when we cry for help

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

September 11, 2012

“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.

More photos here.


  1. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    I love the dragonfly rescue story. Just what I needed to launch my day. Thank you!

    But I will confess: I am terrified of bears.

    • Sandra Heska King

      As long as I don’t get between a mama and her cubs…;)

  2. Nancy Franson

    The Swede took me hiking in mountain lion country in southern California once. I jumped every time I heard a leaf crunch underfoot. He said to me, “It’s the ones you don’t hear that you need to worry about.” Very reassuring.

    I once rescued my son’s newly hatched butterfly which had gotten entangled in a spider’s web. You really kind find the gospel anywhere if you’ve got eyes to see.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Someone mentioned (after the fact) that cougars had been sighted in the area. The rangers didn’t mention that… We probably would have gone anywhere.

      And finding the gospel…yep, it’s everywhere.

  3. Carol J. Garvin

    Such compassion for “the least of these”… I’ll bet God was smiling and nodding his approval.

    • Sandra Heska King

      I was very proud of D for seeing. I didn’t until he pointed it out to me. 🙂

  4. Diana Trautwein

    lovely, lovely, friend. so, so glad you had this time away, rain and all.

  5. Diane W. Bailey

    We have a lot of dragonflies around our home. Their colors are spectacular and their stance on the cattails majestic, so I can fully understand your desire to rescue.

    And the bear and cub? I would beep, beep, beep back up so fast!

    This is such a beautiful pyridine of God’s thoughts toward us. Thank you for always giving such an interesting word picture.


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when we cry for help

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min