Libellule

Consider the small child scootering along deserted streets, knowing his father is behind him but not really knowing anything else except speed, breeze, freedom.

The first month I was in Toulouse I saw another child scootering around and around the park and singing a song to herself and I remembered, just for a tiny moment, the glorious body motion of childhood and the inner song that I sang then.

When I was in graduate school I met a blind man and he asked me for a favor. He said that what he most missed was the wind in his face. It’s hard to do anything fast when you are legally blind (although Ashlanders know a local champion who has mastered this, Miss WW). And so I took him out along the Schuykill bike path on spring evenings on his tandem bike. I am always so happy to be on a bike, it didn’t feel like charity.

Sometimes we move, maybe on a horse, maybe in a convertible, maybe on a crazy German summertime luge.

Kaisereggbahnen


They call it the Rodelbahn and it’s so terrifying that you will want to do it more than once.

And then there are times when nothing moves and it becomes so still and time stretches out like infinite taffy and I feel like this is it, this is what all the Buddhists are talking about, this is the present. Thank you for making it so long and so big and so obvious that my mind got it, just for a moment.

Libellule is one of my favorite French words. Did you know its etymology comes from the Latin word for book? Libellulus, little book. Because its wings open up like a book. A dragonfly in English.

Last June I came to Toulouse to figure everything out. Where I would live, where my child would attend school, who my new friends would be. I figured nothing out. I was heartbroken and incapable of making decisions. I went to find a new school for my son and crashed on a bike in the rain. I called about apartments and people apologized but really they were laughing at me because it was the wrong time of the year. I am generally a decisive person but that was a time of nothing knowing, nothing moving.

I felt as wretched as old cheese. Stuck in that back damp corner of the refrigerator. And then one day a libellule, a dragonfly, so sure of itself right in the middle of the city, hooked onto my tshirt, a brooch on my midriff and rode along with me in my confusion.

How does the libellule fly with its little booklike wings? It surely doesn’t know the future but it skits and darts up and down and side to side. And its child doesn’t know any different. Today pancakes for dinner, tomorrow broccoli.

Here she is.

She hopped off my shirt and I took her picture to remind myself that a very beautiful and effective creature only occasionally employs the straight line, the logic, the cause and effect, and yet still sparkles and shimmers in the sun. I may not be working toward anything at all.

Today on my balcony I maybe be a dragonfly, frozen in apparent stillness, poised and not knowing anything at all. Flit flit. Tomorrow there may be a lily pad or a green pond toward which to direct myself.

Fly. Or rest. But whichever you do, do it like the dragonfly, all movement, all stillness.

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