Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Sea Dragons


Sea dragons, eh? What would you do with them?

To try to describe them, to delineate them carefully in paint or in words, is simply to invite credulous cries and sneers. What, you would say, like that leather-backed slug-shaped reptile with feathers, glimpsed late one afternoon in the Natural History Museum, the one you could never find again, that looked like an economical April Fool stitched from the remnants of animals found lying around the storerooms? Or like that lizard you saw in the Serengeti, blue to the waist and pink above, as if it were wearing sparkly jeans, or as if a man squatted behind a nearby bush, dipping denim blue lizards halfway into pots of shiny pink paint?

Elongated, calme, supercilious seahorses, the dragons float arranged in curious flocks staring through the glass. A continent of forthright, sturdy, stalwart people, a land boasting poisonous snakes and spiders, brutal marsupials, a harsh landscape, off its coast is home to these elegant, magical cratures, twigs draped in wistful, pendulous seaweed, tails long and forgotten, staring at some distant fascination, some faraway dream. The fins that keep them hovering, slowly changing their direction, are so fine as to be almost invisible: the seaweed-like fronds drift about them, delicately careless.

If they were land dragons, you would expect fire, a thin, piercing flame from that precise snout. If they were seahorses, it would be something less supple, more active, jolly and real like a favourite pony. But these are dragons, the inhabitants of legends, no more real than mermaids or fairies. How can they be described?

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