a wild, lovely story of the sea

"The air was warm, silken, promising longer, lazy days, more light, promising all the soft, mysterious smells and colours of spring after the harsh grey winter. The sand itself was streaked with colour from the sunset. Peri lifted her eyes, watched the distant sheen of light beneath the sun fall on water so still it seemed she could simply turn toward the tide and follow it. Her steps slowed, her lips parted; her eyes were full of light, spellbound. She could take the path of the sun to the sun, she could walk on the soft opal breast of the ocean as simply as she walked on the earth, until she found there in the grear glittering heart of light, the golden kingdom ..."

from The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip.

If you all were fans of Patricia's, I would talk about how I think this is her best book, old and slim though it may be. Since you are not, I can only share the excerpt, and my joy at having been given the book for my birthday, after years of reading library copies and wishing, but there always being something more important in the budget - for it's beautiful storytelling, and even more than that it teaches me so gently and precisely about good atmsospheric writing and character creation - and I recommend it to everyone, even those people like me who do not love the sea.




I could never write so beautifully about the sea. I would not be able to make room for it in my heart long enough that I might write its own heart. And as Martin Shaw says ...

"It’s not appropriate to grab some far off tale and expect it to show up ready for business in a climate not suited. However, if the story itself has something of the migrational about it, then a courtship begins. A testing of the ground. And that courtship requires a few standards: no Erin tale will settle unless its near fast moving water, if it doesn’t have dry wood for the fire, if there’s no dram for the lip, no emerald bed, no staff to lend its heft when the feet are weary and the road is long. You have to be loving, generous and attentive when a story arrives. You have to make a home for it. Make it comfortable, more than comfortable." - Efficacy.

I've spent most of my life within eyesight of one ocean or another, and I can't imagine being without it. How does anyone breathe air that is not salted and damp and full of moon dreaming? I was a fisherman's daughter; I've lived on boats and islands, beaches and estuaries. I am surrounded by sea-people who have windswept smiles and sea-bashed feet. Even so, it remains foreign territory to me. I don't speak sea-language. All too often someone will point out to me a current or the shift of the wind, and I'll stare blankly at what seems like just water to me. Patricia McKillip obviously loves the ocean, you can tell from her language. She is a native speaker, although more a poet than an essayist; she writes of pearls and kelp, dragons and dancing light, rather than the technicalities. 

"For Dominick Tyler, photographer and founder of the Landreader project, there is a direct correlation between the richness of vocabulary and intimacy of knowledge. Knowing the ‘right’ word for something in nature reemphasizes its value, he believes, and therefore fosters a desire to protect it." - Lucy Purdy


"‘We have broken the great conversation,’ wrote Thomas Berry in his 1991 book Befriending the Earth. ‘We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars.’"

Books like The Changeling Sea are important, especially for young people, because they offer a richness of language, a vocabulary like old sea shanties, an echoing love for the ocean that too many people need because they live wrapped in concrete, and maybe get to visit the beach but that's very different from knowing the sea. My heart aches so often when I browse the Young Adult section at the library and see endless books which draw young people deeper into their own minds, their own anxieties, rather than offering them the beauty and wild wisdom of the world where they can truly become themselves, in community with the woods and waters - where they can find connection and a deep freedom. 

The Changeling Sea is about just that : connection and freedom, the ties that bind us to love, even when it looks like sorrow. It is a wise and beautiful story for young people, and for older people who have spent their whole life half-washed with salty water and still don't know anything much at all about the sea except the aching loveliness of its dreams. 


Today's photograph processed with a Kim Klassen texture.

14 comments:

  1. Well, now you've got me really wanting to read The Changeling Sea. That excerpt was beautiful. I agree with what you said about young people needing that connection and freedom that is offered in literature about the world, something outside their own minds.

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  2. I'm not a sea person but I like the idea of water and motion. this sounds like a gorgeous read, I will definitely try to get a copy.

    hope you have a great day.

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  3. I love Patricia McKillip's writing and story-telling. This sounds just the sort of tale I would have loved as a girl. Probably I would love it now, though I haven't come across this one...her glowing style is married so closely to Kinuko E. Craft's magical and ethereal cover paintings in my mind that it feels odd to see images of PM's older books without them...her writing definitely deserves better.

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    1. I actually prefer her older stories, which is one of the things I would have discussed if I thought anyone else would be vaguely interested. I think her writing has become richer, more ornate, over the years - and while it's still beautiful, it lacks the tenderness of her earlier stories. The Changeling Sea, Moon-Flash, The Riddlemaster of Hed, even The Forgotten Beats of Eld - all of these have a loveliness to them, to their characters and their finely-wrought language, which I feel the older books are missing. The change began happening after she wrote the Cygnet books. Her characters now seem only in service to her stories, her language. I still love her work, don't get me wrong. But I miss the gentleness, and the people like Lyo and Rad, who are fragile and strong and shaped from glimpses, half-smiles, so alluring.

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  4. Oh and thank you for the lead on Thomas Berry!

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    1. I was pleased to discover him too!

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  5. I haven't read anything by her - it seems that I must! Lovely shot.

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  6. "I've spent most of my life within eyesight of one ocean or another, and I can't imagine being without it. How does anyone breathe air that is not salted and damp and full of moon dreaming?"
    *Sigh*. Yes. Oh so very, yes.

    This post calls to me deeply. And I now must search out The Changeling Sea - I've never heard of it, but it sounds rapturous.
    And I loved your own writing of the sea in Deep in the Far Away, the emotion and power that compels. xx

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    1. Thank you, thank you, so very much I thank you. <3

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  7. I will certainly be looking more into these authors. I live near the sea and couldn't imagine living anywhere else.

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  8. We will have to look at this. My daughter despises the "Young Adult" section. Hugs.

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  9. How very beautiful this image is

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  10. Beautiful soft image, lovely tones
    over from TT
    Lily

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  11. Thank you everyone for such kind comments. They're always truly appreciated.

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