Posts Tagged ‘seal’

I have figured it out.

I’ve figured out why I am never at home away from the water.

When I was a kid growing up in Branford, the onset of summer signaled the annual pilgrimage to Page’s Sport Shop on Main Street to pick up a copy of the Tide Table. The Tide Table ruled my life in the summer. It determined what time of day I would pedal my bike over to Hotchkiss Grove Beach or Branford Point in order to hit high tide and the best swimming with my friends who haunted the same beaches (we lived a barefoot, semi-feral existence in the summer months)….unless I wanted to combine swimming with a search for shells or seaglass or digging for clams, in which case it was a fine art determining when to hit the beach so that the tide would be coming in just when I finished collecting my treasures and I could once again make my home in the waves.

Some years ago, I saw the movie “The Secret of Roan Inish” which unfolds something like a fairy tale and includes, among many themes, the Celtic myth of the selkie– if indeed a myth it be. A selkie is a seal who can assume human form by removing its skin, though the sea always remains its true home. In the movie, a man discovers that the woman he has fallen in love with is a selkie. He marries her, hiding her sealskin to keep her on land, and she goes about in a state of wistful longing until she finally discovers the skin and returns to the sea.

Well, that explains it. I don’t live anywhere near salt water now, alas, but I am constantly seeking water…As I float along in one of the local lakes, invariably my eyes close and I imagine I am back at one of the craggy beaches in Connecticut, or in Nantucket, or Prince Edward Island. In a pinch, even a pool will do, as I have vivid powers of imagination. But always and everywhere, in lake or pond or rain puddle, I am seeking the sea.

In “The Secret of Roan Inish” there are scenes where seals are bobbing their heads above water, then disappearing beneath the surface, closely watching the doings of human beings from a safe distance. I saw a similar scene in Nantucket last summer when a family of seals appeared along the horizon line, popping up above the surface and then plunging back down to the depths. It reminded me of those days on the beaches of my youth, when Peter, Beth, Joey, and I, with whoever else might be there, played a game called Marco Polo, diving and surfacing over and over again trying to escape whoever was “it.”

I’ve figured out my true identity. And why I am always homesick away from the water. And why I am always just a little outside the world of human beings.

If I could just find where that sealskin is hidden.

(Painting by Jessica Shirley. Visit her art blog: http://www.jessicashirley.blogspot.com/)


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