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THE MERMAID, THE SELKIE & HOPE ~ 05.14.24

Updated: May 19



For a time, the much younger me "believed not in God nor Santa Claus, but in Mermaids."


"They seemed as logical and possible to me as the brittle twig of a seahorse in the zoo aquarium, or the skates lugged up on the lines of cursing Sunday fishermen - skates the shape of old pillowslips with the full, coy lips of women." (Sylvia Plath)


And then one day, later in life and as written in my novel titled 'So Beautiful a Mess', which may or may not exist and which may or may not be based on true events, just like a curious Mermaid caught in century-old nets she surfaced.


Swaddled in the spumes of white-capped waves,

emerging between the relentless shifts of crests and gutters,

she appeared;

righteous,

insanely beautiful,

virtuous,

breathtaking,

nurturing.


I instantly knew she was not an angel of the ocean who would fall in love easily and that I'd have to earn her love. And it was clear to me and all those around me that I desired her, but on which side of that "despairing split . . . the divide between the affectionate and the sexual currents in male desire" was I?


I'd read what F.G. Lorca wrote, that "to burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” I understood this, for history had taught me all about unrequited love. It had also taught me about unreciprocated love, and about what the tale of the Selkie tells us: "Dear Mythological Fisherman . . . Please don’t assume a woman you stumble upon (whether she is clothed or nude) wants to become your wife/girlfriend/lover."


And I didn't, for she towed with her the strength of the seven seas, and I had weak knees.


"She was the ocean and I was just a boy who loved the waves but was completely terrified to swim." (Christopher Poindexter)


But yet I desired her, and though it is said that where "men love they have no desire, and where they desire they cannot love" (Sigmund Freud), perhaps this image of despair, both tragic and beautiful, was not without hope.


Hope for the redemption of men. Hope for mine.

And her?


She is neither anchor nor sail.

She is . . .

the healer,

the usher,

the sextant,

the navigator that marks my beacon

where in the calmness of morning seas I could come ashore

and rest on empty docks to await her arrival.


When she surfaced, even though I'd been called a Pollyanna, that mine was a naively utopian view of the world, and that what I was looking for did not exist, I realized they were wrong. I'd found her; the one I'd been searching for all my life.


And "there are no other creatures like them. With all their brilliance and all their resilience, these "sea women" of Newfoundland and and Labrador "choose imagination over fear". (unknown)


“She" came ashore, seduced like a tempted mermaid, for in the water she'd dreamed she "was half a planet away, floating in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to flamenco guitar.” (Janet Fitch, White Oleander). Even though, all along she'd thought . . . "I'm 'not' a mermaid. This has been just a dream."


And, so it seems, it 'was' just a dream, because she is, as it turns out, a Selkie.


So wipe the sea salt from your hypnotic eyes my dear one. Look and you'll see that you were right. It 'was' a dream, because you are 'not' a Mermaid. You are a Selkie, and you have been all along.


You can sing the symphonies of sea creatures, and you can dance and pirouette through rock pools of water in the sands of shores scattered with sea glass, in and out of the tides, and with the scent of orange blossoms and cinnamon on your skin.


True story.

If you are intrigued by Selkies and have the opportunity to watch the film Ondine by Neil Jordan, starring Alicja Bachleda, Colin Farrell and Alison Barry, it'll be time well spent. As Brian Eggert of Deep Focus Review wrote, "The unique combination of hopeful fantasy and gritty, overcast realism marry in a heartwarming drama, not for children, but rather for the child in every adult."


The Legend of the Selkies . . .


Stories of seal people, also known as selkies, silkies, selchies, or roane, may be found woven throughout the mythology and folklore of several countries in Europe, including Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and Scandinavia.


A selkie is a legendary creature from the ocean that is described as being half human and half fish. This creature is also known as the sea people, the seal people, and the mermaid. They are seals when they are in the water, but as they go on land, they lose their skin and take the appearance of humans.


It is believed that seal people are plagued with an unquenchable desire for what they cannot have. When they are in the water as seals, they crave to be on land, and when they are walking on two legs as humans, they yearn to be in the water. They are able to change from one creature to another by shedding their sealskin and then either putting it back on or putting it on for the first time.


The ancient Celts lived in a world that was just as unpredictable as the water they sailed on. It may be turbulent and raging, yet it also has the capacity to be peaceful, abundant, and life-giving. The seal people are the embodiment of all that is kind and caring about the great oceans; but, they are also capable of shapeshifting and vanishing without a trace, qualities that make them the ideal protagonists for the tragic romance stories that populate mythology.

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