Worlds Below

How the weather swings and shifts across our island, forever changing. An islander once said, "if you don't like the weather on Bryher, stay for half an hour and it will change." Heavy dank fog sat upon us yesterday, monsoon type downpours along with a humid but chilling heat causing travel chaos and trudging groups of soggy walkers determined to get some fresh air.


Turn time, see the moon rise and sink and the new day brings with it bright blue cloudless skies, gentle soft soothing air and glittering turquois seas.

A Sunday sweet and serene.


My project for the day was to create a 'bee house' for all of our bee-keeping equipment, as well as a place for me to expand my paintings, make copious notes about the comings and goings of our bees (a total fantasy in the reality of busy summer life) and doodle short stories. The once Cluckingham Palace has been given a face lift; painted in vibrant iris blue, had a new floor and reclaimed window added at one end and placed in the orchard surrounded by clovers and vetch, bees, butterflies and grasshoppers. It needs an easel and a chair but I can sort that later, for now it is filled with spare hive parts, a traditional and very beautiful grass-woven skep and our dirty white bee suits.


After mooching through the hives, two of which are in the rather precarious position of changing queens, I felt rather hot and sticky, every bit of me longed for the cold sea.


Great Par was what I would call busy, there being four other people at one end of the great arching bay. No one was out where I was heading though, away from shore, towards the deep blue.



The sea dazzled my swim with the most dramatic of light displays. Forget all the laser-tech shows and disco clubs you've seen, the spotlights and sunbeams of water and sunlight flickered and echoed all around me. Spotlights searched from the depths below and it was easy to imagine mysterious sea creatures luring me deeper with their beautiful, hypnotic and enchanting lights.


Over the past four weeks I have been joining in with a writing course titled Saltwater Folk Tales, a magical few weeks of reading and writing about mermaids, selkies and what might happen if the sea were to invade your house. I thought I would write you a little snippet of one of the short stories I worked, and keep working on. I suppose I have to admit it feels a little dark amongst all this dancing light, but I think it may have a happy ending...eventually, and sees the main character finding his true self in the wildness and freedom of the sea, amongst the creatures in worlds far below.


Kelp


Biting blackness. Above below, sinking down. Her fall broken by the sea. She sinks. Sunken heavy and deep, is almost at her deepest when slick fur replaces skin. Flippers feet whiskers lashes. She swims, swims away because she must.


*

Kelp hears her storm-swept scream. A haunting aching echo. Darkening of the night, ink in pot a pool of blackness, blacker than he has ever know. He balls his fists round and tight pressing hard against his ears, hard against the angry thunder of sea beating rock. He hides. Hidden hunkered and hollowed beneath the dimming light of the candle stone whose wick crackles spits dies. His mother had lit the candle dripping wax upon the stone standing proud. Lit it long before she left.


With darkness his father returns, wild from weather windswept and fierce fight flashing in his eyes. Roaring curses, raging at the day he found the creature and brought her into his home.


*

Kelp misses his mother sorely. Spends silent hours alone with her collections of shells, exoskeletons of crab and lobster, of bird skull, feather and web-feet. Treasures he keeps from the watchful eye of his father, who burns the wrack and sweeps the salted sand and never lights the candle stone. When winter storms whip the island, laying salt and sand over all that stands, memories of her swimming in the par play through his head and he hears her calling to him on the wind.


*

The water is frightful fearsome to Kelp. His father's tales of boys that drowned good 'n' proper sway him from the frothy edge. From the deep blue at the cliff base beckoning below and from the pewter flow of turning tide. But as the sun sails and the moon sets and the solstice come and go, Kelp grows. He grows quickly, as young do and soon begins to yearn for the sea. He feels brave and bold at the thought of diving into the ocean. His skin prickles with the undercurrents of barnacles, his eyes darken to dark-puddle ink and the bones of his face grow broad and strong.


Whilst one night his father drinks ale over the bar beyond the bay, Kelp lights a new candle upon the granite stone. He watches as flames stretch tall, dancing shadows across the grey-speckled stone. In the shadows a figure appears, flickering supple, gracefully enchanting through the flame. She beckons Kelp towards an island swirled up in sea fog. No sooner before him it disappears within the misty smoke of the candle, but Kelp has seen this island before, in a storm dream sent by his mother.


The next day, watery pale the first light of dawn and the wind set fair for sailing, Kelp runs to the harbour, busy with fishermen in blood stained yellow oilers, pipes in mouths and fisher-wives who slap and slop glinting silver mackerel from basket to wicker-woven basket, pointing as the boy races towards the sailboat readying its sails to depart for sea...


...I'll let you imagine the rest.




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