for a mother. 😊with love, Trudy
How extraordinary your red dragonfly, your red boats Trudy, so many ways that the mystery brings us healing. Always grateful for your thoughtful reminders. love you, Jan
Thank you dear Janice for your comment. I just don’t want to take these lovely gifts for granted. With love, trudy
Thank you for such nice musings Trudy, the daily rituals polish my heart little by little each day.
What a lovely expression dear Kathryn: “Polish my heart.”I have not heard that before. Thank you. With love, Trudy
When the Sufis gather for Dances for Universal Peace we polish our hearts and when we share presence which we’ll do tonight at 8pm. Grateful.
This has led me to share presence with the Quakers 8:30 every morning .
So healing and loving ..in the silence
Thank you for telling us about these meaningful rituals. I had a special experience with Sufi dancing almost 20 years ago. It was a round dance and as we turned to greet the next person we said, “all I ask of you, is to forever remember me as loving you.” It was profound! And moving! I hoped at the time that these might be my last words. I hope it still.
Dear Trudy, thank you for this lovely column. My late husband, Norris,
was a fine photographer. Dragonflies and damselflies were his favorite things to photograph. There are so many different kinds and colors and in MI they are prolific. So when I see a dragonfly, I, too, am touched, as I remember my wonderful sensitive husband.
How wonderful to receive this dear note, Carol. I remember Norris with fondness and admired his beautiful photography. Thank you for this lovely reflection. With love, Trudy