I can’t prove it. But I’d be surprised if the inspiration for stained glass in the world’s great cathedrals didn’t begin with a dragonfly wing. A wing’s veins became leaded kames. The translucent membrane colored glass. And to the close observer, the face of God is reflected in both.
How else to explain the joy that washes over me as a blue-faced pondhawk alights upon my shirt and rests there for what seems like an eternity?
My saunter through Midewin on this early fall day has left me feeling rather melancholy. The exuberant golds of summer sunflowers are giving way to the solemn purples of autumn asters. Much of the herbage that was vibrant and green has gone sere and brown.
Already some birds have flown south for the winter. I haven’t seen an indigo bunting all day. Some northern-breeding warblers are passing through, but all dressed in drab as if in their haste to escape the coming winter they forgot to pack their breeding plumage.
Already the days are shorter and the sun has lost some of its familiar sting. And it’s hard not to be a little sad for the change of season. The coming cold. The death and departure.
And then a dragonfly lands on my chest. This ancient creature, which has been harvesting insects on the fly for the past 300 million years – before, during and after dinosaurs roamed the earth. I look down into the aqua face. The ruddy body. The translucent wings. And there, in miniature, I see the glasswork of Chartres. Strasbourg. Rheims. Notre Dame.
Or, more humbly, far more humbly, one of the stained glass pieces I made for my home.
Least you think me the least bit sentimental in my dragonfly moment, I call upon no less an odonatology expert than Ziggy Marley, who once observed “This dragonfly came up to me. He was hovering right in front of my face, and I was really examining him, thinking, How does he see me? I became enlightened.”