I’m lucky enough to live on the edge of the sea. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty on the south coast of the UK called Chichester Harbour. Stretching for over 9,000 acres the harbour has an amazing amount of wildlife, local colour and interest.
Almost daily, come rain or shine - and let’s face it, this is England so it’s often rain - I walk along the estuary.
I love hiking here, it’s such a liminal space, always shifting, never the same. I’ve seen kingfishers and a colony of seals, spotted a barn owl fly over the fields. There’s magic in the winter migration when brent geese arrive en masse from Siberia in their warbling thousands. I think there is something about the water that tugs and calls to all of us…
So when I saw editor Rhonda Parrish’s guidelines for the anthology formerly known as Women and the Sea, I knew I wanted to contribute.
But what was my angle going to be? Siren, selkie, scylla?! As always, the adage “write what you know” came to the fore. Surely I’d find inspiration in my own locale.
I could have written about famously wave-adverse King Canute and his daughter, who tragically drowning in a mill pond by the church in Bosham, a building which features in the Bayeux tapestry.
Or maybe I could have told a tale of Romans navigating the channel to Fishbourne Palace with its marvellous mosaics? Jump forward in time and there are many heroic women to be found at the RAF base on Thorney Island during WW2.
What started my story, Skelf, was the day I found some potatoes laying incongruously on the low tide mud like ostrich eggs. Strangely sinister in their uncanny presence, deposited by the waters, I knew I had the beginnings of my narrative.
Just like me, Arabella, the main character in Skelf, is drawn to the sea, to its escape and promise of adventure. But for Arabella something far more ambiguous than a potato enters her life when she goes down to the water’s edge and discovers a fragment of a figurehead.
Placed at a boat’s bow, often carved and painted as a woman, figureheads are a decorative addition to any sailing vessel. In Germany and the Netherlands, it was once believed that gnome-like spirits called Kaboutermannekes lived in the figureheads. They protected the ship from I’ll weather and, if the ship sank, the Kaboutermannekes took the sailors' souls to the Land of the Dead.
Something is indeed within this figurehead, but it is no gnome or sprite… But to find out what exactly you’ll have to read Saltwater Sorrows!
About Mogan Melhuish
Here’s a description of the book:
Deep, mysterious, beautiful . . . dangerous . . .
Women and the sea have been tied together in myth and story from the beginning of time. Tales of women being drawn to the sea or being left on the shore, waiting for their men’s return, have been passed down through the ages.
But what mysteries lie beneath the sparkling placid waters? What power drives the wind and waves crashing against the shore? There is transformation and exaltation—magic—in the ocean and women alike. And both know that while the sea gives, the sea also takes.
The book was edited by Rhonda Parrish and several writers contributed stories including:
Table of Contents
A Witch’s Christmas by E.E. King
Portrait of a Mermaid as a Young Woman by Natalie Cannon
Skelf by Morgan Melhuish
Salt Breeze by Paul A. Hamilton
Fortune Favours the Brave by V.F. LeSann
The Ghost of Violet Gray by Sarah Van Goethem
Rage Against the Sea by Adria Laycraft
A View of Water by Dino Parenti
The Deep End of Longing by Hayley Stone
Seaweed and Gossip by Lea Storry
Sarah’s Kitchen by Lisa Carreiro
On a Northern Shore by Nikoline Kaiser
Daughter by Elin Olausson
Sink Your Sorrows to the Sea by Chandra Fisher
Human, Still by B. Zelkovich
Salt In Our Blood, Salt In Our Tears by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Glass, Paper, Salt by Catherine MacLeod
The Oyster Widow by Jennifer R. Donohue