#AdventWord #Birth

The Birthing Room

So much life going on in such a small space!

Don’t let photography fool you. What you see is maybe 4 to 6 inches of plant materiel floating on the water of Black Bayou Lake. And if you know how to count them, you see 4 damselflies, each in a different moment of the process of becoming a damselfly. Allow me to enumerate.

Beginning at the top right, a newly emerged damselfly, called a “teneral,” is still very wet. It can’t fly. It will sit there for hours–up to a day–for its wings to dry enough to fly. It is still a uniform beige “newborn” color. Underneath the abdomen, you can see the exoskeleton it has just emerged from.

Behind it and to the left in the photo is another damselfly that has fully emerged, but its wings have not yet fully unfolded. Those stubby appendages attached to the thorax but lying limply on top of the abdomen will eventually become fully formed wings. Interestingly, this one’s exoskeleton is not beneath it as usual. Perhaps it emerged closer to the water, then climbed higher to fully develop and dry while the exoskeleton slid back into the water.

Farther back but perched higher on a clump of wet leaves is the “oldest,” most fully developed of the damselflies. It’s wings are fully unfolded. They are not quite dry, but the damselfly will fly soon. You can see the beginnings of color variation. I can only guess, but guess I will that this damselfly is at least an hour ahead of the one to the far right.

Finally, that dark brown creature on the plant stem directly below the most fully developed damselfly is NOT that damselfly’s exoskeleton. It is way too dark and solid looking to be an exoskeleton. It is our 4th damselfly. More precisely, it is a damselfly nymph that has just crawled up out of the water and has not yet begun to metamorphose.

Of course, I have said nothing about all the other life going on in the photo: the plant life, in various stages of life, death and decay; all the microscopic life in its wide variety of stages of birth, growth, metamorphosis, death, decay that constitutes the rich “life soup” that is the water of Black Bayou Lake.

Birth. A moment to be celebrated, for sure; a moment of joy and hope. But… no guarantees. Only a moment in this ongoing, messy thing called life.

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