I'm in Sheffield right now, preparing for The Secrets of the Selkies tonight, immersed in the lore of seals and sea ... and I'm reminded of these salty, mysterious words from Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard:
"Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors spreading, a dawn fast over the mountains split....
"I open my eyes. The god lifts from the water. His head fills the bay. He is Puget Sound, the Pacific; his breast rises from pastures; his fingers are firs; islands slide wet down his shoulders. Islands slip blue from his shoulders and glide over the water, the empty, lighted water like a stage.
"Today's god rises, his long eyes flecked in clouds. He flings his arms, spreading colors; he arches, cupping sky in his belly; he vaults, vaulting and spread, holding all and spread on me like skin.
"I came here to study hard things -- rock mountains and sea salt -- and to temper my spirit on their edges...[And what I face is] sea, and unimaginable solid islands, and sea, and a hundred rolling skies. You spill your breath. Nothing holds; the whole show rolls....Land is a poured thing and a time a surface film lapping and fringing at fastness, at a hundred hollow and receeding blues....
"Here is the fringy edge; where elements meet and realms mingle, where time and eternity spatter each other with foam.
"The salt sea and the islands, molding and molding, row upon row, do not quit, nor do winds end nor skies cease from spreading in curves. The actual percentage of land mass to sea in the Sound equals that of the rest of the planet: we have less time than we knew. Time is eternity's pale interlinear, as islands are the sea's. We have less time than we knew and that time is bouyant, and cloven, luscent, and missile, and wild."
Words: The passage above is from Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard (Harper & Row, 1997). The poem in the picture captions is from The Last Selchie Child by Jane Yolen (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2012) -- run your cursor over the images to read it. All rights reserved by the authors.
Pictures: The illustrations above are: Mermaids by Arthur Rackham, Neptune's Horses by Walter Crane, Prospero and Miranda (from The Tempest) by Edmund Dulac, Dreamland and Sea Fairies by Florence Susan Harrison, The Little Mermaid (drawing) by Helen Stratton, The Little Mermaid by Edmund Dulac, another illustration from The Tempest by Edmund Dulac, and water spirits by Arthur Rackham. The photographs are not of Puget Sound, but of me and sea-loving Tilly on the north Devon coast a while back. (The one of me was snapped by Howard.)