Reflections from a Riverbank

This is an evening of enchantment. The kind one remembers as the glorious end to a summer day: an ending to be savoured, and drawn out with pleasure until the first stars shine, and the more humble lights of home begin to call. For the moment though, sunlight sparkles on ripples in the water, as the river winds past my idle feet. It flows, full and lazy and sensuous in this heavy summer dusk. The water is dark green glass, richly shadowed and secretive. Above me, the willow tree whispers and trails its long fingers toward and into the slowly moving water. A lover’s eager, reaching touch. The sky has paled into a curious lilac, and the air is viscous with golden light. Over all lies a shimmering, translucent veil of densely gathered insects.

Into this perfect peace, a dragonfly roars past my ear and my eyes, unprepared for such rude activity, are sprung wide, alert again and searching. The dragonfly swoops, pivots and hovers with a precision that astonishes.

Adder’s Bolt, Devil’s Darning Needle, how vivid you are! A proud warrior, painted in pale turquoise and garish lime, cleaving great swathes through the thick curtain of insects that flutter in the still-warm air. Bringer of chaos, scything and disrupting the air above the green undulations of the river: a terrible beauty, and a beautiful death.

Four wings bear the dragonfly aloft, an effervescent blur of motion: evolutionary perfection. Millions of years lie between the dinosaurs and this moment, here, now: but the dragonfly has remained unchanged from that age to this – the undisputed emperor of the riverbank. And yet, while the essential pattern and form are timeless, this dazzling tyrant is the essence of change: its short, fierce lifespan split cleanly in two, fused together by miraculous metamorphosis.

For in the beginning was the nymph, crawling over mud and plant life. Unleashed in the gloom, its predatory nature, unsoftened by beauty and aerial finesse, dealt death with brutal ferocity in a desperate race to feed, to live, to grow. An indomitable instinct created this flashing, darting emperor from darkness and dross. Like base metal, leaden on the river’s bottom, the dragonfly is reforged and then irresistibly propelled, rarefied and radiant, into the silken sunlight of this dusk.

As if in synthesis, my mind shivers, preparing itself for flight. Symmetries, parallels, patterns, run through my thoughts like fragile veins of darkness, linking panes of pearlescent membrane. The dragonfly roars again, departing to rest before a new day of ceaseless activity dawns. Bereft, I am nevertheless alive with powerful, inarticulate thoughts I cannot fully grasp: stunned by change that is constant; regenerative and irrepressible.

Pushing my palms against the dry bank, I stand, gazing out over the river that is once again calm and somnambulant. A willow branch brushes a parting farewell against my arm, and I turn for home, following the dragonfly into the deepening twilight.

491 words

Reflections from a Riverbank

ecm101

Joined April 2008

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