Through The Lens: In Search Of The Green Dragon
Long before the Lord of the Rings or The Game of Thrones were commonly known, there was the story of the Guardians of the Green Dragon. I presume you may not have heard the story unless you grew up in my old neighborhood. It is a tale of adventure and battles with horse weed swords and encounters with mythical creatures both large and small. Most fierce of them all were the Mayapple Guardians. Each spring these mythical protectors would rise up from the forest floor on their yearly mission to protect the forest dragon. This is a tale of my long ago childhood.
Sixty plus years ago there was a place near my home where the kids from our neighborhood ventured into the deep green forest in search of a legendary dragon. A place known to the locals as Rock Run.
If you are reader of my writings, you know that I have a vivid imagination when it comes to my whimsical stories. My imagination goes back to my earliest days when I was growing up in a place known as Circle Drive. Before cell phones and electronic games the best toy a kid could have, was their imagination. Kids in my neighborhood could one day be pirates on a raft in the creek. The next day we would be fighting off Indians in the forest. I have said many times, I grew up in a world of adventure that was created in our imaginations.
Each week on Sunday night, The Wonderful World of Disney would bring into our homes adventure stories. My favorite show was Zorro and his daring swordsmanship. After we watched those adventures, the neighborhood kids would go in search of the best dried horse weed patch we could find. You see, dried horse weeds make some of the best make believe swords in the world. With swords in hand, we would go in search of adventure and fun.
The adventure I remember, is the search for the Green Dragon. In our imaginations, the dragon hid in the big woods alongside the stream that ran through Rock Run. It was a wondrous place with endless water falls. Overhead the leafy canopy allowed only filtered sunlight to pass through to the forest floor. Soft sunlight took on a green cast as it touched this shaded place. Only the most delicate of flowers grew each spring in great abundance in the dim forest light. It was a hidden place protected from the outside world.
With our horse weed swords in hand, we set off to challenge the guardians of the Green Dragon. In our imagination, each spring, the new growth of Mayapples were somehow magically changed into fearsome creatures. Their sole reason for existence was to protect the Green Dragon of the woods from us marauding kids. These guardians with their arms held high and stoic faces hoped to scare invading kids from their deep green wood’s sanctuary. In my childhood memory, they must have stood at least eight feet tall. Each creature had two long thin arms with gigantic umbrella shaped leaves at the end of each arm. Their winkled faces were marked with two black piercing eyes.
Each spring the woods along Rock Run would be filled with thousands of Mayapple plants. So you can understand our mission to find the Green Dragon was filled with constant danger of attack from the Mayapple guardians. And to this day, I believe the only place in the world where these creatures lived was in Rock Run to protect the Green Dragon.
Why am I telling you about this fantasy world of my youth? It is because last weekend I returned to the forest of the Mayapple Guardians and a Mystical Green Dragon. I have come to the realization that maybe, just maybe that world of green forest adventures may only be my imagination playing tricks on me. I decided it was time to return to that place of my youth and see if one last adventure was awaiting me. And with my knees not as dependable as they once were, climbing over rocks and water falls may not be possible if I wait too much longer. Mary was not part of my youthful adventures into Rock Run, so I asked if she would like to return with me to discover the magical woods of my youth. When I told her of the dangers we may face from the Mayapple Guardians and Green Dragon, a skeptical look came over her face, as she informed me she would take her chances.
On a sunny afternoon, we made our way to the home of the Green Dragon who long ago lived in Rock Run. The old road that led into the hollow was blanketed with tiny blue and white flowers. We followed an animal path through the flowers until they abruptly ended as we entered the woods. We could hear the sound of rushing waters that cascaded through the hollow and over countless waterfalls. Here in this place where sunlight only occasionally pierced the leafy overhead canopy, the damp rocks have been covered with bright green moss.
Hanging from the velvety moss were tiny droplets of water. They glistened like jeweled diamonds alongside the fast flowing waters. We were surrounded by tall stately trees and an abundance of wildflowers in full spring time bloom. I knew that many of these trees were here when I visited in my youth. These magical woods of my youth have remained a place of tranquil beauty and mystical intrigue.
After a while of walking, we arrived at the forest glen where the dragon once hid among the trees. For that moment I was once again a ten year old kid with a horse weed sword waiting for the Mayapple Guardians to appear. But after a few moments of hoping, I knew my long ago childhood imagination would not bring back those mystical Guardians I once did battle with. As I came to the somber realization of reality, I asked Mary to capture the moment in a photograph. At least, I would have a photo reminder as it was not likely I would ever see this place again, except in my imagination. Then, out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something tall moving towards me. At the same time, I am almost sure I heard the low growl of a dragon. In my hand, the handle of my horse weed sword suddenly felt like it was harden steel. Sadly, as I closed my eyes to make sure I was not imaging all of this, the sound and movements faded. I turned and looked behind me and all I saw was the green forest and stream.
Thomas Wolfe once said, “Child, child, have patience and belief, for life is many days, and each present hour will pass away.” Somehow his words gave me the ability to once again see the world through the eyes of my youth.
I believe I am a better person for having found a Green Dragon and the Mayapple Guardians, even if they were only in my imagination. Maybe someday other children will venture into the deep woods of Rock Run and also see these mystical wonderful things of my youth. I know they are waiting there for them to come play.
I want to express my deepest thanks to the Morgan family for allowing me to return to the place of my childhood, as I looked for the Green Dragon Through the Lens.