It has been a miserable summer here Britain, not just for barbeques but more importantly for small winged wildlife. I have over the years done my best for them, creating habitats to entice and beguile them. I cannot control the weather. A few days ago I spotted a dragonfly darting across the garden. I had thought this years generation had been lost in the cold watery conditions. More excitement than winning a prize and I promptly told every thing I could, all people were away from our abode at the time so 'everything' needed to be, the air, plants, spiders and even a small cluster of ants. I know, I know a sad case, moi:)
We have always, as a family, enjoyed our gardens. And all our gardens have had ponds of some size or other within them. Indeed, when I was about two years old, I fell into one and nearly drowned. It didn't put us of though. After all it was a given in life, if there was anything I could fall into I would. That first garden pond was quite small but then you don't need much water to drown a two-year-old.
Over the years, as my as my parents moved houses, the garden pond became plural. In one we had fish, which was a short lived affair; after three years of floods there were no fish left! After that we left it to nature to stock our ponds. Frogs, newts, Mayflies and dragonflies all moved in with alacrity. The advantage of this way of stocking a pond is that there is very little work to do, and creatures such as frogs will willingly help keep the pest population down, in exchange for their free board and lodging.
In the end we called them frog ponds. We dug them out by hand, no fancy digging machines. Lined them by hand. And, with a hose, laboriously filled them. Planted a few irises, oxygenating plants, bulrushes, and many others, sat back and waited. If the ponds were big enough we would put in water lily or two in. After all you must have a lily pad for a frog.
From a small child, I have always been interested in life cycles. And what better way to study them than a garden pond. Tadpoles of course fascinate small children, quite rightly so, for it is miraculous the way blobs of jelly turn into four-legged frogs. But, just as miraculous is the way a pupae turns into a dragonfly. Dragonflies, mayflies, for a few glorious days every summer they dance beautifully in the sunshine.
One summer day, when I was in fact fully grown, I was standing in my lounge and I heard the desperate noise that indicates that an insect can see the garden through the glass and hasn't a clue how to find the open door which is right next to it. I wandered over to the tall windows and found to my delight a fully grown dragonfly. Huge, close-up, and within inches of escape, it battered itself against the glass.
I offered it my finger, I couldn't think how to pick it up otherwise as its wings were battering a tattoo. It did, to my surprise, take my finger, climbed aboard so to speak and gripped like nobody's business. It was marvellous to be so close up to one of these wonderful creatures. Foolishly, because I am a foolish old lady, I talked to it, told it it was safe, that I would take it to the great outdoors. Really!
I did indeed take it to the great outdoors, raised my hand to the sky and said it could go. Maybe it didn't believe me. Maybe it was tired. But it wouldn't go. I shook my hand, shook it again, still no response except that iron grip. There is indeed something rather spooky about an insect that is stronger than oneself, well maybe not stronger but I didn't want to hurt it. In the end, of course, it did launch himself straight up into the blue and I felt a little bereft but pleased I had helped it on its way.