I woke up this morning and found I was thinking about dragons.
A little strange, when I think how the sun was shining on hot pink rhododendron blossoms and the sky was blue and brilliant. Nothing fierce or dragon-y in sight — Nevertheless, it was dragons I was thinking about, and a quote that somehow had dragons in it that’s been important in my life, but I couldn’t think exactly what it was. So I hopped out of bed and hustled to the computer and asked Mr. Google. He came up with something from G.K. Chesterton that involved fairy tales, fear, and killing the dragon. Definitely NOT it! So I asked global search on my MacBook and found it, in the words of poet Rainer Rilke:
How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
–Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
His words have been a talisman for me over decades. When I’m lonely, tired, anxious, fearful, they’re a reliable refuge, because I believe they’re true. More than believe — experience has taught me that they’re true. Opportunity and growth both often disguise themselves as fearful, or so I’ve found. It’s remembering it that’s difficult. But this morning — without even being lonely, tired, and the rest of the etceteras — the talisman came to me.
Why? A little bit of thought and I realized why: it’s all connected.
This is the remembered photo of a dragon that began my train of thought. Not a Western dragon, upright and wicked, waiting to challenge St. George in battle. He’s an Eastern dragon, sinuous and graceful, a symbol of wisdom and power, and he’s atop a wall surrounding a Buddhist monastery in France. I don’t know the name of the monastery nor exactly where it is, somewhere in central France, probably in Burgundy. Because that’s where the cherished friend lives who visited that monastery and took this photo and sent it to us, because once upon a time the Hub was a well-known collector of dragons!
The friend recently was able to visit us from France for the first time in about ten years. Considering the ages of the Hub and me and the fact that we no longer can travel to France, this may be the last time we will see him in the flesh. His visit was a great gift to us. So now we see what a straight track the train of thought is traveling on. The dragon’s connected to our friend in France, Rilke’s connected to the dragon, dragons connect to fairy tales and princesses, which are the stories I have always loved. More? Take a look at this dragon, which sits on the lamp base on my desk in the bedroom, where I see it every day:
Quite a Western dragon, although hardly wicked or menacing! Now, where did this dragon come from? From France, from a fabled church in the ancient city of Troyes, with its medieval half-timbered houses still intact, and two marvelous museums. And who told us — decades ago, when we were driving from Aix-en-Provence to Bruges — to be sure and stop at Troyes on the way? You got it! Actually, then — not such a surprise that “connection” began my day. Which brings me to a song I’ve known from my youth. Probably you know it too, if you’re American; and maybe even if you’re not. It’s an old recording of the Delta Rhythm Boys in a wonderful rendition of Ezekiel’s text about the dry bones. The thought train arrives at its destination:
This version leaves out the promise (which is included in the text) of the dry bones rising again to walk around, walk around. (You can find plenty of other Youtubes that include it.) Even without it, though, you just know from the lilt of the music there’s some kind of resurrection wrapped up here. I love the way their version rises up the scale in connecting and goes down in disconnecting. Love it because it reinforces the idea in my last post that we don’t simply grow UP, we naturally conclude by growing DOWN. Whether your bones are young and flexible or old and creaky — have a listen and maybe dance around a little bit in your suit of bones while you rejoice.
It’s all connected — and it’s all good!
What a lovely post! “all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave” and “have a listen and maybe dance around a little bit in your suit of bones while you rejoice” resounded with me. Lovely, just lovely. Thank you for making us stop and look inside.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, Emil — rejoicing!
It is all connected – we are, in our limited and glorious humanity I thought of dragonflies as you wrote dragons and princesses, and gossamer wings
It was just one of those things……(called life)
Dragonflies would be the most delicate, uplifted forms of dragons (who also could fly, at least some of them)!
Alas, they are so gossamer that the youtube link you emailed vanishes upon a click.
We are made of stronger stuff. Fortunately.
Of course, of course …dragons that become princesses – or princes … the perfectRilke quote …it makes perfect sense to someone who believes in clicking the heels of her ruby slippers together to find the amazing Tin Man.
And to someone well acquainted with the Jabberwock —
Dragons are beasts that like humans come in good and evil forms. Are they myth? Not entirely, Some Dragons are real – The Komodo Dragon for example. The winged depictions in medieval texts and some versions of The Lord of The Rings would require the same mechanical abilities of a Bumble Bee to actually achieve flight (Bumble Bees are like Helicopters – they only gain the power of flight because they are so ugly that the earth repels them – apologies to Bumbles,,, that’s Helicopters) – and being cold blooded reptiles they would find that level of exertion impossible! Most Dragons I see in art are pretty things like the one in Shrek so they are something to enjoy. If you haven’t seen it… How to train your Dragon is FUN! 🙂 I just love Dragons
Oh my, you and the Hub have a great many scaly winged things in common!
Komodo Dragons are real indeed, but (ssshh, not to hurt their feelings) they are ugly ugly ugly.
Thanks very much for this learned contribution to the discussion of dragons. I am overcome by your description of the technique of Bumbles (and helicopters). How true, how true.
I will look for How to train your Dragon, although I am not clear exactly what I’m looking for — but for a start there’s Google and Youtube, so I should be okay!
(I am more convinced than ever that you know everything.)
LoL – Not everything … in fact, very little but I can point you in the right direction for How to Train your Dragon… CGI Film by Dreamworks – Grerat fun for us adults and some fool decided to let the kids watch it too 😉
I adore the serendipity that persists throughout this post. And I love this take on dragons!
West: Dragons = Bad. East: Dragons = Good.
It’s all in your point of view, eh?
Perspective is a powerful thing.
“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us”. That is profound Judith! I might have found myself a new talisman 🙂
Incidentally, I explored the history of the Eastern dragon in this post a while back.
It makes an excellent talisman, Madhu. I speak from experience.
I look forward to reading about the Eastern dragon as soon as we settle in after being away. (For three days; how DO you do it?)
The dragon (Naga) post was really interesting. It makes me realize there is a history to the sculpture that we pass almost every day in our neighborhood —
although it will make you laugh rather than gasp in wonder. I’ll try and capture a photo soon —