The Eternal Song, Part One: Beauty

Looking down into the narrow ravine, the goatherd Ko-ato saw only a glimpse of the swift-running stream beneath the laurel trees. The sound of its rushing waters, fed by snowmelt from the island’s volcanic peak, came to his ears clearly on this hot spring day. A bright flash of wings rose from the treetops as several wild canaries took flight. One of his goats, pastured just outside the ravine, lifted its head from a tuft of thick grass and bleated.

His daughter Riadne sat in the shade of a huge laurel halfway down the slope, as quiet and still as if she had roots and a trunk herself. In her first year of womanhood, Riadne had the same pale golden hair and tall slender figure as her mother, who had been gathered to eternity with the Gods many years ago. Her fingers moved with the same precision, too, as she painted a clay jar with symbols of good fortune from the ancient writing of the People. Ko-ato had never learned to read it himself; very few men did, and only some of the women.

“Come up and share the midday meal with me,” he called to his daughter. From the walls of the ravine his voice echoed, in the whistling language that carried much farther across the island’s deep gorges and rocky cliffs than any other manner of speaking would have done. After the echoes died away, there was only the sound of the rushing stream once again.

Turning toward him, Riadne smiled, her teeth white and gleaming under the cleft lip that curled away from them. She held up the jar to show that one side was not yet complete and mimed filling in the last glyph. The message came across as clearly as if in words: she would set aside her work when it was finished, and no sooner. Just like her mother, Ko-ato thought again. The familiar pang of loss swept through him as if it had been just yesterday.

Yet the Gods had been kind to him as well, in blessing him with a daughter—one whose name, so befitting the images she created with her paintbrush and the grace with which she moved, meant Beauty.

Continue to Part Two

on 04/20/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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