A Dragon Named Naturally Speaking, by Barbara Lynn Andrew

I love how some of the best things evolve, becoming richer with time.

'Naturally Speaking' was always present, but took his time to make that known. He’s become one of those best things. Here’s the ’Story.”’ Seven years ago, I met a number of times with a group of women who became friends. We’d meditate, eat wonderful food, enjoy conversation, and create art. I loved the gathering. From that time together came a number of intuitive paintings. We’d begin in the morning, and at the end of the day, we would all share our art, talk about what we’d created and then listen to what others had to say about their impressions and what they saw in the work. It was so interesting to me because my paintings were quite abstract and very internal. I felt that I’d tapped into a creative stream and just thrown the paint on the page using what seemed a cornucopia of colourful art supplies. The whole experience felt abundant. The art sprang from a place deep within, and was seemingly only given definition by the intention described by the leader at the beginning of the day. I was as surprised as anyone else to see what seemed magically to appear on my page! I remember that one day someone pointed to one of my paintings and asked, “Do you see there’s someone in there peaking out?” I looked more closely. Indeed there was. Peering through what looked like golden glasses, was a red haired boy. I suddenly remembered a doll my parents had purchased years before, one with red hair, a little guy we named ‘Harry.’ I laughed and announced, delighted, “It’s Harry.” Sometime later when looking at the picture again, I scrawled on the back of it, “Harry was astonished by what he could see when he put on his star glasses and gazed deeply into the cosmic aquarium.” Indeed, that is what the painting seemed to be about. Flash forward a number of years. Much had happened. My Mom died, a significant relationship ended, and I moved to Guelph, to a place where I knew almost no one, but that felt right. I was at a major point of transition and had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, an exquisitely painful and often debilitating disease. I hurt everywhere and really wondered how I’d survive it all. I heard from some Muskoka writer friends who were going to Cuba and thought the beach and warmth might be a good idea. I tagged along and, though I spent a great deal of time resting, I managed to take in one of the workshops at which I heard about a publishing program called “Dragon® Naturally Speaking.’ I loved the name and began to wonder, “What if there really were a dragon named Naturally Speaking?” From that wonder, over the next year or so, the story appeared. In a way that seemed almost magical, Naturally Speaking evolved, and became a personality with a slow, southern drawl and a sweet sensitivity. I liked him, and wondered how he might look ‘in the flesh.’ One day, a year or so later, while taking an online course called 'Awesomism®' that further expanded my intuition and connection to potential, I again looked at the ‘Harry picture'. I suddenly realized that there, in the 'cosmic aquarium', was what appeared to be the back of a dragon! I made a dragon template, placed it on the 'Harry picture', cut it out and sat it on a blank sheet of white paper. And there he was. A dragon. I immediately realized that I’d captured him perfectly. This guy, though strong, clearly had a softness and a shyness that was very different from our usual impression of dragons. For quite a while, Naturally Speaking, the picture and the story sat with me until one day, a new friend told me about Lisa and that she published books. That was three months ago. And the ‘rest is history. including Lisa’s sage advice that I create all the pictures and leave a blank page at the end for children to draw their own dragon. The pictures are actually collages, all created from other art that I’d painted at one time or another. From their original form, they evolved and transformed into something new. I love the synchronicity and flow of life. When an idea wants to manifest no matter how long it takes, it will. From the creation of the cosmic aquarium seven years ago until the final publishing of the book seems a pretty long time. But clearly the right people and circumstances had to be in place to manifest it all, from artist Pam Brundritt who offered the class in Essex County, to authors Jenny Cressman who planned the Cuba trip and Karen Werhstein, both from Muskoka who presented the publishing tools, to Heather Embree and Betty Young who linked me to 'Saplings', to my daughter, Elise Andrew-McBride and many friends who encouraged me to tell the story, to the perfection of Lisa’s new idea and format for publishing with some of the money going to worthy community organizations. All had to be in place. All had to be in perfect timing for ‘A Dragon Named Naturally Speaking’ to step off the page and to share ‘his sweet dragon manner’ with the world. I am so grateful for it. Thank you. And you know, the other thing that strikes me as I finish up this article, is the Seven Year thing. Seven is a number that reverberates with meaning, from perseverance to transformation, introspection and redemption. It’s about healing and a journey through grace. Challenging 'heroic journeys' often take seven years. I am inspired by the idea of how absolutely perfect that number is for Naturally Speaking and truly for me. As 'A Dragon Named Naturally Speaking' steps forward into the light, so do I. Wow… the universe. Isn't it all so grand? As an aside:. The illustrations in "A Dragon Named Naturally Speaking', have been compared by artist-teachers, Alison Walton and Brenda McMorrow, to those of Eric Carle, That delights me to no end. And I love that 50% of the profits go to agencies that support children on many levels. What could be better?

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