There is an old Celtic story about a seal who swam the icy waters in freedom and absolute joy. The creature moved through the water with grace and speed and total confidence.
One day the seal saw a man wandering the shores of a tiny island and fell in love….day after day she would wait in the waters watching as the man traveled the sandy strip from tiny houses to other buildings. Excitement made her quiver the day he came to the water’s edge and she saw the male beauty of him and felt a mad desire to be with him….
Now certain seals, it is said, have the power to shed their seal flesh and don that of the human. In the cold night, by the light of a pale moon, she did just that and set off to meet the man. They fell in love and soon the man learned of her secret. He adored her and longed to be with her….but he feared as well. What if she left him? How could he live? His friends would laugh at finding a woman and then losing her. So he hid her seal skin and she was trapped in her woman suit.
She was not altogether sad at this state of affairs. He was handsome and charming, but sometimes when the day was drawing to a close he could see her glance out the window as if hearing the lap of the tide. As much as she loved her husband and adored her children, there were times when her woman skin didn’t sit right and she would squirm as if to escape its ill-fitting layers. Everyone always said she must adjust. If she would only learn to live in peace and obedience. If she just became a better wife and mother…..
Time passed and children came to make her laugh and light her eyes, but sometimes as the laughter faded there seemed to be an echo of another life…of another self that was no longer…and once more the skin felt odd, bulky, and dry.
One day while her husband was out on the sea in his boat, one of the children found something and ran to show it to his mother. Seeing her son race across the sand she almost didn’t recognize the thing he carried clutched to his heart. Then it came rushing back to her…that was who she was….that was what she had been meant to be…
All else was forgotten as the memories swamped her. She took the bundle and slipped into it with a sense of coming home. Despite the children, and her husband, she raced to the water and dove into the bubbling surf. Feeling once more the soaring thrill as she darted through the waves and leaped in the air before sunning herself on a warm bed of sand….she knew only a sense of completeness.
She gloried in the feel of the smooth skin covering her bones and moving with her muscles. She laughed as the sun sparkled on the dancing waves and she flipped into the shadows of the watery depths. Yes, that was who she was and she had almost forgotten it. No wonder the other skin had felt so tight and awkward as she struggled to be that other person…
Floating in that other world…in her true world….she looked longingly at her children on the sand. She wanted to stay, yet she ached at the thought of leaving this new freedom behind. Suddenly her son swam out to her and for a long moment they stared into each other’s eyes. With his slicked hair and wide dark eyes he looked very much a seal in the rippling water. For long minutes they bobbed in the waves looking into each others eyes.
“It’s alright mother….you are our mother but you are also a seal-woman. I have never seen you so happy as you are in this moment. How can we take that from you? We love you and want you to be content.”
He reached out a hand and they looked in awe as the hand revealed tiny webbing between the fingers. She would always be with them they realized no matter what form she took. They could make it work if they could learn to unite the two worlds in respect and wisdom and love. Laughing, they shot upwards and then dove together into the deep blue water.
For years and seasons and decades – the family went each year to the beach to play, to laugh and visit with woman who returned to the sea but never left their hearts.
Marilyn A. Hudson