Sister Ursula Divine Mermaid & the Old Sycamore

Bear grass cropped

(This is from a FS post I wrote in August 2006.)

I feel like an Old Mermaid this morning right after they washed up onto shore. Right after the Old Sea dried up and they were left without their watery home. Stranded in the desert, drops of the Old Sea beading off of them like sweat. Their bodies changing, shapeshifting before their very eyes. Before the very eyes of the desert and the creatures come to gather at the old shoreline, some of them adrift, too, stranded in this New World. The Old Mermaids didn't huddle together in fear, however. They drifted up out of the wash, they moved up out of the wash, they strode up out of the wash as soon as they were able. They listened to the whispers of the desert. To the Earth that stroked their soles, saying, "It'll be, it'll be, it'll be." Then they built their house, their home, their lives.

One of the Old Mermaids had problems sleeping, however. She had a little more trouble with the shifting of their lives than some of the others; although truth be told, they all had some difficulties. Sister Lyra Musica Mermaid was a bit afraid of the desert creatures for a while. Sister Laughs A Lot had nightmares. Grand Mother Yemaya Mermaid started snoring. And Sister Diana Mermaid couldn’t sleep.

Sister Diana Mermaid who loved the Old Wild Things missed the creatures of the Old Sea. And she missed her Old Self. She was a tough Old Mermaid. Fit in mind and body. Yet while the other Old Mermaids got their land legs, Sister Diana Mermaid still felt watery. Sleepy. And that doesn’t really work in a desert, you all know that. She didn’t tell anyone this, but she felt as if she had lost herself when the Old Sea dried up. Some nights she would try to fall to sleep by singing to herself, “My body lies over the ocean, my body lies over the sea, my body lies over the ocean, so bring back my body to me, to me.” This was not her true siren song, however, and she still could not sleep.

One morning she watched the sun come up over the mountains, ending one more sleepless night. On this morning she heard the whisper of the mountain. Or maybe it was the whisper of the trees on the mountain. The Old Man and Old Woman talking in their sleep? She wasn’t sure. She asked the other Old Mermaids if they could tell what the whisperer was saying. Every one of them told her they couldn’t hear a thing. “You know what this means then?” Mother Star Stupendous said. Sister Diane Mermaid shook her head. “It means the whisper is meant only for you,” Grand Mother Yemaya said. “You must follow it to its source.”

So Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid packed Sister Diane Mermaid a lunch, Sister Bridget Mermaid and Sister Faye Mermaid sang her a blessing, and the others wished her well—and off she went.

We can’t be sure of exactly what happened. We’ve heard rumors. Some say she was up that mountain in a couple of hours. Some say she wandered for days, even months, while she had one exciting encounter after another. Some say she was so sleepy that she was lucky she did not fall into harm’s way. My guess is she went up that Old Mountain in her own sweet time, stopping to talk with the Wild Things on her way up. She listened to their problems, offered suggestions, then went on her way again. She probably dropped in on the Old Man and the Old Woman who lived on the mountain. Or they dropped in to see her. And always she heard this whispering. She asked the Wild Things if they heard it. She asked the Old Woman and the Old Man if they heard it. They all said they did not hear it. “It is for you only, Sister Diane Mermaid.”

Sister Diane Mermaid continued to wander, looking for the source of the whispering. She realized it was the whispering which had kept her awake these many nights. If she listened carefully, she thought it could almost be the sound the Old Sea made as it stroked the Earth, the sound it made when it came to shore and then went back out again. But it was more than that, and it was less comforting. It was more or less the Old Sea.

Then she found herself under the most beautiful tree she had ever seen. (And I mean she actually found herself there, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) She was up above an old creekbed when she put our her hand to steady herself—she had not slept now in many many days and she was quite lost—and her hand touched bark. She felt a spark of electricity, although she would not have called it that. She felt a spark. Period. A snippet of lightning. Heat. It went down to her toes. Just for a moment, and then it was gone. This beautiful tree had many branches that were like trunks and the bark had beautiful patterns—mottled, like a snake skin. It looked as though the tree shed its skin again and again to create a beautiful barkscape. Sister Diane Mermaid fell to her knees in admiration.

“You are the most beautiful tree I have ever seen,” she said. “May I rest here for a while? I am looking for the source of the whispering that has been keeping me awake. Not awake awake. Just not sleeping.” By way of answer, the Old Sycamore let drop a few of its nearly-star shaped leaves into Sister Diane Mermaid’s lap. The Old Mermaid rested her back against the tree. “Perhaps I will just rest my eyes for a moment.”

Right there and then Sister Diane Mermaid fell to sleep. When she opened her eyes, it was dark outside. And the Wild Things sat in a horseshoe around a nonexistent fire waiting for her. She squinted. Wait. There was a tiny flame where the nonexistent fire wasn’t. Flickering blue and red above the ground. Across from it, across from her, sat a big black creature.

“Is it you who has been whispering to me?” she asked.

“I do not whisper,” the Old Black Being growled. “You have called to us, and we have come.”

“But you are not the source of the whispering?”

The Old Black Being that was a Bear said, “We are not.”

Sister Diane Mermaid sighed. “I have not told my sister mermaids this, but I miss our old life. I miss my old self. Now I am lost.”

“We can help you with that,” the Old Black Bear said. “We can tell you where you are.”

“Where am I?” she asked.

“You are here,” the Old Black Bear said.

Sister Diane Mermaid thought about this, and then she nodded. What the Old Black Bear said made perfect sense. Exquisite beautiful sense. She felt the Old Sycamore behind her supporting her. She felt the Earth beneath her. She felt the twinkle of the stars above her. She felt the presence of the Old and New Wild Things all around. She felt completely at home with herself, and she felt herself completely at home. She felt, she felt, she felt. Ahhhhh.

And then she heard the whispering again. This time she recognized it. It was the whispering of her own being. It was the whisper of the Old Sea pulsing inside her—pulsing inside every living being.

Sister Diane Mermaid gazed at the tiny flame in the nonexistent fire.

“Does that belong to me?” she asked. She got up and walked to the tiny flame. The Old Bear took the flame onto her paw as she stood. It danced on her palm. She held it up to Sister Diane Mermaid’s chest and then pressed it into her heart. It tickled and Sister Diane Mermaid smiled. Felt warm. The warmth spread throughout her whole body. She shook herself until it all felt all right.

The Old and New Wild things cheered. Or roared. Growled. Howled.

“Welcome, Sister Ursula Divine Mermaid,” the Old Black Bear said.

And that is how Sister Diane Mermaid became Sister Ursula Divine Mermaid. She Who Is Most At Home Where the Wild Things Live: in her own heart. They danced until dawn.

She opened her eyes, and it was morning. She wondered for a moment if it had all been a dream, but she knew it didn’t matter. Old Mermaid dreams are very powerful indeed.

She hugged and thanked the Old Sycamore. She found a stick up against the tree, just her size. When she touched it, she felt the spark again. It flowed through her whole body, constantly—just like the Old Sea. She thanked the Old Sycamore for the walking stick. She looked around and knew right where she was.

She walked down the mountain and returned to the Old Mermaid Sanctuary where the Old Mermaids met her with wet kisses and Old Mermaid hugs.


Anonymous said...

I love this one, Kim, and I can so relate to this tale of Sister Diane Mermaid and the tree - trees are wise companions, and they have muvh to share with us. It is a travesty that we are cutting them down.

Kim Antieau said...

And aren't sycamores so exquisite! Something about their bark--and their voices. I love the rooted people.