Solstice is past and the long deep night.
As the light returns, wishing a happy Chanukah to one and all.
Month of the Dragon has come to a close. A hearty roar of appreciation to all who have participated. And a draconic welcome to all our new WAFDE members! Hope everyone had a spikey-wikey, rip-snorting time.
Halloween. All Hallows Eve. Most Dragons prefer the ancient name, Samhain. This has always been a liminal time – a day when the misty barrier between the spiritual and the corporeal worlds thins and the inhabitants of each can come and go at will.
If you are up on your Dragon history you know this is a very special day for Dragons, especially among the Westie Weyrs. It is a solemn time of both remembrance and hope. A day to honor ancient sorrows and proffered sanctuary, ancestors lost and triumphant returns.
I am speaking, of course, of events that date back to the Dark Times of Dragon persecution. When Dragon-slaying was not only the “sport” du jour but also the surest way for would-be heroes, saints, and princelings to claim their bona fides. The Weyrs of Europe were decimated and anti-Dragon sentiments even inched their way east along the Silk Road.
Some Dragons flew west to the New World (Trans-Atlantic Transmigration), and some stayed and fought. But most Westies chose the better part of valor, discreetly taking the Sidhe up on their offer to dwell in the Otherworld until humans regained their sanity. In short, they faded into the mists. And – Surprise! – after many centuries, things in the physical realm did improve. Yet, while some of our friends chose to return to this world, other more cautious Dragons, did not.
So it is that Samhain takes on a certain long-distance family-reunion quality, with flights between planes and all-nighter confabs. There is music and dancing and visiting old haunts. There is catching up with the grand-dragonlets and telling of tales of past lives and future dreams. Some Dragons even seek out the relatives of Dragon-friendly humans they once knew.
For now, we here at the Nest wish you all a very Happy Samhain. May your harvest be bountiful and the coming year warm with Dragon-fire and fast friends.
I have been a Lewis Carroll fan since I was younger than Alice. Through the years, I’ve followed many a White Rabbit, had tea with Dormice, Hares, and Hatters of questionable reason, and marveled at the wisdom of Caterpillars and the humour of Cats, Cheshire and otherwise.
During the Month of the Dragon, we like to tip our hats to Wonderland wonder on Jabberwocky Appreciation Day. In the past we celebrated on 10/6, aka Mad Hatter Day, just to keep all the Carroll-inean festivities together. This year, though, in part due to the long weekend, in part to craziness beyond our control, the Dragons suggested we push it to 10/7. And who am I to argue with Dragons?
Now, many people think of the Jabberwocky as the fierce, extremely unpleasant, creature in Through the Looking-Glass, with “the jaws that bite, the claws that catch.” He was the burbling beast of a young man’s quest who wound up at the end of a vorpal sword. Here at the Nest we take a more benign view and embrace the Jabberwock as a symbol of Dragons in all their infinite variety.
True Dragons and pseudo dragons, large and small, scaled, smooth, and feathered, there is no family, genus, or even species on this planet as diverse as Dragons. Just take a look at How To Train Your Dragon. Unscientific though they may be, one of the things I really enjoy about the HTTYD movies is the imaginative heterogeneity among the Dragons. What a colorful spectrum of draconic whimsy! It makes this Dragonkeeper’s heart soar.
While the True Dragons – European, Asian, and Feathered – receive the bulk of our attention this month (indeed all year round), Jabberwocky Day is devoted to the plethora of lesser dragons in the world.
Some are well-known, like wyverns
Others, like the ropen, amphitere, and kiaus, are as unknown as the remote biomes they call home.
From egg-tooth to tail spade, Dragons know innately the power of their multiplicity. They know it has helped them survive when less diverse species have gone extinct. It has made them stronger in imagination and fact around the world. It is through the lens of this personal experience that they look at the disturbing human obsession with tribalism and homogeneity and shake their heads.
“Don’t you get it?” they ask. “Difference is a boon, not a bane.”
And they are right. It is impossible to celebrate Dragons without celebrating their glorious variety. So to everyone out there who derides diversity out of fear or bigotry or just plain ignorance, think of how meager existance would be if all dogs were poodles or all Dragons green. How poor we would be without tree-skimmers and diggers, lake dragons and cookie-loving pisuhänds.
Difference not only makes life possible, it makes life worth living.
And makes us appreciate our Jabberwockys all the more.
Another MotD has come to an end.
First, a hearty welcome to all new WAFDE members, and my thanks to one and all who have made MotD 2016 such a pleasure and success. You help to ensure a profound, eternal, Dragon presence in the world.
I have always thought it fitting that MotD ends on Samhain (Halloween). This is a very special day for Dragons around the world – though Westies and the lesser dragons in their ken tend to lay special claim to it. Indeed, as much as Dragons have holy days, Samhain is right up there at the top of the list.
On this night of ghouls and goblins, it is only right to look at a chapter from Dragon history full of blood and gore and nightmares that would make the strongest Dragon weep. I am speaking of the centuries of loss and grief heaped upon the enchantments of Europe known as The Dark Times. For some of you, this may be a familiar tale, yet, here at the Nest, we believe it is one worth repeating.
Technically the Dark Times ran from 2000 BCE to 1450 CE, though it was the indiscriminate dragon slaying of the Dark Ages that nearly drove Western Dragons from the face of the Earth.
By the 7th century, the Trans-Atlantic Transmigration , which had diminished the continental Dragon count by half, was deeply etched into the historical record. Gone were the havens of grove and spring and standing stone. The weyrs were on edge: Queens laid smaller clutches – stress even forced some to skip generations of hatching altogether. For most, it was coming down to fight or flight, and the former didn’t hold much appeal.
This was when the sidhe came to the rescue. They offered the Dragons of Europe a way out, a refuge in the Otherworld. And so it was that Dragons retreated into the mists – along with the unicorns and other rare and unusual beings – until the world of humans became more Dragon-friendly.
Except on Samhain. Once a year, when the veil between the worlds of sidhe and human thinned, and an expectation for the strange and unusual was in the air, the Dragons returned. In the umbra of streetlight and balefire, they flew over housetops and buzzed the frost rimmed pumpkin patches. They danced across the face of moon – often mistaken at a great distance for large bats – and played hide-and-seek with those who, attuned to the mystical, could actually see them. As night tipped towards dawn, a great lamentation coursed through the heavens, a keening for Dragons lost and lives left behind….
Then they were gone.
So it continued decade after decade, generation after generation. Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the tide began to change. Some say it was the strength of the Enlightenment, driving out the darkness of superstition, others the resurgence of mysticism and neo-paganism. Either way, it was the opening Dragons were looking for, the glimmer of hope that the worst of the anti-Dragon madness had passed. And from then on, every Samhain, more and more Dragons not only came through the veil, but chose to stay on our side of it.
October 31 is a time of somber and jubilant celebration. When we mourn Dragons gone and rejoice in their return.
As is noted in The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook:
It is now the twenty-first century. By the blessing of the Great Dragon, we made it past the Dark Times and farther than many thought possible.
Out of the darkness, Dragons roared, reminding us we need them. Reminding us of their right to be. With horns charmed and scales ashimmer, they walk amongst us. They share our lives and lend mystery to the mundane. They fill the skies and sing in thunderous tones for all to hear, “We are Everywhere!”
Wishing you all a very draconic Halloween. Keep safe, fly high. See you all next year.
And for those of you in the States, don’t forget to get out and vote on November 8th (or earlier if you can). Dragons may have little use for politics, but this election is vital for us and the planet. Including our spikey-wikey friends.
 An exodus of a passel of adventurous European Dragons who were fed up with the rampant anti-Dragon sentiments coursing through Britain and the Continent in the Dark Ages. Shortly after the Saxon invasion of the British Isles, they heeded the call to “Go west, young Dragons!” and crossed the Atlantic. In the New World they made their way amongst the enchantments of North America.
Month of the Dragon, 2016. A Celebration in Black and White.
It’s October again. A slight nip has crept into the evening air, just right – at my house – for sleeping beneath a blanket of furry felines. As those of you who frequent the Dragon’s Nest know, October is also when the World Association for Dragons Everywhere celebrates the Month of the Dragon. This year, the 6th annual Month of the Dragon, to be precise.
This year has been one of great turmoil and little time, so I fear MotD may be a little less fulsome than in years past. Pared down does not mean inelegant. The Dragons would hardly permit that! But this year, they have nosed us along a subtle path, suggesting we go all dichromatic, presenting our friends in shades of black and white.
Yup, we’re going old-school formal.
So, straighten those white ties, brush off your tails, and come join us in our month-long celebration of Dragons, large and small, fierce and fiery. (And fear not, I have it on good authority that a little color will slip through. Here and there, hither and yon.)
Happy Month of the Dragon!
And six degrees of Schrödinger’s cat.
In a nod to the gastronomic excesses of the season, I decided this year to rummage through my collected recipes and find something divinely decadent for Yule dessert. On a worn piece of paper slipped into the folds of Joy of Cooking, I found the perfect thing: Lucie’s Chocolate Mousse. (see below)
Which brings this story teller to a story.
When I was a kid – all of 8 ½ – we spent my father’s first sabbatical in England. Now, as some of you might know, my father is a potter, and one of his good friends in was Lucie Rie.Though we were living in Devon for the year, whenever we went up to London we would visit Lucie at her home/studio in Paddington for tea, treats, and conversation. Despite her diminutive stature, I remember being rather intimidated by Lucie.
She had a no-nonsense demeanor, not suffering fools – or perhaps just children – gladly. But her eyes had a rare spark and she was always gracious with her time and fare. One of the most delicious offerings on such sojourns, especially for a kid with a budding sweet tooth, was her chocolate mousse. Creamy, rich, but not cloying. With a cup of strong Viennese coffee, it was perfect.
Well, it all has to do with Lucie’s history and the remarkable woman she was.
Lucie came to London in 1938. The Anschluss had enveloped Austria and it was no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. She emigrated to London where, like refugees then and now, she had to start over. Though an artist of renown on the continent, for a time she made ends meet making ceramic buttons and jewelry. In 1939 she moved into 18 Albion Mews, a remodeled stable in the London borough of Westminster, which she called home for the rest of her life. She also opened her doors to others fleeing the violence Hitler was igniting across Europe. One of those people was fellow Austrian, Erwin Schrödinger, on his way from Vienna to Oxford and, eventually, Dublin.
Of course, this was several years after Schrödinger came up with his paradoxical thought experiment known as Schrödinger’s cat. Still, in the weird interconnected way of the world, all these years later it is interesting to wonder about conversations round Lucie’s table through the years. About Nobel laureates to wide-eyed American kids; about quantum physics and pots and buttons; about the need across the world for open hearts and sanctuary from human madness.
Lucie’s Chocolate Mousse:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate.
4 eggs – as this recipe uses raw eggs, be sure of their quality.
½ chocolate cake – or sponge if you prefer.
Break the cake into bits in a deep bowl.
Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff.
Melt the chocolate in a couple of Tbs. of strong coffee. Set aside and let cool slightly. When you’re sure it’s ool enough not to cook the eggs, add the yolks.
Fold in the egg whites and layer over the cake. Chill.
In honor of the season and memory of sweet scents and good company, a few words from pens wiser than my own.
“But what is memory if not the language of feeling, a dictionary of faces and days and smells which repeat themselves like the verbs and adjectives in a speech, sneaking in behind the thing itself, into the pure present, making us sad or teaching us vicariously…”
― Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch
“…I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”
― Faulkner, The Sound & The Fury
From all of us at the Nest, wishes to you for a peaceful and memorable Thanksgiving.
Bennington Bookshop, Books, Bookstores, Celebrations, Dragon Keeper's Handbook, Dragons for Beginners, Fiction, Independent Bookstore Day, John Goodrich, Linda Foulsham, Phil Lewis, Readings, Stories, Writing
I love bookstores. I love the smell, the sound, the welcoming pace of bookstores.
Since I was a little kid, I’ve found joy and solace roaming among the stacks, pulling up a piece of floor or cushy chair, and exploring the magic of East Egg or The Land, deciding whether or not to make friends with Thomas Convenant or the Sandman and bring them home with me.
Back in the day, of course, every little town had a bookstore – or two. Independent and distinct, they offered classics and bestsellers, dictionaries and guides to local flora and fauna. They also reflected the personal tastes of their proprietors: some might be heavy on kids’ books, some on politics or contemporary fiction. And if you wanted that obscure new book your cousin Lily mentioned at Sunday dinner, out came Books in Print and an order would be graciously placed.
As a reader, this was heaven. As a writer, my appreciation has only grown.
The bookstore landscape has changed over the years. First, behemoths like Barnes & Noble and their late rival, Borders, moved in. They had space and inventory and remainder bins. You didn’t have to wait a week for that special order, a marketing edge in a culture that thrives on immediate gratification. Then came e-books and the leviathan of all leviathans, Amazon.
Loud and long, the literary pundits sounded the death knell of the independent bookstore. Fortunately, over the past couple of years communities of book lovers around the country are proving pundits wrong. There is a positive resurgence of independent bookstores. That, in itself, is cause for dancing in the street!
This Saturday, May 2, 2015, is Independent Bookstore Day. Bookstores and their patrons around the country are celebrating.
In my own backyard, the new owners of the Bennington Bookshop, Linda Foulsham and Phil Lewis, are presenting a full day of bibliocentric fun. There will be tales for the kids, evening wine and book chat for the grown-ups. My friend and fellow author, John Goodrich, will be talking about getting published, and I have the honor of giving a reading from my books and stories – about Dragons, of course.
If you are in the area, do stop by. If far away, check out your own local bookstore. Celebrate their uniqueness. Perhaps pick up a few literary friends and bring them home.
Schedule of Events on May 2:
10.30am: Story time for children with Chris Gingo
11.30am: Local author – Shawn MacKenzie
2.00pm: Local historian – Joe Hall
3.00pm: Local poet – Steve Haggerty
4.00pm: Local author – John Goodrich
5.00pm – 7.00pm: Cheese and wine and book conversations