The Celtic knot represents the three forces of nature: water, fire and earth. The single line is said to signify the oneness of the spirit, and the spirals represent growth. The gaps in the spirals symbolize the stages of life: life, death and rebirth.
A blue-robed figure glowed in the moonlight as it charged toward Feale yelling her name repeatedly in the rhythm of a scythe so that the leaves on the trees trembled and fell and Feale’s eyes brimmed with tears of fear. The buzzing resumed, making her head throb with an urgency that threatened to split it open. How could she escape Edgar now? How could she get away?
Edgar had found the soiled handiwork and donned it as validation of his swift and severe punishment in the offing. My God, she could not even imagine what vulgar penalties danced in his mind.
“Feale. Feale,” he shouted.
The hounded woman raised herself to her feet by grabbing hold of an oak’s trunk. Emotionally, she cut herself loose. Loose from the metal and soil and blood of this earth. Loose from the acrid pain of life – the daily agony of coming to grips with inflicted cruelty. Loose.
The river gurgled acceptance of her; it sputtered an invitation. The smooth stones massaged by its flow laid out a carpet before her tired feet and battered spirit.
Edgar strode closer and closer, a string of blue glass beads round his thick neck reflecting bubbles of moonlight in the forest and on his face. As far away as he was, Feale thought she could discern a scowl. She remembered seeing that knitted brow on countless occasions of violence. She had last seen it yesterday when he returned home in a heat after looking for her here along the river, her special place where she felt loved for herself. The river, where she smiled at being alive. The river, where she strengthened herself with faith.
“Feale, Feale,” he shouted, his voice louder and closer. His approach was imminent.
As above, so below, she thought, as she plunged into the river guided by a higher compassionate force. Her mind had shut down. She let herself be ruled by her instincts, which told her to escape death by the hands of another. Better to end her humiliation in the here and now, herself, and pray for a kinder reincarnation.
She swam furiously to the river’s deepest and most dangerous. After she splashed into an eddy, she stopped fighting the water and let it pull her in circles, first gently, and then as the rings tightened, whirling her faster and rougher, wilder and freer.
Edgar, now at the river’s edge, turned into a crazy man. He threw off his robe and, in a flash, tore off his shoes before jumping in after Feale. He ripped through the frigid water. Before he reached the eddy, he dived after her and, by the grace of God, found her. He fought the current to break through the sealed surface and towed her to land. He dragged her out of the river onto a carpet of soft moss. His bulk straddled her slender body as he tried to give her air from his lungs, but the buzzing in her head had stopped finally. Her spirit and her soul had left her body. She would find another way of being. Feale had left his life. Memories of her would jab at him from now on, reminding him of when his life was at its most hopeful with her by his side.
After numerous tries to bring her back, all futile, he lay down her head and buried his face in her bosom, heaving with sobs and warming her cool body with his tears. He showed her in death what he did not when she lived: he needed her. Edgar had wanted her to need him forever. He had hoped for one lifetime after another of meeting Feale in other times and places, recognizing her and claiming her, his karmic booty.
Edgar’s plan had failed him painfully. Feale did not know that he needed her. She was terrified of him and his cruelty. His depraved ways had driven her to kill herself and their unborn baby. Mercifully, he was spared the grief of losing their child. He would never know Feale’s secret.
The widower rocked himself in her bosom until the moon hid herself and the sun crept up. Everything in the hushed forest mourned with him the passing of a desperate woman.
“I love you,” he screamed into the next day.
It was the first time he had ever uttered those three words of scary surrender. As he hurled them into tomorrow, Feale disappeared in that instant.
In her place stood a raven.
Sleek and stately.
The ebony bird said nothing. Yet, her fiery eyes burned into Edgar with molten rage. She held his gaze until she was done scorching his very soul. Then she turned her back to him; her eyes softened at the sight of the trees and the river and the sky. The sky, so big, so blue, so far away from the pain of twisting round on her short thread of mortality. Away from the disappointments that weigh down life, pulling the chest to the earth and pushing the eyes downward. Away from the intrinsic sadness and shame of being human.
She spread her wings, then flapped them and rose slowly in the air, caressed by the breeze. Her heart fluttered with the anticipation of flying. Of lifting herself from the ground and not being thrown back on it. Of gliding on the wind.
After Feale’s disappearance, the town of Listowel told a story of the river to each other at hearthside and to the occasional stranger found strolling along it. As days, months and then years went by, they began calling it Feale. Mapmakers later christened it in ink: the River Feale.
Today, the river flows brightly, sunny and trusting. No one has ever taken her life in it again. There is, however, a spring along it that people say will drunken you on the beauty of the River Feale and keep you there happily intoxicated. They say there was a stranger, a writer, who wet her lips at it and left but carried with her . . .
Wait! No, that is another story altogether. Ours has circled to the end of the first part.