Her name is Windy.
She lived at the Lost Madrone Ranch. Windy is a dragonfly. Windy’s story is based on a real encounter over ten years ago.
In my first blog post, Take Comfort: My Blog Introduction, I referenced an extraordinary day at the ranch — truly a ranch day to remember.
I woke up wondering if the day could match Jimmy’s exuberance and what unfolded was a day full of adventure — a fire out of control, a battle between a Texas-sized centipede and an agitated scorpion, an encounter with a thunderous wild boar, cave crawling among thousands of daddy long legs, discovering a mighty Madrone tree, and a spectacular sunset.
Set in this day of adventure is a sweet story of meeting a dragonfly up close. A real story that inspired a children’s story.
Jim, Jimmy and I drove to a small watering hole at the bottom of a gorge that today flows into our lake. Our dog Ranger waded in for a swim when I noticed a bright orange dragonfly circling.
As the dragonfly landed on the stem of a frostweed plant growing on the bank of the watering hole, I snapped a picture.
I wanted to capture more detail.
Unfortunately, stepping closer and closer as the autofocus of my camera moved in and out with each half-press of the shutter button, the camera kept focusing on the background, leaving the dragonfly a fuzzy blur.
Jim and Jimmy wandered off, having no interest in my unsuccessful attempts to look closer with the camera.
Risking that the dragonfly would fly away, I climbed the bank to position myself directly in front of the frostweed.
The dragonfly launched from the plant. I let out a sigh, convinced I had missed the photo opportunity.
Suddenly, the dragonfly returned, landing on the frostweed plant inches in front of my lens.
Confident the dragonfly would scare off at any moment for a final time, I unconfidently shot pictures at a frantic rate.
The dragonfly did fly away. However, over and over again the dragonfly flew away and then returned within seconds.
After a few minutes of this routine, I slowed my pace of taking pictures and used the zoom lens of my camera as a magnifying glass.
I examined the huge bubble eyes that were somehow cloudy and clear at the same time. I studied the mouth, convinced the dragonfly was smiling at me.
I marveled at the detail of the wings, constructed like stained glass. They did not have the artistry of multi-colored pieces, yet they were as illuminating as I remember the patterns of colored light streaming through the stained glass windows of my childhood church.
I imagined the life of my new friend.
Jimmy rounded the corner, returning to the watering hole.
Seeing me perched on the bank inches away from the dragonfly, his mouth dropped. I motioned for Jimmy to come closer. As he approached, the dragonfly flew off. Jimmy let out the same sigh I had let out earlier, but I confidently assured him the dragonfly would return.
With the dragonfly back on the perch, Jimmy and I sat with our faces close together, me taking more pictures and Jimmy amazed at how close we were.
The dragonfly seemed to stare right at us, as if telling us a story.
Jimmy whispered that he thought the dragonfly was using my camera lens as a mirror and that the dragonfly kept returning to see herself in the reflection.
I loved his thinking.
I went back to imagining the life of this dragonfly.
Then, Jimmy asked, “can I touch it?”
Gosh, I was just getting comfortable trusting the dragonfly would stay nearby. I had not dared to imagine touching it was a possibility.
This is a gift from the ranch to my child, and I believe a gift children can receive wherever they explore nature. Unlike consuming existing knowledge in a classroom setting, the ranch presents opportunities to think of possibilities, a place to practice pushing limits to produce new insights about the world a child is living in.
Jimmy practices this type of thinking well. Keep on, Jimmy, for it is how you will bring original ideas to our world.
With my adult compulsion to keep my understanding of what was possible in the box, I suspiciously responded, “Give it a try.”
Jimmy reached out his finger, carefully touching the dragonfly, and immediately, it shot away.
Before I could confirm it was finally gone for good, the dragonfly was back. Jimmy touched its wing again, and the dragonfly fluttered but stayed put.
This continued, and my heart warmed as I watched my child engage in a respectful relationship.
I decided to take a turn. I reached out and touched the dragonfly while whispering to myself, “You are so beautiful. Thank you.”
I vowed to return the next day to see if the dragonfly was still there.
The dragonfly was not at the watering hole when I returned, but I immortalized the memory by giving her a name and writing the story of her life I had imagined while meeting her that day.
I love children’s literature — for lots of reasons.
The language in children’s stories, whether playful or poetic, launches a child’s understanding of how we are connected. Put together with purposeful possibilities, words are effective teachers — opening a child’s imagination, expanding a child’s universe, making sense of emotions, expressing values, explaining concepts, and inspiring beliefs.
Regardless of focus or goal, whether for learning or entertainment, my favorite children’s books are filled with characters and stories that make us reflect, magnify our spirit, and motivate us to respond — both children and adults. Admittedly, I love books that flow with rhythmic prose. More important, I love books that move a child to dance in our world.
A children’s book filed on my computer that I dream will someday sit on a shelf, “Windy” is a fictional story of a beautiful dragonfly, alone at the watering hole because she made a mistake that flawed her perfect wings. She did not have the tools to recognize her true beauty until a day when she saw herself through a new lens. With the help of another, she returned to her world at the big lake… and danced again.
A simple story. A simple reminder. We all need to dance in the world. The journey is an imperfect path and we are all flawed along it. We sometimes need others to help us dance.
At Alexandra’s baby dedication, my dad read a poem he wrote for her.
Gather together, ye citizens of the Heavens
A child is being dedicated to your King.
Not just a child, but a child with a name
Alexandra Lynne Greenwood
Make a file on her this very day
Gather things of time and happenings
Fill the file with moments of joy
Register the deeds of hers, and ours on her behalf
And if you can, cast your support for her journey
Walk with her on the road going to tomorrow
Listen to her words, learning her mind
Explore her thoughts to see her soul
And sing to her in the night, a song of love
And pray that she and Jesus do well together.
A couple years ago, when Alexandra left to travel for a semester around the world, I slipped a mom love letter into her bag that included a copy of this poem.
Among other things, I wanted to remind her that she — a child with a name, Alexandra Lynne Greenwood — is special. I wanted her to know that as she filled her time abroad with happenings in our world, she was not walking alone. Her deeds and thoughts and words and mind are always supported by a love song. I wanted her to dance.
“and ours on her behalf”
Of all the words in my Dad’s poem, these five words are my charge.
What deeds on her behalf will be registered?
What other deeds will be in the registry?
How do I sing so others will dance?
Do I always remember that we are all children with a name — all special?
What deeds will I do today?
Her name is Windy.