Dragons in the Eaves
The magic had begun its work, and I became its unsuspecting garden.
There was magic there, but I didn't know it. I did not know what I would find in that musty room would change me, that the seed planted then would later grow and take me over. Those steps to the attic I climbed in ignorance; and in ignorance I descended them, though marked.
I can still remember pulling that old cardboard box out from the others, leaning over it with my dad (I've no idea what he was looking for), and raising in the half-light a dusty copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It was here I joined the ranks of those who love the smell of old books, which is also the smell of mystery and high adventure. And the smell of home. To my astonishment, dad let me bring that book and its companions down from the attic. I was allowed to read one of dad's books, and I swelled with pride.
But he didn't tell me what was inside.
While schools and parents debated whether my classmates and I were old enough to be reading The Giver, I was unconcerned and in Middle-Earth, journeying with a handful of dwarves and a curious creature called a 'hobbit' toward a dragon and uncertain fate; facing and overcoming perils, and returning back again to a homely place. And my heart began to ache even then with what some have called sehnsucht and C.S. Lewis called joy,1 though I didn't have the words at the time. The magic had begun its work, and I became its unsuspecting garden.
My dad should have told me there in the attic that this book would naturally lead to others: The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and through them, the works of the likes of George MacDonald. Here, finally, were stories that confirmed my suspicions and my hopes in life: that true belonging was not only real, but possible; that I could be more than the fears and the sadnesses that gnawed at me; that wonder and amazement were to be found everywhere, hidden in the ordinary. Here, finally, were stories that looked through and beyond the brokenness of the world and pointed to the beauty that is coming; coming. I clung to these stories and the truths they were speaking as I wrestled through the challenges of a young person, and I've continued to cling to them as I've grown older. The truths only ring louder now.
Awaking Dragons as a project is inspired by that turning point in the attic. Here I’ll be sharing both my own ventures in resurrecting wonder from the ordinary, and engaging with the works of others that reveal to us "the wonder-teeming world", as George MacDonald has called it.2 My hope is that somewhere here in these writings and musings you’d find something resonant, something that stirs some of the same magic in you that it has in me. At the very least, I hope you take encouragement in knowing there is depth, meaning, and wonder waiting everywhere to be found.
I invite you on the search with me.
C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984).
George MacDonald, Phantastes (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1940), 155.