“This is a story,” Chess said to the children, “Of a master thief – a very talented thief – who stole something valuable from a dragon.” His gaze flickered toward Ileana, and then back to the children. “Do you know what a dragon is?”
When both children nodded eagerly, he said, “Oh, good. Well, then, maybe you know that dragons love to collect shiny valuable things, like gold and jewels. In fact, every dragon has a big stash of treasure that they keep hidden in a cave or some other good hiding place.” The children were still wide-eyed, but Chess was relieved to see that they were no longer looking skittishly off into the woods.
“Dragons guard their treasures jealously,” he continued. “And sometimes, they even keep armies of men – or goblins or other scary creatures – around to help them guard their treasure. But you knew all that, already, right?”
The children nodded again, making Chess laugh softly to himself. He turned and added some more kindling to the burgeoning campfire and, as he did so, he caught frowning looks from the children’s parents. They had probably decided that he was crazy, Chess thought. But Sariel had moved on to treating them now, keeping them occupied, so he felt free to forge ahead with the story.
“Well, it happened one day that the dragon in our story -- who was, by the way, a very big and terribly powerful dragon that could breathe lots of fire whenever he wanted to -- found the coolest treasure, ever. And can you imagine what the treasure was?” The kids shook their heads.
“Well, the treasure was not gold or jewels, it was a person. Actually, it was a goddess.”
At that word, the children looked confused, so Chess said, “Kind of like an angel…?”
“Oh!” The little girl clapped her hands and smiled in recognition.
Chess did not dare look at Ileana or Sariel at this point. “Well, this goddess had accidentally fallen to earth and could not figure out how to get back to the heavens, where she belonged, so she was kind of stuck here. And goddesses - like angels - well, they kind of shine with their own inner light…” Chess could feel his face getting red, but he pressed on. “And that’s why the dragon spotted her.”
“The dragon swooped down!” Chess exclaimed, throwing his arms out like wings. “And he picked up the goddess and carried her off. He put her with his other treasures in a cave on top of a high mountain. And, up there, he had an army of men who guarded the treasures for him, day and night.”
“She had to stay there?” the little boy asked, scratching furtively at the bandage now on his leg.
“Well,” Chess answered, “she stayed there for a while, trying to figure out what was the best thing to do. Because, see, if she left there, then she had to decide where to go next and what she wanted to do. But, finally, she decided that, no matter where she went, she couldn’t stay locked up with the dragon’s treasure forever, so she had to get away. And, luckily,” Chess paused, with his eyebrows raised dramatically, “she had made some friends who could help her.”
“One of her friends was named Chess, and he was a thief. He was very sneaky, and he was able to get into the dragon’s cave and help the goddess escape. But the men guarding the cave spotted the two of them trying to slip out, and so then they had to make a run for it.” Chess unconsciously rose to his knees while he spoke, and the words came out in a flood. “They ran and ran, as fast as they could, but they could not get away from the guards. In fact, the guards were catching up to them…”
Hearing the little girl gasp, Chess said, “But don’t worry! The goddess had made another friend while she was there in the dragon’s cave, and this friend was a witch – Ah! But she was a good witch,” he added, seeing the girl’s sudden look of alarm. “She only cast, uh, helpful spells. And, so, while they were running, she cast a spell--” Chess threw his arm up in the air, as if showering the children with magic. “The spell confused the guards so they forgot what they were doing. They stopped chasing the goddess and her friends and, instead, started fighting with each other. And the goddess got away.”
Chess sank down again, feeling breathless and tired. “And that’s why,” he concluded, “you saw those men in the trucks, driving all around here. The dragon has sent them to look for his lost treasure.” He leveled his gaze at the kids. “They are not out to hurt you.”
Continued next page...
Far-li-mas, therefore, was summoned. He appeared, and the king said, “Far-li-mas, today the day has arrived when you must cheer me. Tell me a story.” “The performance is quicker than the command,” said Far-li-mas, and began. The king listened; the guests also listened. The king and his guests forgot to drink, forgot to breathe. The slaves forgot to serve. They, too, forgot to breathe. For the art of Far-li-mas was like hashish, and, when he had ended, all were as though enveloped in a delightful swoon.
- The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell
My story focuses quite a bit on water, the shortage - or deluge - of water, and worries about impending water shortages in the future, due to climate change. I’m afraid the facts and ideas in my blogs are presented in a fairly clumsy way, so I want to point out two very good articles by one of the scientists interviewed and referenced in both The Ripple Effect and Unquenchable, Peter Gleick. Both articles were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. (PNAS), which is a well-known peer-reviewed scientific journal:
Roadmap for sustainable water resources in southwestern North America
Peak water limits to freshwater withdrawal and use
Maybe this is a good time to mention PubMed, which is a division of the NIH (National Institutes of Health, nih.gov) and my main source of scientific articles. Since I don’t know exactly how PubMed, Medline, and the NIH fit together, I’ll just quote their tagline:
MEDLINE® contains journal citations and abstracts for biomedical literature from around the world. PubMed® provides free access to MEDLINE and links to full text articles when possible.
Whenever I see an article from any news source (including ones that are passed around on Facebook) that deals with any kind of science, and I want to know more about it (like whether it’s actually true), I go to PubMed and type in keywords. It’s like doing a Google search, but you don’t have to wade through “facts” that are actually opinions or commercials. At PubMed -- which I’m guessing is just a cute name that someone at the NIH came up with for their medical publications site -- you only get published scientific papers in your search results. For many of the articles, all you can get for free is the abstract, but if you’re really interested, you can probably buy a copy of the article. (When I was doing research for graduate projects, finding entire articles for free download was always a huge help!)
And if you want another example of someone who uses PNAS as a reference, check here. (It's cited at 1:05.)
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