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“The Invocation of Mary Shelley”

I contemplated the lake: tempted to swim, I stood on the shore in pitchy moonlight, a cascade of shadows in shapes of trees that tricked the eye into seeing some gigantic being, a monster from my past. To escape that memory of hell, I dropped my cloak, and retreating like an innocent-accused into her prison cell, I plunged into the calm, cool water. Whispering a poem as though it were prayer, it seemed that a fallen angel was quick to answer me. Bright flashes of lightning suddenly revealed clouds previously invisible in a black sky; the quiet storm illuminated the lake for several minutes until a dark, lacy veil descended like the faint sketches of an artist, crossing out first lines and drawing a new design, a pentimento of seasons. Summer rains had ceased; the cold miserable fall torrents replaced them, and my placid heart became agitated and weary. Wind licked waves and levitated them from their usual occupation. To my horror, a few curled into dorsal fins, a beast of prey in a troubled sea; I swam away, and slunk ashore, breathless with the thrill, and afraid.

Thunder erupted. Exhilarated, I pulled my shawl around my shoulders and watched the storm bestow a sublime, terrific power. Was I the only thing that beheld this beautiful scene? The frogs, I imagined, long had buried themselves with the worms in the earth. A loon wailed like a banshee. Once my eye recovered from the repeated flashes of lightning, I again retraced my path to the cottage where I took refuge in the most perfect solitude. Upon that vindication I sought from the judge, who bore witness to the depraved deeds of that dæmon, I passed whole days on the lake, often alone, or with a friend, listening to the loons, writing letters and allowing nature to restore me. On many an afternoon, I have seen this lake writhe and turn with the heart of a tempest, reflecting in some manner, the true passions of my nature, the fury and fears of a woman, whose airy singular voice, overwhelmed by danger, could not conquer violence, nor any nightmare, amid the crash and hollow cries of the nightly winds through tall pines.

It was a dreary day in November, many years later, when I tore up the papers that beheld his handwriting—that wretch who loomed like a hangman behind my back, transforming every staircase into a scaffold. I’d discovered the papers in a basket, and accordingly destroyed them, and placed them in the woodstove. I assembled some small branches and built a fire in the stove, watching the flames consume the haunted remnants of that evil spirit. Let those be the last words that fixed my fate to ruin. Here, in this bright cottage in a vale, I became my own protectress. This little wood became my hiding-place. In a nearby land preserve, I walked with my dog in meadows full of white flowers, alive with butterflies and wildness, that radiant sister to innocence. I became an advocate for Nature. It may seem a trifling service, lest I accomplish any small thing to prove myself worthy, at least I will be kind to my fellow creatures, and delight in every fortunate chance to row my little boat upon that lovely lake, or to swim in those glistening afternoons. To its powers of restoration, I owe my happiness. In spring, the ice melts, and a cool mist rises from the lake and flits about the forest; the sun sparkles on the lake, flickering through bare trees, allowing a glimpse of the water from my kitchen window. By late May, rains drench a lush green canopy. It bursts into birdsong. The woods become a fairy-land—rich in berries and nuts for the sparrow, wood frog and deer. -LCS

At the lake

In the flash fiction experiment above, I was drawn to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s sublime imagery in her 1818 novel, Frankenstein, and her metaphor of the lake. When her hero/protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, rows across the lake, he sees his beautiful native land of Geneva, and he’s filled with a sense of relief–until he suddenly sees the gigantic creature, climbing a mountain in the distance, and Victor is again consumed by conflicted feelings of guilt, horror, fear, regret, and self-loathing. The lake seems to reflect his best and worst feelings about himself. I borrowed the lines, “I contemplated the lake,” “I took refuge in the most perfect solitude,” and “I passed whole days on the lake,” directly from Shelley’s novel, and kept those particular lines in mind as I wrote this flash fiction piece about a time, a dozen or so years ago, when I took refuge on a lake in Maine. There was in fact a “monster” of sorts, but not the kind that Victor reanimates in his apartment.  The rest of my flash fiction piece is my own writing although I did experiment with a writing style that aspires to invoke the spirit of Mary Shelley, and a bit of her mother, too, Mary Wollstonecraft, especially in the line, “I became my own protectress,” even though neither Wollstonecraft nor Shelley ever penned that line. Both advocated for the idea of women becoming a “protectress” rather than looking to a man to fulfill that role. (See Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792)

Water is a strong element in Mary Shelley’s writing; she seems to use the water element–whether mist, ice, snow, rain, lakes and the river–to convey human emotion. The type of water she uses and the condition of the weather seems to match the emotional condition of her characters.

The full moon yesterday drove me to tears. It’s the sort of energy that turns me into a wounded animal or cursed character from Greek mythology. Normally, a full moon in Aquarius sends me jumping for unexpected joy, since I was born with a triple blast of the cool, breezy and sometimes hurricane-like gales of Aquarian air.  While I’m “Aquarius Rising,” I’m a watery Pisces (Decan 1), which makes me stormy. Truly, I get most creative during thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards. Living in “Thunder Town,” where the radon in the granite and abundance of lakes and ponds attracts frequent thunderstorm activity has helped me to be productive and prolific as a writer, for the most part. (This past year has had its share of dry spells and strange weather.)

The incredibly beneficial Grand Water Trine with Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune in the three water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), with a cosmic “jackpot” moment the week of July 16-19th, was especially golden for those of us born in Decan 1 Pisces with Feb. 23 or 24th birthdays (like mine!), or born in the first few days of Pisces (Feb. 20-25th) more generally. Last week, when I got terribly upsetting news about my poetry manuscript, I thought, “Where’s my cosmic jackpot?” Then I had a wonderful meeting-of-the-minds with a fellow literary nerd, and thought, “Hmmm, perhaps THIS is my cosmic lottery ticket!”  Yet, I was wrong.  Someone yelled “Bingo” prematurely…and we all know that’s a ‘no-no.’ Thus, I had a few epiphanies during this blowhard of a full moon. Ugh.

Summer 2013 is odd in that it has not one but two full moons in Aquarius–one on July 22nd, which dared people (go on, I dare you, see what happens) and the second one on August 20th.  The August full moon is supposed to be aspected with far fewer challenging or oppositional energy for those of us with Aquarian traits (or Pisces, for that matter). I’m hoping for a creative splash of full moon energy to make up for the suck-the-life-out-of-you whirlwind we just had yesterday. Late August could heighten or inspire some cutting-edge ideas.

swimwear19565Fortunately that Grand Water Trine I mentioned has wonderfully magic effects that last into next year, with Jupiter in Cancer (for those of us Pisceans) until July 2014.  This is happy news, especially for my fellow mermaids & mermen looking for a true, soulmate love. But this is just the beginning…we have a whole year of this dreamy Neptunian influence. How lovely! Grab your retro glam swimsuit and pose like a ’60s pin-up girl at the beach. That’s the Pisces way.

If you want a video podcast of your August horoscope, check out Kelly Rosano’s podcast series. I like her. This one’s for Pisces (August 2013). You can find the others at her All Are One Youtube Channel. 

Yesterday I took my gundog for a walk around the pond. The power had been out for an hour or so, but it was a gorgeous morning–sunshine, mild temps, no wind. A beautiful November day. As we crossed a causeway to an island in the middle of the pond, Sophie-Bea looked across the water with curious longing. A flock of ducks dipped their wings into the pond as they skimmed the surface, flying over, hundreds of yards away. I don’t take my dog hunting so I forget that she’s a bird-dog–a pointer mix and a hunter at heart. She stood rigid and pointed her snout in the direction of the ducks. She’s a happy dog though. She might have been a gundog school drop-out, being small for the breed (only 25 pounds) and wimpy in the rain. Like most gundogs, she’s the sensitive type. At home, she has 4 acres to explore, some of it wetlands. She prances like a fox through the marshes and meadows near our home, and trots along the trails that snake around the ponds and lakes.

 Normally we delight in listening to the loons call from one end of the pond to the other. But yesterday morning’s power outtage had many people running their generators. The sound was eerie. Like groans from not one but dozens of lake monsters, the generators sent their motor-cries bouncing off either end of the pond, coming from several different directions at once. I stood ridgid and listened. I thought of my grandfather, who liked tending to the generator in winter-time. He was an engineer and in the ’30s and ’40s, a machinist with the U.S. Navy. I wish he were still alive so I could get his advice on generators and how to install one at my house. I am told by friends and neighbors in the area that we’ll lose our power 1-2 times a week all winter long, sometimes with the power out for 2-3 days at a go–and at times, for no particular reason.

Nixie’s Vale ~ Lakes Region, Southern Maine

When I first bought my house in Maine, I fell in love with the land around it–just a few acres beside a pond. It seemed magical to me, something out the Chronicles of Narnia, blessed by water spirits. I named my home, Nixie’s Vale. This is what I imagined of my new surroundings.

Because a beautiful Water Nixie lived near the pond, the water was pure. The streams, wells and vernal pools nearby were also part of her domain. At only the height of a grass-blade, the little Nixie would be very hard to spot. Dressed in a light gown that veiled her fishtail, she sometimes emerged from the waters and perched herself upon the stream bank in the shady glen, where she fastened wildflowers to her spaghetti reed straps atop her shoulders, or braided her long wet hair, or coaxed wood frogs and salamanders from their winter hidey-holes. Her dark green eyes matched the reeds that held up her gown and dangled down over her lithe arms. Beneath the gown, her fish tail shimmered in pale green, gray and white scales that matched the white perch, trout and bass in the lake, and her skin was freckled with orange flecks like the pumpkinseed sunfish that danced with her in the pond. Her fingertips wove rivulets of spun water in flashes that might as well have been minnow splashing in schools.

The Nixie symbolizes the soul, femininity and rescue, as well as reinvention and reorganization. She purifies water, and in doing so, has the same effect on the spirits of all beings that come into contact with the water from her pond, streams and wells.

In an old story of one particularly disobedient water nixie, the Queen of Oceans banished the nixie to live inside a single tear. The legend says that we cry salty tears because the little disobedient sea-born nixie had lived for so long inside our tears as part of her punishment, before finally being released and allowed to live in wooded glades, streams, ancient wells and small bodies of water, never again to return to the ocean.

When one refers to a “vale of tears,” we make reference to the earthly sorrows left behind after someone enters heaven. Other definitions to follow ~

Vale. -noun. A valley. The world. A valley often coursed by a stream; a dale. Farewell. To be strong or well. Low ground, marshy meadow. “Vale of years” means old age (Othello).

“Make me a cottage in the vale.” –Tennyson. (“The Palace of Art”) Furthermore, water nixies show up in this verse from the Vale of Tempe by Madison Cawein, 1911:

“It was last Midsummer Night,
In the moon’s uncertain light,
That I stood among the flowers,
And in language unlike ours
Heard them speaking of the Pixies,
Trolls and Gnomes and Water-Nixies.”

Considering how often I meet trolls in life, I suppose it’s a good thing to have some nixie back-up. In some ways, I relate to the water nixie, a lesser-known nymph, who, upon screwing up in her former life as an ocean-dwelling mermaid, retreated inland to small bodies of water: ponds, streams, wells and pools with the job of purifying her element. Like the water nixie, I have missed the ocean, the coastal estuaries and salty rivers of my youth, especially the Sheepscot River in mid-coast Maine, Somes Sound and the rocky shores of Acadia. I am an island girl at heart and my soul has always felt freest surrounded by salt water…how could I possibly live among the lakes like landlocked salmon? It’s requiring a much longer period of adjustment than I had anticipated, but it’s not without its sense of rescue and rejuvenation.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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