Friday, October 28, 2011

The Call of the Sea


What is it about a high tide that draws us to it?  That spell of the water, inching higher along the coastline, rubbing with the salt flats or licking at the pilings of a weathered dock.  Is it that we have no control over the pull and release of the tides?  Or is it that captivating mystery of what lies underneath the surface?

I have a recurring dream since childhood that I can breathe underwater.  I've heard others dream of flying, but I have never tasted that freedom of soaring high above the earth.  I only dream of water, of being surrounded by it.  Its quiet pulse a dull echo in my ears as I swim deeper, chasing the slices of sunlight that illuminate the kingdom of green. 

I love those dreams.  I'm never afraid when I realize I've gone too deep to kick my way back up to the surface, or when the first swallows of salty seawater flow into my lungs and I find that I can breathe.  There's just this incredible sense of freedom, and weightlessness. 

Maybe that's why I chose to write about underwater creatures, particularly selkies--seals that can transform into beautiful women on land.  In Ireland, they say that on the seventh consecutive day of high tides the selkies will come ashore and take on their human form.  But it is in this human form where they are most vulnerable.  For if a man captures their seal-skin and claims it for his own, he severs their link to the sea forever. 

Outside my house on this October day, the river has swallowed half the yard.  White caps etch the usually calm surface of our quiet cove, splashing up onto the dock.  On this seventh day of high tides, I pick my way across the wiry crabgrass that has spread across the browning lawn.  An autumn wind blows the low-hanging branch of an old oak tree back and forth across the swift moving river like a broom, its golden tinged leaves just teasing the surface.

I nudge out of my boots and peel off my socks, sinking to the wooden beams and dipping my feet into the cool water. What would it be like to realize everything that was taken from you was right here, in plain sight, just beyond your reach?  My midnight-blue nail polish winks in the dappled sunlight and I move my toes underneath the surface, marveling at the feel of the water rushing over the tops of my feet. 

But what if I was trapped here on land, forever?  What would I do to get back to my home?


  1. tend to your roses and patiently wait for the Spell Breaker to arrive

  2. I grew up hearing stories and poems about selkies, and I've been crazy about water all my life -- swimming pools, rain, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, even muddy puddles. But oddly enough, I dream of flying and always have.

    A selkie separated from the water...I imagine she'd take long baths, loathe dry places (like the airing cupboard), and find herself drawn by mossy, boggy riverbanks.

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