Lessons Learnt Outside the Classroom

dragonfly.jpgJewel of the day you shimmered and glistened in the stagnant heat of the day. Unlucky for you just one more insect was needed to complete my collection.

Resplendent in black and gold stripes and equipped with strong translucent wings, never before and never again have I seen a dragonfly to match your beauty.

By the time I returned with my poison laced container I secretly hoped you would have flown away and therefore avoid a terrible fate. Instead you remained steadfast at your post, allowing me to close in and steal your freedom.

Holding the container to my chest all I could hear and all I could feel was the frantic beating of wings as you fought against your unnatural prison. I came close, so close, to opening the lid and allowing you to reclaim the air. Shamefully I convinced myself that you had already ingested too much poison and that your release would not necessarily mean your survival. Your beating wings had not yet started to slow and so I carefully lifted a corner of the container and slipped in some more poison hoping that it would speed your journey on.

Your wings beat on and I could picture the panic that you must have been feeling. Unable to bear it anymore and dark with guilt I walked away so I wouldn’t have to hear that sound.

A few moments later when I returned all was quiet; you were no more. I opened the lid and lifted your small lifeless body out of your plastic tomb. You were the perfect specimen, requiring little adjustment to be correctly pinned with my other insects.

I tried to tell myself that it didn’t really matter, as you were only a dragonfly. But you and the sound of your beating wings stayed with me. What had I really learnt from this assignment? Certainly nothing about science. I had learnt that at a critical moment my fear of failure rather than my heart had dictated my behaviour and driven my decision; a sobering realisation.

Even now some thirteen years later you remain with me still, the ghost of my memories and symbol of my unabated guilt. I search for you at every turn. I look for you in the garden; I look for you in the jewellery that I buy and the decorations that adorn my home. While I can never return your life or undo what I did that day, by surrounding myself with images of you I am confronted with my decision and reminded that there is no such thing as only having one option. The heart and the conscience should always take precedence.

After all was completed and the assignment was returned I was able to grant you your freedom once more, though sadly not your life. I placed you in a tree at the bottom of the pathway where you stay in immortal memory. Once more returned to nature and able to shimmer and glisten in the sunlight.


  1. Bean

    This is a really beautiful little story. It’s an honourable thing to never forget the suffering you have caused, whether the victim was a dragonfly or a member of your family. I think it’s important to have memories like this, but that didn’t stop me squishing the mosquito who just tried to drain me…

    The dragonfly is gorgeous.

  2. LuckySnap

    Tracey, This story was so gripping, deep and full of emotion. I couldnt wait to read each new paragraph. You really have a way with words. Great Post!

  3. Tisha

    If only we all felt remorse.

  4. Johnna

    Beautiful–You dedicated a post to the memory of the dragonfly. At least that dragonfly didn’t die in the beak of a little bird, or at the paws of a cat.


  5. Tracey

    Hi Bean – Thanks so much. As you can tell it was an experience that has always plagued me, but at least I learnt and continue to learn from what happened…hey mozzies are a whole different situation!! 😉

    Hi LuckySnap – Your comment is very kind, thanks. It was nice to finally get it written down and out of my head.

    Hi Tisha – So true. Sometimes though I wish I didn’t have to ‘think’ so much about everything…you can only spend so long in your head.

    Hi Johnna – Thanks for taking the time to read it. It seems silly to say but I really do think about that dragonfly each and every day…never too far from my mind at all.

  6. Tisha

    Of course Tracey but then you wouldn’t be the kind, loving and generous person that you are! Self-awareness and knowledge is a burden and there’s no turning back. We must learn to relieve that burden any way we can.

  7. danette

    This was really touching. Like you know already, it doesn’t only hold truth for your dragonfly, but for so many more areas of life…

    Thanks for the inspiration, carry on like this, and you’ll be famous one day 😉

  8. jan

    Quite beautiful. If only there was a way to teach these sensibilities to children who won’t get them on their own.

  9. Amie Lee

    Wow… This is so meaningful! I am afraid of dragonflies though… Afraid they will hurt me… Or sting me, like a bee. Hahaha… Silly, I know.

  10. Tracey

    Hi Tisha – Once again you make me blush with your kind words. Your words about carrying the burden speak so much wisdom – thankyou!!

    Hi Danette – Thanks for your lovely comments. While I didn’t realise it at the time of course that day has influenced me time and time again over the years, and just like you say in so many different areas. It is interesting to see where we gain our life lessons from…it can be from unexpected places.

    Hi Jan – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As you can tell it is an experience that I’ve been carrying with more for a while and thought it about time to share.

    Hi Amie Lee – Thankyou for your lovely comments. Dragonflies do have a rather intimidating appearance so I can understand where you are coming from. For me grasshoppers have that affect…they just freak me out!!

  11. Heza

    Wow what a sad story, but very beautiful and well written.

    I believe everyone experiences something similar to your memory. What’s pivotal is how we use these experiences to shape our principles and understand our connectivity to all that is around us. Our actions may spiral to more destructive deeds if we never weigh our sense of reasoning and emotions.

    Thank you for sharing, hopefully you’ve inspired to few people to reflect on their life lessons 🙂 I know I am.

  12. Tracey

    Hi Heza – I’m glad you were able to take something from this post. And I definitely think you’re right, each and every one of us has something in our pasts which catches at the mind and can tear at our thoughts. It is how we process these events and what we take away from them which will show us more about how we really are.

    Thankyou for your very kind words.

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