In this episode, I dive deeply into one of my life’s most potent stories, The Woman of the Sea. I share my explorations from my book Love Lies Beneath: How reclaiming my Soul through Story became the secret to healing my Heart. I highly recommend listening to Episode 22 Woman of the Sea to refresh your own connections to this tale.
Subscribe to this podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and many more.
My book, Love Lies Beneath: How Reclaiming My Soul Through Story Became The Secret To Healing My Heart is available in paperback and as a Kindle at Amazon.
Exploring Woman of the Sea
From the moment I read this story, I fell in love with it. It spoke to me so deeply. Over time, my understanding of what it was saying to me and for me, coalesced.
What first moved me was wordless and deep, like the fairy places in the sea themselves. Then over time, my awareness and ability to articulate the gifts of this tale took shape and glowed with the promise of those peat embers in the Hearth. I was transfixed and have never lost my wonder of it.
For a long time, I thought this was a story about my wild nature and being domesticated by ordinary life. I related to it as a female who had been told to meet others’ needs and do what was expected of me. I saw that I, myself, was also the farmer, holding my wild nature hostage in the service of the mundane. A part of me was captivated by my wild nature and did not mind abducting it to benefit from partnering with it.
And yet, in captivity, my wild nature could not produce those magical, wondrous experiences that are only found deep down in the fairy places that are as warm as a river in summer. I could not swim with the Selkies, dive deep, and delight in my sleekness and speed in moving through the water.
I kept my wild nature tethered to be a good wife to that part of me that is ignorant of what it is to be a fairy, wild and free, ready and willing to dance with joy at the full moon in midsummer. To risk taking off my skin to feel the ocean breeze and the sand beneath my feet. To sing and dance in unity and celebration with my wild family.
And then there are my children. They are part ordinary, part fairy. My sealskin is returned to me because they are out playing, laughing, and shrieking among the haystacks. I love them very much. It turns out that I do not love staying with them more than I love returning to my wild self. And yet, as my wild self, I can visit them and share the treasures and delights of the sea. I don’t have to abandon them completely. It is just that I will never again return to the land and any possibility of being captured again.
A long time ago, I locked away my sealskin. At least the farmer part of me did. He was well-intentioned, to be sure. Unfortunately, he ignored my tears and my pleas to be set free and for my sealskin to be returned. There was hay to be made, sheep to be sheared, bread to be baked, and chickens to be fed.
My Selkie, my wild nature, could do all those things, although what she was born for was to dive down deep into the sea and explore the enchanted places found there. She was made to be sleek and fast. Her place among her people was assured, and it enriched her. It was her mere presence in all their adventures that gave her life meaning and value.
This is so different from her place with the farmer. In the land of the ordinary, there are tasks and chores. Worth comes through work. There is love, to be sure, but it is not unrestrained and wildly free. During my entire captivity, we both are aware of my sealskin and how I will act if I ever recover it. We choose never to speak of it even though it is present in every moment between us.
My sealskin is my willingness to say yes to my true nature, my wild self. Once I find it, nothing will hold me back from my return to my home in the sea. I love this version of the traditional Scottish tale because there is a pause, a breath, where it seems that the woman of the sea might actually walk back into the house and resume her dutiful life. This speaks to the effects of the length of my submission to the restraints of mundane life.
Like a hostage, I had developed some attachments to my inner captor. I had children with him. I could feel the tangible products of my work in the bread and the yarn. There was a risk in leaving that behind and returning to my original, wild self. Being untethered always feels risky, especially if you have forgotten how.
It is the sound of the ocean that completes my re-awakening. Those waves crashing on the rocks and racing up the shore, reignite my instincts. I had buried them as a way of coping with my captivity, and now they could be set free.