I have always had a fascination with dragons. Being a bit of a sci-fi and fantasy geek may have something to do with that, but also, from an arty perspective, even the scariest and meanest ones are usually quite beautiful to look at, and (if Smaug is anything to go by at least) they also have wonderful resonant, sexy Benedict Cumberbatchy voices . . .
This fascination is not mine alone. Stories about dragons appear throughout history and almost every culture has their own mythology. Scholars say belief in dragons probably evolved independently in Europe, China, the Americas and possibly even Australia too. (It is generally thought that these myths were first inspired by real creatures like dinosaurs, snakes, crocodiles and lizards. This may be true, but it doesn’t really explain where the fire-breathing and flying comes from—a little more artistic licence perhaps . . .)
I always thought it would be kind of cool to see a real dragon (from a distance at least)—although I admit, because of all the mass destruction (the burning, the killing, the eating of whole populations—with or without ketchup) it is probably quite a good thing they aren’t really roaming our skies. I shall have to be content observing some of their smaller (less murderous) descendants.
That should be easy now as the summer is not far away and that means our local reptile population is slowly starting to reappear after the colder months. I am not at all happy about the impending reappearance of snakes (I really do not like snakes—nearly all of them here are deadly and that is good enough reason for me)—but I do not have the same horror about lizards. A healthy respect yes, but not a horror. Which is unusual really as I have a bit of a history of being spooked by lizards . . .
Years ago, one very hot Sunday afternoon, my two dogs (Harry and Frank), two cats (Jesse and Cleo) and I had taken to my bed for a long lazy afternoon siesta (as you do). The blinds were drawn but the back door and windows were all wide open, trying to catch what little breeze there was. Somewhere in the middle of that afternoon nap I became aware I could hear an odd, undefinable sound. Then there was a dull thump. Someone was in the house . . .
The dogs were up in a flash and by the time I got to my feet, still groggy with sleep, there were volleys of alarm barks coming from the kitchen. The intruder turned out to be a very large (and now seriously frightened and pissed-off) blue tongue lizard who it seems, had come in through the back door looking for a free feed of cat food. He was now puffed up to twice his usual size, had his mouth wide open, blue tongue flashing, and was hissing ferociously.
After a short period of what can only be described as bedlam, I managed to remove all the dogs and cats from the kitchen (all locked in different rooms and howling their displeasure), entice the still very cranky lizard onto the end of the garden broom and very carefully (at broom’s length) walk him through the house, out of the back door and set him down gently on the vacant block of land behind the house. I then turned and fled home as fast as I could—just in case he felt he needed to further vent his displeasure upon me.
That fellow turned out to be seriously ‘small fry’. You know that saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’? Well, this week the girls and I had a close encounter with what is probably the nearest thing to a living dragon we are ever likely to come across.
Walking past the swamp (remember the swamp?) we had stopped for a moment (waiting for Molly to pee—again) when, without fair warning, a huge monitor lizard (Godzilla-like proportions—swear to God) launched itself onto the path in front of us and then up the nearest tree, where he froze and turned to gaze (unblinkingly) down upon us. (Trying to decide which of us looked tastiest no doubt.) After a shocked moment of silence the girls quickly decided that dealing with this critter was well above their pay grade and began retreating quickly back down the path (although still brave enough to hurl doggie-insults as they went). I was more than happy to follow!
After giving ourselves a moment to restart our hearts we continued on our walk (deciding to go the ‘long way round’) and later met a gentleman who told me that this particular lizard is a long time local, well known in the area. Apparently he can often be seen in the early mornings and late afternoons—perched high in a tree, overlooking the bush and the river, sitting atop a large (and presumably now abandoned) ant nest, which he seems to have made his home.
And now I wonder . . .
I wonder how many years he has been sitting there, watching us mere mortals wander up and down the river path, day after day. . .
I wonder what he thinks of us . . . I wonder if he thinks of us at all . . .
I wonder what is in that ant’s nest. Do you think he guards a treasure in there? Or maybe that’s where he keeps his wings . . .