My maiden name ‘Douglass’ is Scottish. Douglass means ‘black water’ in the Gaelic language of my ancestors. The word ‘siren’ is another name for a mermaid, the creature and folklore of which I find to be most fascinating. Let me tell you a story…
Once upon a time I was on vacation in Ocracoke, NC, and was lolling about on a fairly deserted beach, basking in the sun with the sparkling ocean waves splashing over my feet. Lying there warm and half asleep, lulled by the heartbeat of the sea, I meditated on my persistent feeling of anticipation whenever I was at the shore. I’ve always felt like if I waited long enough, was vigilant enough, I would find a treasure in the sand, spat out and forgotten by the ocean tide. While I’ve found many lovely things beachcombing over the years, I never really found that one special magical gem, that ethereal mermaid’s trinket. So I made one.
I retrieved a pair of pliers and copper wire from the car; I always keep them handy in case I get inspired, and wove together a necklace made from seashells along the water’s edge. When it was finally finished it was a magnificent and beautiful piece, shells of shimmering amethyst and cream, sienna and rust, with shiny threads of copper lacing them all together that would later turn a rich brown patina with the salty air.
I left it on the beach that day, draped gracefully over a large sandy piece of driftwood, as if an admiring mermaid had become distracted and inadvertently left it behind, high on the beach where the lazy summer tides wouldn’t bother to navigate.
I have often wondered what became of that necklace, if anyone found it and took it home, what that person is like, what they thought when they found it, where the necklace is now.
Then an awesome thought struck me. I was that mermaid, that siren of jewelry. It was I who manifested the magical gem, the mermaid’s trinket. The precious gift I had been anticipating and searching for so long was simply to be found within the magic of being someone else’s unknown nautical muse, to be able to bring a little magic and beauty into someone else’s life.
Quite serendipitously, as if to validate my epiphany, I recently stumbled upon this book summary:
“A long time ago, mermaids would rise from the waves on the Breton shores to comb their long hair on moonlit nights. Sometimes they would came ashore in daylight and spread out on the sand their beautiful white linens covered with precious treasures—pearl necklaces, rings of all kinds, and jewels. If anyone approached, they would wrap up their treasures and quickly dive into the sea. One day two young girls were walking along the beach gathering shells. They were surprised and excited to see a mermaid so busy playing with her treasure that she did not notice them. They tiptoed toward her. When they were right in front of her, she looked up, but she did not grab her treasure and plunge into the sea. Instead she gave each of them a gift in a small white linen cloth, making them promise not to open it until they got home. She then waved and dove into the sea. One of the girls could not wait and opened her linen right away. She found nothing but dirt. The other girl waited until she got home and found her linen full of sparkling jewels.” From The Gift of the Mermaid, retold by Ruth Stotter as written in The Golden Axe.