Where do our interests come from? Do we pick them up during childhood, or do we carry them with us, from one life to the next?
As a child, I was obsessed with dragons (and still am!). I spent time in art class by drawing whatever type of dragon came to my mind. I thought up dragons that were mixed with other animals, dragons with rockets on their back legs, and dragons that lived in volcanoes and were always on fire. I dreamed myself into the Dragonriders of Pern universe, imagined myself as a green dragonrider. As a teenager, I purchased The Book of the Dragon by Ciruelo, full of gorgeous artwork by the artist along with information on the types of dragons, their culture, traditions and legends. I do believe that dragons existed, perhaps still do in another realm.
When I wasn’t fantasizing about flying the skies on a dragon of my own, I was dreaming about animals instead. I loved the Redwall novel (and series), where anthropomorphic mice defend their abbey against Cluny the Scourge – a rat – and his rat and stoat minions. The idea of animals being capable of speech and other human characteristics fascinated me, and I loved reenacting similar scenarios with my own stuffed animals and figurines. My favorite was Silverbolt, a transformer from Beast Wars – a show I never actually watched – that was part eagle and part wolf. I also had Elephorca, a transformer that was part elephant and part orca.
Maybe my overactive imagination – fed by fantasy books and imaginary worlds – opened my mind to monsters, myths, and the paranormal.
When I was younger, we used to visit our grandparents’ house and sleep over in the upstairs attic bedroom. The room is long enough to fit three beds and a cot, as well as a very old television and our cousin’s N64 game system. When we weren’t playing rounds of Goldeneye or Mario Tennis cramped around the small screen, we were goofing around outside or running our own “general store”. We would place items on the countertop next to the stairs from around the room and attic, and try to sell them to the “shoppers”. I always tried to sell too many books, so I wasn’t the shopper very often!
My favorite part of the upstairs room was the library beneath the counter; a small, built-in bookshelf contains loads of old books, from atlases to old story books and other various genres. I loved to borrow books and return them on my next visit, like a personal library. My grandmother insisted that I just keep the books, but I rarely did. There were some books that I just couldn’t pass up, though; MacMillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia, the brown binding falling apart, details the genuses and species of endless animals. I often tried to sketch my favorite animals in their illustrated poses.
Two books that I stumbled upon became the crowned jewels of the collection: Mysteries of the Unexplained and Into the Unknown. They are part of the same set and have matching blue tortoiseshell book covers. Both titles contain strange tales and myths of both the physical and nonphysical realms. I was enthralled by the sections about sea monsters like Nessie, and engrossed by the creepier accounts of the paranormal, from sightings of the Jersey Devil to the creation of “Philip” the ghost (or perhaps tulpa) in an experiment by the Toronto Society for Psychical Research. Something about the world of the paranormal drew me in; the idea that spirits existed beyond our physical sight, that the universe was so much bigger than I had imagined sparked something inside of me.
To this day that interest, that obsession, remains rooted inside of me. I find comfort in my belief that there is more to life beyond the physical, find interesting the tales of ghost hauntings and strange creature sightings reported around the world. I don’t know who I would be without my jar of beliefs that I have collected throughout the years. Did I stumble across them, like the books in my grandmother’s attic, or were they given to me, like my childhood toys and action figures? Did a picture I saw in elementary school foster my love of dragons, or did it come from somewhere within myself?
Where do you think our interests come from? Do you also wish you spoke to dragons? Let’s talk about it in the comment section!