Tag Archives: dragons

Wild Swans and Dragons

Posted December 12, 2018 by Kerry McFall

2018 has not been a banner year for me.  But Mother Nature has gifted me with a bit of natural magic: wild swans in what is essentially my back yard!  I’ve never seen them at Finley National Wildlife Reserve before, although I have heard rumors that if you are lucky you will be there during the few hours or days each year during migration that they grace us with their presence.  

We go to Finley every autumn to hear the choirs of geese (the Canadian goose is my spirit animal, and I’ve got the tattoo to prove it), to watch their flights, to hear ducks cackle and joke, to see the occasional bald eagle soaring over the flocks to take inventory.  But this year – swans!  They are huge and there are lots of them, startling white on the shallow water.  Seeing one land is like watching Baryshnikov dance: appearing suddenly out of the heavens, silent smooth approach, perfect touchdown, elegant plume of spray, gentle stop – breathtaking.  Literally. 

I drew three different dragons earlier this fall for my grandsons, and had great fun with their spiraling bodies, sharp skulls, and scaly skins.  As I painted the swan arching his neck and showing off his glistening feathers, it occurred to me that swans could be dragons reincarnated.  They have feathers instead of scales, but the underlying structure is pretty similar.  Okay, it’s a stretch, but it’s a fun stretch! 

Peru, Dragons, and Bucket Lists

sketch of HuanaPicchu

"Who Says There Are No Dragons in Peru", mixed media copyright Kerry McFall

We’re back from Peru, and in addition to several sketches, I have a few humble observations to offer about life, dragons, and bucket lists.

The closest thing that I have to a bucket list is a “Why Not!?” kind of wanderlust that takes me wherever and whenever an opportunity presents itself.  Opportunities generally arise in the form of people I cherish inviting me to visit them in places that are Not Where I Am.   This has taken me to New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, France, London, Botswana, Georgia, Tennessee, and several other exotic locales, and I’m always glad for the experiences, always the better for the relationships and the “Aha!” moments that can only come from stepping outside your comfort zone.

Up until a few years ago, the only “person” I knew from Peru was Paddington Bear… ( little known fact that he is a Spectacled Peruvian Bear).  When daughter Corey decided to take her semester abroad in Cusco, Peru, I thought it was an interesting choice but didn’t really understand her motivations – in fact, I’m not sure SHE understood her motivations.  When she wanted to go back, and back again, I understood it even less, but finally decided the only way to figure it out was… well, to just go.  So we did.  And it was amazing, living up to and exceeding every postcard scenario.  It was also thought-provoking, providing a snow-globe sort of perspective on what happens when cultures collide.  There’s not a lot of snow in the Andean snow-globe these days…

Because Corey works in the travel industry, we got the Supremo Grand Tour, and it was wonderful to meet her sweetheart Moises, and the people she works with, and to get to know people like her original Host Mom Nelly and her family.  Everyone we met – the drivers, the guides, the friends, the co-workers, the shoe-shine kids, the Llama Ladies – added something to the flavor of the trip, all of them diplomats and ambassadors in their own way.  I now truly admire Corey’s chutzpah at venturing alone into a completely unknown world – I certainly would not have braved it as a young woman.  We also got a bonus Archaeological/Historical perspective  from none other than Paolo Greer, a well-known explorer.  Corey and Ben had attended a lecture he presented the week before we arrived, and he joined us for a private lecture and even dinner one night.  Wow – he is a force of nature.  Hopefully we will hear more about his efforts to preserve and protect what has not been plundered already.

So I encourage you to take a look at your bucket list, and go.  Now.  That’s what credit cards are for.  The world is changing so fast that even “protected” world heritage sites cannot remain unchanged, and you won’t always be this healthy, so go – Now.  You will learn something important, every day.  You will experience something that makes you search your soul, every day.  Do a bit of reading first – “Turn Right At Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams is a good one if you’re heading to Peru.  The Internet is a great resource, but find a good travel consultant if you’re going someplace where driving laws are seen as suggestions and gringoes stick out like a sore thumb – I’m so glad we had Corey’s knowledge and experience to fall back on.

And about those Dragons… if the Incas could build all of those fabulous stone sites up there in the clouds, without spaceships or road graders or even wheelbarrows, then there could have been dragons.  I’ve seen some representations of dragons – although everyone else seems to think they’re just lizards or snakes – in some of the artifacts.  And when I was sketching Huayna Picchu (sp?- maybe Wayna Picchu?) I saw not only a condor outlined in the cliff, I saw a dragon.  Do you see it?  So there.

More sketches to come in the next few days as we get re-organized!


Cusco Commute

"Cusco Commute", mixed media by Kerry McFall, photo credit Corey Jay

Daughter Corey sent a stunning photo of her “commute” to work in Cusco, Peru.  From her apartment she walks down ancient cobbled – well, “streets” seems a bit over the top for what might be better termed “pathways”.  The view opening at the end of the narrow, winding way is of a surprisingly large (to me) city filled with adobe and terra cotta tiles and flanked by rugged peaks.  Perhaps, if all goes well, we’ll get to walk this route some day before she leaves… I wonder if my knees are up to it?  Not to mention that at 11,000 feet altitude, it might be a bit tricky to catch a breath.

The “frame” is based on another photo of a vintage textile piece that she sent, which seems to be an abstract made up of alternating dragons and some kind of doorway protected by maybe a snake…   Without seeing it and touching it, it’s hard to say how it was made, but I’d guess it started out as yellow fabric, some kind of resist was used for the eyes and the yellow dots (representing eggs maybe?), and then the rest was dye painted on using a terra cotta color and maybe an umber.  In several photos that she’s sent from other adventures in Peru, I’ve noticed costumes and murals and textiles that feature some pretty elaborate dragons…. wait, dragons in South America?  Where did those come from? Evidently there has been quite a large influence from Japan over time, maybe that’s the origin.  (There were also a lot of gorilla costumes… that origin escapes me completely.)  Given the scariness factor of dragons and snakes, I decided that they would serve to protect her on her commute if I put them on “guard duty” in the frame.  Safe journeys, Corey!