There is only one question left: how can a mere human top the ridiculous majesty of the Common Green Darner’s blue ‘stache? (To say nothing of the peach fuzz foo-manchu in the individual pictured above.) Frankly, I have no answer for you at this time. Anax junius is clearly in a class of its own, something your run of the mill human handlebar or robber fly mystax cannot compete with. All I can tell you is, we’re trying. We truly are. And how do I know this? Well, I recently spent a week with these intrepid attempters, the people at the heart of bringing together ridiculous mustaches and brothers and sisters who are in the foster care system and separated from one another, here in Massachusetts. Every summer for the past seven summers, volunteers have gathered to put on Camp To Belong – Massachusetts to help create lasting memories between siblings who might otherwise miss out on the bonding and shared experiences that so many of us with brothers and sisters take for granted. Watching your sib 30 feet in the air, swinging from a trapeze, probably goes less for granted by all of us; but eating at the same table or sleeping under the same roof, or maybe even getting frightened by the same menacing spider or wasp in your cabin, are the commonplace parts of a shared life that reside in the background and can be easy to lose sight of. (Naturally I am working to turn frightened by menacing bug etc. into mesmerized by fascinating bug etc., but I digress.) We get to do all those things at CTB-MA, but what you’re asking perhaps is, how did we get to take up the torch of human bearer of ridiculous mustaches? This is what I’d like you to believe:
So in the middle of the camp week, while the campers created sculptures in the ceramics activity period, I stood back and soaked in the grandeur of kids getting to be kids essentially. Until, that is, I was challenged to create my own masterpiece (by a Bridget to be named in a later post). Perhaps proving that ridiculous mustaches are inescapable or that maybe I have a strange tangential preoccupation, I decided to make a Common Green Darner. At this point, you may ask yourself, why are they called “Common,” as I asked myself when writing this post. A quick internet search later, and the answer appears to be that they are “Common” because they are extremely…common? That makes as much sense as anything makes sense, but it still throws me a little. As one of the larger dragonflies in North America, and probably the largest one I’ve personally seen in the living, breathing world, it was somewhat of a shock. I’ve only seen three or four at rest in the past few years, and of those I’ve only taken pictures of two. Of the two, one was a one-shot wonder (and not a good shot either) and the other is featured in the pictures of this post. I think the males may be the giants buzzing me at my favorite local shooting spot, but they are never still enough to really identify properly, let alone take a photograph of! So to me, they are something of a special creature, a unique point of life with a blue mustache cherry on the top. As an artistic subject, the species is a no-brainer: once the clay was in hands, I went full speed ahead, and inspired a nation. Er, a summer camp.
There you have it.
To my chagrin, my sculpting skills, to say nothing of our allotted time, left me unable to properly fashion the compound eyes. But then a funny thing happened. This:
Actually (as you’ve guessed, I’m sure), full disclosure, my sculpture had nothing to do with that ridiculous mustache. It was already happening, and it is Camp To Belong. Unlike beer commercials or reality shows, the good people [like Hope, pictured above!] behind such ridiculous fun are immediate, apparent and true. And though I cannot grant their ‘staches superiority to the Common Green Darner’s, I can say they are just one moment in a week of many moments of love, laughing and family. As I’ve said elsewhere on this site, of things that should or should not be, I am similarly not sure what mustaches should be about, if anything, but I know these lighthearted versions are in the spirit of fostering a better community and for that I say let there be more mustaches!
On a more serious (but no more true) note, much like the Common Green Darner, there is a common opportunity here that can easily fly over our heads. I will let Judy Cockerton, founder of Sibling Connections and CTB-MA explain:
It became obvious to me that most Americans think there are only two ways to support children in foster care: Adopt them or become a foster parent. That is too much to ask of most people. The result: Hundreds of thousands of potential resources turn and walk away from the children in their communities who need them the most.
What is needed? A corps of community members in every region of the country who invest in the well-being of children in their backyards; folks who actively engage in creating a caring safety net for the infants, toddlers, school aged youngsters and teens whose lives have been impacted by foster care.
Every year 25,000 young Americans “age out” of our foster care system at risk for homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, teen parenting and lives of poverty. We can change this reality by coming together in regions all across the country to build roadmaps that take us in a new direction – one that encourages widespread investment and improves life outcomes.
There is an abundant opportunity here to improve the lives of these children and the state of our communities, but, much like the Common Green Darner apparently escapes a certain bug enthusiast’s radar, even some of our most concerned, responsible and charitable citizens do not notice it. Be it donations of money, goods or time, you can make a difference for these children and, by consequence, yourself. And when a whole nation of people are behind this mission, just like the magnificent dragonfly of the hour, the only thing we can call common about it, is the numbers.
[Ed. note: Kind reader, you may notice some broken wings, one in the picture above, due to lack of time to properly bake my clay bug, and in the final large photo which is a stitched image that didn’t quite line up on the wing. I like it anyway, so there you have it.]