The Blue Jay’s Daughter: Commelina…Backwards, Part 18

Blue_FeathersMonday 25th – Year of Elders, 1867 – In the Shadow of Almado.


Extract from the diary of Helena Birch:


Sleep evades me here. Like dusk hangs on to the last of the sun, so too does my mind hang on to consciousness in this place. Turns over and over each tiny thought until, like stones in snow, they become massive cumbersome things that roll across my mind, leaving devastation in their wake.

Without sleep, I cannot dream.

If I could dream, I would dream of feathers, of the wind carrying me beneath the bellies of clouds, high enough to render the ground a study in miniature. In minutiae. That is all of life, the smallest detail, the myriad tiny moments that build a day, a life, a future. All of which I have lost. They have slipped between my fingers as I have slipped, lost my self, my way, the very thing that set me apart: my feathers.

Only a few hours ago I sat sewing in the waning light with Assumption and Avarice. We no longer need to speak. I feel a strange communion with them here, as if I have been enfolded into the twin-ship between them. As such I am uncertain whether this constant urge to let them take my place on the wire comes from my own mind or from that connection.

Do they want me to leave, or do I?

I almost asked them, but what use are words? Even the birds curtail their song here. All of us are silent, all of us are waiting.

Perhaps this is why, when our sewing was done, I began walking and did not look back. I heard them calling for me, telling me to come and get in my costume, but I am done with pretending. If I have no feathers I cannot fly and must resign myself to walking. They will dance the wire tonight. Simple as that. Almost too easy.

I have come into the centre of Almado, where I hope they will not look for me, assuming I have run away to the bustle of the town. From a distance, Almado appears formidable, the tall white walls of the houses like armour amongst the trees, but up close it’s a nothing village, composed of a few mediterranean-style houses, a school, a gathering of home-spun shops all nestled about a duck pond. I could have been happy here, I think.

Almado was abandoned before the turn of the century, in seventeen ninety-six, when the first big town was built nearby. We use the stretch of land beside it to entertain the townsfolk as it’s the only flat space for miles around, the rest of this area being composed of craggy hills or forest. Although we’ve been here every year for the last eighteen or so, I’ve never explored the village and I’m surprised by how perfect it is. How untouched. Undefeated by time or nature.

It feels as though everyone just now set down their cups, their aprons, their bikes and might come back at any second. The wind through the trees seems to carry their voices, as if I might turn a corner and find women laughing, men bartering, children playing. Even the pond looks only recently vacated, ripples carved across the surface as if a swan has swept its clumsy way into flight.

I stand for many minutes waiting for the ripples to fade, but they remain, stretched across the water like a crack in glass. I wonder then if this is a pond at all, or some reservoir of an underground tributary, flowing from up in the hills. Can reservoirs from underground source rivers have tidal activity beneath the surface? It’s the only thing I can think of to explain the persistent ripple.

I understand tides, they come without warning and sweep everything away

Flight. Freedom. All gone. Washed up on some distant shore.

I thought this was my shore, that I could find myself again if I only came and looked. But I have been looking. Peering in through dusty windows and the cracks between door and frame, finding nothing but emptiness, and silence, the sense of only just missing life by a hair, a feather.

Standing here looking at this tide, I understand I was mistaken. What I lost is not here, it was captured by whatever tide swept through my life and taken far away from me, somewhere entirely unfamiliar. Maybe too far for me to reach. Who knows how far a tide can flow, how distant the shore it might reach, tides are slaves to the moon, much as we are. Perhaps that is why we’re so vulnerable.

But do all tides flow in the same direction, and can I use that?

Tide against tide. Tide seeking tide.

I strip the clothes from my body. Slip into the cool enfold of the water. I will swim this tide over and over, searching for a way to reverse the damage done, hoping against hope that my arms will rise from the water covered in feathers. That I can restore myself. And then, perhaps, the birds will sing to me. Or I to them.

After all, with my feathers, am I not a Blue jay?


© Ren Warom 2014


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