By mid summer, you can often find me plopped in a chair in the creek with a good book. In July the mosquitoes seem to back off. Perhaps that's because they are ending their breeding season. More likely it's because the air at the creek is a swarm of dragonflies and damselflies, iridescent creatures fluttering around my head and occasionally landing on me. They seem to appreciate me as much as I enjoy them. I've learned to love these voracious meat eaters not only for their beauty, but their ability to spot their favorite prey, mosquitoes, from as far away as 40 yards and fly in for the kill at speeds up to 30 miles an hour. They appreciate me, I believe, for my ability to attract their quarry.
My attention is frequently drawn from the book to the water swirling around my legs and what lies beneath. There are treasures at my feet. Beautiful stones in various shades of red, green yellow, brown and white. Like gems, they sit on the creek bed tempting me. So clear, so vibrant, magnified in both size and color by the water that flows over them.
Styx, my big lab, joins me to roam the banks and lay in the deep pools when his black coat has soaked up more heat then he can stand. Jersey, my chocolate lab, has become a frog dog. Several years ago she discovered that by walking the edge of the creek, she could stir up frogs that would make a mad dash for the safety of deeper water. A few times, only a few, she has caught a frog. I'm always startled when she returns to me and spits a confused frog into my lap. Probably not more startled than the frog. There it sits, often for as much as 10 seconds, Jersey and I watching intently, knowing any moment it will figure out which way is up and take a wild, long leap back to the creek. Then I resume my reading and Jersey resumes the hunt.
On Sunday, my friends Don and Maggie joined me in the creek. It was Maggie who observed another lesson from the creek. She marveled at the beautiful stones on the creek bottom, wanting to see each one more closely. And yet each time she reached for a particularly beautiful stone, her hand would cause the flowing creek water to blur her visibility, coming up with not the stone she was seeking but another in its stead. Those times that she was lucky to find her target, the beauty of the gem she had sought often faded when it left the water. So as we prepared to climb the bank and return to the campfire that had softened to embers, ready to roast our dinner, Maggie gave back to the creek all but one of the stones she had successfully collected, pointing out that they belonged there. Pointing out that our beauty is very much about the environment in which we are seen.
Choose your environment well. Make it a reflection of you. Create the environment that nurtures you. The dragonflies and damselflies will tell you that life can be too short when you settle for less than that environment that reflects you at your best.
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can let alone." ~ Henry David Thoreau