Stay Strong

Words cannot express how long I have had to fight for every single smile in my life, and how difficult it has been to hold onto joy and light, thanks to crippling depression that has plagued me since childhood. Thank you to the never-ending continuation of burdens and grief. Really. Thanks. Thank you world, thank you life. I know I am dangerously close to sounding like a martyr, or maybe even a drama queen – ‘What the hell has she got to be depressed about?’ many might think – but unless you too have suffered with it, you cannot understand the agony it brings. Every day. Always. And I know there is so much I have to be thankful for, and indeed I spend every night reminding myself of this, but it is such a faint glimmer within the darkness. But a glimmer nonetheless.

And, to my dear mother, I want to apologise for all the added stress I brought you in my school days, in my teenage years, for I could not cope and I know it upset you to see me ruin myself, to fall into this unrecognisable being of burning anger. And I want to apologise for now, for still not being the daughter I wish I could be. You too have had many hardships, and right now we are both going through difficulty, and I wish I was a better, more stable person to help you somehow. Perhaps I am desperately selfish to spend my time crying and telling you how I cannot cope, burdening you, when you have had to be the strongest woman I know, raising three children alone – one of whom is disabled. You are so strong. How I look at you and think, ‘I wish I could be so wise and strong like you!’ Don’t be sad, Mum. Don’t cry. I will try to be a good daughter and friend to ease these times, though I do not know how. I wish I knew how. Maybe the knowledge of my love will do for now. And, perhaps, I should be saying all this to you in person, but we know how utterly hopeless I am at speaking my feelings aloud… Writing is my release and my solace. And so I write this, sharing with the world how wonderful I think you are. Someday, I will defeat depression once and for all, and be the girl I’m truly meant to be and the daughter I have always hoped to become.

I’ll hold your hand and we’ll scramble these rocks together, though I’m not sure how good I’ll be as support, for you have been the one to support me since forever. I’ll try, Mum. I’ll try…

Once upon a time I wrote a little rhyme… And I say this to you now, and to myself, and to anyone else out there who has silently been suffering with depression:

‘Silver moonlight in the night
shines down for all to see,
so where can the shadows hide
when even in darkness there is light?’

**

There is light, always. Stay strong ‚̧

The Dragon of Dreams

This is a rather long post, but it’s so worth the read. Honestly ūüėČ

If you would rather skip down to the story, feel free to do so.

dragons-loyalty-award

About a century ago (slight exaggeration), Kayla at Concering Writing nominated me for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award, for which I thank her greatly. I have honestly never been so thrilled to get an award, for reasons you shall soon come to know. But upon receiving this award, my creativity flared and soared quite magnificently. This post is the creative one I mentioned a¬†few posts back, and the one I have had planned for what feels like an age. Finally, it has been brought to life.

1) Display the award on your blog

2) Announce your ‚Äúwin‚ÄĚ with a post

3) Present the award to 15 deserving bloggers

4) Drop them a comment to let them know

5) Post seven interesting things about yourself

So, as always, 90% of the people I want to nominate for an award already have the award I am nominating them for, or they don’t ‘do’ awards at all, but, even so, I’ll nominate you all the same. The following bloggers are those who I believe to have the essence of a dragon residing in their souls. Now, understand that by this I do not mean they are like some raging, fire-breathing fiend, but rather they radiate the qualities most people seem to forget that dragons can possess: loyalty, strength, courage, a fighter through adversity, noble in spirit and intentions (apart from Smaug didn’t get the memo on that one), a chaser of dreams, and a flier on the wings of hope. Or, I dunno, maybe some of them have daringly¬†sharp, white teeth, too. So, in no particular order, here they are:

The Eye-Dancers

A View from My Summerhouse

S (moodsaplenty)

The PewPew Diaries

Valourborn

Like Star Filled Skies

James Radcliffe

Emanating Joy (Jesus, Light of the World)

B is for Blessed

Sparkly Arthur

That is only ten nominations, but shh.

And now, in accordance to the rules, I am to share seven things about myself… I will make them¬†relate to dragons or dreams or fantasy in some way. We’ve got to stay in theme with this post, right? ūüėČ

1) (This isn’t actually about myself, but my brother(s)… Still related to the Marsh family, though, so it’s close enough)¬†When my brother was a¬†kid, my mother gave him¬†a little, dullish red dragon ornament with green wings. He kept it under his pillow, for my mother told him that it would guard him from bad dreams and protect him through the night.

2) When we were babies/toddlers, my mum used to play ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ for us. To this day, I still catch myself humming¬†it out of the blue. Such a moving, sad song it is. But so lovely.

3)¬†I have a slight massive obsession with dragon ornaments… Yet, even so, I only have a few in my possession. If I see any when I’m out, though, you pretty much have to drag me away, otherwise I will stare at them all day. How I’ve restrained myself from buying ten thousand, I’ll never know.

4)¬†When I was a child, I used to pretend I was a dragon quite a lot of the time. I used to run around in the school playground flapping my ‘wings’, or pretend the condensation of my breath (which was there a fair bit of the time ’cause, y’know, British weather) was smoke billowing from my burning chest, while I was ‘sleeping’ or otherwise… Do not disturb the dragon ūüėČ

5)¬†When I was in first school, the Reception teacher liked to secretly paint murals¬†around the school building, and one of these paintings was done on the large white wall we had in the “first playground”, so we called it. It was of a cartoon mother dragon with her numerous dragon babies, and it was the largest mural she ever did. I loved¬†looking at it. It was fabulous. There was only one baby girl dragon, and we all knew she was a girl because she had pretty long eyelashes.

6) As a child, I spent some¬†of my time writing (and spent the rest of that time alone, wandering in the garden and staring at grassblades… You think I’m joking). I once planned and started a story about a girl named¬†Edna who lived to the east of The Big City in a village known as “The Outland”. Their world¬†was once bright and beautiful, with The Open Plain (the land before The Big City) being full of flowers and grass, yet in current days it is known as an area of wasteland death due to the surge of the Unwanted ransacking the lands. The Unwanted are undead beings¬†–¬†though not zombies, nor ghosts, but something in between – called as such because they are corrupt souls and¬†unwanted in the peaceful afterlife, and so they are trapped in the land of the living. In amidst the wars of the land, Edna discovers a dragon in the Outland Mountains, and you follow her on her journey as she befriends the dragon¬†(who I never actually got around to naming) and convinces it to lend his powers to defeat Foulspawn, the leader of the Unwanted.

Or so that was the plan. I never finished it, and I only have the first chapter in my possession these days. But I was… ten(ish)? when I wrote this. Bless. Not the greatest story in the world, but we’ve all got to start somewhere! ūüėČ

Edna was a blumin’ spirited young lass, though. Quite the hero, now I think about it. And she loved her horse. I quote, from chpt. 1:

‘ “The village is under attack! This is no place for a young girl and her horse to be!”

“Then where shall I go?” I looked at him.

“To the shelter! But the horse will have to be tied up outside,” he said.

“Then I won’t go.”

“Are you mad? It’s most certain death out here, Miss!”

I turned my head away and said, “So be it.” ‘

The bond between a horse and its rider really can be quite something. It is friendship in its rawest, purest form.

Anyone who has owned (or worked with) horses will understand.

7) When we¬†were¬†young’uns (i.e. kids/teens), my brothers and I were quite taken with the ‘Heroes of Might and Magic’ games. And when I say ‘quite taken’, I really mean ‘absolutely-and-unbelievably-obsessed-verging-on-having-a-serious-issue’. Unquestionably, Heroes I, II, and III¬†were my favourite games growing up. EVER. Especially Heroes III. I mean, just look at this epic game intro (at the time, in 1999, we thought these graphics were the bee’s knees):

My brothers and I used to¬†squabble over the computer all the time so we could play this game, but my mother, being the ever fair lady she is, made us a computer timetable we had to stick to, or made us play the Multiplayer HotSpot mode so we all played together. Whenever I played Heroes III, my favourite ‘Heroes’ were the Rangers/Druids who had the Ramparts (can we say we’re surprised… honestly? Always been one for nature ūüėČ ) The video below shows what the Ramparts were like inside, and you can hear the wonderful Rampart music.

The Rampart was home to many creatures¬†–¬†such as unicorns and pegasi and elves and dendroids (basically ents) – but it was also home to dragons. The Green Dragons, and the Gold Dragons. I loved the Gold Dragons the most, though. What majestic creatures they were. Give it all a little imagination ūüėČ I mean, the Dungeons had Red and Black Dragons, but they were ‘evil’, and the Necropolis had Bone and Ghost Dragons, of which I used to be very curious in my imagination. A Ghost Dragon… How cool, no? But the Gold Dragons captured my heart and mind the most, for I could see their golden scales shimmer in the sunlight, and they carried themselves proud and true.

(The music in Heroes III takes me back to days of fantasy and childhood. If you need to listen to some background music while writing/working, give the soundtrack a go ūüėČ And the main picture of the game was an Archangel fighting a devil. If that does not conjure up some form of, quite literally, divine inspiration, I’m not sure what will)

***

So, in case you hadn’t noticed, I love dragons. Love.¬†I’m not sure from where this love originated, but I guess that’s not important. I even have a little red dragon who sits on my desk, overseeing all the writings I do there; I’ve had it for so many years I’ve actually lost track, yet, even so, it is still nameless. Any suggestions? Does it even need a name?

Because I love dragons so, it upsets me to forever see them portrayed as ‘baddies’ in films and stories, and even games (I’m looking at you, Skyrim, and Dragon Age II, and goodness knows how many more).¬†I don’t believe dragons¬†are evil. Some may be, but not all. There are many legends and tales of old that talk of evil dragons capturing fair maidens,¬†or¬†stealing to horde treasures, or destroying villages and eating men¬†just because, yet there are also many legends of benign dragons, don’t you know, such as in Arthurian legend where the Red and White Dragon fought amongst themselves (not killing people), the Red Dragon winning, thus signalling the rise of King Arthur, or Arthur Pendragon, which means¬†‘Chief Dragon’.¬†And, don’t you know, for centuries after, Kings of the British Isles¬†adorned their banners with dragons, for in heraldry, the dragon means¬†power, protection and wisdom.¬†Now, where there does it seem like dragons are ruthlessly evil, hmm? The word ‘dragon’ itself originates from the Ancient Greek ‘drakonta’, which means “to watch”.

There are many legends about dragons guarding things¬†(such as in Greek mythology the dragon Ladon guards the golden apple tree in the Garden of Hesperides)¬†and only fight and ‘kill’ men because the men try to take whatever it is the dragon is guarding. Well… it serves them right, quite frankly, though it is unfair for dragons to get the bad reputation for mankind’s idiotic and greedy behaviour. But is “to watch” not implicit of a guardian-esque and¬†protective nature? Guardians¬†are noble in spirit, no?

Which is why I stand by my decision that dragons are noble, true beings, and that is why my imagination and creativity with them takes me to beautiful places.

And so, with all this said, let me get to the ‘creativeness’ of this post. Let me tell¬†a story…


The Dragon of Dreams

© Jennifer K. Marsh 2014

Auresa2

(In case anyone’s wondering: I drew this)

 Do you see the dragon? I would like to introduce you to her. 

Meet

A U R E S A

“The Mother¬†of Dreams”

Auresa is mighty and true, and she dedicates her life to a most worthy¬†cause: she guards the dreams of all the children in the world, ensuring they sleep soundly while away from reality. Do you wonder what she’s looking at, with eyes smiling so freely? Maybe she is in awe of the beautiful sky. Maybe she is¬†watching¬†a dream soar high. Maybe a child of the sky is waving down to her. But from where does Auresa come? How does a child find her in their dreamland adventures? Or is it, rather, that Auresa finds¬†them?¬†

When the dusk¬†beckons, often I sit on a cloud edge and think of my brethren elsewhere, gazing down at the world below. They will never know the wonders of the night up here, from the sky itself – that is something only we¬†‘cloud-dwellers’,¬†as they like to call us, will ever know. It is as though we are trapped in an ethereal¬†perspective within in a reflection, for when we gaze both upwards and downwards, we see light. Do you know how beautiful it is up here? No… of course you don’t. Let me try to tell you. Truly, we are on top of the world, and the sunset descends upon us as softly as a silk petal brushing against our skin, and its colour which blooms as every flower bleeds out and harmoniously blends into the ever deepening sky. The golden sphere, so warm, so bright, rolls away beyond the horizon of the clouds and continues to drag the night-time cloak behind it whilst we peer down. How many can say they look down upon the sun? How many can say they seem so close to the emerging moon that they could reach out and touch it? Only us. And when the moon is out in all its mystic splendour, it graces the world in silver light, and the stars twinkle so delicately, but so brightly, as if they are trying to out-shine the moon. But everybody knows that the moon and the stars have the greatest friendship, and so rather, they shine together as one. Sometimes, if there are few clouds in the sky, you can gaze into the sea and see the moon and stars shining back at you, though distorted by the waves. It is the most beautiful of sights, the most beautiful of all reflections.

My love and I always used to spend many times gazing down over the sea at nightfall, and we still do; we so adore the moon’s reflection on the waves: this¬†is why, when came the birth of our son, we named him¬†Tarno,¬†which is derived from the word ‘reflection’ in our tongue.¬†And right now, at this moment, I am sitting on the cloud edge with my young son nestled beside me.

I look down to him, smiling softly. “It’s getting late, Tarno,” I tell him. “It’s time for you to sleep.”

He drags his eye line away from the world below to instead look at me. “Oh, okay, Tritta(1),” he mumbles.

“Come on,” I say, standing up and encouraging him to do so. Once he is stood, I gently guide him in the direction of our home, when he then rushes away with a spring in his step and pushes through the door with that never-ceasing energy of a child’s. By the time I enter¬†our home for myself, I see that Tarno is already lying in his bed, though I can see in his face that something is not right. “What’s the matter, vela(2)?” I ask him, kneeling down by the bed.

Tarno looks at me. “What if I have a nightmare?” he apprehensively says. “I don’t want to have a nightmare.”

I smile, rubbing the back of his head. “You won’t have a nightmare, vela.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I know a certain someone who will look out for you.”

He sits up straighter. “Who?”

I bring a finger to my lips, whispering. “Will you¬†keep it secret?”

He nods, eager to find out.

“She comes to you in your dreams, and protects you while you sleep. She keeps you safe. She is Auresa: the¬†Dragon of Dreams.”

“The Dragon of Dreams?” he says, wonderstruck by the prospect. “Will she come to me, Tritta? How will she know where I am?”

“Of course she will come to you; she will always find every child, so long as they always have a dream. You will always dream, won’t you, Tarno?”

“Always!” he proudly exclaims.

“Then you have nothing to fear,” I reassure with the greatest warmth. I stand, and Tarno lies back, resting his head. “Now rest those eyes, my son, and when you see Auresa, remember to smile! She so loves to see a smile,” I tell him, tucking him in.

“I will!” He is quiet for a moment. “Will she like me?”

“You’re a dreamer.”

He hesitates. “…Does that mean yes?”

I smile, leaning down to kiss his forehead. “Yes.”

He beams a happy light from his eyes, and I wish that I could capture this¬†light and shed¬†it over the stars and the moon¬†so the whole world may know the love I do. “Tritta, will you sing to me?”

“Close your eyes,” I gently say. When¬†he closes them, I softly sing the lullaby my own mother used to sing to me when I was a child:

¬†“O, I can do no more

than sing my boy to sleep

with a lullaby so pure.

And when he’s dreaming deep,

go to him, I beseech,

Auresa:

let the dreamland magic soar!

 

O fly, Auresa, to his side ‚Äď

take him away this night.

Be with him throughout fantasy’s flight,

until the morning light.

 

O, when the night-time falls,

I give my boy to you,

and he hears your mighty call.

And when he’s dreaming true

beyond horizon’s view,

Auresa:

you will guard him till the dawn!”

Tarno’s breathing has deepened, and I quietly back away from him. I find myself thinking back to the days of my own youth, when the thought of seeing Auresa in my dreams rapt me to no end: I can still see her majestic wings blotting out the sun as she flew through the sky, her scales glistening in the light with that peculiar sheen of both purple and gold to them, and her eyes, so friendly and bright, shone like the blue of sky crystals. She is a very beautiful dragon. Perhaps it seems unfair that she does not find you once you grow older, but in childhood days, she touches your heart with such joy and magic that it is impossible to forget, and so really, she is with you for evermore.

THE END

***

** This story was told in the Ilimoskus world, from the perspective of an Aeriikus
(1)¬†Tritta is one of the Ilimoskus¬†ways of saying “Mother”
(2)¬†Vela means¬†“Sweetheart”
With the lullaby/song in this story, I was actually going to record it on piano and sing it, but I decided against it because, in the end, I just couldn’t be bothered. Sorry ūüėČ

If you have enjoyed this short story, you may enjoy my fantasy novel Ilimoskus: Times of Old, available worldwide (online) as both paperback and eBook on sites such as Amazon UK (Amazon US / Amazon CAN etc) and various others.

Find Times of Old on Goodreads here.

***

A love for fantasy is not something you develop over time, but rather it is something you are born with. It beats alongside your heart, and if either one ever stopped beating, you would fade away back to the ashes.

***

Thank you very much for reading, I know it’s been a long one.

And a hugemegathankyou and squeeze of a hug to all those who support and encourage me.

Writing Ilimoskus has been the most difficult journey¬†in¬†the¬†world for me, and it’s not over yet, but I have developed a new-found love and determination for it – and, to some degree, a new-found understanding. The best times are¬†to come – of this I am certain. Though, at this current moment, things are still hard going. But, everyone experiences the dawn at some point, and I know mine is on the way.

May you feel the wonder of dreams in your own hearts, always!