It started last week. My friends and I take turn hosting a monthly literary salon and the theme this time was "grace." I chose to share a chapter from the book I was reading at the time, The Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper. It includes the following passage:
But Martha was awake and was rowing through white ribbons of night mist, everything quieter than seemed possible. She was listening to the quiet when her oar, her left oar, slowed in the water, like it had suddenly become thicker, heavier. And then her right oar too, so she had to push her full body weight up and back to pull through each stroke, like fingers through wind-tangled hair. She stopped, balancing the oars down into their resting places, and leaned out to look over the edge of the boat, into the now-heavy water. Oh, she said. Oh, oh, oh.
She blinked, squeezed her eyes shut, and then opened them again and saw the same thing. Things. Hundreds and hundreds, thousands, more than her eyes could count, all around the boat and leading on, out, jellyfish. Glowing and bright like the stars had fallen down into the sea, like she was in the middle a new and important constellation. Orange, green, blue, each one pulsed in time with the others. One big heart, thought Martha. Like one big heart.
|A snowy September day; good weather for reading indoors.|
|Photo by my friend Dee.|
I had seen jellyfish before, in visits with Titch to the beaches near Faith. But never in such numbers, and never so vibrant, so glasslike. The black of the sea was far-reaching, as though no light could penetrate it. And yet here these creatures floated, fragile as a woman's stocking, their bodies all afire. My breath left me. I leaned over the edge of the little rowboat and watched the sea pulse in a furnace of colour.
Wow! I could picture them. And then yesterday, my friend Dee posted on Facebook a photo of an orange jellyfish that she took from a dock in Copenhagen. Wow, again!
Finished with the amazing nineteenth-century adventures of the former slave named Washington Black, last night I picked up something completely different, a Scottish novel that borrows heavily from fairytales. What follows is the opening paragraph from The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan:
That last summer, the sea gave us jellyfish. Every morning when the water slid back and revealed the stony beach, there they'd be: dozens of squishy, silvered things with their purple threaded innards. The girls shrieked to see them, especially when Bee prodded them with sticks to make them shudder. Dead or dying, they didn't know. And it didn't matter -- no one was giving them back to the sea, so they'd die in the end, and when evening came the tide would creep back in and steal the corpses. The sea takes everything.
Has anyone else had literary jellyfish encounters lately?