The Life Cycle of the Damselfly and Other Lessons Learned from Nature


My apologies for the lack of posts the last few days. The family and I travevlled north for our annual Door County, Wisconsin, vacation. We've been going up there since 2004, and I always find the trip to be the perfect reset button for me at the end of the summer.

Our son was 3 years old during our first trip, so as the years have gone by we have tried to do something new every year. This year, we ventured out on a nighttime nature hike at the Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor. Our wonderful naturalist guide, Shannon, taught us how to sugar for moths; as a city gal, I wondered why anyone would deliberately try to attract moths. But then Shannon gave us a brief tutorial on the wonderful moths that inhabit the woods, and soon I was asking her for instructions to do our own Chicago suburban sugaring experiment.

During our hike, Shannon spotted an ant lion hole. This insect lives in sandy or loose soil and lies in wait as ants or small bugs unwittingly drop into its waiting jaw. Eventually, the ant lion will become a damselfly.

We also inspected some milkweed, looking for monarch caterpillar eggs. They feed on the toxic leaves, which then makes them toxic to predators.

We didn't have any dramatic animal encounters, though. Although we looked for him, we didn't see the Sanctuary’s resident Giant Barred Owl; we didn't stumble across a porcupine or (thankfully) skunks. Just a lot of close-up inspections of bugs. And a beautiful, star-filled sky. We’re not used to seeing so many stars here in the city, and I never stop feeling awed by how beautiful the Door County nighttime sky is.

And you know what else? I never—not even once—thought about how my butt looked in my jeans. Never wondered if my thighs were the right size. The only thoughts of my body revolved around how the night air felt on my skin, how the damp leaves smelled, how quiet the woods were, and how completely at peace I felt.

We can easily get stuck in our ruts, which might include the body-shaming chatter in our brains. But time in nature can allow that body-critic to take a break and we can then take a breath.

Allowing ourselves to soak in the wonders of nature reminds us that we are part of something bigger. For some, this might mean a connection to God; others might experience a oneness with the universe. An entire drama is taking place in that sandy soil or in the woods that we miss when we’re in the trance of our body-shaming thoughts.

For some, the body image issues run very deep. But experiment; take a walk in nature and then notice how you feel afterward. Sit in a quiet garden, take a walk near a river or lake; allow your thoughts to drift and see where they go. You too might find yourself contemplating the life-cycle of a local insect.

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Filed under: Body image, Nature

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