For all their professed commitment to natural values, many islanders struggle to shake off an innate revulsion towards what they can neither control nor command, a fear that extends to the creative lottery of unfettered minds as much as it impedes the revival of shrunken realms. This systemic inability to tolerate random wellsprings and the tradeoffs of unguided systems manifests itself in a spontaneous rejection of free spirits as well as scenes that cost far less to maintain than manicured gardens. Lawns across the city are therefore subject to regular oversight by managers ill-equipped to handle tall poppies, who prize order over a profusion of life in mutable, mercurial portions. Regulatory overkill thus cuts short the efforts of wildflowers to turn plain slopes into glowing hills, save in corners where labour is too demanding or the terrain proves meadowsome.
The men who mow the waysides are thankfully a little less diligent than they should be, for they tend to spare patches that are hard to reach, easy to overlook or which may damage their gear. Buttress gaps, urban vales and the hallowed cracks between dense hedges and deep drains are where weeds, herbs and hardy reeds survive to send out fresh seeds into sterile ground. These pockets of unplanned biodiversity are betrayed by a flurry of hexapodal activity, as hoverflies, day-flying moths, grasshoppers and phytophagous ladybirds gather to feed from flowers and growing shoots. Plots in bloom attract more conspicious visitors: pansies, costers, grass blues, bush browns, five-rings, grass yellows, darts, bobs and swifts that sip from floral nectaries and engage each other in displays for fleeting dominance. The dance continues each day, away from the line of sight of most passers-by and to pedestrian acclaim, until the honey runs dry or the bugs die, exhausted by bouts of courtship and eggstacy.
At Lorong Halus in the far north of the island, grassy fringes frame a maze of polishing ponds and filter beds. Tall sedges and withered cattails smother the latter, while the exposed waterbodies harbour thriving populations of exotic fish and aquatic lilies. The surrounding landscape supports birds of diverse origins as well as reclusive natives who owe their homes to a change of heart that led to the rehabilitation of a buried wetland but is loathe offer assurances of further gains, lest such indulgences get in the way of greater fortunes. But for now, the lawns by the paths, scruffy as they are and cropped to a fault, provide an arena of combat and consumption for odonates adapted to the heat and horrors of the open country. Common amberwings scour the airspace between ankle and knee, darting from blade to blade with restless sweeps in the height of the day. Small, stoutly built and scarcely noticed except by eyes peeled on lowly things, Brachythemis contaminata is nonetheless a smart creature, with males sporting deep orange abdomens and a generous wash of amber that ends shortly before the pterostigma. In Africa and the Near East, these dragonflies are known as groundlings, for they seldom stray far from the earth, a wise habit given the likelihood of capture by gomphids and fiercer libellulids. But across its range, the genus enjoys considerable success, occuring in high densities by sluggish streams, still pools and polluted waterways, where the adults are active till dusk and whirl around their territories like fragments of afterglow.
Two other sympetrines present by the ponds are common scarlets and blue perchers. The latter are permanent residents of disturbed countrysides but are even less apparent than the amberwings, with their sliver-like profiles and powdery tones that meld with the mess of the turf. Crocothemis servilia, on the other hand, boldly clings to taller stalks in between patrols for gnats and furious pursuits after passing rivals. Orthetrum sabina is also abundant, though nearly invisible on bankside vegetation, while wandering gliders cruise over the clearings between the refuge and a dammed river. The most prominent dragonfly, however, is probably Macrodiplax cora, a medium-sized insect allied to the scarlet basker, with similarly broad hindwings but a little less presence. The males stake a claim over flimsy tips, to which they predictably return after extended swoops over the artificial marsh, where half-a-dozen or more individuals may battle for mating rights and continue to hound tandem pairs in the midst of oviposition. At home in sweet as well as salty waters, coastal gliders haunt the margins of tropical islands as well as insular nations, keeping faith with none but themselves and pledging allegiance to nothing less than a life on the wing and near-total surrender to perpetual motion.