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…)


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?”


Nodding too soon.

A visitor came to me recently. She began by telling me that she was scared of dragons, having been treated badly by them in the past .I nodded and listened .She told me that usually when came to see dragons she came with a with friend. (Although whether that was to protect her or the dragon was unclear.) Or arranged for the dragon to have another creature with them when she visited. I nodded again. (I do that a lot. It’s a way of saying “I’m listening. Do go on.” ) She then told me how worried she was about coming to see a dragon by herself. But that she need help and thought that I could be useful. I nodded again. She stopped talking and I sat and nodded again. She than began to tell me about her life. That she  had been badly hurt in the past by dragons. “They just treated me like a child’s toy. They had their fun with me and then threw me away when they’d finished.” I nodded. “Well, I’ll show them.I don’t need them. I’ll do things on my terms in the future.” I nodded again. (There wasn’t much to say.) She carried on to tell me that she was going to prove to everyone that she could be a good mother and a good person. Regardless of what anyone else said. (At this point she looked at me very fiercely as if daring me to contradict her. So I nodded again. She went on talk about having “messed things up a bit” with her first baby. And that she was going to get it right this time with her second one. She’d got what she wanted from the man who had impregnated  her. She liked him but knew that they couldn’t have a future together.He was already in a relationship and had no plans to leave it. But she was grateful to him for getting her pregnant. I nodded once more and commented that she was going to face a difficult time in the future but that she sounded determined. “Yes” she replied. “I know that. But I know I can do it.” I nodded. I then wondered how she was feeling sitting alone with me, a dragon. “Better. I was very nervous at first but since I’ve been talking, I feel safer. I think I can trust you.” I nodded. We carried on talking. I tried to think with her about whether a second pregnancy was entirely wise. “Probably not. It’s going to be really difficult. But I want my little girl to have a brother or sister.And this way they will. I know you think I’m mad. But I don’t mind.” I nodded and said that she clearly wanted to prove a point about her ability to be a good mother. I wondered who in particular she wanted to show off her skills to as a mother? “Everybody. You can say what you like. It won’t make me change my mind.” I agreed that her determination was apparent. I suggested that she might find it helpful to come and see me regularly .That this might give her some thinking space during the coming months. “Thank you. That would be helpful .I’ll come  back next week.” I nodded and said goodbye.

I went back to my cave feeling pleased .I thought I had nodded well and appropriately. Conveyed my empathy. Had not told she was completely crazy and, possibly delusional. I had not snorted fire and smoke at her. I was pleased that she had had a good experience with a thoughtful and caring dragon. I nodded to myself that this was the case. I looked forward to exploring some of  her difficulties with dragons and supporting her through her pregnancy. (I fantasised that  she might give her child my name as a “Thank you” for the ways in which I had been able to help her. What actually happened was rather different. That story will have to wait…



One of the joys of being a dragon is our longevity. It is not too unusual for us to live for a thousand years. This means that we try to give things time. We give dragonets time to grow up .We expect them to make mistakes but to learn from them. (We do step in sometimes. A creature weighing several tons, 100 foot in length and breathing fire does need some supervision!) This longevity contrasts with our visitors who live much shorter, faster lives. (I have remarked before on the number of years that I was given to learn to listen. So we tend to want to allow conversations to grow and develop. This way misunderstandings, miscommunications can be thought about. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. We find ourselves trying to say too much, too soon. This is often because we feel the pressure from our guest to “Do something. Now!” Usually we manage to sit and think about this demand and ask our guests about their hurry. Sometimes, though, we feel the pressure to speak and act on it. When this happens things become very much more difficult .Like being caught in a quicksand. The more we struggle the more enmeshed we become.

I had this recently. Someone came to see me. They were in a hurry. There were matters to resolve. Battles to be fought-and won. Understandings to be gained. I made some observations about this hurriedness. And in my own hurry,I made them badly. My visitor was hurt and angry. I made the mistake of saying more-when saying less would have been wise. The more  I  said, the more I failed to say anything helpful to my visitor who thought that I was refusing to give a “proper” answer. (The thought being that there is a “proper” answer. And that I know it!) I suggested that we might understand what I had said at a later date .I was not clear about what had gone on between us but I believed that time would help us to understand things more clearly. I fear this was heard as my refusing to be honest. That I was blaming my visitor for what was felt to be my error. So I sat quietly and tried to say very little. This was experienced as my avoiding something. We have reached an impasse, I fear. My visitor wants to find another, better listener. One who can give clear, concise reasons for all their words and thoughts. Sadly, I am not going to be that listener. I want time. I want to think about other conversations we might have in the future. To think about how my clumsiness relates to other similar times in my visitor’s life. How they reacted to those past mis-understandings.But that will take time. Which does not seem to be available. So, I shall learn to listen once more and resist the pressure to have instant answers. (Time which, as a dragon, I shall have. )


Did I say that?


One of the challenges of listening is to hear what one is hearing. By which I mean to ask “Why do I hear those words in that particular way?” As a young dragon I was taught about listening by those who had been doing it for many centuries. they would tell me a story and ask me to tell them what I thought about it. Did it make me happy? Sad? Angry? At first I was allowed to say simple things like “That’s a sad story” because it was about something sad. As I grew older I was expected to hear the stories in the stories. So, if the princess as rescued from her tower, would she necessarily just be happy? At first I snorted loudly at this idea. “Of course she’d be happy. She’s just been rescued. Why wouldn’t she be happy?”Then my teacher would tell me to go away until I had learned to think properly. It took me a very long time to understand what I was being asked to think about. I only understood what he meant during my coming of age ceremony. (All dragons who want to become listeners are sent on a long journey to find a particular item that has been hidden for many centuries. This item then becomes our icon. We treasure it partly for its own sake but because it reminds us of the value of listening and hearing clearly.)

The point of this history is to say that as dragon listener, I have learned to hear what I say. So, I had a visitor recently who has come before on many occasions. I know their stories and will link them together for my guest.This often means making connections that had not before been apparent but which present themselves during our conversations. I recently made one of these links and surprised myself by what I said. “Did I say that out loud?” is a phrase I’ve heard used. I gather it conveys embarrassment, mock surprise, and similar feelings. I like that phrase. It sums up my conversation with this visitor. They left deep in thought. I stayed also lost in thought. We were both taken aback by what I said. When we next meet there will be a good deal of hearing the story in the story. I shall have to explain what prompted my comments. My visitor will talk about what  they heard. Together we will create something new. Something that did not exist before we both shared our thoughts. It will be a challenging conversation. But a rich one. That is the joy of being able to listen well. It allows something new to born.