by Susan E. Wagner
Once, long ago, a woman lived alone in a cottage by the sea. Every day she would walk along the beach in the morning and again in the evening. It was those in-between times when she walked, when the doors to other realms are close enough to walk through.
The woman did not speak when she walked. She would nod her head though, at any others who might be there at the same time. But those times were few as most understood the woman’s ways.
When she was not on the beach, the women would move her spinning wheel to the doorway of her home. There the light was good and the breeze kept her cool.
On wintery or rainy days, the woman placed the wheel by her hearth near the fire. The heat made her cottage cozy and the woman was content.
The people of the closest village and those few in the countryside nearby, kept the woman busy. She had always been the best and fastest spinner and it was natural that she did most of the spinning work for the village. The village people bartered goods and services and lived in harmony as neighbors should.
On holy days or even during festivals, the woman would rise from her work and go into the village. There she chatted and bartered and seemed to enjoy herself. She was liked in the village and well respected. But housewives could be heard now and then questioning why she lived alone.
The village women would invite her into their homes for tea and though the woman tried to reciprocate with invitations of her own, the village women generally would not make the considerable walk to her cottage. Thus, the woman was alone for many years.
Then, one year when it was nearly time for the harvest celebration, the woman was seen at the edge of the village, staring into the distance. She would first stare into the sea and then she would turn away from the sea to face the land, which included the outer edge of the village. She would only stare and then return home.
After a few days of this, a brave young girl chased after her as the woman walked home to her cottage the girl would call out to her, but the woman would not answer.
The girl followed the woman all the way to the cottage, calling out and being ignored. The woman went into her home as the girl stood outside wondering what to do.
After a time, the girl saw smoke rise form the cottage and knew the woman had started her evening fire. Taking this as a sign of some sort, the girl knocked at the door.
When the door opened, the woman smiled at her and invited her in, offering the girl a seat by the fire. They talked about people they knew and the pleasures of the village. They continued to talk over dinner and after that, the woman invited the girl to stay over as it was very late. The girl not stay but she thanked the woman and left.
The next morning, very early, the girl rose from her bed just as night began to change to day. She dressed and went to the beach, walking toward the woman’s cottage. The two met along the way and both turned to watch the sea. After a bit, they both turned and watched the land. They did not speak.
This happened morning and evening for enough days that the villagers took notice. The girl would answer no questions about it and soon everyone came to accept it.
When the woman passed on, the girl kept the habit and later in life was joined by a young girl who did the same. How long this went on, no one knows, though it is clear even now, a woman is on the beach at the times when the realms meet. No woman or girl ever spoke about what she sees or saw. They will never answer any of those questions.
The villagers came to assume the women sentinels of a sort, who stood in place for everyone’s protection. This may even be true. Or, perhaps they watch the others in other realms and ponder their lives, No one knows.
No one knows why it is only woman who do this or how the girls know to step forward – for there is only ever one girl to one woman.
People say this happens everywhere on every coastline, but that may not be true. What is true is the woman never marry and the girls always come from the village. They say the women and girls have occupied the same house for centuries, that it is protected from storms and repairs itself. This is entirely untrue, but it is true no one has ever seen a woman repair anything.
I do not believe this story is true, though my grandmother and my mother insist it is. Someday I shall see for myself and I promise I will tell all I have discovered.
Susan Wagner is the author of Unmuted: Voices on the Edge, a collection of hybrid poetry on mental illness and families. A former therapist, Susan facilitated creative and poetry writing group therapies. She has published poetry, short stories and feature articles and taught both creative and business writing. Susan is an editor with The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center and currently finishing her second novel. Her next book of poetry, another in the Unmuted series, will soon be available on Amazon.