Hi, Sea People! The next update will be on Oct. 10, due to Canadian Thanksgiving. Wish I had Cook to help out with the pies!
Hello, finny friends! The merfolk, Sami, and I have been exploring the deeps of a new kind of ocean: the Sea of Improved Eyesight. I won’t go into the details here; if you’re curious, you can read a couple of my blog posts here and here about it. Suffice it to say, hard on the heels of recovering from the month of bronchitis (and missing several conventions), I had cataract surgery/corrective implant in one eye, a month of very wonky eyesight, and finally the second one a couple of weeks ago.
I’m now learning how to draw again, with the aid of drugstore reading glasses; it will be six weeks before I can get prescription ones to truly even up my eyes. (I feel like I’ve passed another official milestone into senior-hood — got the discounts, got the cane, got the reading glasses, sheesh!).
I do have a small stack of Mermaid Music pages in pencil stage lolling about the studio, but as I’m trying to catch up with deadlines for two book projects (one of them another sea book!) right now, they are languishing in the queue. At this point, I’m projecting mid-to-late September to get the story going again. I find myself just wishing I were writing a novel — each page takes so long!
The Zooly Art Challenge (rhymes with July) has been helpful in keeping me at the drawing board; I’ve had to resort to big loose paintings, not at all like my comics with the nice inked outlines and all. You can see the development in the posts I’ve been doing here, here, here, and here. If you’d like to get involved, we’ve decided to keep going beyond the month of July, and form a Facebook group with weekly instead of daily challenges. You’ll be able to find that through the main Zooly Facebook page for information on how to join. There are people of all levels there, from beginners to pros, so it will be a great place to hang out, wherever you’re at in your creative practice.
So thanks for being patient with my fits and starts — Mermaid Music will return after the summer. *cue music* See you… in September!
PS: I know a lot of you are receiving this by email, but if you’d like to get a heads-up on all the things I’m doing, and some cool digital goodies, I now have an email newsletter you can subscribe to:
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Greetings, Sea-folk! As promised In my last missive, I will be posting pages as I get them done. You may remember that this was due to a crazy-busy convention season; well, a funny thing happened on the way to the second and third cons: I caught the nastiest “cold” (that word seems like the understatement of the century) I’ve had in many a year and had to cancel my whole trip, which disappointed me deeply.
I was too sick even to draw comics (which I had planned to do on my trip), so I’ve only started back to work, slowly, over the last week. I decided to take my time on this double-page spread and really enjoy it as therapy, which I did. It’s a good way to work, slowly and carefully and thoughtfully; I often don’t have time to do that with deadlines looming.
So I hope you enjoy this page, and this mysterious dream that Sami is having! I’ll continue posting pages as I get them done, as I am still recovering and need to take things lightly for a bit.
As morning dawned on the second day of the singing, a ship appeared on the horizon. It drew near, but instead of singing, the sailors were quiet, crowding to the side to listen. Then one sailor jumped into the water. Then another. And another and another, until no one was left to steer the boat. The sailors were drowning, not even trying to swim, rapt in the song.
The Great Singers saw this, and stopped singing to catch the sailors and bear them up to the air. As the song faltered, the new people also saw and caught them up in their arms and held them to the air. The sailors became aware, choking up the sea, and thrashed in fear. Some drowned because they could not be held to the air and they could not swim.
Why couldn’t they swim? Well, Limpet… I suppose if they could swim they wouldn’t need ships to move around on top of the water. Maybe it’s because they don’t have fins like we do. I don’t really know… some of them can swim but some can’t, and we still try to help them if they fall in the water. That’s why every pod must have someone carrying a pouch of gill-sponge.
Anyway. The Great Singers captured the drifting ship and brought it back, and a few sailors were lifted aboard by great leaps of the Singers, who then drew their surviving fellows up to the deck. But they were afraid and confused, not understanding that they had been saved, thinking only that they had escaped through their own cleverness. They began to cast spears at the new people and the Singers; many were injured, and one of the sea people was pierced nearly to the heart, and even after the Singers’ healing, was pained there to the end of her days.
The new people were shocked. Then they were frightened. Then they were angry, and began to cast angry songs and thoughts at the ship and it’s crew. The sailors dropped their spears and held their heads, for the anger-songs were painful. They cried out and fell to the deck.
The Great Singers saw this and began a song of their own. Both sailors and new people were captured in it, and ceased their raging struggles. The Singers bore the new people away with them, and as they left the ship behind, cast a song-borne thought that it had all been a dream.
The new people swam with the Singers for many seasons after that. The Singers were uncertain that they had done the right thing, in giving such powerful voices to these unpredictable new beings, and their councils were divided over it. The new people, for their part, were shaken by their own abilities, and that their first reaching out to their land cousins should have had such disastrous results. They begged the Singers for guidance.
The Singers reluctantly gave it. They urged that the new people avoid the ships of the land dwellers, or if they could not, to not allow themselves to be seen, and never, ever to sing within the hearing of the land people. For their desires and emotions, combined with their powerful new voices, could cloud the minds of those who had no defence, and that was wrong.
The new people were sad, for they had hoped to establish trade and friendships with the land folk, but they saw the wisdom in the Singers’ advice and agreed to abide by it.
And we still do — for the most part. Sometimes we cannot help being glimpsed as we listen with longing to the songs drifting out from a ship, and if we cast a thought and a snatch of song behind us as we swim away, to not see, and forget, forget… well, sometimes it hits its mark and sometimes not. And that is why you sometimes see carvings of sea people at the heads of boats or paintings on their flanks; memories are strange things and will sometimes take on a life of their own.
What’s that, Gull? You saw a Great Singer once? Oh yes, that would have been when my sister, your Auntie, returned from her Healing. She learned many things on that journey. Yes, I know, Auntie’s a little strange… you’ve still got to go help her with her urchin garden, though – that’s enough stories for today!
Now, where was I? Ah yes. While the young sea-people gazed in dismay at their former home, all closed up with the sponges and corals of the reef beginning to engulf it, they heard a tremendous song throbbing through the sea. Turning from the ruins, they spied a pod of the Great Singers approaching, their mighty fins propelling them smoothly through the clear green water, their voices weaving together the very stuff of life. As they swam, they tended the life of the ocean, healing what was broken and strengthening what was not with the vibrations of their songs.
As the Great Singers swam past the new people, their immense eyes looked on them and their songs looked through them. “What is this?” they said, in their many-stranded voices. “What is this? Something new!” they replied to themselves, and wove the new people into their song.
The Great Singers saw that the new people were unhappy, and asked them why, mind-to-mind. The new people said that they wished to sing with the sailors, but had no voices.
The Great Singers contemplated, and said that this would take more thought. They asked the new people to swim with them on their journey to the other side of the world so that they might come to know each other better. The new people were glad to do this, as they now had no home, and wished to see more of the world. Along the way, they made themselves useful; their clever hands cleaned itchy barnacles from skin and removed lost fishing nets from fins. They met smaller kin of the Great Singers, and found friends among the playful dolphins, and made pets of the octopuses and eels and turtles, who were all delighted with the people’s ability to crack open the shells of succulent clams and urchins so that all could feast.
Yes, Squid, you’re right; this is when the Fins began to call us Hands!
The seasons turned, and the Singers were once again drawing near the new people’s old bubble-home. They said, “we have thought long on the matter of your voices, and we have found the way to give them back to you. Are you ready?”
The new people were eager, and urged the Singers to begin. The Singers surrounded them on all sides, an immense globe of massive bodies. A thrumming began in the water, and for a while, maybe days, maybe moons, the new people only knew the music and the long, slow thoughts of the Singers.
At last the silence of the sea returned. The new people awoke to the expectant gazes of the Singers. “Go to the air”, they said. “Sing for us!” And the people rose to the water’s bright top, and felt the air wanting to be inside them. They drew it in, then exhaled a sound that was like the surface of the sea itself: sparkling, crystalline, ever-changing. They sang for a day and a night, and the Singers and the dolphins joined them. The seabirds wheeled overhead joining their cries to the music.
Today begins a three-part series about how our mer-folk, the Hands, came to be. I’m posting this in lieu of comic updates for today and the next two Mondays, partly because it’s a good time to add this to the story, and (full disclosure) partly because I’m working to deadline on a book and need to be free to work on only that for the next little bit.
So grab a cup of tea, and imagine that you are a friend of Gull’s and Whelk’s when they were wee ones, listening to an age-old story, told once again…
Gather round close, my little ones, it’s time you learned the history of your people. Not quite that close, Whelk, you’re sitting on my tail! Gull, leave that poor eel alone! Squid, dear, stop pulling Limpet’s hair, it’s not nice. And stop squirming, you’re stirring up the silt and it’s getting in my gills!
All right, is everyone settled? Good. Now listen closely, for someday you will tell your own children this story, for it must never be forgotten. You will hear this many times as you grow, and when your time comes for choosing a name, you must be able to tell this as I, Saleeka, tell it to you, as I heard it from my mother Mareela, my father Doonri, and my Auntie Kareesh.
Long and long ago, we walked upon the land on two tails, like the land people do now. But a bad, hard, sad time came upon the land-dwellers, and the people hid in the sea, in giant bubbles full of air that they attached to the sea-floor.
What caused the hard time, Squid? Well, there were too many of them, for one thing; they had killed all the land-sharks and land-kraken, and there was nothing to eat them. So they crowded the great islands and the shores until they were fighting for space to hunt and grow their gardens, and they grew ill from the closeness, and many died from the fighting and disease and starvation. But still their numbers grew. Their fires made the air hot, and made the sea warm so that all the ice on the cool ends of the ocean turned into water. The sea and the air became angry, and the sea swallowed the people nearest the shore, and the air became a vast wind and swept the people off the land.
Some of them had time to prepare, and as I was saying, they moved to the depths, where the waters were still cool and calm. They looked out of their bubbles and wept for their lost homes.
Most were waiting until the land was safe to walk upon once again, but there was one bubble city on a beautiful, fertile reef that was different. The people of that bubble, a tribe of mighty singers and makers, looked around them and saw the abundance of the sea, and wished to be part of it. They had powerful magic, and used it to transform themselves into beings who could live in the sea.
Many generations passed before they had perfected their new forms, but at last the youngest were ready to set off into the deep and explore their new world. Meanwhile, the other bubbles had been abandoned, having served their purpose as temporary refuges, locked up and becoming the heart of new reefs.
The new sea people encountered the ships of the newly returned land-dwellers. But they found that they could not talk to them, although they could hear and understand them; in the changes that had been wrought so that they could live underwater, they had lost their voices, and could only speak mind-to-mind with memories of the sounds the sailors used, the same that their ancestors had spoken.
The sailors on the ships would sing as they raised their anchors and tended their sails, and the young sea-people longed to join in, for the music of their singing ancestors was in their souls, but they were mute, and could only sing in their minds.
And so they returned to their home bubble to ask for their voices back. But some years had passed, and they found it abandoned, its lights extinguished and the inhabitants gone, leaving no message or clue as to where.
What, Whelk? What happened to the bubble people? We don’t know — that’s one of the puzzles that you may one day solve when you grow big!