“Look, there’s a dragonfly.” He points into the water.
We’ve been hiking deep along less traveled paths. We’ve climbed up and over even as the rain drips off hoods and jeans turn dark and cling to legs.
I’ve thought about Lynnette’s words as she held the bear skull up. “Eyes in front, likes to hunt. Eyes on the side, likes to hide.”
God’s made us hunters and seekers, I think. He’s placed our eyes in front so we can follow hard after Him. But also, perhaps, so we don’t miss any of the beauty in our midst.
Or someone who needs help, a helping hand, a reaching out.
“How many of you,” she asked, “would like to see a bear while you’re out here?”
I think I’m the only one to raise my hand, the only one to nod excitedly, hopefully. I’ve made sure to download photos and recharge the camera battery nightly.
I’ve practiced my plan of attack. “Why hello, bear,” I’ll say soft, all sing-songy. “We’re sorry to have surprised you. We’re leaving now, but first I’d just like a quick picture. Hold real still now.”
Of course, I know it’ll probably go crashing through the undergrowth, and if I’m lucky I might snap a bear behind.
If D is leading, his job is to back up slowly until he’s behind me. My lens cap is off, and I will every dark spot to be my prey. I know there’s a bear around every bend.
I’m not afraid. Lynnette’s told us the bears here in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park are very shy, and there hasn’t been an attack in thirty years. I look around, though, and wonder if I shouldn’t have eyes on the side, too. A bear could be watching us. Or a wolf. We are, after all, in one pack’s territory.
But the woods seep silence. At one point, I send D ahead on the ribbon trail, watch the weeds close behind him as he disappears. I sit in solitude on the wooden bridge that spans a small creek. I’m amazed that we’ve seen no wildlife. Nothing.
It also crosses my mind that we are out here alone, at least two miles in. There’s nobody around. There’s no cell phone service. What if something happened? Who would hear us if we cried out for help?
But here we are now on another bridge while a drama plays out below. The dragonfly is struggling, spinning in the water. Wings flutter as it tries to climb unsuccessfully onto a stump and then falls back. If it could, I think it would cry for help. It spins desperate, and then is still, fanned out in a float.
“I think it’s gone,” D says.
But then it flutters and spins and splashes. It tries to grasp a piece of flimsy grass, but falls away from it, too.
“We’ve got to help it. But how? What can we do?” I don’t want to watch it suffer. I don’t want to watch it die.
D searches the side of the trail and comes back with a branch. He hangs it down toward the water, but it’s too short. So he gets down on his knees and threads it between the bridge’s side slats, and when it still won’t reach, he goes as low as he can go. Lays himself out on wood, spans space with limb toward the one who flounders, the one who’s good as dead.
And it’s enough. D is able to slip the branch tip close and under, and the dragonfly clings to it. Slowly, ever so slowly, D draws it over and up, up, until it, too, lies on wood, wings spread. We wonder if it will live, if someone will step on it here.
So D decides to move it again, slips branch under and lifts it up and to a bush. It flutters briefly. We hold our breath. And it flies.
The rescue is complete.