Sealskin / Soulskin.

John Waterhouse



A term that has resonated with me especially over the last couple of weeks as I clamber to get back on my feet. It’s true that I have been struggling, falling back into old strategies of distraction and avoidance.

My waking hours have been spent in what my friend likes to call the ‘fuck factory’, and while I despise that term, it feels fitting for this particular parlor. Devoid of atmosphere or feeling, I can almost feel my brain switching off and numbing out as I endure dreaded ‘party bookings’, night after night fueled by cocaine and staged smiles.

I haven’t even been able to write.


Within Irish mythology there is a creature called the Selkie, who take on the form of the seal when they are in the water, but have the ability to shed their skin and walk on land. There is a story that has been around for years, of a lonely fisherman who stumbles across a group of beautiful women playing and laughing in the shallow water, bodies bathed in moonlight. He notices the skins of what looks like seals laying amongst the rocks and recognizes the maidens as the fabled Selkie. He hides one of the skins and convinces the distraught woman to be his wife, promising to return her skin after seven summers. She follows him and they wed, and have a child. However, without her skin she begins to wither, her flesh dries out and she loses her vision. She begs the fisherman to return her skin, but he refuses, for she would surely leave him and their son.

Later that night, the wind called out to the child. He followed the sound to a cliff where he tripped over a bundle – a sealskin that smelled of his mother. He quickly ran home and gave his mother her sealskin, and she put it on, scooped up the boy and ran to the sea. Together they swam and swam, and after seven days and nights, her body was restored and the luster came back to her skin, hair and eyes. Her full vision returned. At the end of the seventh day she returned her son to the topside world where he belonged and assured him that he would always feel her presence and love.


My love asked me a question the other day as we were lying in bed.

“What makes you feel alive?”

I couldn’t answer. I felt silly because I couldn’t answer, because it had been so long since I had really sat down and thought about it.

What makes me feel alive?

My mind drifts to different sensations – the sun on my bare skin, the sound of the ocean, flushed cheeks and tangled limbs, my feet pressed into the earth as I reconnect with Gaia. Music, poetry, art, learning, singing, playing. Being absolutely present in the moment, whatever it is that I am doing, without expectation or worry.

In all of my hurry to build my life back up to where I perceived that it should have been, I had forgotten why I needed the change in the first place. I had lost my Soulskin, and embracing the change in order to wrap around me the things that make me feel alive is harder in practice than it seemed.

But I can do it. It might take me seven summers, but I will return, full and beautiful.


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