Old Barn, Weald and Downland Museum, Chichester, UK

I had a dream last night where I found myself in the private library and study of my good friend John who was narrating a piece from his blog that talked about his personal experiences, surprised as it wasn’t his usual style. I listened captivated to the rhythm of his voice, even though I was aware that I had never actually met him in person before, much less heard his voice. The space was cosy and well lived in, in tones of caramel light and subdued contrasts. Hundreds of books on a wide range of subjects spanned the length of the shelves that bedecked every facade and climbed floor to ceiling, broken up by children’s books dotted about. Some resting against books filed away, others in between more conservative subjects, distinguishable by their unusual dimensions and vivid colours.

At the centre of the space was a desk covered in papers and documents surrounding a laptop. John stood as he spoke with the desk in between us both. I continued to listen as I marvelled at the many books behind him, however one book in particular piqued my interest with its square brightly coloured cover facing toward me. So I asked if I could have a look as it looked similar to a book my son owned, a tale about dragons.

Moving around his desk so that now he was standing a short distance opposite me he gave me the book to look at while he told me its tale from memory. As he spoke I drifted into the story

It began with a little boy who lived in a small farming village. That year they had grown the best harvest of barley and hops they had ever grown. The stalks were long and strong, and the heads full and extra golden, nodding graciously in the gentle late summer breeze. The boy stood admiring the field, knowing that the following morning the prized crop of barley and hops would be harvested, with some to be kept by the village and the rest to be sold at market. The golden stalks seemed to sparkle in the late evening light, and the little boy knew that this crop was special.

The baker’s wife had been to the field to collect some of the hops and barley to bake into small cakes, as was tradition every year the night before the harvest.  Everyone in the village would share the cakes, it was said to bring good luck and ensure that the harvest went well. But that night as everyone celebrated and ate their cakes, all the villagers including the small boy fell into a deep slumber. Everyone lay sleeping where they had been sitting or standing, some sprawled across tables, others on their ground where they had been dancing with their partners. Musicians, grandparents, children, parents and neighbours  alike in big snoring heaps as the hops and barley worked their magic. I stood watching, perplexed knowing that something strange was happening. I could still hear John’s voice in my mind, his tone was soft and hypnotic as he continued with the story. All around people were beginning to stir, except before my eyes as the villagers awoke now in the dead of night groggy and disoriented I realised that they had transformed, incredulously, unfathomably, and magnificently into dragons!

There were all shapes, sizes and colours of dragons, some with spikes on their tails and along their spines, others with great fanned crests  on their heads and cheeks, others whose scales shimmered under the light of the gibbous moon, flecks of gold just as the boy and I had observed in the crop of barley and hops just hours before. Some whose wings were short and stubby, and those whose wings seemed to span the night sky, majestic and powerful as they roused stretching and spluttering flames as they yawned. Some whose tails were long and feathery, others who had twin tails  that were thin and whip-like, and yet others whose tails were yet little points.

There was growing commotion and excitement among them as if the dragons had waited a very long time for this moment, set free from their human forms and allowed to stand tall and resplendent once again. Like a force of nature the dragons one by one began to flex their wings and lift themselves up until they were all hovering, and circling in the sky having broken through walls and thatching with the sheer power of their newly awoken forms. Livid flames lit the black sky obscuring the silver light of the stars and moon, squawks, bird-like shrieks, roars, gutteral lows, and all manner of other grunting and hissing emanating from the gathering storm of dragons over the farm village and the surrounding landscape.

Through the night the dragons set alight to rooves and trees, destroyed fences and carts, went crashing through walls and farm building releasing frightened farm animals who ran off into the night. It seemed as though it was their intent to cause as much mischief and mayhem as they possibly could. It was clear to me that they were having fun, or at least making up for lost time, unrestrained and full of seemingly inexhaustible energy. They tumbled into one another, playing chase, racing high into the sky and back down again. Swooping, diving, and making as much noise as possible as if they wanted to state their presence to world in which they had known through different eyes, but were now free from and able to express their true nature.

As night gave way to the pale light of the dawn the weary dragons began making their way toward the one building they had left intact, the school-house, led by one small red dragon whose tail was still a little point. One by one they made their way into the building through the wide door, with the larger of the dragons carefully squeezing themselves through the tight wooden frame. Before long they were all in a deep slumber again, oblivious to the trail of destruction that they had left around them during their nocturnal escapade. The field of hops and barley too had been left untouched.

A small group had come from a nearby village armed with pitch-forks and other weapons having seen the giant beasts tearing the landscape apart. They had seen the dragons head for the school-house and thought that they would ambush them there. However, they were ill-prepared for what they were to find. One member from the group stepped forward, cautiously approaching the closed door of the building in which the dragons lay sleeping, realising that it stood slightly ajar. As he peered through the gap to his surprise and indeed shock what he saw was musicians, grandparents, children, parents, neighbours  and a small boy alike snoring peacefully, apparently having fallen asleep where they had found a space.

I too found myself standing in John’s cosy study once again, still standing before him as he finished the story. Then I awoke, having been nudged awake by the cat. As I lay in the lucid state between sleep and waking I tried to recall the dream, and promising to myself that I would write the story down. I recognised that the dragons were symbolic of illness for me, and thus was connected to the discussion that I had had the night before about what I believed the purpose of illness to be.

It made clear sense to me at that moment, that for me at least becoming the dragon, or experiencing illness was a way for me to break free for a while from the trappings of my physical body and from the rigours of everyday life. It was an opportunity to explore my less physical nature in a way that wasn’t ordinarily possible.

So what was John’s role I wondered? Well, I thought, it has always been obvious to me that his role is as a facilitator, the story-teller that draws the crowd and brings together like-minded souls. I can only take my hat off to that…


*Originally posted on my other blog, but I thought I would share it here.

8 thoughts on “Dragon

Don't forget to breathe...

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