|Green Emerald Patrolling the Rockhole at Rungutjirpa|
A deep cleft splitting the mountains asunder, Rungutjirpa has been known for 40,000 years or so to the Arrernte People of central Australia as a site of creation. A Goanna Dreaming is storied here, their tussling long ago putting things today as they are. For the last 200 years or so Whitefellas have know the place as Simpson's Gap, in honor of the same geographer, A. A. Simpson, whose name also serves to designate a nearby desert and more distant cape. Whether the life of a Whitefella geographer constitutes a dreaming serious enough to merit being mentioned in these environs is not an unimportant question. Personally, I am not so confident of a positive outcome. And so even if doing so makes me more than a bit uncomfortable, calling on the tongue of the very people whom the people of my tongue have so persistently displaced, I end up referring to this site in its Arrendan rather than English instantiation.
Following anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose's example, I come first to Rungutjirpa whenever I reenter the country of the red center. Showing up here is not something to be taken lightly. In late afternoon the green waters lapping at the rocky foot of the cleft catch bits of sun and bushels of shadow. After clambering around a boulder or two, I settle down on a spot along a bit of sandy shore overhung by stone and stare up into the airy heights and then down into liquid depths. Their muddy bottom is likely only a few meters below my folded knees, but what the waters suggest are abysses as deep as creation itself. The immensity of the world above is effortlessly gathered onto the pond's surface, an image shuddering with the passing of every breath of air. We are, the waters whisper, agile enough to encompass all that is illumined. And, they could just as well add, all that is not illumined.
|Wandering Percher Resting|
on the Path to Rungutjirpa
The globular eyes of dragonflies are famously immense compound organs, honeycombed with 30,000 or so "ommatidea," each of which in turn is shaped in a hexagon composed of a lens fixed over a small patch of light-sensitive cells. But even if we know precisely the anatomy involved, what the dragonfly actually sees is not so certain. Some theorize its field of vision is a vast mosaic cobbling together individual bits of light, others that the outlines of things are not so distinct even as any movement nearby is magnified thirty-thousandfold, others that the dragonfly's visual field circles a full 360 degrees around its body, effectively immersing it in a globe of illumination. Its tail would be as available to it as its forelimbs. Possessing no fewer than eleven and as many as thirty chromatic opsins (proteins with distinct sensitivities to color in the diverse rods of its many retinas), it is rumored the dragonfly lives in a far more colorful, even ultra-chromatic universe. I wonder then what the Emerald Tau makes of the redness of the red earth here, already intense to my mammalian eyes with only three opsins to call upon, not to mention the overwhelmingly blue sky stretching overhead. What boiling bubbles of color might my own mammalian flesh be for these non-mammalian eyes?
|Green Emerald over the Waters|
|Golden Winged Skimmer in my Garden in Salisbury, MD|
Images of dragonflies abound on the internet. We humans love to observe this particular creature in all its intimate details, to hold its taxonomical characteristics fixedly and precisely in our imagination. This often results in what might be termed the money shot, one in which every filament and hair, every anatomical detail, is rendered with precision. The results are truly spectacular if not just a bit pornographic. One wonders whether a picture of a human being similarly rendered might be similarly sought out and for what reasons. Imagine a close up focusing on every hair and pore, not to mention the nearly microscopic mites inevitably finding their way into such environs, speckling the face of a fashion model. So much for Descartes' notion of a clear and distinct idea.
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Merwin, W. S. "After the Dragonflies," Matthew Zapruder, ed. New York Times Magazine. July 22, 2016. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/07/24/magazine/ws-merwin-after-the-dragonflies.html?_r=0. Accessed, December 15, 2016.
Schwaegerl, Christian. "What's Causing the Sharp Decline in Insects, and Why it Matters." Yale Environment 360. July 16, 2016. URL: http://e360.yale.edu/features/insect_numbers_declining_why_it_matters. Accessed, December 15, 2016.
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