1.01.2009

Once Upon A time


(The excerpt below is from The Fish Wife, the novel I am writing down now. It takes place once upon a time that was now and a time that was then and a time that is to come in a place that is far away and near and dear to you and me.)

Before the sun came up again, Maire took aside her daughter and handed her a small wooden box.

“It looks tiny,” Maire said, “but it will do you well. Every one of the O’Brion women have had one just the same, only different. Before the time of land, they were made from seashells and seal bladders. Or so my ma told me. It’s carved from driftwood found in the auld sea.”

Sara ran her hand over the smooth gray lid and the deep red hinges. Were the hinges made from wood too? Her fingers touched the mother of pearl clasp. The clasp was in the shape of a mermaid; the “s” of her tail fit over a tiny piece of shell to hold the lid to the bottom of the box. Sara carefully moved the mermaid and opened the lid.

The small box was filled with treasures.

Sara put her fingers on a small ball of yarn.

“The good neighbors helped your great great grandmother as far back as forever weave this yarn,” Maire said. “It is woven from sunshine and ocean waves, spider webs and mermaid hair, hopes and dreams. It’s sprinkled with faery dust, too, it’s rumored, so you best be careful what magic you do with it.”

Sara nodded. She had seen her mother’s own ball of faery yarn since she was a baby. Maire used a little of it in every blanket she made, in every dress she sewed. Tonight it was the color of white sheep’s wool, but Sara knew it could take on any color, just like a rainbow.

Tears burned Sara’s eyes. She blinked them away. If the yarn had so much magic, why hadn’t her mother used it to save her from this fate?

Next to the yarn were several needles carefully tied with a ribbon. Underneath them was a tiny pair of scissors.

“Needles for sewing and knitting,” her mother said. “One is new and the others are from your grandmother’s sewing basket. She got them from her grandmother. They’ve stayed sharp all these years. The story goes they were made by a smithy who was trying to protect his children from one of the folk who kept trying to steal the children away. As long as they sewed or kept a needle in their clothes, they were safe from all kinds of thievery, including the faery kind.

“The scissors are new to the family,” Maire said. “My ma told me they were a gift to one of the sea sisters from one of the Fates herself. I give 'em to ya so that you can have some control of your own fate.”

Sara stared at the scissors. Could she take them out now and cut this strand of her life so she wouldn’t have to live it?

Sara moved her hand away from the yarn and touched a sea shell. She picked it up and put it to her ear. She could hear the sea. It sounded as though a storm was brewing.

“So you won’t ever forget the auld ma or the auld sea,” her mother said.

Sara gently returned the shell to the box and then she picked up three small vials wrapped in wool.

“Those are herbs from our land,” Maire said, “and salt from our sea. And this last contains the rich dark earth from the hollow hills where the Tuatha De Danaan went when they left us; it’s mixed with sand from our beaches.”

“Ma,” Sara whispered. “You can’t be giving me this.”

Maire shook her head. “Of course I can. The earth was given to me for you from back at the beginning of time. It’s not just ground I’m giving ya. The earth has everything in it that has lived and will live again. The flowers, the trees, the faeries, our ancestors. My ma gave it to me long ago and said it was a gift for she who would be needing it. She thought it was me, but I never used it. Not once. Maybe you’ll know what to do with it.”

(The photograph is of a paper-doll mermaid that was gifted to Kim by Sister Joanna Mermaid. And Kim is so tickled by it she is still giggling. The paper dolls are made by the gifted artist Elaine Jackson. Kim thinks Elaine is probably a sister mermaid, too. And now Kim will stop speaking in the third person.)

3 comments:

joanna said...

Mmmmm, delectable and enticing! How cool is it, that you've moved over to Ireland. Can't wait to read more.

Cate said...

Oh WOW.... This is gorgeous, and I can't wait to read the whole thing!!!!

Kim Antieau said...

Thank you. Hearing this from two of my favorite sister mermaids warms the cockles of my heart. Blessed sea! :-D