red dragonflies // magic
The other day I went swimming with my family & we saw, fluttering around the pool, a red dragonfly. I’d never seen a not-blue dragonfly before.
& there’s this certain feeling I get when I see an unexpected animal like that, or an animal that comes weirdly close to me. It’s a feeling that magic is happening.
I looked up definitions of magic to share, to try to explain, because sometimes the dictionary is fun, but none of them said what I mean.
Magic, to me, means the wonderful I don’t always see, don’t always understand. It means unexpected guidance & care-taking, from forces beyond & in me. To be honest, when I think about being alive, it is this magic I think of, an animating force, the everything that’s all connected.
So, that said, I believe I am somehow connected to that red dragonfly, & my noticing it the other day was an act of learning, a reminder. When I got home, I looked up the symbolism that has surrounded dragonflies in different cultures throughout the years. I am conscious that this practice teeters on the edge of cultural appropriation, which my relationship to magic often does. My goal is always to be respectfully learning from other cultures, acknowledging that the information does not belong to me nor was it generated by me. Believing in magic as a white lady gets damn tricky, especially since everyone in my family who would’ve been able to teach me about magic from a place of authentic authority is long gone. Any advice about how to engage in this spiritual practice (which is a truly essential piece of how I process & make meaning out of my life) without constantly cribbing from other cultures would be much appreciated! I know that trusting the meaning I make up for myself, beyond the kind I look up that belongs to other people, is a good start.
Still, what I’ve been seeing everywhere is that dragonflies have often been associated with water & light, which makes a lot of sense because they live near water & move like light. Water is also associated with emotions, so dragonflies have been as well. &, I also have a special relationship to insects; after making The Joy Experiments, they always remind me to trust transformation.
Usually when I look up an animal symbol, I instantly know why that information was important for me to receive at that time.
This time, I am less clear. But it occurred to me that the relationship between emotions & light might have something to teach me about how to let go (&, yes, trust transformation). Anne Bogart, director of the SITI company, who heavily influenced Esme, my director for The Joy Experiments, has a theatre-making philosophy she describes as, “hold on tightly, let go lightly.” It seems to apply in this case.
I’m considering the idea that the dragonfly was a reminder to hold on tightly to the moment, to be present & fill it with joy, & to still relax & let go when it’s time. To let me emotions come & go as quickly and intensely as light off of water. Even if it wasn’t what the dragonfly was trying to say, it is a very good reminder of a lesson I am, again, often learning & re-learning.