Fog, the starred skyline
Enfolds, obscuring horizon,
Through mist sun rises
Fog, the starred skyline
Fog, the starred skyline
Enfolds, obscuring horizon,
Through mist sun rises
She walks along an uneven, eroding road, eyes narrowed, mind relatively absent, heart honeycombed with loss and the enduring of uncertainty, pain, and unshed tears. Here and there the trees sway to a music she can’t hear. The fog has come again. It comes when she has stored too many false hopes with the dreams she carries: wishes that reality were different than it seems, that what is happening would not be true.
She has tied up her hair and now it loosens as she walks down the path from which the sun is quickly evaporating. Clouds billow in but they are too far off to see, so she worries what shape they will take and whether she’ll still be on the road when they arrive. She will get off the road if the messages they bear prove to be too unfavorable.
The river to her left sings of joy too inharmonious with her thoughts to take seriously. Far ahead a bird cries too loudly. If she had worn shoes, they would have squelched in the mud on the road, but for now she is as silent as the wind.
Silent, for speech eludes her, for song fails her. The silence in herself echoes the silence outside herself, until she is swallowed by it, wrapped tightly in it, a swaddled child of the smothering silence. She feels cradled by the hands of voicelessness until it lulls her into unsettled inaction. Through that indecision she wanders, the hills on the road nothing to her, the touch of the breeze almost not registered. She bends once to pick up a stone, as alone as her heart, and wonders at finding her way through relationships that, like the cliffs far to the west, crumble so imperceptibly into sand until, abruptly, they avalanche into ruin, taking with them everyone all of a sudden.
Trying to reforge the hillsides of her landscape with scarce reinforcements may or may not have salvaged the whole of the puzzle in which was carved a place for each piece of the once vast vertical stretch of stone. The puzzle rearranges itself without her, appearing crooked and baring just beneath the surface the scars consequent of her leaving.
Solemn now, the clouds come, mirroring her grey blue eyes. She should not be here. Her designated normal place is not with the river and the song of the sun bird and the wisps of searching fog, and for a second, she almost forgets why she ever strayed beyond where she was expected to go. But then the why of it is all too easy to recall. Truth telling, especially softly weaving into the world the truth of her self, is a hard won right she should have known she did not possess. Precarious now, much of what her family has worked for, seeded so carefully, and absent is the peace between them, that had never really been there, but which they liked to say they shared.
It was her lack of silence which crippled her happiness and thwarted her dream to belong. This is what they told her, and sometimes, like now, she still feels this way. But she wonders in some small part of her being what belonging means, and whether she is walking away from never belonging just to walk toward it at last. Can a person belong where she cannot be herself?
It was striving to face the fear of breaking the fragile unspoken and specious borders around what no one wished to face that brought her here, alone and to this road, and far from what she knows. Now the silence beckons with its’ eerie siren’s call: “slip into the shelter of sonorous slumber, where are you going you young hapless wanderer?” But it is not the place of the silence to question her with who she thinks she is. The answer to this cannot be determined in silence, and this as much she knows. In anger now she shouts at the silence to leave her alone–the last of her supposed company who she’d rather be without.
She senses the twilight twinkling at her as she makes for the night a place to stop and reflect on the unknown of the future. To her, now, the morning later, time crawls as she still decides on nothing. She tells herself she will survive. She is thirsting and terribly hungry for wholesome life, one that matches her aspirations, her dreams, her way of being, the light pulsing through her reflecting shapes she was too often forbidden to share. She is tired of carefully stepping around what is, just to please other people and their strange desire to continue in their illusions, as if there is safety in what they want to believe when that was never so.
Onward, and many days to come, the journey might take her from the life she had which ceased making sense to the life she dares to achieve. What if she is not enough? What if she is not prepared? What if all along they were right and it was only she who lived by illusions as they suspected? Doubt makes the fog grow thicker, but what of it? The thing is done.
She is here, and every step she takes challenges the doubt boiling dangerously. It churns in her stomach as if she contained in herself a pit of earth out of which heavy emotions could spring, doubt, and molten fear, and she will not let it spill over the edges. It is enough, she knows, to scald what is left of a person’s worth.
. Instead she imagines the sea of life within her, and she the selkie, who has finally found her skin. She may not know how to swim yet, and there is always lack of confidence, but she cannot go back now.
Besides, she reasons, she is really not alone. The living stones and water and sky breathe with her, sing to her. Even the blazing fire of the sun walks the sky without like companionship, comforted only by it’s radiant light, no one to speak to, intrepidly traversing up and up the path that winds through the mountain of the stars, no knowledge in the moment that a resting place awaits at the other side. She smiles up at the sun then, willing that it recognize with her that they, sun and girl, have a similar journey ahead.
Perhaps their hearts long for the same freedom, perhaps they both rely on nothing but their light, glowing from within. Perhaps peace is around the bend somewhere up there past the day and it’s encroaching fog. She can’t see the peace or the sun through the fog, but she decides both are there. She walks on toward her dream, every moment carrying her closer and closer to a genuine home. She is that much closer to being sheltered in the truth of herself: the truth she listened to, that called her to change.
These realizations seep slowly into her frozen mind as she stares into the pool in the river, re-braids her hair, crinkles the corners of her eyes, wipes mist from her forehead with a tiny hand, then takes stalk of her few belongings. There is not much, but she has lived this long on her own. Quickly, she grasps the leafy hand of a nearby tree, a standing person, and brushes the dirt from her clothes. She is off again, hope rekindled like tiny suns in her ever watchful eyes.
Things change despite us and our hopes. Things fall away, like the cliffs and the tide, and the song of the sun bird, and the cycles of twilight and dawn. Things you thought you were, no longer make sense. Things you thought you belong to fade or falter, or break apart in a vehement frenzy that surprises all. Things you thought would serve you you no longer need. Things you know now you need must be sought elsewhere. It won’t be like this for long. If you hold on, more of the pieces will fall into place, change can be sharp and demanding but in the place of all that wanting to be true is the real you, the one who emerges carved through the difficult moments you face. Let yourself shine in all those myriad of shapes you never gave yourself permission to share. And though sometimes you can’t see through the fog, know you still are not alone. All of us, myself and the others, we are here.
Why does the fog come
With sleep lurking at its edges?
It descends on me,
I never ask for its cloying hands,
Lifting me slowly, unnoticed,
Until I emerge somewhere on a path of wandering,
Not knowing how long or for what reason.
Perhaps I was not strong enough yesterday:
I did not go on marching into my future
Without heed of my exhaustion.
Still, rest mocked me through the night,
There was no respite for waiting.
Sleepless, I read about imagined people whose sorrow
Sifts like silt somewhere through my DNA.
The people might be fictional,
But the history happened.
Why revisit hungry eyes, pleading faces
Filling the void, frozen in fog?
I already relived them before,
Angry at my helplessness in the face of time.
I can do nothing for two hundred years ago
To quell their desperation and my own.
Their hands, their eyes, their words
Sound and look and feel like mine.
Flailing through this mist of many origins, I cry out,
Searching for you, needing you here.
You come, soul sister, Take my hand,
Touch the top of my head as if consoling a disconsolate child,
Showing me how to feel passed the sadness,
And return to myself, steady and grounded.
I fall asleep at dawn, enfolded gratefully in your arms,
The song of light wrapping us in peaceful calm.
It was the summer of 2011, and the girl had just had enough. She’d been dealing with inaccessible websites, prejudice from professors, anger, so much anger. Like its own creature, alive in itself, rage, rage against the night
shout and scream, become a child again in the worst, worst way.
The girl’s dad told her to just let go, forget about it. But the girl struggles, thinking: but aren’t we here to change the world, But aren’t we here to end this suffering, but aren’t we here? The girl, so here, so agonizingly here, the anger creature within herself with nowhere to go, pounding the cage of her own ribs, cannot be reasoned with, has been ignored for so long.
She tells herself, be sensible, be calm, be strategic, rise above it, be wise. But stronger in her is The conviction that it might all be nonsense and for nothing: look away, look away…
Later that night, the girl goes out to eat, and walks into the restaurant, sitting down at the table her father reserved, trying to enjoy the music with the bird in it. The dad asks, “hear the bird?” And the girl hears the bird, but the fog she’s in makes everything so far away.
The girl thinks, oh no, I made some terrible, terrible mistake, not good not good, why didn’t I listen, why didn’t I know what I already know? She is haunted by the old specs of memories of a loved one.
And then they were there, the man and woman, the couple from the otherworld. They reached out for her, to hold her in their arms, but why now, why her, didn’t she not deserve this kind of love, she had not stopped to breathe, she had not even been rational. Why, why? The girl can’t even look at them.
No words, “there are no words,” she says, and he says, “Yes don’t you trust us, don’t you? We didn’t let you stay lost.”
She had not been lost all day. In fact, it started out well. This morning she had gone for a walk through the tree lined sidewalks of the neighborhood, she had gathered the star leaves off their branches, watched life holding on: the green mixing in with yellow and orange. A season turning in all that leafy rustling, the hands of time. The music at the restaurant is now making a slow, spiral ribbon up to the ceiling, she watches its shapes, grasping after them, hoping for something to hold onto.
No words, no words, but would you trade your words for freedom? But would language give meaning to experience? But that isn’t why she can see them and looks away, cowers hidden within the shaded corners of herself. Even though they still know her, hold her there with flashlight eyes…
So now the girl is sitting still, wrapped in spiraling music and the fog. And he’s still standing there in front of her, that one so tall, who she has only seen several times, and then before that only in dreams, and she does not know his name…
She starts to feel like part of her is wrapped in the fog, so far away, wants to stay there, wants to stay angry, justified, she has a right to be upset, to act like she does not deserve to see Not him, not her. But there, somewhere else, she is already straining against something large and dark, to get away, get away, and she does not actually move at all, but she turns, like a tree toward the light, and barely able to see him out of some terrified eyes, she takes his hand.
He says, it’s the first time almost that he’s ever said anything, he says, “Don’t you trust me, I got you unlost once, and I can do it again. Just let go, jump I’ll pull you through.”
And the girl is there, dumbly, still for a moment. The why whines around her mind, like a wind coiling around itself, waiting. She is holding her breath, wondering whether there will be a storm. Will the sky fall, will she fall, is she just like the sky? But the girl once survived death, quite literally, and this is something even stranger and more baffling, simple and beautiful. This is living, the wildness of truly living, it calls her to return.
She’s not sure if she’s simply no longer afraid of dying, because she’s not, Or is simply no longer terrified to leap into living. But all this goes by in a flash. She is holding his hand, she jumps.
Then a moment passes. She is in the air, is she just going to fall? Will she come apart or telescope back into herself? She wishes she wasn’t so apprehensive. Suspended between worlds, she wonders whether, if he lets go, she’ll be lost forever. But no, the moment of nothing is so very short; and then everything clears, as close as being able to see that she can remember.
The world appears sharply around her, in high definition. She is sitting next to her dad at a table, the music is so clear, the fog is all gone, the room is lighter, the people walking up and down the aisles,
are so vivid, even though she is supposed to be blind she counts every single one. She can see shadows of people across the room.
The people from the otherworld are gone. She didn’t even have time to thank them, or finally ask who they might be. She is grateful and quiet. She has always lived by, with, because of others. She does not do anything alone.
She spends a great deal of time blinking, blinking, blinking. After that, she goes with her dad out onto the floor and then the two of them are dancing.
And now she sits here in the dark, so late at night, because that’s when no one asks her any questions. And she is wondering if it is just as painful to give birth as it is to be born. Because for quite some time, several years it seems, she’s been at doing both at the same time. Neither ever, ever ends.
And all that love from the otherworld people she doesn’t know, blazing away in the dark is enough to melt all that ice away. It is enough to bring tears to her eyes, and stop her gaze for hours, not sure what to do next. But then, why focus on what could go wrong, If to them you are a flawless child, if to them you are whole, and all this talk of shortcomings just a way to make sure people fear living?
We are more worried about shining then burning out, and have all sorts of solutions and programs for failures, but are so wary of success. It would be heroic to conquer the fear of succeeding. But perhaps good enough for them if you jump anyway.
Bean sang quietly to herself, combing her sleek fur, and dawning her overcoat of brightly colored shells and sand dollars. From time to time she glanced above her head. The day had dawned early, and already soft threads of golden hue shown bright and clear, tangling into strange and familiar shapes before her eyes. A cormorant cried overhead, and the wind gusted across the open sea, leaving waves and ripples in it’s wake. Wind rattled the sea reeds that sheltered Bean and her family, and the young selkie’s song began to take on the rhythm of plant and wind and wave.
As the sun began it’s diurnal climb of the sky, joy filled Bean’s heart, for today she would be attending her first naming ceremony. Aisling, who so recently welcomed her first child into the world, had glowed with pride as she made the announcement of the Naming Day to her clan. And now that day had come.
“Are you ready to go, Bean?” her mother, Iona, called as she finished her delicious breakfast of shellfish. “You are in need of food, and I have yet to see your face in the kitchen! Hurry, or you will hunger.”
With a jolt, Bean came out of her reflections and finished the task of rendering herself presentable with swift efficiency. Her mother would have saved some shellfish for her, and she would see to it that today would not be the first to miss such a delicacy. “Beidh mé ansin anois díreach! I’ll be there right away!” She hollered back, gliding a moment later into the reedy cove where she and her family often made a meal. The long stringy kelp shielded the family from the eyes of sharks, as well as bears and people, who might seek harm on them.
Iona wondered to herself whether now would be the time to tell her daughter of the elders’ decision as they had a moment alone. Arán, Bean’s father, had decided to travel ahead for there was opportunity then to speak with one of his closest friends—an opportunity that did not arise as often as wished. Alone with her daughter now, however, Iona could not coax the shy and difficult words she wished to say into streams of coherent thoughts, let alone into the more structured permanence of speech. Besides, she mused, Bean looked so beautiful and radiant, the light dancing in her eyes betraying her excitement, as she moved gracefully with the transient playfulness of a child. Eithne’s pronouncement would have to wait, and this seemed well enough, as the telling of it would be apt to weigh down the heart of the girl just as it had her own.
Instead, mother and daughter laughed and spoke aimiably as they made their way to the Naming, finding friends to travel with along the way. A new child was a gift and an honor, no matter whose child, no matter if it was a selkie’s first or fifth. On this spring day, with the sea gulls soaring above them and endless depths of water beneath them, there could be no thoughts of grave and weary things. All such had flown with the dawn, and the song of sea and sky effortlessly pervaded all spaces so that sorrow’s shadow could not linger, and any anticipation was purely the possession of that poignant possibility of life anew which a newborn brings with her into the world.
And so it was, that the friendly group chattered and laughed among themselves, speaking of their own children’s namings and that bone deep validation that came from hearing the name of their child spoken aloud in a chorus of welcome. And it was in coming up to the gathering at last, that all laughter halted at once.
A cold clamby grief was settling on the gathered selkies, as if rain clouds were plucked from the sky and dropped without care on top of them each, so that their tails drooped and their fur flattened dully and covered itself in meaningless grey, the kind that is empty and hollow and too depleted to keep up any appearance of lustre. And it was clear to Bean and her companions that something was dreadfully wrong, for where the child should have nestled itself within the special bed of water reeds the women had all prepared for it, there the emptiness lay the heaviest. The child was not there.
Distressed, Bean tugged on her mother’s flipper. “What is wrong, ma?” she whispered in earnest.
“I do not ken,” her mother answered, unable to hide the fear encroaching on her voice, “But hush now, we shall hear from the elders soon enough.” Yet even as she spoke to soothe her daughter, Iona could not quell the unease steeling over her. Whether the elders would decide to proclaim the truth about the whereabouts of the child, Iona knew not. She knew enough to trust that whatever the elders said would be best for the clan, but also knew well enough that veracity did not always coincide with what is best.
Anois, fan go fóil agus ná bac leis, mo leanbh, now wait yet a moment and do not worry my child, for Bean kept the truth higher than all things, including the pronouncements of elders, and children have a way of picking out a falsehood which many older folk have lost throughout in their growing and becoming. So it was that when stillness crept over the crowd like a fierce and fecund fog, and the elders announced that the selkie child was dead, a sharp chill ran through young Bean’s body and she realized she had not believed a word of it. Why she did not, she could not say, but that the elders lied she had no doubt, and she began to wonder what to do with this disturbing realization.
As it happened, ó am go ham, from time to time, Bean was not always out playing with the other children, without care and concern, wiling away her childhood in laughter and games. Sometimes she was found off by herself, brooding and staring off into the distance, and would not break her reverie until someone, usually her mother, shouted her name at least five times. No one guessed her thoughts, but they were in fact of the distance quite literally. For Bean remembered infant children who everyone else seemed to have forgotten, who had inexplicably vanished, whose names were never spoken again. Sometimes the same mysterious fate would befall an older child, and it would be said that the sharks had their way with the unfortunate little one. Bean had tucked these observations away and kept them a secret, for surely to speak of them would greatly displease her family, not to mention the elders who would see to her punishment for her questioning of their judgments.
Anois, now, Bean stared blankly at the empty bed of water reeds and the even emptier stretch of water beside it where the child’s mother would have swum. Strange, Bean thought suddenly, that the mother of the child is not here to announce the child’s death herself. It was an honor, albeit a bitter one, to allow a mother the last words for her babe who never made it to a naming. Had the elders forgotten this custom in their own sadness and pain? Bean thought not. Then why was the mother not there with the clan… unless…
“Ma?” Bean asked, her voice shaking with the horror of the question she was about to ask, “Why can we never speak of the edge? Where is Aisling? What if…”
Bean’s mother splashed the surface of the water so hard that it made the child flinch and hastily swim a bit out of distance. “Dún a bhéal agus bí ciúin! An gcloiseann tusa?” she roared in a whisper. “Shut your mouth, and be quiet, you hear? If I ever hear you say such a thing again!”
Bean lingered stunned in the water near the outer circle of the gathered selkies for a moment, terrified to disobey her mother and pay the penalty, and terrified to stay where she was and wonder, always wonder, at the pieces of what happened that did not fit together, at what really happened and whether there was still time. The clan was taught that nothing left the mainstream alive, that monsters lurked across the current, that no one should ever go to or speak of the edge accept for in prophecies. But what of the missing children? What of Aisling’s unnamed child? For an undead child who could not receive a naming, if such was possible, would be given a fate worse than death. Bean could not bear the thought of doing nothing at all, not with stakes being as high as they were, if there were any hope yet having, that the child might be recovered to her family.
What Bean did next would change her life, and the lives of her clan, forever. She surfaced to take a deep breath, closed up her ears and nose to keep out the sea, and dove out of site. She would not surface again until she came to the edge.