One summer I worked as a private gardener three days a week on an estate on the island. It was the kind of job where the owners tell you to make sure you bring your own water because they don't want you coming into the house for a drink. I was so beaten down this didn't even make me angry. That's just the way rich people are, I thought. The water from my house tastes better, anyway. My thoughts were bitter, and so was my heart.
One morning when the homeowners were not there, something happened that is so extraordinary I haven't known how to tell it. I have avoided telling it because I thought no one would believe me. For a time, I felt like it was more important to keep it to myself, that the magic of this even would dissipate if I told about what happened that morning as I approached the blueberry bushes covered in netting that kept the birds off the berries. I never went into the blueberry garden. I was told to leave it alone and did not want to be accused of pilfering berries. But that day as I wandered by, I noticed something was caught in the net: a dragonfly. It was a very large dragonfly, larger than any I had ever seen. Blue and silver, gray and green, colors of the swirling ocean--but with its wings pinned, this dragonfly was still. It looked at me with its enormous, globular eyes and I fell into the blackness inside myself. I opened the gate and walked inside, walked to the corner near the top where it was stuck and decided I had to free it. When I touched the net, trying to pull the gaps wider so it could escape, its trapped body began to vibrate in panic. Its wings were so thin. I knew if it kept up like that, they would tear. I was so scared they would tear before I could get it out I started to cry. When I say I was desperate I mean it. I had no choice. I took my knife out of my pocket and cut the net. The dragonfly shot straight into the air like a rocket and left my crying.
This was one of those days when the weight of grief was so heavy on me I didn't know how people could think I was not about to sink into a hole in the earth right in front of them, but somehow I managed to convince everyone I was normal. After my daily duties were done, I hiked out to the dunes on the far side of the North Light, and lay in a bowl where you can look up and see nothing but sky and sand. If I had been able to cry, I would have. Instead, I wrote two words in the sand with my finger: "Help Me."
Night calms me. When everyone goes to sleep, I awake. It's as if once the day's pressure to be productive is over, I finally allow myself to do the work I am meant for: to dream, to weave, to create beauty. That night I sat reading in bed. Something hit the screen of my bedroom window. Heavier than the usual insects throwing themselves toward my light. I got out of bed to take a closer look. It was the dragonfly. There on my screen, miles away from where I had freed it that morning. Its colors by night were even more iridescent. I was struck again by its size and its incredible black eyes. We looked at each other for a few minutes until I broke the spell to go upstairs to get a field guide. I had never seen a dragonfly at night before. I wanted to look it up. I was strangely calm that I knew it was the exact same dragonfly, almost as if I couldn't believe it, as if I didn't deserve something so wonderful, as if there was no way a dragonfly could care about me, as if magic didn't really exist in the world.
I walked back downstairs, book in hand, and it was gone. What I read in the book still gives me chills: dragonflies do not fly at night. Later, I read that fairies often appeared to humans in the form of a dragonfly, and for awhile I told myself the fairies had answered my call for help. Maybe it was a fairy I freed from the net over the blueberries, but now I can see that it is even more wonderful if it was just a dragonfly. How marvelous that when my broken heart called to the world in two words etched in sand, that a dragonfly came to let me know that someone heard me. That I have ever again doubted that I am loved by the earth, amazes me. That I did not change my life that moment. Maybe some revelations are so shocking that they have to be softened by time in order to be absorbed by our fragile bodies. I was sobbing when I cut it free, terrified it would die before it was loose, that its wings would break against my fingers. I saved its life. It knew it. Why should I be surprised it returned the favor?