Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The story of the little girl with a red bird in her throat

A woman, under water, Vellamo. Her story. There. Beneath the waves. She surfaces on occasion. Her face appears like a rock, a stone etched with a map of the world, from space. The lines cross each other in angles, curious. Her lined face peers back at you from water stones worn smooth over centuries. The markings on her face merge in the vanishing point of stone, sky, and spirit.

So. There is the water woman, waiting.

There is also a girl who stands at the shore, watching. She has run through the forest, fleet-footed like a forest creature, a kettu. Her long blonde hair streams behind her in the wind. And on cold winter nights when the deep snow causes her to weave in her path, to slip, slide, straighten and stumble, the tips of her hair strands paint the sky with the Northern Lights and her hair, electric, cackles and snaps in the charge of Ilmatar and Pakkanen.

The girl wears blue and red. The girl is alone. She is looking for someone, searching for something. She has left a warm home, a small dark tupa. If she had stayed in the comfort of sure warmth and the routine of chores she will be drowned by the waves that she has failed to see. Covered by the earth that she has failed to dig through for the mukulat, the small seed potatoes she placed in the hill for protection last Fall.

She would be lulled by the sounds of domesticity. Forget to hear the screams and shouts that lure from birch trees, keepers of the stories of those who failed to write down or tell their silent words. If she stays home, if she stays safe and warm, she will not be bitten by the frost, wrapped in the icy embrace of winter, chilled by the icy touch of Louhi, the Corpse Bride of the North, who pokes her long bony finger through the forest floor. Louhi, the owl woman, whose black eye peers out of the suo. Whose gap-toothed smile catches you at the river. Louhi, whose hair strands, coated in ice, dangle from the edge of old houses.

Far from home, the girl chases long shadows in the snow, knowing not where they lead. She is looking for the next blueberry patch, the one on the other side of the ridge cushioned in moss knee-high to the step, filled with rotting trunks and nettings of branches and twigs that grab at her legs to hold her back.

An almost impassable cliff face stops her momentarily. She balances, poised on the edge, looking out at a triple vista: Sky. Forest. Lake. Air. Earth. Water.

She is looking for the fire that burns in her heart. She is running towards the flames that stream from her head, the fire that uncoils in her mouth, the fire that lives like a bound spiral at the base of her spine. The fire that burns, two embers, one in each eye, a third ember glowing like a lump of coal between her eyes, lighting her path. Her glamour, glowing.

The fire is the red of the bird beating its wings in her throat, spreading its velvet cape over her heart and lungs, threads of which weave through her bloodstream, ribboning snakelike, undulating unimpeded in the waters by the rock that rises to open the way to the other side, to the roots of the tree that connects the living and the dead. The stone, curiously marked, opens the way to the path of souls, the Linnunrata, that touches down to earth on Kekri, while she stands at the shore of the lake, waiting.

tupa ~ the central room of an old-style rural Finnish home
mukulat ~ Pohjanmaan murre / dialect for children / kids
suo ~ swamp
Linnunrata ~ the Milky Way

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