Last week I was on vacation in Maine and Canada’s Maritimes, and on the fifth anniversary of my husband’s aortic dissection and death, I was in Nova Scotia, and I was surrounded by dragonflies. Dragonflies have become special to me because their metamorphosis describes my journey through grief during these past five years, as I have survived the darkest time of my life and found my way onward and upward. The dragonfly nymph lives in the water and climbs up a plant to get out, as he transforms to an adult with wings, and then he takes to the skies.
Remember the Dragonflies is the title of my book about the grief journey.
The past month I’ve been telling Charlie I needed to see him again on that five-year milestone. I needed him to come to me, I needed a sign, I needed some tangible, physical connection to him, and that’s what I got. I got dragonflies.
June 27, 2013
At the beginning of vacation week, on the road to see the Anne of Green Gables house, we stopped by the two-thousand-square-foot showroom of Gaudreau Fine Woodworking Artisans, halfway between Charlottetown and Cavendish on Prince Edward Island. The shop also features the works of twenty Maritime potters. In a far corner on display were a few pieces with a dragonfly etched in them. I picked out a square tray in dark earthy tones of sage, olive, gray, and black. I could set this plate on a display stand and it would be a reminder of Charlie, of my grief journey of uncoupling and rebuilding, of my book.
It is five years to the day after Charlie’s dissection and my family group of travelers visits Peggy’s Cove, a small fishing community on the shore of St. Margaret’s Bay in Nova Scotia. The landscape of Peggy’s Cove was carved by the migration of glaciers. Four hundred million years ago, movement of the Earth’s crust allowed molten material to bubble up from the interior, forming big rocks there. The melting and movement of the glacial ice left scouring marks in the bedrock, still visible today. Scars like loss left on me. Sitting atop the rock is a lighthouse.
As I walk away from the lighthouse, across the parking lot of the Sou’Wester Restaurant and Gift Shop, adjacent to the lighthouse, I see an injured dragonfly on the concrete. It is brown-speckled with clear wings, still alive, still trying to flap its wings. Its lower abdomen has apparently been run over and is stuck to the surface, and it will most likely eventually die. I can’t just leave it there to be run over again. I pick it up, put it on the flat inside surface of my hand, and it walks to the tip of my fingers like it is going to take off and fly away from there, but it doesn’t. I give it a resting place on the grass next to a rock.
I cry and let the tears soak my face. Because it is June 27, and here is a dragonfly for me. Is this Charlie coming to give me assurance, or just a coincidence? Is it a tidy miracle box wrapped up as a gift for me? Some would say I am crazy to think so.
Later, in Lunenburg I shop at Window to the Sea, where I find a bronze coin stamped with a dragonfly on a bronze chain. I buy it as a reminder of Charlie, my grief journey, my book.
June 28, 2013
Five years today.
Today we drive up to Maitland to go tidal bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River with a company named River Runners. A guide will take us out on a Zodiac boat to ride waves up to fifteen feet as the tide rushes up past eagle nests, Acadian dykelands, and geological formations. The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world, creating the Shubenacadie’s tidal bore. The bore is the point where out-flowing river water and incoming tide water meet, creating a strong wave. The office has a porch across the front and on the wall were three silver, metal-like dragonflies, each about three feet long.
The staff sends us over to Bing’s Eatery & Socialhouse for a quick lunch before our rafting excursion. Bing’s is a gathering place combining visual art, music, and conversation with good food and drink. The walls of the dining room are covered in original paintings, all for sale. I keep noticing a big, colorful, abstract piece on the front wall and as I finish my pizza, I realize it is a blue dragonfly among a chorus of other colors. I walk over to take a picture of it and read the title/author tag. The piece is named “Genesis.” Like Charlie’s business name: Genisys.
We dress in orange survival suits, find spots on the edges of the Zodiac, and hold on to ropes positioned along the sides. Then we head up river ahead of the advancing tide to wait for the tidal bore to form. When it comes, we’ll meet it head on and then surf and jump the surges. But first our guide takes us to a sandbar and instructs us to get out and walk around on the red sand.
“In ten or fifteen minutes,” he says, “the sandbar will be under thirty feet of water.”
I lean over and draw a dragonfly—one long swipe, then two loops for wings on each side.
In a matter of minutes, the dragonfly is under water and wiped away from the surface.
And I hang on for the ride of my life, and I make it without washing out of the boat.