Odd memories, part 16

I’m trying to recall what kind of conversation we were having tonight that brought this subject to mind – it’s not like anyone would routinely discuss anecdotes of this nature, but then again, I’m involved, so…

This one occurred around the same time period of most of the ‘Per the ancient lore’ posts, like the one about to appear – back in the early 2000s while living in Florida. During that time I was biking a lot, partially because I had to, partially because the area was just about ideal for it – certainly much better than here in central NC where they feel that even making the roads legal, regulation width is asking too damn much of the Department of Transportation.

blue dasher Pachydiplax longipennis dragonfly on dried rosebudAnyway, one hot summer day I was cruising along in the bike lane and I spied, coming in from the right, a very large dragonfly cutting directly across my path and on a high-probability collision course. There was just a moment to react, which was to straighten up and wonder if I should duck it or swerve, when it veered 90° from its original course and began heading exactly in the direction that I was, about two meters directly in front of me. Both of these, in and of themselves, were curious; I’ve only ever seen dragonflies hunting in a darting, circling, very localized manner, and never ‘going someplace’ – and then to see it change direction, to all appearances because of my presence, and begin flying straight-line on another tangent didn’t seem kosher to me. But this was idle, back-of-the-mind speculation as I wondered just how far I was going to have this honor escort.

Not very far at all, as it turned out, as within two seconds, the dragonfly abruptly veered from course again, back the way it had come – but not entirely. It actually described a tight circle, a 270° loop back to its right, which brought it directly in line with me again. So directly, in fact, that it flew behind the edge of my glasses and lodged itself in the space between them and my eye, faster than I could even twitch away.

So ensnared, it then set about frantically beating its wings in an attempt to get free, while I endeavored not to veer into traffic or crash into a ditch. Even then, I was well aware that there was no danger, even though the insect seemed to be trying to fulfill the dire threats of my childhood and sew my eyelids together, but there is still something slightly disconcerting about a large insect trapped in the scant millimeters between your glasses and eye, thrashing exuberantly. With only a little weaving and vocal ejaculations that might have made great entertainment to a passerby that couldn’t actually make out the dragonfly, I removed my glasses and sent the miscreant on its way.

Now, this is a class of insect, mind you, that catches other insects in midair, and has some of the most involved compound eyes in the kingdom. Its change of path as we rendezvoused seemed to indicate that it had not missed my presence, and I doubt that I was being particularly subtle that day, massing a few million times what it did, in bright sunlight, and not exactly blending in with the surroundings in any manner. So I can only assume this was a deliberate and premeditated action on its part, perhaps an adolescent dare, the arthropod equivalent of Spin The Bottlefly or something. I have not ruled out texting though…

Some years later I saw something slightly related, but introducing a pattern which may indicate that insects aren’t entirely the quickest thinkers. I was sitting on the deck of my apartment, which was immediately across from a large patch of woods, early in the evening. From the woods emerged a large junebug, flying in a perfectly straight line in my direction – despite the flashbacks that this was causing, I was stalwart and remained still. The junebug flew lazily, without wavering, straight into the wall of the building just a couple of meters away from me, bounced along it repeatedly as it tried to continue its intended course, and eventually reached the edge where it could bypass this hooligan edifice and resume its journey. Mind you, this is a building ten-meters square on a side, bright white, and well-lit by the sun – also, not moving notably in any unpredictable manner, and being present for at least the past ten years. Once again, I could only wonder how anything that actually possessed the ability to fly somehow lacked the functionality to notice an obstacle of this nature, much less avoid it. I promise, of course, to keep you abreast of any further observations of this nature.