There are over 5000 species of dragonfly, that we know of, and they’re believed to be amongst the first winged insects to have evolved around 300 million years ago. They belong to the order Odonata which, in Greek, means Toothed One. Some live for a few weeks and others can live up to a year. Yonks ago, yonks is a technical term for a lot of time, dragonflies are believed to have been much bigger; fossils have been found with wingspans of up to two feet. If that were the case now I would be writing this hiding in a cave from our dragonfly overlords.
I first became aware of dragonflies on one of our early trips to California. I was buzzed by a big black one as I came out of church, so it was a rocky start to the relationship. It was more like an attack helicopter than a creature. As time went by I saw more and more, and marvelled at their aerobatics and iridescent colours. They were beautiful.
Years later, we spent a season running a camp on Thetis Island off the Canadian West Coast. When we arrived the site was overgrown and much neglected so we spent the first few weeks repairing just about everything. Once the John Deere was up and running I set to mowing the several acres which would become our games and recreation area. As I worked my way through the two foot high grass I was surrounded by a whirl of dragonflies. There were at least fifty of them. I was a little nervous at first but they never touched me. They filled the sky with bright colour and wonder.
In Celtic Christian spirituality there are “thin places”. Author, Eric Weiner, describes thin places as, “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses”. For some it’s mountains, lakes and forests; for others it’s cathedrals, shrines and chapels. For me, it’s none of those things.
For me, an encounter with God is more like Kato from the Pink Panther films; God leaps out from the most unexpected places and surprises me; like Calvin with Hobbes he bowls me over. I find God in the string section of Massive Attack’s song, Unfinished Sympathy or, oddly, the bit in the film Batteries Not Included where the little alien thingies return to save the day as the wounded boxer blows his whistle (my eyes are tearing up now), or the bit from the Barcelona Olympics where Derek Redman’s dad helps him finish the race (look it up). God is wild and mischievous and unpredictable and, to be honest, a little annoying sometimes.
So, in a field, six thousand miles from home, surrounded by the most beautiful creatures, I encounter God. And, ten years later, in the corner of our attic, I unexpectedly encounter him again. What started as a blog post about a tattoo design and it’s significance, turns out to be a Thin Place and yet another rekindling of hope.
May God jump out from unlikely places and surprise you today, or tomorrow. Who knows?.