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June 21, 2014

I spent today — the occasion of my first missed Mermaid Parade in five years — at a retreat in the park. Adam spent most of today catching daddy long-legs of all sizes and letting them run about his hands and arms; some of the little girls there shared in his fascination but not his adventurousness in letting them touch hi . At one point he made a sign saying “DO NOT DISTURB!” with a picture of a distressed daddy long-legs on it, to put on a stump where many were living, because people kept doing things around it.

Afterward he and Grace went into the public pool, and my magic moment happened; as I stood by the edge, I noticed a movement in a drain at my feet, and pulled out a dark blue dragonfly that was being sucked against the grate by a shallow but ceaseless flow of water.

It moved feebly but purposefully on my hand for a few minutes, cleaning its eyes and adjusting its position, but as I took it to dry in the sun, it began to slow down. As a few people gathered to see it, it slowly stopped moving completely, its legs curled up awkwardly beneath it.

It seemed strange that it would survive only to die after mostly drying out. Maybe it was the chlorine in its system, I figured. I said to the onlookers, “Well. I’ve seen bugs survive worse,” and I decided to hang onto it. It sat there in my hand, stirred occasionally by the wind but otherwise, as I looked back and forth from the girls in the pool, it seemed if anything more dead every time I glanced at it.

After about five minutes of this, I saw a twitch of its right foreleg. That was good enough to make me wait awhile longer. But after another five, I was about to give up; when I moved my hand again, though, it was holding on with both front legs. After a few more minutes, the right middle leg was clearly moving, and then two of the remaining three; the left hind leg seemed to be stuck in a bent position. I pried gently it open with a tiny juice-box straw, and then it moved it mostly into position under itself, and it was standing on its own.

I could see a droplet of something moving in its mouthparts, and I wondered whether it was trying to pump out water, but it didn’t end up vomiting anything on my hand, so I guess not. Over another five minutes or so, it bent its legs so as to stand almost on its head — maybe to drain water downward to the mouth, or maybe to dray out its spiracles in the wind, or something else. I don’t know, but it kept that position pretty much thereafter.

Ten minutes later, the pool had closed and we were sitting at a picnic table, watching the tiny, motionless, beautiful alien in my hand. Grace named it Tara, which I insisted on at least spelling “Ptera”. At about that oddly appropriate point, it began to vibrate its wings, maybe 4mm up and down, in little regular two-or three-second bursts. Like revving a tiny engine; I could feel the buzz through my hand; the girls put their fingertips gently beneath the tips of the buzzing wings to feel it themselves.

It did this for about three minutes. Then without adjustment or an ado, it shot straight up into the air, and was gone.

So. I can’t complain much about today.

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