And so the sea reminds me, in between the wave roll, in its silvered colours, of a story.
A man, alone, in his cottage.
He has forgotten how to be with people, so long has he been alone.
On this day he leaves his cottage, tucked in a wooded nook beside the land, beside the sea.
There has been a storm and many boats are lost, but not his. Because although he does no longer understand how to be with people he knows how to be with the sea.
If he wants to eat this day he needs to glean the tides edge and find the sea’s gifts.
At first he thought it was a tangle of seaweed. Looking closer kelp ribbons resolved into hair, and then he saw the broken body.
He lifted her into his arms. She would need to be buried on the shoreline or the sea would come and try to claim her. For what is once the sea’s is always the sea’s.
As he lifted her, a sigh. Alive.
Later he wondered why he took her home. For days she lay between life and death.
He fed her broth, salty like the sea.
In the evening he sang songs beside the fire, driftwood sparks, fire’s crackle his only accompaniment. Until the day she woke.
Slowly she mended. Bone knit. Together, for a while, he knew the warm happiness that comes with caring, with sharing.
Summerlong they shared the small house, and sometimes, yes, the small bed. Now he no longer sang alone. And now, in the evenings, people from the village would come and sit close to his home to hear the songs that flowed from his house on the still summer air.
When the Eistedfod came to town the preacher thought the fisherman and his bride should enter. He asked the man. Silently the fisherman shook his head, turned away, back to his nets. He did not sing for prizes, for an audience. He sang for the joy of the music.
While the fisherman was out at sea the preacher went to his house. He thought to ask the woman. Women, he thought, were vain. She would want the prize. And so he discovered their secret. And so the whole village knew. And all came to look and see the marvel.
When the fisherman came home his house was heaving with a flood of people, his friend, his love, was weeping, keening. The villages pulled at her, cut pieces of her hair ‘for luck’, touched her until her skin was bruised.
He flew into a rage, chased them all away.
That night he carried her back to the sea. By the tide’s edge they sat and sang a final song, then she slipped back into the sea. Rising to the surface she spoke a mermaid’s blessing, that for his there would be always someone in each generation of his family who had the gift of the voice of mermaids.
Nine months later, when he found a child on his doorstep, wrapped in kelp, in a crabshell cradle, he knew he would never be lonely again.