Friday, July 11, 2008

A brother to owls and a companion to bats might as well be dragons and ostriches ~ though I doubt the writer of the book of Job thought those sort of associations were positive signs.

I met something once, which if it wasn't a dragon, looked like one. One of my goals in life is to go skinny-dipping in the seven seas. So far I've done the Mediterranean, the Sea of Japan, the Caribean, and the Irish, beside where the possible dragon meeting took place.

After the dip I was walking over the grassy dunes with Martin, age 7, a very mystical child, right on the verge of being, as we say, "away", when I saw a tiny lizardy shape scuttle from one grass clump to another. My old zooish instincts kicked in and I scooped up the little creature for Martin to see. "A salamander! A salamander!" he exclaimed. I managed to squelch my know-it-all herptological inclination to correct him, pointing out that salamanders have smooth skin, lizards and skinks have scales, and claws, and besides my mind was also fuddled by the use of the term "salamander" for the creatures of elemental fire. (Hence also that old-fashioned term for a kitchen utensil used to brown pastry.) Seven doesn't need to be bogged.

When I opened my fingers the little creature bucked up on its legs and looked boldly at me. It was dark green, "emerald", about 3 inches long, and had brilliant red and quite penetrating eyes. Of course it had to be a lizard of some sort, but it looked like a dragon to me. Perhaps Martin and I were co-amping our feyness. It didn't seem to be afraid, at all. I let Martin hold it, and we walked on with him beaming in possession.

It wasn't long before my quasi-compassionate humanitarian side assembled its reasons, and I gently told Martin that perhaps we should let it go. I appealled to his family instinct, saying that perhaps the little lizard had family there, and would miss living on the dunes here beside the drumming waves of the sea. I think he was planning to terrify his sister with it, so his idea of family took a different tack at the moment, but he yielded and released the curious creature and it darted away into the windswept grass.

As soon as the lizard was a remembered one, my imagination began to deform, or enhance, as I see it, its image until I was unsure exactly what it had been. Was it really so green, with eyes so fiery red? What sort of lizard might that be? And wasn't there a story concerning St. Patrick, his claim to fame really, that he had run all the snakes out of Ireland, and that's why there are none to this very day. Was it just snakes, or reptiles in general? Snakes, Wyrms, and Dragons were all of a kind, a bad kind, in the old days. Woden, so our oldest English herbal, Bald's Leechbook, claims - struck a wyrm with nine alder rods and severed it into nine pieces ~ ending the poison of the resulting nine afflictions with an apple somehow ~ and this is the origin of the "apple a day keeps Woden away" saying. If it was a dragon, and still so small, wouldn't proper act of a hero, or anyone short of an aspiring satanist really, be to crush it. I remember a woman in Mississippi telling me "Snakes is the Devil and I hate em."

Then a fanciful thought crept into my head, pehaps addled by the hypnotic stare of the miniature dragon, wondering how I'd feel if I'd happened to have been Hitler's wet nurse and had a premonition about the future of what I was nursing. Would there be a temptation to save everyone a lot of trouble?

That's the problem with omens, as Shakespeare pointed out in the cauldron scene of Macbeth - divination is a tricky game, and the only prophecies are self-fulfilling ones.

I made a song about that dragon, or lizard ~ which you can hear at

Shepherdgirl put in a request for a photo of the commune of bats roosting in my studio, so here it is ~

"Where the bee sucks, there suck I!
In a cowslip bell I lie!
There I couch when owls do cry!
On a bat's back forth I fly ~

merrily, so merrily, in Summer!" (sung by Ariel in The Tempest)


Kim said...

I must admit I'm surprised that the idea Dan as Hitler's wet nurse has not elicited any response! What a hoot! . . . get it? . . . hoot? ahhhhh, yeah, well.... anyway. back to work.

Kim said...

whoops, sorry - typo: "... the idea OF Dan as ..."

Dan Dutton said...

If I HAD been his wet nurse, he would have turned out better. Now where DID I put that bag balm?

shepherdgirl said...

It's good to know when I ask, I receive...

Dan Dutton said...

Yea, and tho thou sittest in middest of bats, and their flights be all around thee, tho hair shalt not be entangled in them forever more.

Cathy said...

Nor thy shoulders bedecked with guano?