Sunday, 31 May 2015
Yesterday, IB and I watched in fascination as what seemed like hundreds of mayflies danced past on the breeze. The life story of the mayfly is magical - their eggs are laid in water, and the 'nymph' stage of the insect lives underwater for about a year before developing its wings, at which point it emerges from the water and hides in vegetation for a few hours until it sheds its skin once again to reveal its final, adult form. These adult mayfly tend to appear in great numbers, for they live for just one day and in that time they must mate and produce eggs. So single minded is their purpose that they have no mouths and do not eat. But as they dance and drift in great numbers their fleeting, fragile lives are a reminder of so much that is beautiful, precious, ephemeral.
Last year a story about a photograph that allegedly shows fairies appeared in the press and was shared widely on social networking sites. My initial thought was that the photo was of mayflies, although it now appears that they have been most likely identified as midges. I thought it was a cute story which showed how beautiful and magical even humble insects could be when caught in slanting sunlight and seen in an unfamiliar way. I was amazed to find though, that some people were insisting the photo showed actual fairies. My amazement turned to real irritation when I saw the photo shared on some Pagan pages on Facebook, with people leaving comments like 'This photo definitely shows fairies', 'I believe!' and 'Don't try to tell me these are insects!'. My irritation was because most Pagans would say that Paganism is a nature religion, that we honour and worship the Earth and all Her creations. And yet here were people saying that insects were too mundane and that they wanted fairies.
I think the ephemeral miracle of mayflies should be magic enough for anyone, without having to turn them into Tinkerbell. There are so many fabulous, amazing and even miraculous natural phenomena in this incredible world we are lucky enough to inhabit. Octopi change their markings as camouflage, make 'gardens', squeeze through the tiniest cracks, use tools. Peacocks display the most amazing plumage. Spiders weave intricate webs from silk that is stronger than steel. A bluebell wood in full bloom. Morning glory clouds. The Aurora Borealis. The changing seasons. The scent of honeysuckle. Bower birds. The unfurling of a fern frond. Sequoias. Platypuses. Rainbows. Albatrosses. The individuality of snowflakes or fingerprints. Otters. Seahorses. Blue whales. Hummingbirds. The dawn chorus. Honeybees. Snow. The miracle of life unfurling from a humble seed...
When I watched the film 'Avatar' for the first time, I was entranced by the beautiful world that had been created for the film. But then I wondered, if I lived there, would it still seem so magical and wonderful? Does familiarity breed contempt? Is that what the determination of people to believe they are seeing fairies instead of midges is telling us?
It is a shame if people feel their lives are so humdrum they must Disney-fy them. It is a shame if people are so out of touch with the world around them that they fail to see the magic that surrounds us. It is especially sad if those who claim to love and worship the Earth don't find its reality enough for them.
Perhaps we need to let go of Tinkerbell, stop clapping our hands and chanting 'I believe, I believe!'. Then maybe we can release the fantasy and open our eyes to the amazing reality that surrounds us. And if we do that we will be able to truly treasure the Earth and perhaps use the energy we have been wasting on Tinkerbell to protect and nurture our amazing Planet.
P.S. You may also like to look at these images of woolly aphids to see how fairy-like insects can appear in the right light. But they are still insects, all the same.