Hurrying around the parish campus, trying to get ready for our patron feast, Saint Michael’s Day, I would have easily missed something wonderful! A moment of panic and a lost key caused me to slow down and look more closely at my surroundings. I lost the key to the Vacation Bible School shed which housed all the backdrops and sets. Certain sets I was going to use for our Saint Michael’s Day Obstacle Course, an annual favorite! We needed the backdrop of the dragon and the volcano!
Retracing my steps and looking at all the corners on the ground, I spotted a perfectly shaped mantle of a dragonfly lying at the base of a potted plant. I had never seen something quite like this before. Rarely had I seen dragonflies whiz past me on the church patio. Immediately, I knew it was a wonder to behold. As carefully as I could, I retrieved a paper plate from the parish kitchen. Ever so gently, I hoisted the “mantle” onto a plate and covered it with plastic wrap.
Delighted with my newfound treasure, once back in the parish office, I interrupted the priest from her homily construction and the accountant from her numbers. “Look what I found!” I said, couched with, “I hope you are not squeamish about insects.” Neither were, so I let them gaze upon the dragonfly mantle on the paper plate below the plastic wrap. Their enthusiasm was supportive, but I knew I would have better luck when sharing with our Godly Play lead teacher, Anne. She is a dear friend to me in all things C.S. Lewis, Celtic, and Godly Play methodology. She understands spirituality and “wondering.” We talk about developmental stages, and the curiosity of young children all the time.
“I wonder if dragonflies molt their skin like cicadas?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. It is just dead.” She replied, reaching for her phone to do the Google research.
I pressed the topic. I knew that Anne, in her full literary capacity, could easily become Anne of Green Gables and embellish my perspective. So, I persisted, “I believe it to be more of discarding of a mantle.” I reminded her of our time in our book study group where we read C.S. Lewis’ Dawn Treader and how Eustice had to come out of his dragon skin. She smiled, but repeated, “It is just dead. But it probably landed right there by the planter for you.” Emphasis on “for you.” I smiled. Yes, this finding had become a thin place.
The personification was delightful. We are kindred spirits in the humanities. I didn’t want to think of this beautiful dragonfly’s skeletal frame as dead. With wings of lace like that of a spider web, the intricacy was fascinating. All four wings were perfectly intact and frozen in time. This gentle object as fragile as it was had not disintegrated. A shadow of its former glory! It has shed its mantle just for me.
I know in life it must have been magnificent!
Dragonflies. I had once been surprised by a living one that was iridescent blue green. It landed on a door frame in a mechanic’s shop. I watched it like a scientist as it hovered like a helicopter, able to move in all directions. The incredible agility of its back and wings to move upwards and downwards mesmerized me.
Dragonflies. I wonder about the etymology and word story of that one! Flying dragons. Church stories tell of us of Saint George and the dragon, and Saint Michael and the dragon. Creatures created by God beyond this present world. These stories depict God’s victory and Saint Michael conceptualizes good overcoming evil.
I wonder about depictions of dragons—in stained glass windows, fairytale picture books, and movies. A big lizard, a fabulized story of a dinosaur, the last of the large reptiles.
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” —Lucy Maud Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables
Young children so often wonder at every bug and leaf and stick when learning to walk and explore the great backyard. The new world is fresh and filled with “so much scope for the imagination!” Adults, though, need a bit more help to be pulled back into Anne Shirley’s world of imagination and wonderment. Thankfully, this dragonfly mantle did just that for me.
Before my co-worker Anne and I parted ways at the lunch hour, she reached down and said, “I think this belongs to you. Do yourself a favor” she continued, “Go to Ace Hardware and make a copy.” The object was familiar. The key had fallen out of my pocket again! I looked around the church patio wondering what else I needed to slow down to see. The thin place on Saint Michael’s Day was growing thinner.
What magnificent thing have you recently noticed during an otherwise ordinary day?