Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Tale of the Nine Dragons

Several years ago I, Christopher, had a bit of inspiration due to a pile of wood left outside my friend’s cabinetry shop next to the dumpster. I thought it was beautiful and discovered that it was just going to be used as firewood. I was lucky and I was allowed to rescue it from being burned and take it for my own use. It just so happened that I needed to make my darling wife, Dawn, a Christmas present and decided to use this beautiful wood to build her a chest.

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IMG_5544I decided on a pirate chest style because my daughter, Whitney, had recently become a Pirate Captain for a Pirate Guild called the Glass Eye Pub. This first chest changed my life for the better.

Dawn, my darling wife, decided she liked this Christmas present so much that it must become a tradition and from now on each and every grandchild, we may be privileged enough to enjoy, should have their own Papa built chest. I thought this was a wonderful idea. Of course those are the only kind of ideas my wife has. If you don’t believe me just ask her.

Constance, my first granddaughter, actually helped me build her chest. She was there at every step, watching closely, asking questions and handing me tools. She helped me glue and sand and finish her chest. Unless you have personally experienced your granddaughter finding what you are doing interesting enough to ‘hang out’ with you of her own volition then you have missed out on one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. Constance Valkyrie’s chest was inspired by the dead trees in the back yard of her new home that happened to be gorgeous Red Cedar.

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During the time between building my wife’s chest and Constance’s chest my wife had taught me to love Rock Hounding. Las Vegas is a treasure of beautiful rocks and fossils naturally polished by the sun, sand and wind. I added many of the rocks and petrified wood we found to Constance chest. It was something new. I had never seen it before and have been unable to find anything like this combination of naturally polished rocks with natural edge wood.

Inspiration is a large part of what I do when creating anything. I change my mind repeatedly while crafting any and all items, regularly. All I have is an idea when I start. Nothing is set in stone and the only plans I have are those in the ever-changing morass that is my mind.

But what has all this got to do with nine dragons you ask. Okay I’ll tell you.

My second granddaughter, Sonja, was born in 2012 AD in the Chinese year of the Black Water Dragon.

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Naturally I had to include this in Sonja’s chest. I decided to combine the dragons from her Chinese heritage with those from her Nordic heritage. The top of the chest, I determined, would be fashioned toward the Chinese and the base toward the Nordic. I started out with just one dragon but that quickly changed to three and then to seven as the polluted river of my mind flowed in whatever direction it randomly took.

I finished the front and back of the chest top and was left with just the two sides to finish. I started and all went well. The first strip of wood went in perfectly. The second piece did not work out at all. I messed up the next piece too and the third piece was an outright catastrophe. Dawn and I had a date for lunch so I cleaned up and head off. I told Dawn about some of my ideas, over lunch, on finishing the chest and she told me that I should call Grandma Jean to get Sonja’s name in Chinese so I could include it in the chest. I loved the idea and as soon as I got back to the shop I called Grandma Jean. She told me she would be happy to send it to me. As it is wonderful in and of itself I will include Jean’s response here:

Hi Chris,

Please put both characters. The two combined is pronounced as Sòngyǎ.

Sonja’s name translated into Chinese (from Mandarin pronunciation perspective):

(pronounced as Sòng) means praise

 (pronounced as Yǎ) means elegant/graceful

Regards,
Jean

YES! It does fit my granddaughter perfectly. I then gave Jean a very brief description of the chest. The conversation went something like this.

Christopher: “I built the top of the chest  to represent the Chinese dragons. I have seven of them on the top.”

Jean: “Oh no. You mean nine dragons.”

Christopher:  “No I just have seven.”

Jean: “There are usually nine dragons but just go ahead with the seven.”

We said our good-byes and the cracked wheels of my mind began churning. I had cut some new wood just the day before and I suddenly knew just how to add the two extra dragons. Perfect! I started the process and it went well, the pieces seemingly flying together.

When I got home I quickly researched the link between the number nine (9) and Chinese dragons. It was important. Jean was right. Of course! Just LUCKY (ha ha) I guess.

I have long believed that a sparrow cannot fall from the sky without God knowing it. I also believe in guardian angels ever since I was saved by one, in a triple rollover truck accident, where I heard the angel say, “Let go. I’ve got you.” I walked out of that wreck. It should have killed me. I believe that inspiration is often not our own but it is from these guardian angels whispering in our ears. A still small voice if you will. I personally believe these guardian-whispering angels are our ancestors that still love and guide us from beyond the veil since I believe that families are forever. When I realized I could now add the two dragons to make it NINE Dragons because I had been unable to add that second totally frustrating piece of wood that would have blocked the use of any significant additional dragons, I also remembered the uncommon struggles I went through in trying to put that second piece of wood on the chest. I knew and know it was one of Sonja’s ancestors making sure that there would be the PROPER number of Chinese dragons on her chest. It became very apparent to me that this wonderful little girl is loved not only by those of us lucky enough (as lucky as 9 dragons can be) to know her here on earth but also by at least one past family member that would not allow this old cranky old grandfather to leave those two important dragons off her chest.

Can you hear those ancestors angels laughing at me as they kept me from getting that second piece of wood onto the side of the chest top? I can.

Forever privileged to be,
Papa Christopher