Sunday 31 July 2022

Celia and the Seal Woman by Sylvia Clare, hot chocolate


Celia was an unhappy child in an unhappy family. One day she decided to run away. She remembered she felt the happiest at the seaside, listening to the waves. One clear night Celia went outside and sniffed. She smelt the sea a long way away. She felt it calling to her like a very old deep slow song inside her own body.
      She walked and walked for seven days until she reached the sea-shore. Then she sat down on the sand, to make patterns with the stones, shells and seaweed. The patterns formed into shapes, drawing her on, making seven seals out of stones and seaweed
     As night went on she didn’t notice the tide rising. The moon was as completely full as it’s possible to be, shining right down above her head, a blue moon, so magical and rare. She didn’t notice the sleek dark shapes swimming into the shoreline and lifting their noses to sniff the air. Not until the first seal gently nudged her with its whiskery snout did she look up. There she saw the seals in her pictures, seven of them coming up the beach.
     The tide was close behind, washing away her patterns, closer and closer. The biggest seal motioned to Celia, and without thinking twice, Celia climbed on her back and folded her arms around the huge, long sleek neck. They hardly had to turn around before the waves lifted them back out to sea.
      The seals took Celia diving and she learned to hold her breath, just as the seals did. They took her to their favourite rocks and she lay out with them, resting there. When they caught food they shared some with Celia, and she grew to love her seal family more than anything, their kindness, their wildness, and their freedom. The way they looked after their young pups and worked together to keep each other safe as much as they could. Life in the wild was wonderful, but it could be brutal too and Celia learned to appreciate and understand the gift I that too. After some time she completely forgot about her old life and the parents who never had a good word to say about anything.
      When she was getting quite grown up, they called to her to come and sit with them on their favourite family rock. The largest wisest seal gently nuzzled Celia and looked deeply into her eyes, then very gently said it was time she went back to her own people.
      ‘But you are my people’ Celia protested tearfully, ‘I belong with you.’

      The oldest seal shook her head. ‘When you called us with your blue moon child magic, you were sad and lonely. We loved you because you were a child. Now you are a full-sized human, you must find your own people. We can grant you one more wish. The life of humans is strange. You must teach them. but every blue moon you can swim with us again and be the seal woman. But never let anyone find this magic. Our world is slowly dying because humans are destroying it. Take our story forwards and preserve the vast oceans of the world. Follow the deep magic and why it brought you to us.’
      Celia listened and knew it was true. She’d noticed how much the fish were disappearing, the rocks littered with rubbish.
      As she said goodbye, the seals gave her a gift of a seal skin and said ‘keep it hidden, and each blue moon come back. We’ll be waiting for you’.
      Celia became a marine biologist and underwater explorer. Everyone was astonished at how long she could dive for, and how much she knew about the oceans and the creatures that lived in them. She showed people what was happening to the oceans and slowly they recognised what they were doing. It took many many years before enough people understood, but slowly , very slowly they began to change their ways and slowly, very slowly, when the seas were nearly dead, enough people stopped the destructive ways and understood that we all live here together and we must all look after each other, whiskers or no whiskers.
      But every blue moon, Celia took a long personal research break, found her seal skin and went back to the beach. There she found her friends waiting for her to join them in the oceans and explore what she must share and teach next. Everybody was always astonished at how Celia made her discoveries, but that is her secret, and ours now too.

About the author 

Poet, memoirist, essayist, and teller of stories. Sylvia enjoys taking part in the festivals on the Isle of Wight, storytelling to audiences of all ages. She is part of trio of poets called Funny That who interweave their words into themes, making people laugh or groan.

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