This is a story written in tiny leaves dotted on slopes of translucent porcelain…
The Lord-beside-the-Sea came on a cool evening to listen to the Pilgrim Woman’s latest story. His servants poured tea for him in a cup of the finest bone china. He nibbled at a slice of Dundee cake as she told this tale.
‘This is how the most awkward of humans came to be,’ she said:
Once, in the mid-morning of the world, around tea-and-cake time, a minor deity had sprung to life. Hers was not what you’d call a major power but she rather enjoyed at least having some influence in the world. So many of her kind, jealous of the stronger gods and goddesses, merely watched – waiting and hoping for someone to pray to them. She managed to interfere – a little.
Her challenge was watching a young soul grow, observing carefully its in-built nature and deciding where to send it. Hers was the choice of which embryo to slot it in. She liked to fit people into the world like puzzle pieces.
Her approach was orderly. Others of her kind might like to disrupt, to stir things up, but she preferred the soullings to fit well. After all, her older colleagues would throw enough at them later.
So – some bold spirit with reckless courage, she would quarter with a military family. Or let a sensitive, driven heart drift down where privilege allowed art to flourish. A callous intelligent being with fingers itching to work, she’d find a route to the surgeon’s theatre.
It was precise work – she so loved lining up their second traits so they fitted as neat as worm gears. Could she find a country-dwelling dynasty suited to a child indwelt by the knowledge of animals’ feelings? Was there a space in a vibrant urban neighbourhood for the one with jazz buzzing through the veins?
But O the trouble she had with the dreamers! Every time she looked, the forms of their emotions had changed. One moment shy, the next desperate for the attention of others. Sometimes focused and obstinate, as hard as obsidian. Other times, nesting in scraps of paper, drifting along one everyone’ opinions.
‘What will it take to fix you in place?’ she cried at one such, after the twelfth attempt. And lo – it answered. It stood up, a tiny half-formed thing, arms akimbo on its sketch of a body and answered her back.
‘I will never fit. My edges are ever-shifting and I love them for it. I want to try all the spaces for size and move on. You cannot pin me to one spot!’
‘Why ever not?’ said the well-meaning goddess. ‘I have the power – I could make you so comfortable, make your life easy and contented. Wouldn’t you like that? All you have to do is to decide the shape you will stay in.’
‘Aha,’ the small and shadowy creature replied. ‘But I can’t accept that – just one shape to be for ever?’
It shook its ill-defined head.
‘No thanks – for I am a writer and teller of tales.’
The jigsaw goddess gave up at that. Sometimes even deities can’t get all the pieces to fit.
picture credit: A Lady taking tea by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin 1735 Public Domain