Weekly Photo Challenge: Of Dragons, Tears, and Renewal

This dragon comes from Troyes, in France, where prominent churches are much involved with dragons —

Although there are exceptions, most forms of renewal happen slowly. Think of the slow round of the seasons, the patience needed to follow the life cycle of plants. A human baby takes 9 months of growth to enter the world which it will renew.

In fact it seems miraculous that, in some forms, renewal happens at all. Tears, for instance. What do I mean? Watch this Youtube video, and see what you think — and feel:

Look at the faces! This is the Sixties. Peter, Paul, and Mary are so young, and the faces of their audience are so innocent. It’s almost a world before the Fall, at least compared to nowadays. I know that it became the cynical fashion to say that Puff was about marijuana, but I don’t buy that.  Here are some current responses to the video quoted from the Youtube website:

“I’ve been singing this song since I was three years old.. I never understood what it meant until this night, sitting between graduation and moving away, oblivion and confusion about the future, that I cry and comprehend. Puff will always be in us all.”

“I love this song, always made me want to cry, never could figure out why. My daughter told me she’s moving away, and now I know.”

“My dad used to sing me this song when I was a little girl every night over the phone when we were in different places. It always made me happy, made me think of him. My dad passed away of a heart attack as we were watching TV together, right after my 17th birthday 5 months ago. I didn’t get much time with him, but he was one of the most important people to me. Sometimes I like to close my eyes, play this song and just think of him. It still makes me cry.”

“When I leave this rock, I want this song to play me out.”

As Peter, the lead singer, says much later in a 2003 performance, the song was always about what it was about, not about marijuana, but about something much more serious and important, about the inevitable loss of innocence that accompanies growing up. (And even if it were about the weed, it wouldn’t change that. We grow up and beyond everything, even youthful follies and pleasures.)

Puff, the Magic Dragon, still makes tears come to my eyes too, although I don’t know exactly why. After all, my childhood innocence was lost decades and decades and decades ago. Yet it turns out that such a profound experience lasts a lifetime.  Recall is swift and evergreen.

I do believe that such tears are, or can slowly become, a form of renewal. (Perhaps “redemption” is a more accurate word.)  I believe that tears, painful and bitter as they may be, in some amazing way hold the potential for renewal, for redemption, and ultimately can even become cause for rejoicing.

It’s a big, lonely world out there. I hope that some, maybe many, of you will share your thoughts about this — after listening again to the magical song.

This entry was posted in Childhood, Happiness, Personal Essay, Wisdom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: Of Dragons, Tears, and Renewal

  1. Puff represents my childhood, I was eight the first time I heard it and I guess Puff flew away when I was twelve. Several of the comments above resonate with me.

  2. Gemma says:

    I remember liking the song, but at the time I was about twelve and I just thought it was a fun song, til the end when I cried. One memory is of driving somewhere with family friends, singing along with Peter,Paul and Mary, and then listening to Blame it on the Bossa Nova, and singing along with that. It’s a good memory, and this post took me there. Thanks.
    My impression of Puff is of childhood lost. Things felt one way then, and listening now, I am renewed by that feeling. 🙂 if only for a few moments.

  3. it’s such a sweet, precious song and although my own childhood was anything but magic, it’s a song that touches my heart. I sang it to my children and my daughter and I still sometimes sing it together, she in her 30s and I in my 50s. Tears, ah tears, are perhaps our body’s way of allowing us to express ourselves where words cannot, dare not go. The magic of past days, past dreams, can only be recaptured when we allow someone, something, such as this song to speak to us, to speak for us of dreams and lullabies and make believe.

  4. Angelia Sims says:

    It is a wonderful song. Music seems to play such a big part in memories and thoughts. It moves us to emotion and that is a beautiful renewal that happens inside. Hugs to you!

  5. Therese Bertsch says:

    A song everyone knew and sang! What struck me about listening to this post Judy was how I never recognized that we were not so very different from our grandmother’s and parents generation. In our grandmother’s home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY, we’d have talent shows on Sunday afternoons. My grandmother would roll up the rug and play the player piano and we’d all sing. My father would sing his song “County Down”. I remember once my act was to jump rope, I was just five and very vain. We always sang when we were together. Later in life I would often comment that it was a bit different years ago when family’s got together, we’d sing. It struck me in watching this video that we never stopped singing and often the songs helped us to express both our joys and our losses and grief. The American Irish are loaded with them having immigrated because of oppression and war, never to see their families again. They carried the old warrior songs and the new claims of the gifts of being Irish American. We all know “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. Puff tells me we know that our imagination is the fuel for the bountiful life. God knows we need to remember this. I believe in us and I believe in Puff. The diaspora, in so many venues, is waiting for the word— is listening for that person who will lead us back to the imagination and mutual concern and love for one another. It’s going to happen as long as people sing, poets and writers write, actors act, artists art (smile), dancers dance, babies cry, scientists imagine and teachers teach and parents parent, and kids challenge (that’s their job you know). Now we all know Frank’s love of dragons is really what inspired this post. Frank the great and bountiful heart and lover of the imagination and those who imagine. He’s always been one of my inspirations. For those who do not know Frank is the other half of Judith. In the end it is the people in our life who keep the faith and help us to keep the fires stoked and the imagination brimming! And, why not?

    • Touch2Touch says:

      So eloquent, Therese. Just beautiful. I love your inventory of people’s roles in life, especially children’s.
      Thank you so much for taking time out from the important preparation for your dissertation defense —
      Everyone, root for Therese, she’s about to cross the finish line for her goal of a PhD!!!!!!!

  6. Joe Clarke says:

    As a step-Grand parent to two lovely grands, I didn’t really understand the importance of the song until after they had both grown, and I saw a lot less of them. It had something to do with their effect on me. They helped revive in me a childhood I had hoped for, but never really knew. In those years I became many things like Sea Bear who rescues Ariel (the Little Mermaid) after mistaking her tail for a fish and taking a bite out of it. This scene was reenacted many times in the pool or whatever body of water we might find ourselves in. There was also Giorgio the appreciative audience to Maryanne’s Jazz dance inventions. Giorgio burst into applause at the end of each performances, jumping from his seat with repeated shouts of Encore! And was sometimes prompted to leave flowers on the stage as she came back for yet another bow. Although I never did graduate to the status of Dragon like Puff, I did read The Hobbit to them and made up the voices as I went along. There were even the great songs of the Dwarves that had to be mastered convincingly without the aid of any written music provided by the author. However, there was one potential Dragon who when his grand mother put him to bed that evening, lay his head on the pillow with one eye wide open. When she asked him what he was doing, he explained that “dragons can sleep with one eye open!” That bit of valuable information was learned about the great Smaug who terrorized Lakeland.
    Then one day Puff, Sea Bear, Georgio, et al showed up for another year of fantastic adventures and the rest of the party didn’t appear, or perhaps were too old now for that sort of thing (12 and above). I think the song may mark the end of childhood and innocence, but to me it means the loss (at least temporarily) of the innocence and wonder that they had awakened in me.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      A very interesting take on Puff et al, Joe.
      Thanks for this moving account, and also for the valuable information that Dragons can sleep with one eye open. That may come in handy sometime when we need to recognize a true dragon —

  7. pauline says:

    I’ve watched my children grow and change and move on. Now I watch my grandchildren do the same. Somewhere deep in the cave of my adulthood the dragon of childhood, that force of wonder, of knowing the world as a marvelous place of adventure and self-empowerment, lingers. Play brings Puff out again to frolic. It’s one of the main reasons I love being surrounded by children – our dragons play together.

  8. 2e0mca says:

    This particular dragon certainly bites – I too feel the cold breath of the extinguished fire resulting from a sense of loss. It was truly a great song which reminds us of how much we need each other in any relationship.

  9. Patti Kuche says:

    Oh those sweet childhood times where songs prick away and burst the dams of memories. Sadly however I never warmed to Puff, preferring instead to keep my distance from these strange adults (two with odd facial hair) singing songs of childhood. They didn’t fit into my projected models of “grown-ups!” Such was my own childhood innocence.

    Enjoy your tears Judith, they nourish the memories whilst reminding us we still have feelings!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Yes, it’s a big temptation to shut down the feelings sometimes. Lots of times.
      But maybe the biggest function of tears is to grieve adequately, thereby washing away the bitter taste of many memories, leaving only the savory and/or sweet.
      Actually I never remembered Peter, Paul, and Mary as the patrons of Puff. In my memory, it’s Pete Seeger. He was the big folk hero of my particular era. And he’s still singing away, up the Hudson River somewhere! He may be immortal.

  10. Madhu says:

    I became familiar with this song much after I grew up, and so don’t share the same fondness. But I do relate to the emotions it – and the comments above – evoke. The nostalgia for a life and world past and the inevitable loss of innocence of my two little grandsons. Yes the tears are necessary…..and renewing. Thank you for a beautiful and thought provoking post.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones 🙂

  11. Stef says:

    One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Blaise Pascal: “La coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas.” (Translation for visitors to your blog: “The heart has reasons that reason doesn’t understand.”) Your mind may not be able to fully understand what your heart feels; but I’ve found our hearts are never wrong – even if our mind doesn’t/can’t quite ‘get’ it.

  12. Peter, Paul and Mary! A favorite of my parents when we all still thought of us as a family unit. My nostalgia about that song connects to both the passing of that age (of innocence?)(the 60s?!?) and of my parents’ happiness…

    I saw them in concert about 15 years ago and was in awe (and in tears).

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