Solstice is past and the long deep night.
As the light returns, wishing a happy Chanukah to one and all.
Chanukah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa – the next few weeks are rife with reasons to celebrate and exchange gifts. When better to spread a little draconic cheer – and wisdom. But what to give the dracophile who has most everything?
For the Dragon lover on your holiday list – modesty be damned – I recommend:
Here be Dragons.
…Not the slavering, whimsical monsters from childhood fancies, but real Dragons – fierce, complex, wondrous, and wild. They do not require our belief; they never have.
With hard science and myth, empirical wisdom and original line drawings, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook is the draconic enchiridion for the modern world, providing everything you need to know about these extraordinary beings. From disparate theories of Dragon evolution and the golden geometry of their form to modern conservation efforts and how to release a well-weaned orphan back into the wild, this book answers all your questions, even those you didn’t know to ask. From awe-inspiring Cosmic Creators to wee pisuhänds guarding hearth and home, discover the habits and habitats of Dragons and pseudo-dragons both familiar and rare.
The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook shows us how human and Dragon lives are bound together and why Dragons are now – and ever will be – relevant: In their wildness lie lessons for us all.
Here Dragonfire sears the grass and the wind dances with Dragon-song. Here you’ll find true Dragons, real flesh-and-blood creatures that are as fiercely alive and majestic as they were thousands of years ago.
This essential, comprehensive introduction to Dragons is filled with what everyone must know about these extraordinary creatures. Whether a casual dracophile or a dedicated Dragon keeper, come explore what Dragons have to teach us about the world and ourselves. Discover how, with care and devotion, you can help save them from extinction.
Well, Solstice 2012 is here and despite all the fretting and misinformed dooms-daying, the world is still here, more or less intact. Now is not the time for a long exegesis on Mayan cosmology and the long count, but I just want to wish everyone a very joyful Solstice – winter or summer depending on your hemisphere. It is the start of a new age – the 5th Age. Let’s try to prove the Maya right and make it better than the last one.
The Feast of Lights is fast approaching. Time to burnish the menorah, limber up your dreidel-spinning fingers, and teach the kittens about candle safety.
If you’re seeking something for that special Dragon lover in your life to plant beneath the Chanukah bush – and who doesn’t need a little something dragonish for the holidays – check out The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook and Dragons for Beginners.
Here’s a taste from Dragons for Beginners:
Three hundred thousand years ago, when Homo sapiens walked out of Africa, Dragons were everywhere. Around every river bend, on every mountain top, they basked at ease, the reigning predators in a wild and woolly world. Our ancient ancestors cast their eyes to the heavens and were wowed by the sheer otherworldly grandeur winging across the horizon. To primitive minds Dragons were nothing short of divine. They were the roar of sea and the blinding flash of lightning; gentle life-giving rains and inexplicable death in the night. They were the terrible danger lurking beyond the glow of village fires and the benevolent warmth of the fires themselves. Bigger, fiercer, more incredible than any other creature real or imagined, no beings—including man—have roamed so far or evolved so well. From the dawn of time, these were Dragons. They still are.
Don’t be so surprised.
Earth has managed to spawn a stellar array of life. From microscopic viruses to macroscopic pteradons, from bear cats to short-nosed bats, blue skimmers to blue whales, sporting fur, feathers, skin, and scales. The planet’s bio-diversity is truly spectacular. Just walk through the woods with ears pricked and eyes wide and you will find creatures, great and small, extraordinary enough to fill even the most jaded city slicker with awe. Spanning the taxonomic continuum, the common and the rare are there for the observing.
Harder to see are the mystical and the fabulous, the beings we’ve come to consider truly otherworldly. Griffins, unicorns, dryads, phoenix—their numbers are legion, their names and forms as varied as local habitat and custom allow. Over time many have gone the way of the moa and mammoth, a way currently slick with whale oil and strewn with tiger pelts and lyrebird quills. Those mystical creatures that remain slip in and out of the shadows, struggling to survive as environs and belief grow increasingly short in supply. They dance along the margins of medieval manuscripts and through the peripheral vision of cryptozoologists, mythologists, and literary fantasists. Thanks to a dwindling familiarity with the arcane, many incredible creatures pass without so much as a second look from humans who wouldn’t know a kitsune (fox spirit) from a chipmunk. They wear the cloak of modest anonymity that allows them to avoid the dangerously acquisitive and fearfully ignorant. To linger among us a little longer.
And then there are Dragons.
Magnificent, preternatural, take-your-breath-away Dragons.
Soaring on the four winds, surfing the seven seas, Dragons have never indulged in anonymity. Tossing all notions of “local” onto the dung heap, they went global in a big way. They carved out niches in every ecosystem: burning deserts and glacial peaks, verdant tropics and scrub-grassed plains. They lashed the clouds with Dragonfire and bent low the trees with Dragonsong.
Both are available straight from Llewellyn Worldwide (along with a slew of other great gifts for the mystically inclined), or at Amazon (both in paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and your favorite neighborhood bookstore.
The day after Thanksgiving Yule trees were stacked against the local supermarkets, hardware and feed stores, early casualties in the annual collision between high commerce and high holidays. Black Friday, a day when, at least here in the States, madness sets in on the side of commerce. Mild-mannered, feast-sluggish human beings turn into fearless berserkers all for the sake of deals on stuff, briefly appreciated yet then long-added to the general clutter of their lives. And then there is Cyber Monday, for those who prefer their shopping on-line instead of in-line (a safer prospect, if reports from last week are valid). Now it seems that some retailers were so thrilled by the cash flowing into their coffers that they are extending the lunacy into today. (A sign of an improving economy people say, and I do hope they’re right.)
Being warriors, Mithras and the Maccabees would likely have enjoyed a knock-down drag-out at the gates of Walmart – taking the side of ill-treated employees, of course.
What about the Magi? The fact is, we turn our legends to suit our political, social, even economic needs, so much so that it is possible we got it all wrong in the process.
This lead us to a fertile swath of “What if…” thinking. What if, for example, that ancient trio of wizened cameleers (mentioned only in St Matthew, by the way, and thus verging on the apocryphal from the get-go) were actually on their way to Tyre for some sun and surf. In all that uncharted desert, they zigged when they should have zagged (it could happen) and wound up in Bethlehem – last stop before Jerusalem and a sharp left turn to the sea.
Of course, being foreigners, they were clueless about the census and attendant inn overflow (even for the well-heeled); still, there was room to put their mounts up for the night, and this simple traveler’s chore led them to crashing a poor lad’s birthday party. Not wishing to seem ungracious – or illiberal – they rummaged through their howdah bags and found gifts; just a few things of little import to men of wealth, but priceless to a family struggling to stay in the working class.
There was gold: coins most likely, though we’re never told. A handful extracted from a bag reserved for travelling expenses. A pittance to a mage (or monarch, depending on the translation), but a wondrous start for a young lad swaddled in manger-warm straw. (Makes me think of the Treasury Bonds so many of us got from our Grandparents.)
Frankincense: Interesting gift. The sort of thing any mage would carry for daily rituals (or, on the chance they were headed for Miletus, not Tyre, where frankincense was an expected offering to Apollo. He could be a generous god and not begrudge the lack of a nugget or two.)
And then there is myrrh. I always figured this was Melchior’s contribution to the birthday haul. He’s depicted as eldest of the three, all grey haired and rheumy. It is not too far fetched to imagine him carrying his personal stash of myrrh just in case he didn’t make the return trip to those who would tend his corpse. Still, he must have been feeling rather spry to gift a baby with a portion of his sacred resin.
Aren’t “What ifs” wonderful?
Now that I have inadvertently offended some of you, I want to be clear: I am not anti-holiday, by any means. I deck my lemon tree with tinsel, keep Chanukah with dreidel games and bright abandon, and exchange Solstice presents with glee. I am also no Scrooge. I give when and what I can (frequently without rhyme or reason) and have written off more than a few loans over the years as the simple cost of friendship (aka the Polonius Effect).
All of which brings me, circumlocutorily, to my current dilemma: I am a writer. Writers survive by selling books. After the writing is done, we are more marketers and shills as artists – or at least we’re expected to be. And what better time to flog our wares than around the holidays when wish-lists are long and wallets are open.
Why then do I look upon the coming weeks with growing dread? (I mean, compared to some, my books aren’t even that expensive.) Because my strong anti-materialistic streak gets twitchy and prickly, eager to strike a blow against my financial self-interest and for the simple home-made gift from the heart. In short, the season remains an open invitation to unceremoniously face plant on the bitter macadam of commercialism.
Today is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Some are calling it Giving Tuesday. A time to turn away from the stuff lining store shelves and on-line warehouses and to giving a little time or money to those who need it most. Perhaps a bag of kitty toys for your local animal shelter or a box of books for the VA hospital. Perhaps just signing up for an hour or two at the neighborhood hospice or soup kitchen. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but the sort of giving that goes to the heart of the season.
And, if, at the end of the day, you have a Dragon-loving bibliophile on your holiday list and are still inclined to treat their fancy, I’d be right chuffed if you considered putting a copy of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook or Dragons for Beginners under their Solstice tree. (also at Amazon and your friendly, neighborhood bookstore)
If you are are not yet Solsticed out, drop by Word Shark Karen S. Elliott’s blog and enjoy a mythic tale, Of Avalon & Mistletoe: A Solstice Carol.
Happy Solstice Everyone!
Contrary to what Doomsdayers were predicting, the world did not end yesterday, and tonight the Hogfather will make his ride and usher in Winter’s demise!
(Those of you unfamiliar with the Hogfather and the traditions of Hogswatch, I urge you to go to the library and check out Terry Pratchett’s wickedly delightful tale or, if you prefer your holiday fare visual, check it out on DVD.)
Cause for celebration across the Universe!
For those of you who only have time for small, savory mouthfuls of festive reading, a suitably brief shout-out today to Holiday Week over at Karen S. Elliott’s blog. A diverse group of stories and memoirs will be appearing from December 20th thru the 27th, with my own Solstice Carol appearing on Boxing Day (December 26). Hope you will check out these delightful literary gifts and enjoy.