Today I remembered the dragon Aiden drew on my father’s coffin shortly before christmas last year.
It is Aiden’s birthday today, my father's oldest grandson, he turned eight.
It is also my father’s birthday, he was born on the first day of summer 64 years ago.
He will never be older than 63 though.
When I started a new life in Barcelona this year I thought about getting Aiden’s dragon tattooed on my back, as the last of my father’s gifts to me. Only hours before my father died my mother gave me an envelope with money for my birthday that had been three months earlier but I hadn’t celebrated with them. We had originally planned to meet for a family dinner that same afternoon, the afternoon after the night I was rushed to the hospital at the other end of the Netherlands. And we did share a meal together that afternoon, kindly supplied by the nurses who kept an eye on my unconscious father. My mother wanted to make sure I received the gift in his presence, that I received it like I was supposed to receive it, being together, sharing food, drinking coffee. Being alive. And at that moment we all believed he would live. I believed he would live. But I saw he was dying.
The difference can be subtle thought. We are all dying in a way. And there is nothing that frightens us more. At least as adults. For children, dragons might be more real than death.
When I was Aiden’s age I had my own dragon.
It was living in the attic of our house.
At night, before I went to sleep, I always made sure the hatch was closed well.
The dark square in the ceiling frightened me, intrigued me.
At daytime I loved spending time up there, surrounded by books and dusty things.
The dragon was never there in daytime.
Today, June 21, the first day of summer, I divide my time inbetween being in my own thoughts and being in my new and old friends’ energy.
I spend time with my family in my head.
Real time with my partners in crime here, five beautiful artists I really enjoy working with.
Time inbetween with my friends in the virtual world.
Lots of time with myself, lonely time.
Earlier on I saw a blogpost on my facebook feed posted by a Barcelona friend.
It quotes Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” and talks about lonesomeness and solitude.
I love those letters and they give me solace and advice often.
There is a dragon in one of the letters too, in my favorite one, the eighth letter he wrote in Fladie, Sweden, where I started a walk one day, without knowing that Rilke had been there, writing his letter about sadness, where I arrived at my temporary home in the evening after my Fladie walk and collected the book, Rilke’s book, I had unknowningly ordered from the library across my house. I opened it and searched for my favorite letter and only then discovered it had been written right there. It says:
“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
There are no dragons here, I don’t believe in dragons anymore but earlier today Joakim found a snake in the middle of the hall leading to the music room. It scared us but it also excited us. Therese said it might be poisenous and we observed it, we tried to find a snake book in the library and searched for images online. We discovered it was a grass snake, growing up to 150 cm, coloured in a shade of green with short black vertical bars and spots running across its sides, a white collar behind its head. They are often found near water and are harmless to humans.
We decided to catch it and armed ourselves with the objects we had used for our midsummer rituals, the fishing rod with the funny saw blade, the lonely pink shoe we had found on the sidewalk, the left over water balloon from our midsummer battle, the plastic box we use to keep jellyfish in, the hunting knife I never used for hunting. We were like kids.
When we came down the snake was gone and we searched the closets and found it hidden inbetween a stack of mattresses. It slipped away, we chased it and cautiously caught it. We brought it outside and marvelled at how graciously and swiftly it disappeared into the bushes.
Today is a beautiful day. A sad day, a happy day. A day to stare at the sea and smile and be fearless.