This beautiful image is from James Browne at: http://www.jamesbrowne.net/
The Selkie Goddess
Melissa E. Beckwith
Ice and wind chill to the bone but do not impede the steps of the weary Traveler.
He does not ride upon a beast but onward he walks into the gale, his steps steady into the night. A harvest moon shines huge and golden, he follows the disk as it gilds though the sky. His steps never falter. Onward up the path into the night.
Finally, night dies into the bitter west. Morning is born on an eastern wind. In the light the Traveler is relieved for his journey is almost over. Shallow wisps of ruddy hair dance from under a scarf. His is a face hollow and solid all at once, his eyes grey like the sky. A man made from the earth to work the earth, he is unyielding and sure.
The well-worn path spills out under his tired, booted feet. It leads him farther from home and nearer to his destiny. Still, he does not linger. His steps are set with purpose and passion burning hot; a purpose known only to him and the howling wind.
The newborn morning soon turns to a hoary dusk. He quickens his pace over creek, crag, forest and glen. Walking faster as the threat of bitter night chases him across purple heather, his eyes watch a glowing sun sizzle into a dancing ocean. The last of its rays kiss his weary cheek. He pulls his scarf tighter and forces his awful steps into a quicker pace still.
As the moon rises to greet him, he arrives at a rocky shore line. Finally, his feet are quiet. The Traveler stands atop a rock, his heart pounding like the surf, he watches so intently. A salty mist coats his lips and he feels the cold spray of the ocean on his bearded face. Exhausted eyes search the black waters—crashing waves deafen him to the world beyond the rocky beach. Anticipation warms his blood. He licks the salt from his cracked lips, a frigid breeze blisters his skin but he is lost to his purpose and nothing is felt.
Finally, they come, as he knew they would. Up from the endless blackness, they come. Shiny dark forms glide from waves. Their huge black eyes glow with the moon. He wrings his frozen hands in yearning as he waits. He watches as shore line smudges take on a different shape.
One by one the Selkies shed their outer selves. Shaking free of fur and form they are re-birthed into a dry world. One by one sleek, swimmer was sloughed off and in its place was grace and beauty. A form not for the sea but for land and for man. He watched them intently as he tried to choose. Which one will he bring home with him tonight? Which one will be his prize? Which one will he take to wife?
Giggles and laughter float up from the beach to tickle his icy ears. He could feel their joyous freedom as it vibrated through the bitter air and suddenly was awash with shame. However, with sin in his heart his contrition soon passed and he watched as one by one they slipped from the shore disappearing into the dark highland hills.
Once again he was left all alone with only the sea’s melody to calm his nerves.
Cold twinkling stars were witnesses and the large round moon was his guide. Over the unyielding hardness of rock and stone he made his way to the one he finally chose. Quickly he runs over shore and rock, ignoring shell and salty sea.
A cold desirous hand gripped forgotten fur. He took in the smell of salt and sea and something else—woman—as he stashed the pelt under his cloak to hide her form. Amongst thistle and peat he took his wait watching the stars slide west. He waited.
Darkness smoldered into dawn and black languidly gave way to grey. The hard, cold frost of night gradually turned to the misty cold of morning. Suddenly he heard them returning to their skins tired from play and eager to return to their watery home.
When he was sure all but one had gone the Traveler went to her. She wept by the sea—wept tears of the sea. The sunshine was testimony that he had chosen well for she was the best. The Selkie goddess herself sat ashore!
She turned her beautiful head and sad black eyes searched his sole as her obsidian hair gleamed in the new light. Her skin was as pearly white as a shell and her body so soft and supple. In that moment, he fell in love. A love so strong his heart was still.
No air escaped his mouth nor could a thought aside from his goddess prize be spared. She was beauty its self—more radiant than a highland sunset, yet darkener than any Scottish night.
At last she stood to face her captor, the one that possessed her skin. Her long hair danced in the sea driven wind, her form was glowing. Her glory was reveled to him for she did not hide. A tear slipped from a perfect cheek resting on a forgotten shell. All hope was lost.
One more look out to sea.
One more look at home.
Black shapes bobbed in an angry sea and they called to her in an endless song of sorrow and loss. The forlorn sounds broke upon the shore and broke upon his heart.
Sun set upon the Highlands once more. A grey, agitated sea called to the rising moon. The Traveler sat upon a rock gazing out over the water. He rested a hand in the warm place—the place that had once held her Selkie form.
His heart broke as the waves did upon unyielding, jagged rock for he hadn’t the heart to keep the Selkie goddess. He had sent her back. Back into the sea.
He knew he would forever watch the churning sea.