Church of the Old Mermaids is Now an Audiobook!

The wonderful Elinor Bell narrates Church of the Old Mermaid in the new audio book. Take a listen. She does a fabulous job with this favorite book of so many of my readers. 

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New Cover for COTOM!

We spruced up the "classic" cover of Church of the Old Mermaids. Same novel you all love, just a more readable cover. Enjoy!

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Glitter from the Old Sea

Sometimes Grandpa and I would sit in the plaza watching the people go by. He’d nod to this woman or that man and say something like, “I bet she’s from the Old Sea. You can tell by the glitter in her hair.” Or, “He’s definitely from the Old Sea. I hear bells when he walked by. Did you hear them?” —The Blue Tail

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Mugwort and Mermaids

Last week, I harvested my mugwort. I was humming when I started, but soon I began to sing. I continued singing until I was finished. Yesterday when I walked to the raised bed the mugwort shares with comfrey, meadowsweet, black cohosh, and lady’s mantle, the mugwort told me it was time to harvest. I felt holy as I harvested. Ancient. Doing what witches and other wise women have been doing for all time. 

I have only been growing mugwort for a few years. I planted it when I decided I wanted Druid herbs in my medicinal herb garden. I didn’t want to eat them or medicate myself with them: I wanted to be in their presence. Mugwort was one of the plants that called to me when I visited Mostly Medicinals in Portland, a local herb grower. The proprietor warned me that mugwort could take over and I should be careful with it. I took her admonition to heart. Every year I’ve cut the mugwort before it has gone to seed. Including this year.

Before I harvested the mugwort, I regularly went out and hugged them. And when the neighbor children came over and we walked around my yard, the little girl hugged the mugwort without any prompting from me. When I meditated, sitting next to the mugwort, wise women emerged to share laughter and secrets with me. I always feel as though I’m near power when I am close to the mugwort. I feel as though I am with my elders and I had better pay close attention.

Mugwort is a common European plant that was called the mother of all plants for some time. It was one of the plants in the nine-herb charm of the Anglo-Saxons. It’s genus is Artemisia (think Artemis), and it’s been used all over the world as medicine and food. Pharmacologically mugwort is an aromatic bitter (helps digestion and nutrition), and many herbalists considered it the go-to herb for all kinds of women’s complaints. The moxa used in Chinese medicine is mugwort. Matthew Wood says that constitutionally, highly intelligent, gifted, and artistic people benefit the most from mugwort.

In times past (maybe still?) people apparently put it in their shoes or carried it around their waist when traveling to relieve fatigue and to protect them from wild beasts and evil spirits. It was also considered a power plant and was used by shamans and other healers alike to smudge and clear people and places. And regular folk have been using it in dream pillows to help incubate dreams for a long while.

I read in several sources that mugwort was considered a fairy herb, particularly because of its ability to relieve fatigue (tiredness is often associated with fairy mischief). I was surprised to learn that mugwort was also associated with mermaids. In fact, some sources said mermaids actually gave mugwort to humans. I tried to track down the origin of this particular association. It may have started with a Scottish folktale about a mermaid who called out to the villagers when she learned a young girl was dying. She insisted they give the girl mugwort. The villagers did as the mermaid instructed, and the girl survived.

That was about all I could find. Beyond that, I’m not sure why—in folklore terms—mugwort and mermaids are associated. Perhaps it is because mugwort is considered a “female herb” or maybe it is because mugwort has been used to help people dream; after all, the dream world is a kind of oceanic realm. In Church of the Old Mermaids, Myla has her first encounter with the Old Mermaids via a dream.

It must go deeper (or differently) than that, but I haven’t found anything else that explains this link between mugwort and mermaids, and I haven’t had any lightbulb moments of insight about it. Perhaps after reading this you’ll have some dreamy ideas on why mermaids supposedly gave mugwort to land-loving humans.

Let me know if you do. In the meantime, I’ll put some mugwort under my pillow. Perhaps I’ll dream an answer.

(19th century illustration of mugwort.)

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“Old Mermaid Sanctuaries are places where beauty, love, and magic still hold sway, where old is beautiful and young is becoming.”  —The Blue Tail

(This quote can be found along with 364 other Old Mermaids quotes in The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights.)

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The Enchanted Ones

Mermaids are essentially shapeshifters: one of those ancient shamanic beings who turn up in fairy tales and myths all over the world. Like the swan maidens and the selkie, mermaids sometimes stay on shore in the form of whole women, becoming fish wives eventually, often tricked by fishermen who have stolen their discarded tails.

It never ends well. The mermaids are never happy, and the husbands are often haunted. And the children—well, their children eventually lose their mothers to the sea and their fathers to the drink. 

The Gaelic merrow can be enticed to permanent shore life if her magical red cap is lost or stolen. Without it, she cannot safely return to the sea. Without it, she is at the mercy of the person who took it. In my book The Fish Wife, Sara O’Broin’s life is nearly destroyed when Cormac MacDougal steals her red cap. She should have never let it out of her sight, but what can one do when the Wind decides to step in to change fate—or to hurry it along?

Mermaids and sea women of all sorts usually live happily in beautiful palaces beneath the waves. It’s often a puzzle why they ever come to shore or why humans interest them at all. Something about looking for love in all the wrong places?

In Brazilian myth, a kind of fairyland exists beneath the surface of the mighty Amazon River where the Encantados reside. (Encantado literally means “enchanted one;” in this case, we’re referring to the Encantados who are the Botos, the pink dolphins of the Amazon River.) The Encantados live in the Encante much like the people do who live above the surface of the water, only the Encantados are happy, healthy, and very rich. 

The Encantados leave their amazing lives in the river to party and make love with humans, shapeshifting from human-like Encantados to pink dolphins to humans and then back again. They dress very well when they leave the waters, often wearing white suits, and they are either white-skinned or very pale. Once ashore, they will mate with humans—that’s often their goal—and children can result from these trysts.

These powerful beings can also enchant and kidnap humans and take them down below to Encante. Even today, some Amazonians don’t go near the water at dawn and dusk—those in-between times when faeries the world over make mischief or magic. Humans can spot the Encantados by their blowholes. When they come ashore all decked out in their stylish suits, they most often wear a hat to cover the Boto blowhole. Trick the hat off an Encantado and you’ll be able to see whether he or she is fully human or not. 

In many of the European stories of mermaids, the mer women are virtually stripped of power—except the power to lure men to their deaths. They’ve become sirens of horror rather than maintaining their stature as powerful life- and death-giving fish goddesses. The shapeshifting Encantados have remained powerful. Maybe they were never gods and goddesses, so they didn’t need to fall from grace. After all, they’re almost like us ordinary people, only healthier, better dressed, better looking, and richer. 

I love the stories of the Encantados and the Encante. The Boto Encantados inspired my story Seeing Pink. I like imagining Amazonian faeries. I can see them dressed up all in white—or maybe all in pink—dancing on a 
houseboat, looking for (and finding) love in all the wrong worlds.

("The Encante," by Ray Troll. Used with permission; all rights belong to Mr. Troll. Click on painting to see it bigger.) 

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Siren Soup

Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid decided to make a pot of chili out of the anasazi and pinto beans she had got­ten from the Old Man who lived with the Old Woman in the mountains. She talked to the beans all the while she cooked. She always talked to the food. “Beans, beans, we’re Mermaid Queens. Make this stew a healing brew.” —Church of the Old Mermaids 

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Sea Women

I write about mermaids. Not little mermaids. Not those over-sexed depictions of mermaids we see everywhere, with their breasts pointing to the sky and their backs arched like some kind of wannabe Playboy mer-bunny. No. My mermaids are old mermaids. Ancient. They are creators and destroyers, poets and dreamers, artists and musicians, cooks and gardeners, mystics and conjurers, leaders and mediators, witches and sorcerers. They are sirens, calling us to our true wild selves. They are oceanic and powerful, not mere maids, but goddesses all. 

I came to mermaids not as a child but as a grown woman. As a young girl, I wasn’t interested in anything frilly or girlie. At least not that I can remember. I played with trains and printing presses. I wrote stories and books and created an imaginary world where girls and women ruled and had magical powers. Any depictions I saw of mermaids made me think they were powerless, so I wasn’t interested.

Later as an adult, I studied goddess mythology and came across fish-tailed goddesses, but I didn’t relate them to the European notion of mermaids who supposedly lured men to their deaths. Then one winter, I was sitting at my annual writing retreat in Arizona when thirteen women calling themselves Old Mermaids walked out of the Old Sea and into my life. They begin whispering stories to me, so I began writing the novel Church of the Old Mermaids.

I was baffled but interested when these mermaids appeared in my imagination, so I started doing research on mermaids. I learned that one of the first depictions of a goddess was the Syrian fish-goddess Atargatis (who was also known later as Aphrodite). In fact, many cultures had stories of ancient fish-tailed goddesses and myths and legends of mermaid-like creatures belonging to seas, oceans, and lakes. It seemed the modern mermaid was a transformation of the ancient goddess from a powerful creatrix of all life to a kind of fish-tailed Barbie.

During this time, I saw a painting of Yemaya rising out of the ocean—her skin black and her tail bright blue—and I was filled with awe. I could almost hear her head breaking the surface of the water as she rose, could almost feel the drops of ocean and sense the sea shiver as she made Herself visible. I understood then, fully, the power of the symbol of woman as part fish. She was the ocean and she was woman. She was all powerful—the birthplace of life.

Mermaids are ubiquitous these days. Young adult novels are swimming with mermaids. Depictions of them are all over the internet. Is this commercialization of mermaids watering down their power? Or have their powers already diminished over time? After all, most of us have either forgotten or never knew their genesis as fish-tailed goddesses of birth and death. 

My 7-year-old neighbor likes mermaids. The other day she brought over one of her favorite books about a Barbie mermaid, along with several small Barbie-like mermaid dolls. They looked alike, all very thin with bigger breasts than a real woman that thin would actually have. Nothing powerful or goddess-like about these creatures. They struck me as the latest doll form of woman as a kind of monoculture.

Despite the Barbie-ization of mermaids, I wondered why these particular mythological creatures had suddenly become so popular. It could just be the whim of culture or some form of commercialization? 

Then why did they show up to me eight winters ago, before this present mermaid craze? They came into my imagination and I wrote about them. And I keep writing about them. I’ve never written about the same characters or the same world before. Since Church of the Old Mermaids, I wrote a kind of prequel to it, The Fish Wife. And the Old Mermaids are supporting characters in The Desert Siren and The Blue Tail. I’ve put together a book of quotes (mostly culled from the Old Mermaids books) called The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Night. And I have many other Old Mermaids novel in mind. 

Why now? Mermaids come from the watery realms. Carl Jung and others might say they represent the feminine—maybe even the submerged feminine. Perhaps it’s more literal than that. Could it be they’ve stepped out of the Imaginal Realms to remind us that we are the blue planet, the water planet, and our waterways are in trouble? Without clean oceans and rivers, we die, along with most other creatures on this planet. As climate change wreaks havoc on our weather systems and drives water temperatures dangerously high, is it any wonder that a creature from the watery depths rises up and cries, “Answer the call to the wild! It is time. Wake up, now. Wake up!”

Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, Sasquatch is part of the local legends. You don’t have to go far before you find someone who has a story about seeing or almost seeing Bigfoot. But according to some Native American beliefs, Sasquatch only shows up when life is out of balance: You do not want to see a Bigfoot because it means things are either going bad or about to go bad.

Maybe mermaids—in my case, Old Mermaids—are appearing to warn us or to show us that life is out of balance.

I know that sounds like a stretch. One could ask, why are vampires so popular then? What message from the collective psyche do they bring? I really don’t know. But I do believe stories are important. I believe storytellers are voices for the planet: We speak for the planet and all her creatuares. Some stories—maybe all?—come to us from the Imaginal Realms for some reason: to teach, enlighten, warn, encourage. 

When I was 19 years old, I tried to kill myself. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted the awful emotional pain to stop. Afterward, I moved out of the house I shared with three other women and into a tiny attic apartment. For weeks (maybe even a year), I barely said a word to anyone—beyond what was necessary to get through the day since I was working and going to school full time. One night I dreamed about a watery nymph. I remember thinking she was a naiad even though I didn’t actually know what a naiad was. She had water and seaweed running up and down her very white body. She had big soulful eyes. In the dream, we made love all night long. It was a profound healing. When I awoke the next morning, I began to recover and I knew I would survive. Years later, I realized she was probably my first encounter with the Old Mermaids.

Mermaids next appeared to me eight winters ago, just two months before I had two surgeries (when I wrote Church of the Old Mermaids), and they haven’t left me since. I’ve felt like their appearance in my life has been tantamount to a miracle. 

Can they be more than that? Are their appearances or re-appearances on this planet a siren call to us all? Can the stories about them be more than escapist fiction? Can the mermaids—and Old Mermaids in particular—help us uncover or compose our own siren songs—that part of us that is true and valiant and able. 

I hope so. I hope we can finally and forever be full of our powerful true wild oceanic selves—we can be sea women and men—ready to ride the waves of our lives and fix that which is broken and heal that which is sick. 

After all, we are creators and destroyers, poets and dreamers, artists and musicians, cooks and gardeners, mystics and conjurers, leaders and mediators, witches and sorcerers. It is time to awaken and heal ourselves and the world.

(Artwork in public domain, from 1880s poster of a snake charmer; used now as common depiction of Mami Wata, water goddess of the African diaspora.)

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Sea Maidens

“I was in love once,” Murphy said, “when I was too young to know better. I was working in the Sea of Cortez and our ship went aground. We went to land for a time. I wandered around just as you have been and I met one of the local girls. She was beautiful. But it was more than that. Something about her eyes and the way she was in the world. I can’t explain it. I loved her the moment I saw her. How does anyone explain these things? I didn’t see her often. She would come and be with me and then disappear for days at a time. So one day I followed her.”
“Without her knowing?”
“Without her knowing,” he said. “I lost sight of her for a moment and then I saw her swimming away from shore. I stayed there, waiting for her for a long time, but she didn’t come back. I fell to sleep. When I woke up, I saw her and her sisters on the beach up a ways from me. I got closer to them, without them seeing. They were naked, you understand, so it was only natural I’d want to see more of them.”
Sara laughed.
“In the sand I saw their clothes,” he said. “At least that’s what I thought they were. They were shiny and glittery. Like nothing I had seen up to then—and only once since. When the women had their backs to me, I grabbed the cloth that was nearest my lady love. This gave me away. The other women cried out and grabbed their dresses. Only they weren’t dresses. They wrapped them around their waists, and I can’t be certain, luv, but it seemed I saw a flash of tails as they each dove into the water. Every one of them except my love. I knew the stories of the red cap. I knew about the sealskin women. I knew that if I kept a hold of this beautiful thing I held in my hands, my love would be mine forever.”
Sara looked over at him. 
He nodded. “Yes, I knew what would happen. I wanted her so much, Sara. I thought my life depended upon her being a part of my life.”
“What did you do, O’Murphy?”
“She held out her hand to me,” Murphy said. “And I returned to her what was hers. She kissed me. Then she bent over and picked up the most beautiful shell I’ve ever seen—tiny and shaped in a spiral—and she said, ‘You know what this means, don’t you?’ I shook my head. She pressed the seashell into my hand. ‘Whenever you find a seashell it means a mermaid has found her tail and is free again.’ And then she dove back to the sea and swam away. I never saw her again.”

Artwork: "Sea Maidens" by Evelyn de Morgan (1885)

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River Maiden

River maidens stared up at Sara from their watery homes. When Juan stood beside her and saw them, too, she knew he was a kindred spirit.

She said, “You can always tell a river maiden from a human woman. If some piece of a woman’s clothing is almost always wet, then she is most likely born of the sea or the river or the lake.”

Juan touched her sleeve. His fingers came away wet. “You mean like this?” he asked.

“Aye,” she answered. —The Fish Wife

Artwork: "A Mermaid" (1901) by John William Waterhouse.

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Skein of things

From The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights: Lily handed Myla her ball of thread. “You keep it,” Lily said. “I might lose it. Or a cactus faery might snatch it from me. Or a coyote might sing a song I really like so I’d give it to him in thanks. Or a hummingbird might want to use it in her nest. Or a spider might decide it wants a web made out of red hair. You never know."—An Old Mermaid Sanctuary

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For today’s date from The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights: Sara liked the desert immediately. It was familiar in a way she did not quite understand. The silence throbbed in her ears like a distant ocean. In the forests and on the plains they had crossed, Sara had heard and sometimes seen coyotes, but the ones in this desert were different from those. These ones were leaner, more curious. They stopped and watched Sara and the others, seemed to be contemplating whether they wanted to stay and chat for a while. —The Fish Wife

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Wandering in Wild Places

Laugh or weep. We swim in your tears. —Grand Mother Yemaya Mermaid

It’s a little over a month since I began my Year and a Day Living the Old Mermaids Way. Every day has been a challenge. For reasons mysterious and known, anxiety has been running roughshod over me. I am acutely familiar with this particular dance—ride, dirge, wandering—and I am a reluctant partner to this dance. 
Do the Old Mermaids get anxious? Generally speaking, as a group they are able to go with the flow of life, but they have each had difficulties. When Sister Lyra Musica first walked out of the Old Sea and into the New Desert, she was wracked with anxiety. It took her a while before she got her land legs.
Sometimes I feel like I will never get my land legs. Yet at times I feel completely out to sea. And not in a good way. Lately I’ve wondered about all the work and studying I’ve done during my adult life. I wanted to find the truth. Whatever that was. But mostly, I just wanted to be well. I wanted to find the sweet spot everyone else seemed to have found: The Well Place. The At Ease Place. It didn’t have to be Nirvana. Or Shangri-La. Hell, it could be a ratty tea house on a dark street corner called Teed Off. 

I didn’t care. Or maybe I did. I wrote about it. You can find it in nearly all of my books. I write about home. Again and again. I build houses. I create these amazing buildings. I imagine fabulous complicated loving relationships. Even my bad guys usually aren’t bad guys. Well, yes, they’re bad guys, but they aren’t evil. Just screwed up. 

My main characters are always just trying to make their way in a world they don’t understand even when they pretend they do. The Old Mermaids make their way in the world together. Ahhh, I love that. They wipe each other’s tears (and put them in bottles to use in soup later—nothing so valuable and nourishing as Old Mermaids’ tears). They listen to one another. They see each other. They love unconditionally—full out. And any fears or anxiety they have fall away, eventually. 
I am waiting for the falling away.
As time goes on, my characters have gotten more complicated. No, that’s wrong. They’ve gotten older, so maybe they understand better the complicated world. Or understand that they don’t understand. My fictional characters are not me. If I were writing novels about me, I would be bored out of my mind. I write in worlds where I am more at ease (i.e. not dis-eased). But I relate to my characters. Brooke McMurphy from Whackadoodle Times is me in a different life. I understand her absolutely. 
And then there’s Butch. She is who I would be if I were different. 
In my heart of hearts, I am Butch.
I am Keelie.
I am Brooke, Gloria, Sister Lyra Musica Mermaid, Myla...
I’m wandering again. I was telling you about my month. Most of it is too painful to write down. Painful because I’ve been dealing with it for so many years. It feels permanent. I had a sudden revelation last night. (Is that redundant? Are all revelations sudden?) I realized that my entire adult life has essentially revolved around being sick. All of it. How we live. How I sleep. How I work. 
Mostly how I get through every day.
Every day feels like a failure.
I’ve got it easy compared with so many people who struggle with so much. I understand that. I have it easier than many people in my own family. Nevertheless, the last thirty years have not been easy. I have struggled for breath, for ground, for sanity. I have fought hard. I have fought valiantly. I have gone out and slain the dragon. Or wait, a better metaphor would be that I have tried to outrun St. George as he has tried to slay me. I ain’t St. George. I am definitely the dragon.
(Or maybe I am St. George, too. He may or may not have been a variation of the wild Green Man. He may or may not have been associated with curing the mad. And the myth of him slaying a dragon may or may not have been just a misspelling of the word Dagon.)
In any case...
When I realized my entire life revolved around this dis-ease of mine, I had to sit down. I was shocked. I have tried to ignore the sickness. It’s not something I talk about, in general. My family and friends don’t know about my life. I write about it, but mostly strangers read my writing. Strangers know my inner workings better than most people who know me.
What does that mean?
I have always been most comfortable in the wild and with the words—with the story. 
I often don’t understand people. I offend easily and most of the time I have no idea what I’ve done. 
But wait, wait. I don’t want to dive into that pool. 
No, this isn’t about what I don’t do well. Or even what I do well. Ahhhh there’s that word: Well. I like it. I have been searching for wellness. “Well” comes from wel2 which means “to will, to wish.” “Well-being.”
Well is one of those words I check my manuscript for before it becomes a book. I use it too often, mostly when a character is speaking. So I delete most of the “wells.”
Perhaps all these years I’ve been trying to enchant my stories, concoct a spell, make a wish, and it all begins with “well.”
I have always believed my stories would cure me. 
Cure the world?
If my life has been centered on my dis-ease for thirty years that meant it had leeched into every part of my life and no doubt into the relationship I hold most dear: the one I have with my husband. I immediately wondered how much I had changed and damaged his life because I have not felt well for thirty some years.
I have wondered this many times over the years.  
Useless thought process.
It doesn’t matter what was. What is? How can I get sickness out of the center of my life.
I have been trying for thirty plus years. Been fighting. Been trying to solve an apparently unsolvable mystery, puzzle, life. 
Maybe I should just stop fighting, solving, ruminating.
I’ve had some amazing healing moments this month. I healed a bad burn on my hand. It was gone in about fifteen minutes. And then I had about three weeks of almost complete relief from my asthma. 
I’ve cried a great deal. I don’t do that much usually. I mourned the death of a friend. 
Have had brilliant ideas for novels, yet lately, I haven’t been able to write. I feel frozen in fear. Not of the novel, not of the story, but of what’s happening in other parts of my life.
The other night I dreamed I was in a flood. I ran and climbed up onto the roof. I found me some shelter. 
A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed a tiger was trying to eat me. I was holding his mouth open to keep him from ripping me to shreds while I screamed at Mario to go get him something to eat from the freezer. He did what I asked, threw it at the tiger—it was frozen salmon—and the tiger let me go, and Mario and I ran.
That same night I dreamed my mother was back from the dead and I was desperate to keep her here. I showed her the Old Mermaid quilt my father and I had made with a mermaid in the middle. (My father and I made it in real life after my mom died.) I thought that would keep her here. She showed me another quilt, a mermaid quilt, she said, only there was an angel in the middle of it, not a mermaid. I knew then that she would leave again.
My way of saying this first month with the Old Mermaids has been full of wandering.
I got a batch of seaweed and split it with friends. I invited them over for seaweed soup when it was time to divvy the seaweed up. Two of my friends came. We each contributed to the soup. We stirred the pot. We talked. It was nice sitting at my kitchen table with two women I had known for years. They have known me so long that I think my bluntness no longer wears on them: In other words, they are used to me and I am used to them. We have gone through a lot together. There’s something to that, isn’t there? Just the experience of shared life can bind people together. I felt blessed to have them in my kitchen. At one point, I told them my plans for the future. Radical plans. Seemingly impossible plans. But plans that fill me with joy. They encouraged me. (Filled me with courage?)
I’ve been listening to a CD of Eckhart Tolle. I enjoy hearing about the “power of now.” Although I don’t always understand (or agree) with what he says, I appreciate being reminded about the “now.” I’ve been studying mindfulness for years. I regularly meditate to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness CDs. Note I used the word “study.” I also “practice” mindfulness, but it is definitely a practice. When I do it regularly, I feel so much better. When I tone, when I meditate, when I do yoga, when I eat right, when when when when when...I feel better. 
Better is just a synonym for well.
For someone with anxiety, being in the now is important. I’m often lost in the past (why weren’t things different) or in the future (how can I save myself and everyone else or what bad thing is going to happen next). Being in the now can be blissful. Unless I’m feeling like shit, unless I’m struggling to breath, unless, unless, unless. And then I can be in the now and say, “this too will pass.”
I’m not sure what Eckhart would say about that.
Today Mario was listening to Tolle with me. We were talking about how when we’re writing we are definitely in the now.
Or are we? 
I’ve always said I’m most at home where the wild things are.
And the wild things are often in my head. 
I am happiest when I am writing fiction. No, I am happiest when I am writing a novel. And the truth is I am happiest because when I am writing a novel I am not beset by demons. By anxiety or fear. When I am writing, I feel like my true self: a powerful Amazon, wild, whole, capable of absolutely anything. Butch without the alcohol. Keelie showing Victor the truth. Gloria healing...everyone. Brooke writing zombie screenplays and pulling herself out of a hell hole. Jeanne cooking up the truth.
Mario and I went to brunch today at one of our favorite places, porque no? in Portland. We sat under the heaters while outside rain washed over the city. In our little room, where we sat alone at a varnished picnic table surrounded by various depictions of Jesus and the Virgin of Guadalupe and various other accoutrements that might haunt a Mexican restaurant, Mario started reciting some of the 13 Suggestions of the Old Mermaids. 
“‘All the wisdom of the ages can be distilled into one suggestion: Be,’” he said. “Kim, the Old Mermaids are all about being in the now. You already have the wisdom.” He began reciting more of the suggestions. I was impressed. He remembered more of them than I did. 
We began discussing “A good bean is hard to find. Everything else is easy.” (That was Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid.) I said, “When she first told it to me, I didn’t really know what it meant, and even now I’m not sure.”
“But it’s perfect,” Mario said. “Because even though we don’t know what it means, we understand it.”
I agreed.
I could feel myself settling into place, into this place, into this body, into myself, into my day, as we talked about the Old Mermaids. As Mario reminded me that all the wisdom I needed was in the Old Mermaids. Was in me. If I needed a how-to, there it was: In the 13 Suggestions from the Old Mermaids.
A woman brought us our meals just then. She smiled at us. She’s young and beautiful, strawberry blond hair, and she’s always kind to us. Sometimes when we get to this restaurant (and are standing in line), the music is up loud and the wait staff begins dancing and Mario and I dance, too, and it is as if for a moment we are all a part of something together, swimming in this Great Old Sea. 
Mario and I dug into our meals. When we were finished, I used a soft corn tortilla to clean up my oval salmon-colored plate. The plate would fit perfectly at any Old Mermaids Sanctuary. I could feel the heat coming from above. The stone floor was hard beneath my feet. I could hear the fans from the heaters above the rain. Across from me, Mario watched me, smiling. 


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From The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights for today: Sara began dreaming again. This time she was swimming in the auld sea as it dried up and she walked up into the new desert, near the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. Her children were running around the patio. The house was full of people. They laughed and sang and worked and played. And the cacti, palo verde, and mesquite moved and danced slowly to music only they could hear. Two desert faeries sat in the sand drinking tea. They looked up at her and invited Sara for a “spot a tea.” Her girls called to her and she went running into their arms. —The Fish Wife

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From The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights for today: “I had that dream again the other night,” Myla said. “Where I’m in the Old Mermaid Chapel and the desert is singing to me.” —An Old Mermaid Sanctuary

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The Beginning of A Year and a Day

I began A Year and a Day of Living the Old Mermaids Way on Halloween of this year. It’s been eighteen days now, and what a whirlwind it has been. One thing after another has happened, and most of it hasn’t been what I would describe as “good.” 

Mario and I have both had physical problems, and I haven’t been able to sit still, to ground, to write. I feel like I have a stalker in the form of nearly constant anxiety. I want to get away, but what I want to get away from is my constant anxiety and physical problems.

However, I have had some wonderful revelations during these first eighteen days. Yesterday, for instance, we were listening to a nonfiction book on CD, and some of the prose was quite . . . purple. I started feeling critical of the author. What possible good did this critical feeling do? We wanted to listen to the story, but it wouldn’t be much fun if I was cringing the entire time. I thought "what would the Old Mermaids think?” And immediately, I heard, “Why, Mr. Writer, those are very colorful metaphors!” Ahhh, yes. That felt much better. Instead of being critical of him, they admired him for his use of metaphor. Wow. What a difference that made to how I felt about this book and this writer. I was able to relax and just enjoy the story. 

And a week or so ago, I was trying to figure out how to make a living. Yet again. Eighteen years ago, I was “injured” on the job when the library building where I worked was remodeled and they used toxic materials. So I am very careful about what jobs I consider. In the last year, Mario has been put in danger at his job, too. This made my job search feel urgent. 

I look for jobs every month, and every month I’m faced with the same dilemma: If I work outside of my home, most likely the employer will do something toxic and I will be in danger again. Our experience has been that employers will ALWAYS put budget considerations before employee safety. Always. It’s astonishing to me, but there it is. 

So I thought “what would the Old Mermaids do?” I realized I was going about it all wrong. Instead of trying to find a job I could fit myself into, why not figure out what I was good at and create a job for myself? I have training in many fields, and I’m good at many kinds of work: writing, managing, research, programming (not the computer kind), material selection, efficient workflow design, and permaculture. I have an avocation in green and nontoxic building design, and stories, folk tales, legends, myths, and fairy tales are at the heart of most of what I do. 

And what I’m best at is “visioning.“ I am a great “big picture” person. I know how something should be, I can articulate it, and then I need to surround myself with people who can bring this vision into being. As I began articulating all of this to Mario, I felt a sense of joy. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if it was possible, but I decided not to try and figure out the real-world possibilities yet. First I had to create it in my imagination. Later—although soon—I would create it here and now. But for now, as Mario suggested, I needed to continue to dream it.

Since then, I’ve had a few stumbles. Emergency and urgent care visits have thrown me for a loop. A dear friend died unexpectedly. And as I’ve contemplated this dream of mine, I’ve thought about our crumbling infrastructures, I’ve thought about the realities of life during peak oil, and I’ve wondered how I can dream anything concrete under these circumstances. But, of course, isn’t that the best time to dream? The Old Mermaids lost their entire world. They reinvented themselves in this world. It took a bit for them to get their “land legs,” but once they did, wow! What a world they created.

So I’ll keep working and playing at this. I will get my land legs soon because I have heard my siren call. One day at a time, the Old Mermaids Way. We’ll see what happens!

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From The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights: “I’m not going away, Lily my Lily,” Myla said. “And even if I did, even when I’m gone, the Old Mermaids are with you. They’re in your heart. And mostly, they’re in the stories.” —An Old Mermaid Sanctuary

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What Is Unseen

For today's date from The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights:  Some bird Butch couldn’t see and whose song she didn’t recognize called out from the madrone. Butch smiled. Everything was so bright and clear. The small white flowers on this madrone looked like bells, and she was pretty certain she could hear them ringing. Butch: A Bent Western  

(This isn’t a photo of a madrone tree, but it’s so evocative, and it puts me in mind of Butch. I took this photo along a stream in Sedona.)

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This is the Place

For today's date from The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights: And so it was that the New Woman came to the Old Mermaids Sanctuary one day. She was standing on one side of the wash one moment; then in the next, she walked across the wash and into the sanctuary. She immediately felt at home. She knew this was the place she needed to be. This was what she had been looking for all of her life. And now she was here. —The Second Book of Old Mermaids Tales

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The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights: A Year and a Day Journal

We love The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights so much that we decided to make a companion for it: a BIG sumptuous luxurious "a year and a day" journal. This 8.5 x 11 book has the same cover as The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights: A Daily Guide to the Magic and Inspiration of the Old Sea, the New Desert, and Beyond, but we've removed the dates so you can put in your own and we've made one journal lined and one unlined; you can use both for journals or use one for a journal and one for sketching or mix and match. A Year and A Day is a traditional period of time set aside for study or initiation: and you can begin any time. We hope you will find these journals inspiring and beautiful. Everyone who has seen it just oohs and ahs over it. This is a perfect place to tell your own story and find your siren song.  unlined • lined

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From The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights for today: "I gift you with the mysteries of the Old Sea." 

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Wild Ride

From The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights for today's date:

Because I'm a writer, I often see the world in metaphor—the land is like our body, the land is a quilt, the land is our mother. But I feel the world in my bones, too. I breathe the world in and out. I take off my shoes and I step on the grass, on the dirt, on the earth, and feel my soles against the soul of the world. I feel the Earth—Nature—beneath my feet like an ocean wave and I know I should grab a surf board and enjoy the wild ride.  —Under the Tucson Moon

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Why Does the Dirt Shine?

“Why does the dirt shine?” Lily asked.

Myla smiled. The Church of the Old Mermaids had no dogma, but Myla did adhere to at least one golden rule: Answer all questions put to her by a five-year-old child with honesty and beauty.

“Well, Lily my Lily,” Myla said, “I can’t be sure, but I think those shiny bits of sand are star dust—at least that’s what Mother Star Stupendous Mermaid told the other Old Mermaids when they first got to the New Desert. They had to sleep in the wash for a while, and Mother Star Stupendous Mermaid told them the sand would keep them warm and give them good dreams because it was made from star dust, shed by the stars the way we shed skin. I’m not sure the Old Mermaids believed her, but they did agree that the star dust was much more comfortable to sleep on than they would have guessed.”
—An Old Mermaid Sanctuary

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The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights

We are so happy, elated, ecstatic, and happy (did I say) to announce the publication of The Old Mermaids Book of Days and Nights! We found 364 quotes—one for every day of the year—from the Old Mermaids novels (and from my other novels) to create this inspirational, sometimes humorous, sometimes mystical, always mysterious collection. It's available in print or as an e-book. (Here's the kindle version.) Even if you get the e-book, I hope you can get the print book. We just love this book! 
From the cover: Kim Antieau guides you through a year of wisdom, humor, beauty, inspiration, and love in these daily quotes from her own writings featuring the Old Mermaids and some of the other wise and mystical characters from her books and stories. See what gifts Grand Mother Yemaya Mermaid, Sister Laughs A Lot Mermaid, Mother Star Stupendous Mermaid, Sister Sheila Na Giggle Mermaid, and others have to share with you all year long. (Cover art by Nancy Norman.) You can read FAQ and some excerpts here.

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First Book of Old Mermaids Tales

Green Snake Publishing has published another book in the Old Mermaids' universe. This beautiful little book is perfect to take with you anywhere to look at and read when you need some words of wisdom from the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. This is from the cover copy:

The Old Mermaids left the disappearing Old Sea and stepped onto the New Desert where they exchanged their finware for skinware. With barely a backward glance, the mysterious and mystical Old Mermaids began building their sanctuary from earth, water, straw, and their own breath.

These standalone tales, many excerpts from the novels Church of the Old Mermaids and An Old Mermaid Sanctuary, remind us of the beauty all around us, even on those days when we wonder how we’ll survive, let alone thrive. Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid brews a magical storytelling soup to bring peace. A mysterious stranger brings the Old Mermaids an elixir which is supposed to heal all. And then there’s the Tea Shell where the Old Mermaids serve the most marvelous teas, and Sister Sophia Mermaid dispenses bits of wisdom like, “Never try to stop a wave,” “A watched pot eventually boils,” and “This is not the end of the world, it just feels like it.” Despite having lost their home and community, the Old Mermaids support one another, love their new world, and build community with all their new human and nonhuman neighbors. You can be assured when you stop by the Tea Shell for a cup of Essence of Coyote Laughter Tea that no coyotes were harmed in the making of your brew. printkindlenooksmashwords

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The Fish Wife: an Old Mermaids Novel

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my new novel, The Fish Wife: an Old Mermaids Novel. Like Church of the Old Mermaids and The Blue Tail, The Fish Wife takes place in the Old Mermaids universe where great magic and great heartbreak is possible. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I loved writing it. This is from the back cover:

The women got closer to the water or the water got closer to them. In the semi-darkness, a wave of light filtered through the storm, and the beach shuddered and shimmered. Suddenly Sara saw the women for what they truly were, saw their tails gleam and glimmer, and she looked down and saw her own true self. A gust of wind unsteadied her and snatched her cap from her head. She broke from the line of sea women and tried to run after her hat; only she couldn’t run at first, so she shook off the part of her that was of the sea, as though it was a skirt she no longer needed. She saw the red of the cap bouncing down the beach and she ran after it. She couldn’t lose the hat, especially not minutes after her mother entrusted it to her. Someone grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the roar of the ocean. “I have your red cap,” the man said. “I know what that means.”

An ancient Irish curse holds Sara in its grip: Cormac MacDougal steals her red cap which means she must become his fish wife or she and her unborn child will die. One night she can bear her life no longer, and she seeks out her true love, Ian McLaughlin. When she finds him in the arms of her sister, she calls on the forces of nature to destroy all that she loves. She flees the village with Cormac before anyone discovers the truth. She risks everything on a perilous ocean journey away from the only home she has ever known. She struggles to remember the old ways, to conjure up the magic of her ancient mer ancestors. She washes up on the shore of a new world where she encounters the goddess Yemaya, a Vodou priestess, a shapeshifting lord of the manor, and the Old Mermaids. In this strange and beautiful realm, Sara works to build a new life. But has she outrun the curse, or will it finally be her undoing? printkindlenooksmashwords

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