She Opens Her Eyes to the Sea

‘Landscape is the vantage point at which we are able to judge our existence in this world. It is not always possible to choose the path our lives take. I was born missing the femur in my right leg. After a traumatic amputation my mother put me into art classes to get my mind off of the pain. My father, who was crippled at birth by polio in his right leg, taught me to surf. I have married these two passions in my everyday life by the ocean’.



The girl opens her eyes and looks around her to find that her surroundings have changed. She is no longer a free-floating being in a fluid underwater environment. She struggles to take her first breath and then a bolt of light. She is breathing in a dry world where muffled sounds fill her ears. She is born into the world missing a leg.

Her loving family raises her by the ocean where she can feel strength in the lightness and ease of her body when she is swimming. Her brothers are always nearby looking out for her and making sure she is safe and happy.

She lives in a simple house by the sea and has fallen into life as a one-legged being caught between the world of the ocean and that of the land. Each time she visits the sea she feels a longing to breathe the salty water through her scaly body that no longer exists. She learns to surf easily and that gets her closest she can to the ocean.



One day she is out in the water with her friends and she notices a school of dolphins coming through the line up. She dives under her board and hears their conversation in her old language of the sea. They are talking about her and how sad it was that she could not play anymore with them. Upon hearing that the girl swims towards the dolphins holding her breathe as long as she can, she motions to them that she does understand what they are saying and she truly does want to be back underwater with them. She surfaces and the dolphins disappear.

The next day the girl doesn’t feel like surfing so she takes a long walk on the beach. She starts to find the small precious shells from the island of Niihau along her way. There are so many that they are forming piles along the shoreline. She gathers them in her sarong and takes them back to the town where she can sell them to the lei-makers. The girl keeps going back to the beach and collects the shells everyday.

Until one day there were no more piles of shells on the beach, and a deep hole remained. The girl wants more shells. With the money she has made she no longer has to worry about bills, she lives in a two story house by the ocean and has people to help her with everything making life as easy as possible. She still wants more.



She weeps by the empty hole next to the shore, and prays for more. Suddenly the sand begins to give out from beneath her, and she starts to fall quickly through the sand. Everything around her begins to change. The course walls of sand turn into a watery cave. It is quiet, even the waves are hushed by the emptiness of the cave. She is finally aware that her surroundings have become fluid. She begins to panic slightly, but instead looks upon her newly formed fish tail. She feels the ease of breathe while submerged in this deep abyss.

She realizes that she is finally home and forgets about the dry world above her. She begins her life again in the form she fills more comfortable: a mermaid. She swims around and finds her dolphin friends and they prepare her huge feasts of delicious fish and lobster. The girl is happy with her home in the ocean once again.

She almost forgot about her family she left in the world above her when she nearly bumps into her brother literally while he is spear fishing near the hole that she had disappeared into. He drops his bag of fish upon seeing her face underwater. He pulls her up onto a rock nearby, and begins to question her existence. She could feel her body changing to adapt to the fresh air.



Comfort was difficult now in this dry land of her childhood. Eventually she lay gasping for air on a rock with her tail resting in the pool that she was pulled from, and her brother stooped over her in concern. She said to him, “leave me in this pool by the shore, I am unable to live on land now, but I will always be here to make sure that the fish are plentiful for you and our family for generations to come. You may visit me anytime, just follow the trail of shells, and you will always know where I am.” And with that she slipped back into her cave deep beneath the sea where she continued to live happily amongst the creatures there and was able to look after her family much longer than her life as a human would have allowed.


Words: Caylin Spear

Tags: Caylin Spear, Childhood, Hawaii, Mermaid, Shells

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