She left without a goodbye. No one to tell. No one to care. Oh, they would miss her, those left behind. Those men who had stolen the sheep and killed her brother and desecrated her mother’s grave. They would miss her when their stomachs ached and their fevers flourished, when the herbs she dried into teas disappeared from their storehouses.
Nothing would be the same without the last remnant of womanhood left on the island. The final whisper of goodness on the breath of the wind. She would push on with only her seeds, a butcher’s knife, and her brother’s coat, all rolled tight in the sheepskin on her back.
Her hair she had braided into a whip as long as a horse’s tail twisted tightly against her skull, securing it with a hair pin her mother had given her when she turned fourteen. Keep your hair close to your head now, Evangel, her mother had warned her. Don’t share your beauty so freely. Beware the evils of men. Evangel had half-obeyed her — tying it up whenever she walked among fisherman and stone cutters. But when she was in her garden, among her treasured plants, the bees buzzed about her amber locks as she leaned down to feel the moisture of the soil.
Now all she felt were the wooden paddles she pressed into the lake, the island standing silent behind her, the sky glow confusing the distance between day and night. She passed three whooper swans curled into their own downy feathers and sleeping on the water. Had she heard the crackle of wood, a shout, the screech of an owl? Had she heard the voice of her brother, the music of her mother’s flute? The curves of the canoe licked the surface of the liquid mirror, her only route to the world she had decided to find.
Inspired by Midnight by Anders Zorn, Swedish painter