The Ocean Gypsy
Her skin was a rich caramel and the texture of tough leather. She wore a blue fabric, which had simply been wrapped around her with two corners tied over one shoulder. It grazed the floor and, I would come to see when she walked, that it hid her bare feet. And she wore a necklace made of mismatched shells, some visibly much older than others.
She had been staring out onto the lake when I had come up behind her, but remained composed with her back to me, as if she had been expecting me all along.
I told her that I couldn’t help admiring her fabrics, which had been hung to dry from a make-shift clothesline. The hues of greens, yellows, reds, and blues were exquisite. She would come to tell me that the fabrics were a gift from another traveller – and that somehow, along her journeys, she’d be tremendously blessed with gifts of all sorts from strangers.
“It is beautiful out here, isn’t it? Very still today, though. Maybe the lake is a little sad.”
“No. This one is simply at peace right now. Besides, I do not mind when living water feels like all the tears of the Earth have gathered. There are plenty of days where they are enraged – even the lakes. This water is not connected to The Great Five. That is why she is less than expressive most of the time…but don’t let her fool you…she feels life’s synergy. I have sat by her side for a few days now and I’ve seen her pleased under the sun, entertaining the leaping fish. And how do we notice when the waters are playful if we never see them any other way? Would the days when they give with glory not be taken for granted if they were always cooperative? Waters like this have their purpose. And sometimes these moods – even storms – are necessary. I was raised along the coastal shores, and sometimes there is no option but to remind man of its power individually – or as a collective.”
She turned around to look at me, but said nothing. I could not tell if she was in her forties or sixties. Her serene face was interesting if not pretty – but those eyes. Her eyes were the most unusual I’d ever seen – flecked with different shades of blue and a golden ring around each pupil. Her name was Miriam. At least, that was the name she gave me.
“Which shores?” I asked again.
“Why, all of them,” she said, looking momentarily perplexed by the question. Then I was the one to look confused and she let out an unexpected laugh. It was hearty – even rich. “Ah, yes, of course.”
“You’re settled…just an occasional explorer. You have somewhere to return to. The Somewhere…a numbered place.”
“I guess. Yes,” I said, finding her both odd and intriguing.
“I am a wanderer. Always a wanderer. Always a wanderer born to the oceans. But I have had to go inland. I don’t do it very often.”
“I see.” Not yet seeing at all. “And why have you had to go inland?”
“To help wish a friend a good journey into the realm where there is only the Hereafter, Nirvana, Paradise, Heaven, Elysium. For great warriors, even today’s most honourable soldiers, it may be Valhalla. In truth – it is The Everywhere. We only perceive it differently. There are many names and many versions of the Everywhere. The passage is not a smooth one for those that dare to be great for others. There are too many shadows birthed from the scars of experience and The Knowing, and they can hold one back. At least, that is his way – the Tolcocee way. Some are born into a role by bloodline or some other way. Some roles are more challenging than others. He was The Red Wolf. His people picked him to be The Red Wolf and in accepting he knew that there would be many shadows in the end. Some lives are not easy to live so one must choose wisely. Once he gets there he can be a boy with a name again. He was special. I am a mere ocean gypsy. That is all.”
I cannot tell you how all this made sense to me but it did – if not logically, intuitively. I had no reason to believe her, and she would sound crazy to others. Some of it was hard to follow because of the way she strung words together, but I knew she spoke the truth. The Red Wolf was real. Her friend, the one that had been The Red Wolf, would arrive wherever he was going as a boy. I also knew that she was much more than an ocean gypsy. She had been camouflaging herself somehow.
In the days to follow, at night, under the firelight, she would be tired and sometimes I would see her – someone much younger – and then she’d fade away and all that would remain is the worn out woman that I met that first day.
Every time she spoke I had more questions and no real answers. My curiosity turned to obsession. She had spoken about his people and alluded to the fact that there were other kinds of people. But these people she spoke about didn’t sound like mere people at all. She spoke of humanity as if it were a distant thing she was fond of once. I had questions I was too afraid to ask. I wondered how many of these entities existed on this Earth. How did she meet him, I once asked. She told me she didn’t meet him – she just knew him always. How did she get to the lake and how would she leave? There was no sign that anyone had dropped her off. She had the fabrics, and a wooden and canvas tent that was open to the elements – sun, wind, rain, cold, heat – but not much else. She mentioned gifts, but she had little with her. And I never saw her drink, eat, bathe, or do any other thing humans would do. But she always looked clean and never appeared hungry or in need of better shelter. Why did she stop by this lake? It felt as if she wanted me to know but wasn’t quite prepared for the great reveal. As time passed, I had this feeling that she had been waiting.