Shelley was named for gifts from the sea, in the days when names were not given the great consideration for cleverness they are now. And she took to her name, and clung to the quiet center of the uniqueness that marked her from all other girls. As a child she dreamed about that center and, in her sleep, heard whooshing echoes of her name (Shelley, shelley, she). Later the center of Shelley became her meditation, keeping her steady in the storms of her life.
Her skin was translucent, her eyes gray-blue. She was fine-boned and seemingly fragile, but her spirit was supple and she was truly strong. Shelley could feel warm while being cold, could seem cold but was always warm. Her Sahara-colored hair had changed to the hues of driftwood, now that she was old.
A collector of memories, events both large and small had charged Shelley's life. She never owned a charge card and cared not for the things they afforded. By the time she came here she had pared down to ascetic beauty and only that. She kept a scrapbook that she called her Family Album preserving seven favorite photos from her youth, one image of a buckskin stallion who could not be tamed, another two from her honeymoon at the sea shore with the husband who left when he realized that she would not be tamed, and one in sepia tones of their child's grave with flowers left on a nearby bench where they signified less finality. The remaining pages were filled with images Shelley had captured of shells, rocks, and wood, along with watercolors she had painted of shells, rocks, and wood and quotes and poems by others about shells, rocks, and wood that she had written in calligraphy onto the rough pages.
When they moved her here to this place where she would ride her final wave Shelley brought with her one favorite shell that she had photographed and painted, but also had taken from the beach where it lay in sand the color of her beloved buckskin, taken it to keep always - or for the always that would define the horizon of her life. Her one-paragraph Last Will and Testament, with instructions to be honored by her attorney himself, spoke only about the always that would define the horizon of the life of this one shell. With funds sufficient for the journey, the will provided for the safe and reverent return of the shell to the part of the world where its native beaches stretched. There, beside the shell, Shelley's ashes were to be poured into a small mound and they were to be left there side-by-side where an evening wave would take her, and the shell might memorize the whooshing echoes of her name (Shelley, shelley, she).
~~~- from Shelley's Family Album, her last calligraphy entry:
maggie and milly and molly and may - by e.e. cummings
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
MLydiaM ~ June 2011
This is a work of fiction inspired by the image by Tess Kincaid, who hosts weekly photo writing prompts at Magpie Tales. There are many more magpies to read there.