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the continuous flight of a dragonfly

Adriana Kerr

"Open Water"

Livy Crandall

When I was just fifteen years old, I became a deckhand on a water taxi named the Channel Cat. This boat became sort of my second home as it traveled along the Mississippi River. I spent twelve hours a day on this boat with my father, the captain. I was the youngest deckhand the company had, but I was scheduled as much as possible. I spent most days of my summer on these boats, usually boat III, the loudest one with never-ending rattles and vibrations. I became very familiar with the route we took, and along with this, the inhabitants of it and the Mississippi. Almost every day I saw pelicans, blue herons, mosquitoes (unfortunately), mayflies, turtles, and my personal favorite, dragonflies. 

The speed at which dragonflies take flight has always been something I couldn't comprehend. They flew by me while on our way to each stop so fast I hardly saw them. It feels so unattainable to move as they do—so fast and so confident.

I’ve always been mesmerized by these insects since I was a young child, and that feeling didn’t go away. My favorite part of working on the boats was seeing these flying creatures on a daily basis. 

At the end of the day, when the sun set, the sky would be painted with oranges and pinks. The wind would die down to a soft whisper, and dragonflies would fly in and out of the boat. At this time of day, there were only a few passengers left. It was quiet and peaceful.

When we were docked, I would hear a buzz next to me and see a flash of blue, green, or maybe brown. The colors dragonflies hold give each and every single one such a unique look. Sometimes they would slow down and visit us. Even flying slowly, I heard the vibrations their wings created.

There are 5,000 different species of dragonflies, all with their own unique features. I saw various kinds of dragonflies every day on the Channel Cat. Some were shiny and glistened in the sun as they zipped past me in a blur. Some had spots or stripes I saw as they flew into the shade of our boat and decided to slow down for a while. Each with two sets of wings made up of mostly membranes and veins, creating stunning mosaic murals that sliced through the air. These wings have the ability to fly at a speed of thirty-five miles per hour, faster than any other flying insect. Flying at this speed, dragonflies don’t really have the time to second guess what they’re doing. They have total and utter confidence in themselves and always have a purpose. 

Dragonflies are like the hawks of the insects. They hold an accuracy rate of 95% when attacking their prey and have the ability to eat up to 100 mosquitoes a day. They latch on to their prey as they glide through the sky at a much faster rate than the smaller insects they consume, and eat when they fly. If they were to lose their ability to fly, they would likely starve to death. Everything they do revolves around their ability to fly. They are like people who are one-track-minded. This focus allows dragonflies to achieve whatever it is they desire most of the time. 

I once saw a dragonfly trapped inside the high school band room. The windows in this room are huge and placed on the top half of the wall, giving a view of the endless blue sky and the lush green grass of the football field. This dragonfly was probably the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t iridescent or vibrant like the ones I commonly saw on the river. Beautiful nonetheless, its body was brown, with a dark stripe down the spine of it. Up close, its wings revealed the countless veins and membranes that made them up, making them unique to that specific dragonfly. 

The dragonfly focused on getting back out into the world, moving so fast its image blurred. It was literally ramming itself into the window over and over, just at the slight chance that maybe one of the bashes would set it free. It was heartbreaking to watch it in this prison cell filled with windows. 

It took a while to find a mug big enough for it, but a friend and I found one in the band director's office. Along with an envelope and a chair, we went over to the window. Afraid to hurt it, I took my time when getting it inside the mug. The dragonfly was so big it barely fit without damaging its wings. Luckily the envelope was thicker than most because it was still trying to escape. When I brought it back outside, lifting the envelope, the dragonfly burst out of the mug at full speed. It charged into the deep blue sky it longed for just moments before, without a second to waste.

Dragonflies have much better vision than a person with perfect 20/20. They can not only see ultraviolet light, but they can see more colors than us while being able to see in all directions at once. They are able to see with a perspective completely unimaginable. Looking at things from a dragonfly's perspective allows for self-realization that's almost impossible to avoid. There’s a different angle to view anything and everything and a new light to see it in. Dragonflies see the endless possibilities the world holds and the endless ways to get there. They fly with a purpose, seeing the different winding roads with many forks that may pop up along the way.

There will always be a purpose. They move forward without self-ridicule, with tremendous focus, and with a new perspective. Constantly putting yourself down will only constrain you behind a window. Looking at life through multiple perspectives and seeing the many directions you can take yourself will allow you to achieve the change you want. Flying like dragonflies enables life to continue, no matter how hard it gets. Continue to move forward, at a rate in which there is no time to belittle yourself.

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