My family’s been in Idaho for more than a century; I swore that I’d move to the urban east as an adult. But how could I deny my children a home where dragons fly? Or – according to the story that kept my siblings in check during long car rides – where dragons ruled before the people came.
My geologist buddies describe southern Idaho as geothermal nirvana. Being single, twenty-something males, they use more graphic terms, but you get the picture. The relative youth of the landscape means vast lava fields, peekaboo rivers, and water gushing from cracked basalt cliffs and canyon walls. The science of these miracles never captured the interest of my brother and sisters as did their starring roles in the stories that I made up about hot springs, mountain ranges, and fields of black rock spotted with antelope herds.
We live in a land where two dragons hibernate deep within the earth, waiting their turn to play. You see, I told my siblings – and now my own three hatchlings – the dragons tired of flying in great sweeping paths each day, and even grew disenchanted with splashing through acid streams and dodging the spitting fire of favorite volcanoes. They wanted a change – maybe something green. Maybe creatures besides themselves. After all, even the hottest fire on the brightest day isn’t fun forever.
The dragon leaders, Erick SunFire and his sister, Susanna NightFire, petitioned the beautiful and clever Queen Jillian of the Clouds for a new home. She agreed to use her magic to bring seasons and all manner of creatures and plants to life. For a price.
Though the Cloud Queen held immense power, ruling all that the dragons knew or could imagine, Jillian could not bend fire to her will. She didn’t dare introduce other creatures or foliage to a world where they’d turn to ash in an instant. With a flick of her finger, the Queen might grow a peaceful meadow only to have a geyser or volcano muck it up.
So, Queen Jillian bargained with Erick SunFire and Susanna NightFire to create a sacred place where the water was cool, the wind still, and the trees tall. If they could rein in the fire, then the Queen would make such a haven. And if this new land lay unthreatened by fire for 1000 years, it would belong to the dragons for the remainder of eternity.
Erick burrowed into the hottest pool of lava, leading his sister to the place deep in the earth where fire began. With her icy dark breath, Susanna cooled the liquid rock into an enormous cap of basalt. Erick settled down to wait for his turn at the world, but Susanna was a very impatient dragon. When she sighed in frustrated exhaustion at the silly agreement made with a cloud, the wisp of air iced around the siblings, encasing them in frosty caves deep below the now peaceful land. Erick and Susanna grew sleepy in the chill of their hideaway. Each curled their great tails round and round the other, settling down for a very long nap.
Queen Jillian felt a wee bit guilty about the dragons’ sacrifice. After all, she could have shared the new world. To make amends and to remind herself about the importance of tolerance, Queen Jillian etched dragons in rock and sky so the new creatures she introduced to a world made safe by dragons wouldn’t forget.
That’s why, I tell my children during long car rides when the DVD player is on the fritz, we can find dragons in Idaho.
The storm clouds take the shape of Erick SunFire and his elegant long snout. Susanna Nightfire often looks down out of the clouds to appreciate leaves that mimic the colors she loves. And no matter the day or season, we can look to the mountain ranges that surround our home to see the dragons curled up, scales cutting the sky, waiting their turn to play.