Thursday, June 26, 2008

The (Teneral) Variable Dancer

You'll have to excuse the plethora of odonatia this season, but it is the high season for odonates and I'm making hay while the sun shines. Again, I walked behind the shop and again, lots of fun stuff. Still lots of dragonflies, but I was focusing on the damsels.

These bloody little things are terribly difficult to photograph with a point-and-shoot digital. After throwing away a dozen good photos to get one, I left work this afternoon and forked over the big bucks for a Nikon D200. I am keeping my film cameras for B&W (I still love the smell of a good darkroom) but for the blog stuff, I suspect you'll see a dramatic improvement in the photos. I now can control depth of field! Yahoo!!!


I did get a good shot of a shy fellow, a teneral Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis). Variable because they change color and vary in color a lot. Teneral because he was just barely emergent from nymph stage. That's why the straw color...they turn purple/violet later.

I love the word teneral—it's just a fancy word for the time in between you leave one stage of life but you're not quite ready for another. Teneral odonates are terribly exposed for a few hours as they transition to adult form. Their wings take several hours to fully harden after emerging, and during that time any number of things can eat them or crush them.

I guess it could apply to many human conditions as well. Your first crush, the first time you drive a car alone after you get your license, the second you turn the key in the car on your way to a first date...face it, you're teneral. It gets worse. There's the time between the point you realize you want to kiss someone, and the moment you actually pull it off...totally teneral.

I speak from experience that when you drop your daughter off at college, leaving her in the dorm room alone, the whole bloody family is teneral. My wife was teneral for 1500 miles.

So here's to odonates who brave the world in their teneral state, and here's to humans who brave the world in teneral states every bit as dramatic as a damselfly's first moments testing out its new wings.

Respectfully submitted,


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