There Be Dragons - in Inner Southeast
October is the month of Halloween. What better time to speak of dragons ?
Myth and fairy tales stylize dragons as powerful, fire-breathing reptiles. Some are winged, some are more snake-like, indicating life on land or sea.
For centuries, Asian cultures have celebrated dragons as symbols of strength associated with water or rain. Chinas Year of the Dragon occurs once every twelve years, and global warming may reinvest the creatures with the power of rainstorms. Today, though, dragons are more decorative, as can be seen around Inner Southeast Portland.
A dragon figure on the carousel at Oaks Amusement Park is notable for its bright green color, fangs, claws, and small red wings. The brave child who chooses to mount that creature can feel like a conquering hero – at least, for the brief ride. A dragon weather vane on S.E. Clatsop Street, flying above the roof line, is reminiscent of the friendly creature featured in the Walt Disney movie, Petes Dragon.
Another Sellwood dragon, also on Clatsop Street, is a fierce and convoluted stone creature, guarding a front porch behind a lavender bush. In Brooklyn, a large tree planter at S.E. 14th and Rhine Street features two dragons, curled protectively around an ocher ceramic pot.
A mural at the Trader Joes grocery store, 4715 S.E. Chavez Blvd. (39th), features a colorful dragon boat along the Willamette River. Portlanders can often spot similar dragon boats and their crews along the river, practicing for Rose Festival Dragon Boat Races.
Today, dragons still symbolize water and the weather – certainly an appropriate image for the rainy Pacific Northwest climate.