Is it safe here?

The list time we spoke I was telling you about my young visitor who was full of murderous rage at the universe. (He did have a point! We dragons know a lot about Rage. And murderous thoughts and feelings. We know all about our shadow side. It lurks just behind the scenes waiting for an opportunity to breathe a fiery revenge. So I had much sympathy for this young man. But this is his story, not mine.)

He stayed with me about a month, mostly railing, shouting and crying. Cursing everyone and everything for his fate.  Threatening to kill everyone and everything. He desperately wanted me to fly him into the town and watch me burn all his enemies, their families, their lands.  It was tempting,I admit. I caught his rage for a long time and had to make myself sit and hear him. (Flying off on a revenge attack would have been so satisfying. But that would have been a betrayal of my dragon vows. And would have brought more sadness, misery and anger.)

So we sat together. Thought a lot. Spoke some. Did little. Eventually my friend, which he has become, sighed. “Killing people won’t help, will it?”

“Probably not” I agreed. “But it would let me feel better. ” He shouted ” Let me feel that I had done Something. Something to rebalance things. I’ve suffered. Why shouldn’t ‘they’?”

The problem is, of course, who are “they”? The merchant and his family didn’t set out to hurt anyone.  His father didn’t set out to kill the livestock. His sister didn’t set out to sell herself. He didn’t really want to become a murderer. He left one day, with a promise to come back. I waited a long time but he came. Bringing a wife and children to see me. His sister was home living with them. She was an excellent child minder. She was damaged by her experiences but was slowly healing. He had restored the farm which was prospering. He hoped to pass it on to his children. He had one request, he said.

“Yes?”  I asked

“Could my sister stay here?”

“What does she want?’ I asked, Curious.

“I need somewhere safe. Here is a safe place.” came her reply.

(How times have changed. A young woman asking to stay with a dragon!)

I agreed. And here we are. A year and a day and she is slowly healing. The day will come when she goes away and finds a proper companion. I shall miss her. But she must go if she is to be whole. And I must let her go if I am to be whole.

Image result for small dragonsWe learned much that year. My friends and me. We learned how to share. How to listen. How to trust. How to be vulnerable. Lessons that are easy to talk about but hard to learn. We learned about our shadow side. How easily we want to hurt when we feel hurt. And about how dangerous this can be. To ourselves and to others. A good year that year. Full of life and hope.

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Is this safe?

dragons-eye

As a dragon I live in a cave. I like my cave. My father and grandfather both lived here before me. I feel safe here. I have an excellent view of all the countryside around me. It is set in a hill so if anyone wants to come and see me, a certain amount of effort is needed. It also means that I cannot have anyone creeping up on me unseen. A sensible precaution if one is a dragon. If I have visitors they come because they want to find me. Some come in confidently, knowing that they are safe here. Others come more nervously, with much coughing, clearing of their throats and noise generally. To warn me of their arrival, I think. (As if I hadn’t known of them for several days. One does not live as long as me without knowing who is approaching!) Others come in like a mouse. They make themselves small walking carefully and quietly. So that I am not surprised or disturbed seems to be their idea. (As if that were possible!) But I want to talk about one visitor. A young man who found me. He came  to my cave and stood at the entrance, looking in at me. I looked back at him, trying to look friendly and not worryingly fierce. He carried on standing for a long time. I waited. Eventually he spoke to me “Are you dangerous? If I come in to your cave, will you eat me?” I thought about this for a little while. “No” I said, “I’ve already eaten today.”  He seemed unsure what to make of this so I said nothing more. “Are you sure?” he  asked. “Only I’ve heard bad things about dragons. How you eat people, capture princesses, burn down villages…”

“Would you like me to?” I asked.

He thought. “Well, there’s one or two people I wouldn’t miss if you ate them.”

“Who?” I asked.

He reeled off a long list of people who had hurt him and his family. “I’d kill them myself, if I knew how. But I’ve never killed someone and might make a mess of it.”

His story was a sad one. His family had fallen on bad times. The local Lord had put up the rent. Grain prices had gone up. Milk cost more to produce than it sold for. Several very hot summers had spoiled their harvest. Stock had had to be killed. The story was never-ending. His father had killed himself, leaving my visitor to manage alone. His sister had chosen to sell her body to whoever would pay her. His mother had gone to her bed months ago and stayed there. He was all alone, or so it seemed to him.

“What do you want from me?” I asked

“I want you to show me how to kill. My sister and mother would be better dead. Then I’ll kill the animals and burn them. Then I’ll burn the farm. Then I’ll kill myself. We’ll all be better off that way.”

When in doubt stay silent. It took many years for me to learn that lesson. I said nothing. Nor did he. We both said nothing for a long time. (It’s always amazing how much gets said when nothing is being said. This was one of those times.) Finally he came into my cave and sat down in front of me. He cried for a long time.

One of the things we learn in Dragon listening school is when not to speak. So I sat with my visitor until words seemed helpful.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

Away from Home

It’s been a long time since I last wrote – or asked my scribe, Dragon Rider, to set down my thoughts.(We dragons are good at many things but holding a pen is not one of them. One more reason to be grateful to my new companion and scribe, Dragon Rider. How he came to be with me is a long story. One for a long winter’s night. It has been strange having a companion and fellow traveller. We took a long time to get used to each other. But we now like and trust each other, which is odd considering how different we are. Two quite separate creatures yet we share each others lives. I think my human visitors find him reassuring. “If he is safe with the Dragon, then we might also be safe” is their thought. Although , in truth, I have never yet eaten a human being  I have wanted to once or twice, when they have provoked me too far. But that was only in my anger. (Which is not to say that I haven’t singed a few of them with my breath. One does have to live up to people’s expectations! A tame dragon would never do.

S o I have been away for a long time. Rescuing Maidens in distress. Laying siege to castles. Challenging kings and Princes to battles. All the things a dragon is expected to do. But i’ve miss being quietly in my cave, listening to my visitors . They teach me so much.(And Dragon Rider has been of great help here. Explaining human ways. Pointing out the gaps in my knowledge.

Being away from my home has been helpful. It has meant I have had to think about “Home”. ~About all the things I take for granted and like to have around me. My gold and other treasure. My fellow dragons and their offspring. All the noise of a dragons den. But mostly the space. We are not small creatures and we like to have room to spread our wings and stretch our tails. These comforts are often lacking when one is hiding in a forest. Or imprisoned somewhere uncomfortable. Or just trying not to be in the way!

Several of my visitors recently have talked to me about their homes. Homes where there was not love. Only anger, despair and misery. (Why do humans have children when they can barely care for themselves, let alone look after children? We dragons mate only after a long time and when we are sure of ourselves. Then we will get offspring. No dragon has ever, willingly, given up a cub. Nor willingly hurt or neglected one. Yet I hear of mothers having affairs whilst their husband is away. Of fathers seeking out women whilst they are away. Of children seeing mother or father mating with someone else. Of children being assaulted by “mummy’s new friend”. (And humans call us dragons “dangerous monsters”. No dragon would be allowed to behave as some humans do to their children.

One of your poets wrote “Home is where one starts from…” I often wonder about what kind of start some of my visitors had from their homes. How does one manage with a father who drinks too much,who hits his wife and children. Who will crush their spirits because he is so insecure himself. What building can possibly stand for long when sat on such a foundation? Small wonder so many of my visitors are plagued with Melancholia.

I can only listen to my visitors. I try to convey a sense of welcome. To allow them to come and speak freely and openly. To cry. To be angry. To shout. To whisper. I sit quietly and help them find a new meaning for that word “Home”

Just listening.

Many people come to see me. When they leave they often tell me “It was helpful just to be able to tell my story. To say things I’ve never been able to say to anyone before.” I’m always pleased to hear this but I wonder what they think I do. There seems to be an idea that all  we do as listeners is just that. We listen. In which case why come and talk t us? Why not talk to a pet? Or a rock? Or a tree? These are all capable of listening and of being discrete. (Although some trees can be terrible gossips! I’m always very cautious about what i say around some trees.) When someone comes to me and tells their story I listen. Of course I do. But I listen in  a very particular kind of way. I listen in the same way that I listen to the wind. Which way is it blowing? What usually follows behind this wind? What precedes it? What might the wind be hiding?  Sometimes I simply note that today the wind is blowing from the West. Or that it is unusual today in that the wind is from the North when usually it comes from the South. If I wait it usually becomes apparent why the wind is blowing from any direction. So I sit and listen to the wind in my cave. When there’s a space I might comment on the wind to my visitor.I’ll invite them to listen to the wind with me. Then we can both think about why this might matter and what it might signify for both of us.

Sometimes my visitors are taken aback “I thought the wind was from the South. But you’re right. It from the East. How strange. I’d always thought that wind was Northern. I wonder how I came to think that?” So the story continues. Who told them that this wind was from the North? Why do they think this might have arisen? What might happen next? How does it feel for them that I, a dragon, am challenging something they’ve long believed? With care and gentleness, we make sense of the stories. “If I’ve been wrong about the wind, what else  might I be wrong about?” is a question that often follows. And so the journey continues until we find a foundation which is solid.One of your writers suggested that when we shake everything that can be shaken, what’s left standing is God. Or the Ground of our Being. Then the work of re-construction can begin and something new gets built.

And all this comes from just talking. And, being heard. (And listening to the wind…)

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The dragon speaks

People wonder about how a dragon can be a symbol of healing. Dragons are fierce creatures who hoard gold .kill innocent maidens. Loot,pillage and plunder for the sheer enjoyment of it. We breathe fire and are utterly destructive. How can this creature be a symbol of listening? Let’s look at the history of the planet we share with you humans. Do dragons kill? Yes. We kill other creatures. But for food. And then only what we need to survive. We do not kill for the ” pleasure ” of it. If we kill we kill cleanly. We do not trap creatures in snares. We do  not poison them. We do  not abandon them. (No dragon will ever abandon another dragon. Even if staying with it puts us at risk we will stay there.) We do not use them as bait to catch a more exciting animal. If we kill we use as much as we can of the creature. We do not throw away most of it and only keep its head.

Are we avaricious? Yes. We love gold. And over the centuries we have collected hoards of it. And, yes, our ancestors stole from you humans-who also covet gold. We do not kill each other to get more gold. We do not sell our own  kind for gold. We do not capture other creatures and demand gold for their release. It’s not unknown for us to allow one of your people to steal from us. I have turned  a blind eye on many occasions when a poor man has needed gold  to sell to live through a harsh winter. (And, yes, we have punished men who steal from us because they want our gold for themselves. So do you humans.)

What else are we accused of doing? Oh! Yes! We steal maidens -with princesses being a particular favourite. Well… if a creature comes to us for shelter we will never turn it away. If it  has found us, we will protect it as long as it is with us. Sometimes our refugees have been princesses. Or maidens. Or princes. All come to us in need. But like all stories, truth gets lost. For many reasons. Shame. Guilt. Fear. Pride.So what began as a free gift of sanctuary gets turned into a cruel abduction. Or rape. Or torture. Then we are hunted because we are dangerous. Then we will defend ourselves and we can be  true. But we never attack first .We try to hide-which we do surprisingly well. But some men have to prove their skill. Their courage. Their bravery. They hunt us down to show their friends how brave they are .Then, it’s true, we will protect ourselves -as will every other creature who feels threatened.

 

We are accused of eating our young. No dragon would ever do this – unless they had no other choice .We protect our young with our lives. (And would pay with our lives if we willing hurt any young one.) We do not send our young into war. We do not use our young for our pleasure. We do not send our young away. We do not neglect our young. We do not lock our young in prisons. We do not neglect them .Or starve them.The same is true of our elders. We value them. They hold our history. They are our memories. We keep them safe and warm. They are never left alone-except when that is their wish. Our elders are rarely lonely. We do not hurt them. Or steal from them. Or mock them. Their death is never solitary. When their leaving arrives, we celebrate their wisdom. Their achievements. We tell stories about them to honour them. As we do with all our number who have left us.

We are accused of spoiling the lands where we live. We are accused of pulling down tree. Of blocking rivers. Of ruining fields. Why would we destroy the places we need in order to live? We do not  destroy forests to sell the wood to others. We do not drive families from their homes to gain more gold. It is not us who digs up the earth to get black gold.

 

But I forget myself. I am here to listen. To hear. To help and to heal. I am not here to roar and breathe fire .(Although sometimes I should like to…)dragons-eye

Angry dragons

One of my visitors was talking to me about a film they had seen recently .They were explaining at great length and in detail how this huge angry dragon was woken up from its sleep because some of its gold had been stolen. I was a told how in the film he is killed by one brave archer who finds the only vulnerable point in this dragon. I was told how the rest of the story carried on but I admit to not really listening beyond this point.(Sorry, my guest. I will do better next time.) I found  myself wondering why I was being told a story about an angry dragon who is killed by one brave man. What do I stand for in my visitor’s mind? What did  he feel had been stolen from him?

When he had left I carried on thinking about this story. Of course I know all about angry dragons. I know about our love for gold and our rage if any of it is stolen. (Part of my training as a listening dragon was to give away most of the gold I had hoarded over the years. That was not an easy task. It took me long years to be able to give my gold to someone who might need it. I still have a small hoard and I get angry if it is stolen. But I am able to give it away if there is somebody who can use it well.)

I remembered the stories in my den of how we dragons prized gold. It was our identity. Each piece had its own story.My great, great Grandfather had won this piece. My uncle had stolen that piece. The piece over there was given a reward for services rendered. This piece came from my great-grandmother. And so on. Our history was contained in our gold. It was our identity and woe to anyone who stole from us.They stole not only gold but our very soul.

This visitor came for a long time Slowly I began to understand the story behind his story. He had his own gold. For him it was his stories. His family was of noble birth. If they behaved in a certain way, they should not be challenged. They had won the right to their gold. If anyone challenged their stories there was a heavy price to pay. Death. This visitor became aware of his “golden nightmares” as he put it. All he could dream of was how poor he felt. He considered himself a failure compared to his ancestors. They had done heroic deeds. Rescued maidens-from dragons! Saved communities-from dragons! Killed dangerous beasts-like dragons! The list of dragon slayings was long. His difficulty was, we recognised, his terror of his dragonish parts. His capacity for greed. For destructiveness. For envy and hoarding. (Not to mention a distinct affection for Maidens!) His golden nightmares were his increasing awareness of his emptiness. He was beginning to question some of his inherited stories and values. And he both hated these stories and needed them.In me he saw a dragon who had everything he wanted. I was  a dragon. I had gold. I could destroy any one who threatened me. I made no apology for my Being. He loved and hated me.

He still comes to see me. We  will talk and think together. He is becoming a very wise man-although he does not see this. I shall miss him when he leaves…dragons-eye

Still nodding too soon

I spoke last time about  my visitor who came to se me specifically because she was afraid of dragons. I noted how well I thought we had got on and looked forward to a long and helpful relationship.I should have known better. Another dragon passed me a note from my visitor, addressed “To whom it may concern” .In this note she complained that I was insensitive, rude and-worst of all-a dragon! Furthermore she would not be coming back and could my companion recommend someone else-preferably not a dragon- whom she could see. (This was a difficult question to answer. In the end we sent her a list of other creatures in the area whom she might like to contact. Bears are fine so long as they aren’t hibernating. Squirrels and such like find sitting still for any length of time almost impossible. Most other creatures have their drawbacks. Which, of course, is why we dragons do the work we do. But I hope she finds a creature to suit her taste-if not her needs.)

We talked about her amongst ourselves, trying to think about what had occurred.One of the problems is, of course, that my visitor has made it impossible for she and I to think about things. By her action she has successfully avoided dealing with her fear of dragons. And has denied me the satisfaction of  helping her in any way. She has robbed us both but in such a way that she appears as a victim of yet another cruel dragon. Thus preserving her view of herself as the one who has been hurt. She also avoids the issue of her own cruelty both to herself and to others. Had she stayed with me we might have done some healing work around  her past hurts by dangerous dragons. (There are still a few renegades around who will ravage maidens, burn villages and generally behave very badly. We here are not that sort of dragon!) By leaving she keeps herself where she feels safe, portraying herself as weak, poor, hurt and abused. By staying we could have looked at what she gained from this role. As I say, she robbed us both.

“But why does that matter?” asked one of our dragonets,”You know you weren’t horrible to her. That’s her problem, not yours.” (I would never have spoken to my teachers like that. Young dragons today…) It was a good question. “Are you always kind and good to everyone?” He looked st me. I looked back. Hard. “Not always, no.Sometimes I’m horrid.But sometimes I’m kind.”

“Yes” I said. “And you know the difference. You know when you’re being horrid”

“Sometimes I’ll be horrid just because I want to. Sometimes I just want to be nasty.”

I was pleased by this. It showed all those years with me hadn’t been a waste.  “You’ve made the important point.You can be  horrid sometimes just because you can. Or want to  .Or need to be. My visitor was dangerous because she couldn’t let herself know about her ability to be horrid. It was safer to complain about my horridness. That way she could always be the person who was hurt. That made  her dangerous. If she can’t be horrid it means everyone else has to be horrid for her. There has to be a balance. Ying and Yang. Black and White.”

My dragonet was quiet. “Are you saying I can be horrid if i feel like it? You tell me of when you think I’m being nasty. Now you’re saying its alright. I’m confused.”

I sighed. “These things are hard to think about. It’s getting late. We’ll talk some more later.”

“You always do that. Leave me to do all the hard thinking by myself. Now who’s being horrid?”

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