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Elder

In a picturesque bay where tomorrow is yesterday and today, a mermaid sits on her rock.

Around her tail little fish splash in warm water, playing hide and seek amongst brown seaweed, their shadows dancing over the rippled sand. She is dreamily aware of shapes in the clouds. Wisps of fluffy white, which had been a kitten are billowing large now, creating a polar bear. Even as this forms a south wind lifts portions of higher cloud and a horse’s head rises from the white mass.

Nearer the shoreline an otter trots, searching rock pools.

Pulled up on the cobbled beach a black weathered boat rests, its prow raised high, always ready for action. The boat’s timbers fit as snugly as the day they were first put together, such a well-made vessel.

Four men built it, John, Jack, James and Jim. Four skilled carpenters. They know and understand the trees. Elm they make into chairs, oak is fashioned into ornate festoons, and the elder is hollowed out, carved into exquisite pipes. When played they always produce the sweetest tunes.

John, Jack, James and Jim. Four skilled musicians. With a glass of amber liquid set beside them, flames of a warm fire licking over dry logs, and the company of their wives and children, they sit in the evening entertaining each other. The melodies played on their pipes, whittled that day from fresh elder branches, are sometimes wistful and full of longing, for they know not what, and sometimes full of laughter, gaiety and carefree joy.

The music drifts out of the open door and into the welcoming land. All beings pause as the melody enchants the earth. Badger stops snuffling and spends a moment in quiet reflection. Over the tufted grass and into the heather the sound eases the busyness of the bees and they hesitate in a hushed contemplation. The waves of the tune wash over the ash trees in the woodland, where the deer and fawn lift their heads and breath in the still air.

Down at the water’s edge the refrain rolls with the wavelets, the plovers hesitate in their running and listen to the quiet melody. In a languid flow the music follows the moon’s path over the water to where the mermaid sits, combing her hair and admiring herself in a mirror. She turns her head, bending slightly to hear the blissful rise and fall of the tune. A reverie comes over her, the comb and mirror are laid down and the maid of the sea sways to the rising and dipping pitch of the pipes.

In the quiet, with the tidal rhythm of the waves and the land, the mermaid sings a wordless song. A song sometimes wistful and full of longing, for she knows not what, and sometimes full of laughter, gaiety and carefree joy.

The circling gulls, usually noisily squawking to each other, glide the air currents, wings wide and still, looking down in hushed calm. They can see the mermaid and also into the far distance, into the horizon.

They are familiar with the deep, where dolphins are amusing themselves, leaping into the setting sun. As they slide in and out of the water the dolphins hear the Song of the Elder Pipes, the Song of the Mermaid and they join in, bringing to the chorus, the Song of the Sea.

And in that moment, when tomorrow is a yesterday and a today, the earth enchanted, turns on its path through the universe.

Page last updated: 13th Jan 2011