The Ophelia Project

It was quite an exciting week for my little tribe. We found dragonfly exuviae at the Arboretum one morning, and a few days later, we went back and the Dancing Girls took them on a wild ride.

But even I was unprepared for what happened next. The Dancing Girls, upon learning that the exuviae were actually the shells left after the dragonflies' metamorphosis into winged creatures, were intrigued.

In fact, they wanted to try the process themselves. If they hung out in the water for long enough, would they too grow wings and fly away? And they had also heard the story of Hamlet, and concocted their own version of the tale of Ophelia, and how she too threw herself in the water, hoping to turn into a dragonfly.

And so out into the yard we went - the Dancing Girls, the Crittergators, the exuviae (whom I really ought to name if they are going to stick around and continue to serve as players in our little tales), and me.

And we headed for the water bowl that the critters drink from and the birds bathe in. First, we had to wash out and refill the bowl, for there was a bit of green stuff on the bottom and a tiny spare feather floating on top. And then, in the fresh, clean water, the games began.

The girls had found a photo online of Ophelia in the drink, a famous painting by Sir John Everett Millais. And so we used that as our guide. We picked a few tiny wild flowers and tossed them on top, and then in went the Dancing Girls, one at a time. Sploosh! Sploosh!

The exuviae sat along the edge, offering guidance and overseeing the process. And initially, the Crittergators sat there too, looking on, taking it all in. But then - OOPS! - must have been an accident! - one of the red-shirts "fell in." (Uh-huh, as if I believe that!) And then the second red-shirt leaped as well. The exuvia on the right seemed to be clapping at their antics: Good show! good show!

Suddenly, everybody wanted to be Ophelia. And they splashed around with great hilarity, enjoying the cool, fresh water. I'm betting even the REAL Ophelia never had so much fun as this! Above our heads, hummingbirds squeaked and played tag. It was hot, but it was a fine summer day.

They lollygagged around in the water, waiting to see if wings would form, but even after a long time, none did. I explained to the little crew that - although wings were the eventual fate for dragonfly larvae, perhaps that was NOT the case for Dancing Girls or Crittergators. (Oh, such tiny disappointed looks!)

And then out of the water they came, and it was tiny towels all around, and drying off, and laughter. Just another summer day's grand adventures for the Dancing Girls, the Crittergators, and the exuviae!

The soundtrack: Natalie Merchant, with Ophelia.

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