Fields and fields of Brussels sprouts grow sleepily in the sea spray. Artichokes appear in every size including just the right one. Christmas trees stand lined up like soldiers awaiting a dress parade. Meadows of flowers are a rainbow rug laid out by Monet. Fragrant greenhouses beckon with their peaty, damp inviting smell redolent of herbs, orchids, roses, and geraniums all mixed together.Pelicans, with their massive heavy beaks pointing downwards, fly low in single file over the gray ocean early in the morning. The shroud of fog is so thick that ocean and sky become one. Yellow ochre stippled cliffs reflect silently on the eternal music of the ocean. A sunset paints the sky in a soft rainbow of pastel clouds as shimmering and evanescent as an angel’s wings. At midnight, enormous white single-petal flowers raise their glistening faces to the dark moon.
Freshly shelled crab overflows from its high bed of mesclun and other greens, only lacking tangy seaweed for its mattress. A small cup of clam chowder by the wharfside on a cool, almost misty day is soul-warming ambrosia. Sweet unagi, buttery toro, and freshly caught bright hamachi fly through the hands of the artist posing as a sushi chef.
Albacore dressed in a tuxedo of inky green seaweed, with a sprig of green onion for a boutonniere beckons to me like a gigolo. Clams drunk on sake slide merrily down my throat dancing the can-can, while buttery plump oysters boldly expose themselves on the half-shell like Botticelli’s Venus, before I dress them with a squirt of lemon and a dash of Tabasco.
Plaintive calls escape the seagulls at twilight as they settle in near the ships moored for the night. Even more forlorn are the cries of the tired fishermen trying to sell their catch of wild salmon before going out to sea again.
“If you want to be rich for the rest of your life, make an ugly woman your wife” I overhear one young man counseling another as I wander the aisles of a used bookstore.
The gods must be laughing at the scene of the skinniest woman in the restaurant ordering the largest plate of fried seafood I have ever seen, while everyone else orders salads. A running commentary on the benefits of neroli oil for pedicures, and another overheard but infinitely more boring conversation on 10-carat diamond rings and lesser jewelry I ignore.
And so I continue my stroll through this small seaside hamlet known for its superb fish and art. Mermaids full of light and wonder swimming in many windows, cuddly pup otters and their mothers in many shades of brown, vampire squid and other dark denizens of the deep, seashells by the handful in which to clothe yourself greet me. A mermaid and merman lamp seems lit by the sea itself, while other sea fairies guard a jeweled crystal treasure chest, and a rainbow of dolphins leap and play in the air. One lonely mermaid, captive on a wall, is forever gazing out to sea, while another seeks her lover out at sea in a modern mosaic which is Roman in its intricacy. A green watery light-filled painted glass gives an impression of still another mermaid dreaming of the sea.
I, too, am lost in reverie until the shop owner asks me, “Do you like mermaids?”
How can I explain my predicament to her? Would she understand that my soul cries out for the sea even in its sleep, that the roar of the ocean as the waves come knocking on the land without reprieve is like a lover’s sweet murmuring in my ears? My perfume of choice is the tangy smell of ocean spray, and the briny taste of the sea is my glass of champagne.
I find the caress of the sea at once soothing, rejuvenating, and invigorating. How I long from the deepest recesses of my heart for another who loves the sea as I do, and have followed this siren song in my heart through many rivers, seas, and oceans all round the world.
Alas, the only words I can muster are “Yes, I do.”
Picking up one of the books and with a conspiratorial wink, she says, “Here, look at these! Most of these paintings are ones I have never seen.”
I am enchanted and mesmerized by the lovely scenes from a gentler, bygone era of sea sirens with their lovers and children.
“I thought you might like them. You look like an artist to me,” she continues.
How easily she can read me. I didn’t think it showed, and what do I say to her. These thoughts race through my head like waves following upon waves on the ocean beyond. Before I can say I used to do stain glass and was admiring the fine workmanship, but for the past few years, I have been doing watercolors, and before I can call on Neptune to help me, she looks me straight in the eye and says, “Then you should paint mermaids!”
“Have you painted any mermaids?” she wants to know.
“Well, actually I’ve done a few sketches and have been toying with the idea, and have also done a few nudes,” I reply somewhat hesitantly.
Undaunted, she shoots right back, “Paint some mermaids. I can’t get enough. Paint them and they will sell!”
Can it really be so easy, I think to myself, and then I remember that I am in Half Moon Bay, that haunt of mermaids, though I could easily be Rusalka singing my own siren song to the moon.