An Uncommon Request

She was serious as she approached the counter. Her voice was soft and low. “I need to know”, she said.  Then, hesitating a little, she asked if I could tell her about the dragon. Her eyes never met mine.

I know dragons, and I know people, but once in a while, they both surprise me.

She entered my shop during the winter slump, the week after all the tourists had gone, and the locals were at home preparing for the ill weather. She took a small flask from the shelf and filled it halfway with dragon tears from the spigot in the back.

Dragons don’t cry, making this a rare and expensive item. I watched her. I know every customer by name. She was new.

It was an uncommon request. No one cares about dragons. People think they know everything they need to know about dragons. Most of what they know is wrong, and when you try to tell them differently, they get angry. They stop listening. They walk away and never return.

“This one lived alone, as most do,” I told her. “The tears were extracted while he slept. He was suffering from allergies, which meant a runny nose, and tears.” I found her curiosity refreshing.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I will put these to good use,” she assured me.

I was silent. She continued, still staring somewhere behind my left ear, “Did this dragon have a hoard? He must have. How much were they able to take, seeing that he was sleeping?”

I was beginning to get nervous. Shop owners are sworn to secrecy. Was she a spy? Was this a test?

Something about the way she stared deeply into the space behind my head, and the way her eyes were puffed and pinkish around the edges, softened me.

“He had a hoard of books,” I said. I explained how unusual this was, and how unappreciated. Unrewarding for dragon hunters, except for the tears.

She straightened, seemed taller. I wouldn’t dare ask why she needed dragon tears, and it turns out I didn’t have to. She began describing her life. Her loves and her fears. And how the one item she was forbidden to truly enjoy as she wished was a good book.

I had heard of forbidden dancing, forbidden drinking, forbidden love, but I had never heard this in all my years.

But then, no one had heard of dragon tears either. Or a dragon that hoarded books. That was more odd than the tears themselves. Odd, and, to most, disappointing.

”I have been waiting for these a long time.” She smiled. It was barely a half-smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Hidden

Magic could be defined as a sort of knowledge. It’s knowledge that is unknown. Or not understood. Or unseen. Hidden.

It also has certain connotations, both good and bad, depending on what perspective you are coming from. I’m a writer, and a Christian. As a human I find the concept of magic to be be morally neutral. It’s just is an aspect of existence in our universe. You can’t see it, or measure it, or prove it, but it’s real. However, I also believe that certain expressions and manifestations of it in this world ought to be treated with caution, and even avoided. Maybe when you see it the way I see it you’ll understand why.

A nightmare I had last night is a good illustration of this concept. At the time I woke, I had some nausea and was frightened. I recorded it immediately. This is what I wrote:

General folk wisdom recommends that you don’t draw faces, especially certain faces. If you do, it conjures evil spirits. Everyone knew this in my dreamworld. I didn’t.

There were rules too. Certain things you could not talk about. Or think.

Mother breaks one of these rules. I try to warn her, but it’s too late. A mysterious stranger appears.

A conflict ensues. She is knocked unconscious.

I must fight off the stranger alone. I manage to elude him. I hide.

The rule is: I must not think about my hiding place, or I will no longer remain hidden.

The trouble with magic is that even when you don’t know the rules, they still affect you. Life is all about these hidden rules. Some are called science. Others are called morality. True magic is not created by humans. It is discovered. Harnessed.

Gravity is a hidden rule. So is falling in love. And also unconditional love.

Just as ignorance of the rules cannot save you, knowledge of them is no guarantee of safety either.

A {True} Fairy Tale

One step-sister convinced me to put aside my writing, pointing out that I would never amount to anything if I kept that nonsense up. So I stopped, for many years. She and step-mother were alike, always reminding me how clumsy and foolish and worthless I was. They each conspired in their own way to conceal me, I think, because I was an embarrassment and a burden to them. The voice inside my head, my other step-sister, echoed their voices, and spoke the words that kept the door locked tight all those years.

I wish I knew back then that I didn’t need magic or a fairy godmother to unlock it. All I needed was a little confidence. But when you don’t know what confidence looks like or feels like, when you couldn’t recognize it even if it was a monstrous, pumpkin-shaped, mouse-driven vehicle appearing right in front of you out of nowhere, it might as well be magic.

Reading: Preferences

One of my goals in the coming year is to read more, and to make a daily habit of reading.

Deciding what to read has been a challenge for me.

I come across many book and author recommendations, but in all honesty I don’t always agree with them.

I’ve always feared this was a liability as a reader, writer, and educated person. I’m realizing now that I don’t have to worry about feeling guilty about reading something that just doesn’t interest me.

For example, I recently realized I know little about fairies (or is it faeries?)

When it comes to fairies, and even fairy tales, I have mixed feelings. (What is the relationship between the fairy and the fairy tale?)

Sometimes I find a subject or genre interesting, but I don’t enjoy a particular author’s interpretation of it, or their perspective is so opposite from mine that I have difficulty seeing it.

I do believe it’s important to be a well-rounded person, and to be able to see the world from different points of view. However, I don’t think I’ll be enjoying much military fiction in the near future.

I recently came across a free novel by Ernest Hemmingway. Even though I recognize his skill as a writer, I know I’m probably not going to enjoy Islands in the Stream. So I’ll probably be passing it along.

Preferences are something that I’m going to need to pay closer attention to if I want to succeed in my goal of developing a reading habit. As with any other choice that we must make about how to spend our time and energy, reading material is no different. We must be self-aware and discerning. I plan on making more conscious choices in my reading selections this year. I am hoping this helps me as a writer and as a person.