This prominent story
in last Saturday’s Washington Post about a 16-foot carved dragon in my town of Takoma Park got everyone’s attention and because it gave the time
and address of the naming ceremony to be held the next day, I was
there. So were about half the town’s residents, all oohing, ahhing, and swigging back sangria and lemonade. It was quite a festive event.
THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC
I’ll get to the dragon but first a word about the town. Here’s what the Post
had to say about us: "Most burbs and boroughs, believe it or not, do
not have many dragons these days. But this is not any suburb. This is
Takoma Park. Proudly known by many longtime residents by the prefix
‘The People’s Republic of.’ " Well, I’m keeping track and can tell you that every single time
the Post mentions Takoma Park they include either the "People’s Republic" quip or the hilarious fact that we’re a nuclear-free zone.
Ha-ha-ha, those crazy lefties! But that’s okay; we laugh at ourselves, too. We’re an easy target.
HIRE A CALDER
all started when Lew Morris and his wife Louise decided to do
something more creative than make logs out of their dead oak tree and
Googled for woodcarvers. The search produced Jim Calder, Jr., Master Carver and Sculptor
– "It’s my job to amaze you" – great-nephew of Alexander himself and
living in Chesapeake, Virginia. After a career as an engineer, he’s
turned his hobby into a full-time job these last two years and lets
everyone know that "commissions are accepted." Next up for Jim is a book about
woodcarving for beginners. As you can see from his website, he’s
passionate about it, his mission being to "teach carving with no
reserve (no holding back) and keep the art alive…growing…and useful
in the world." Right on.
A GOOD DRAGON
Now I’ll tell you some things the Washington Post didn’t.
The dragon idea came from the teenager in
the family, Michele, and her inspiration was the book The Dragon and the
Pearl. It’s the story of a good dragon, a water-god that makes rain for the benefit
of all living beings. And the highlight of the Naming Ceremony was the
announcement of Michele’s choice of names for the dragon –
"Herlong," which means "river
The dragon was treated with one coat of stain and the rest of the tree with linseed oil, which
Jim assured me would prevent woodpecker intervention.
Boric acid was applied at the base to ward off termites. So here’s my
question: What about letting the woodpeckers have at it? According to this
Forest Service site – Snags for Wildlife
– thousands of species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish get food, shelter, or nesting sites from snags. (Snag – a funny word for a standing dead
tree.) I’m not suggesting that Herlong be exposed to the ravages of nature but what if you hired Calder to just carve a face on one side of a dead tree, as Morris urged his neighbors to do, and let Woody Woodpecker and his buddies work their will on the rest of it? You know, a collaboration with the local wildlife. Now let’s see if the sculptor will respond to this wacky notion in a comment. Jim?
According to the Post, "Three weeks ago, Calder arrived to start
carving, and the dragon
quickly became a community sensation. He has this little gaggle of
moms and kids and hippie guys coming by every day and telling him,
‘Right on, man, it’s Puff the Magic Dragon, man,’ says Morris." Luckily for the neighbors, the dragon’s home is a very visible spot on a corner lot, quite unlike the
expensively landscaped but walled-off gardens in Washington’s tonier suburbs. Nosiree. Art for the People!
Photos from the top: Herlong, Calder, and Calder with Louise, Michele and Lew.