I was downtown with my daughter earlier this evening, walking east on Chicago Avenue past the Walgreens on Michigan, when I spotted a beautiful dragonfly on the sidewalk. It appeared to have fallen off a pin or a dress or something. The tail looked to be wrapped in exquisite iridescent green ribbon, and the dark golden wings were translucent and gossamer. I couldn’t bear the thought of this exquisitely made thing getting misshapen and filthy under a heavy shoe, so I bent down to pick it up and take it home. Then I saw its thin wire feet move, its actual tiny feet. It became clear to my daughter and me that there were real dragonflies around us, flying, some alighting on the sidewalk and flying away again. Only the one we were gazing at was staying in one place, at the center of what must be a dangerous place for any insect to linger. We were amazed to see something so naturally beautiful in the midst of such busy, manipulated-by-man surroundings, and we wondered if it was hurt and what we could do to help.
We couldn’t figure out how to pick it up without possibly hurting it, so we were standing next to it, thinking, when a woman in a bike helmet stopped walking her bicycle to stand with us and take in the sight. “They’re so beautiful,” she said, and of course we agreed. Then she agreed that the one we were concerned about would be safer in the tiny patch of green under a little tree nearby. She was sure she could pick it up, so my daughter and I offered to hold her bicycle for her while she bent down and put her finger just below its head. We were amazed that its feet just latched right onto her. Then my daughter noticed that one of its wings was a bit ragged, so we were glad that the woman knew what to do. She stood up and walked toward the tree with it, but before she could put it down it flew up and away, swirling around among the leaves until we lost sight of it.
We each marveled at the wonder of it all for another moment, then the helmeted woman thanked us for holding her bike, and we said no, thank you for teaching us something we hadn’t known. There were smiles, then she was off.
As we walked away, I commented to my daughter about how great it felt do something like that with a stranger in this big city– how glad I was that she wasn’t afraid to let us hold her bike, and how like a long time denizen of the big city it was that this would even cross my mind.