The Duchess was floating around again. Up! Across! Beyond dusty drapes, or the slightest inclination to see them clean. The Duchess enjoyed seeing her possessions unmoored. Little yapping Meissen spaniel - poof! Heavy walnut sideboard - poof! The Duchess enjoyed leather-bound tomes dissolving their weight with hers.
She wore only dresses that allowed of slithering, and shoes that slipped off smoothly. Nothing to chafe her scales or bind her tail.
Rahr. Time for a moss-bath. Float right out the dining room window, over the lawns, into grey soft morning. If anyone saw, what they saw was a wraithing mist; if anyone smelled, what they smelled was leaf-mould and closet-musk. But no one saw, and no one smelled. The Duchess floated dragonly to the edge of the woods, glad as ever to see each century's growth. Writhe the plane tree's scaly span, spreading crownier year by year. Slink the redwood's scruffy trunk, and pillow the pockets of needles at each crux. Tickle the ginkgo dropping stinky fruits.
The Duchess rolled and nibbled, slid her way squirrely back to ground, magnetized a deep patch of peatmoss. Squeezed herself, water slicking her coat, sprinkling her whiskers. Deep, deep - many years of tiny growth. Rahr! Moss-bath. Pleasure duchessy dragon drip roll slither. Belly, back, belly, back. Belly. Creaking out every creak. Jeweled, sated, smoke curling gently. Snout-smile. Smiling.
And what does such a beastie eat? Not kibbles, not air, not crumpets. How does she tend to herself, how is she tended, between the hollow way, and the empty house? She sniffs out mushrooms - the fusty ones oranging flakily out of locust trunks; the spongy ones morelling under oak leaves, the puff-balls big as fat rabbits, tumescing from plainest plane of grass.
Mushrooms that would kill anyone else. Great angel-white phalluses, black death's heads, tiny virulent umbrellas at the spicy end of the subterranean spectrum. The Duchess ingests them delicately, sparing the roots, articulating her teeth one by one, dance of ivories above and into. Snick, snick, snick.
Also, a terrier or a mini-schnauzer, now and then. Poor things! Too bound up in their leashes and blind territories to understand the vastness of these woods, or her appetites. Furry treat for her, liberation into bliss-body for them. Fair enough. She wishes people would stop feeding their corgi-foo-foos teriyaki jerky.
Many months without a small dog or a mountain-biker. Living at the hinge of the world turning means less needing, more time to swim, slither, climb, nibble. When change changes, it's clear who wishes to make a dragon's banquet, releasing fear and wanting into her great maw. So much sweeter than decades of petty drinking, or the lingering intubations of the hospital. These ones glimpse the Duchess, and they know, I am for you, and you for me. Proto-Bodhisattvas with an agreement that works out for everyone. Dragons don't need merit, and weekending adventurers earn plenty, giving their flesh and bones to What Is.
The Duchess, the Duchess. She knows the neighborhood, all right. As it is now, as it was when the glaciers retracted, as it will be when yucca and saguaro prickle forth. She knows mushrooms and mosses, riders and walkers, foxes and newts, all the trees, and also the root-beings of the world. Old Root-Breath, for example, and Lady She-Voice. Those two are epic: interbeings whose bodies don't differentiate. Bam! That old stone mile-marker's a tooth, that storm-pattern coming from the North is an in-breath, and the river's spate-waters breathe out.
Old Root-Breath and Lady She-Voice take turns, slide around each other, fuck in aeons, make cities, erase them, build millennial dunes, crush them back into mountains, open the ocean floor, and raise Iceland. Like that. The Duchess isn't quite like that herself, having still some use for daybeds and shot-silk gowns, but her mind's uncluttered enough that she can tune into their channel when she wants to. She can let go into She-Voice and Root-Breath when she's in-between, which is pretty often.
The Duchess has given up on being appalled. What's the point? She sits behind the circulation desk, seeing anything anyone can find to want in this world, and she hands it over with a smile and a nominal due date. No fines, no questions asked. Now what will you do? Burn all the books you want. Dream enormously. Misquote everyone, and carry on.
Your dragon-nature is mine, and my dragon-nature is also yours.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.