“I am a woman who wonders when we as women, as men, and as artists will recall our ability to carve the shapes in the landmass
beneath our feet.”
I am overwhelmed with the state of the world this month. I feel the fullness of the moon above me, and I cannot help but try to make sense of the many innocent deaths I have seen. The bright silver light on her face in the sky seems to pull at my internal waters, causing them to flood from my eyes as tears. I do not understand, and I do not know what to do. When I feel small and helpless, it always helps for me to turn to stories. This story of grandmother winter, known as the Caellach, shifts my state from victim to creator and from misunderstanding to curiosity. I share it with you in the hopes it may do the same.
I do not know why things happen as they do, but I know the only certainty is change. As my own grandmother Clara always said, This too shall pass.
The Story of the Caellach, From the Celts of the British Isles
The autumn afternoon yawns and stretches shadows deeper across the flat green canvas. A bee rests on a single white daisy, and an oak tree shivers in the wind. The sun slides below the horizon, and a shadowed figure emerges.
Silhouetted by the dimming light, a giant woman carries a heavy load of stones in her apron and walks toward the fading orange sun. She pauses and uses the oak tree as if it were a barstool, to rest. Just as she seems to be dozing off, a stray dog barks and startles her. She jumps and accidently places her foot on the white daisy. The bee reacts just in time to sting the sole of her foot before being squished.
The electric shock of the bee’s final act zips from the giant’s foot through her body. She whimpers and hops on her other foot, thereby dropping her load of stones and thus creating hills in the once flat landscape.
This rolling landscape becomes known as Ireland. And the great giant woman is known as Grandmother Cailleach, the powerful crone of winter and water. She is the queen of ice who has shaped the land and her people since before time began. The marbled colors on the stone faces hint at her passing with deep tans, grays and whites swirling in a slow, timeless dance.
She controls the flow of water from wells, decides when and where to form lakes and streams, and welcomes the spirits of the dead to the other side of the river. She is respected and feared, but this face of the mother is seldom loved.
I am also marbled like the stones, with a streak of my Grandma Clara’s flare for control and precision. The lines carved into my soul remain as the simple pleasure I enjoy after sweeping the floor clean and emptying the dirty laundry bin. And those streaks of white, freedom and wildness, surface in my refusal to brush my hair or get a job that requires I wear shoes.
I am a thoughtful, curious woman who spends her time reading myths about the days when women were giants and glaciers and rivers. I am a woman who values the bee sting, realizes the cost of courageous freedom and remembers the true faces we once wore underneath our masks.
I am a woman who wonders when we as women, as men, and as artists will recall our ability to carve the shapes in the landmass beneath our feet.
Eila Carrico is a weaver and wordsmith who delights in the mystery and magic of landscapes and memory. She grew up in rural central Florida, and was inspired by her studies in journalism, anthropology and religion to travel around the world and teach in Paris, Ghana, Thailand and India before settling in the Bay Area in 2008. Check out more of her work at: http://www.eilacarrico.com. The italicized quotes within this piece are from Eila’s upcoming book, The Other Side of the River debuting in 2016.