15 April, 2009

"Call of the Selkie"--An Excerpt

Originally uploaded by Multiple fragments of tissue
Maybe it's my Scottish and Irish ancestry, but I have always been enamored by the idea of the selkie. While many people don't even seem to know what a selkie is, once you hear the typical story, you'll gasp and say, "I know that story..." Generally it features a beautiful young woman bathing naked in the sea. A young man comes up on her and finds an empty sealskin on the beach. He takes the skin and hides it from her, forbidding her to return to her home and her kin in the sea. Because she knows that he has that skin, she marries him, has children with him and plays the role of dutiful wife, until one day she finds his hiding place. Without a word to her own flesh and blood, she takes it in her arms and walks off into the sea, looking back only once with conflicting heart and lament before she disappears forever.

I wrote several stories about selkies, and here is an excerpt from one that I had published a couple of years ago when we were first getting eMuse off the ground. If you enjoy the story, I will leave a link at the end, so you can go and read it in its entirety.

"Call of the Selkie"

Despite living in the middle of farm country Pennsylvania, all of my father’s paintings were of the sea in its many guises. Each painting was a tiny piece of him that he’d left behind, the only goodbye note before he mysteriously disappeared that afternoon while I was at school. Every night after he left I sneaked into his studio, stood in the half-dark of the setting sun and tried to decipher the messages he’d left me. Orange slices of sunset slanted through the blinds behind me as I watched the raging sea roil inside the canvas. Alive and overwhelmingly real, in the silence I could hear the distant call of gulls as the waves smashed like fists upon the shore.

Eventually my mother put a lock on the door and gave me a stern lecture about putting the past behind us. She did it just to punish me. She was jealous that the paintings spoke to me, but more afraid that I might discover some hint about where he’d gone. Maybe she worried that I would follow and forget her just like he did. She hid the key so well that entry was impossible. I didn’t cry, or fight her though I needed to. I wanted to scream and tear the smug look from her face, but instead I acted like I didn’t care. She took away from me the last physical connection I had to my father, and for that I could never forgive her.

It wasn’t long after she locked the door that I began to dream myself inside the paintings. Drifting from wave to wave, surrounded by a host of sleek, grey seals, whose joyful song soared high above the waves. Around and around the seals swam in an ancient spiral dance, and then my father appeared from the edge of the circle, young again, younger than I’d ever seen him even in photographs, but his eyes always gave him away. He smiled, and it was a real smile.

“It’s time to come home,” he said.

He held out his hand, and I grasped his fingers, but as he disappeared beneath the water, the waves pushed me upward every time I tried to follow. I couldn’t follow where he went, as though the sea itself kept spitting me out. One by one the seals all disappeared and darkness drew the sun away. Alone, buoyant, wave over wave of salt musk and hundreds of miles between me and dry land, I laid back and floated beneath the endless stars while moonlight rippled silver sheets over my ocean bed.

"Call of the Selkie"

Have a great night everyone, and don't forget, tomorrow is Thankful Thursday! I'm already planning a great blog full of awesome people I can't wait to share with you.


AravisGirl said...

I loved The Secret of Roan Inish. The selkie is just so cool :D

Morgan Mandel said...

I never heard of a selkie, but it's a cute sounding name, sounds like a hypnotic kind of happening.

Morgan Mandel