Inspiration was taken from Margaret Atwood's poem The Saints.
The saints cannot distinguish between being with other people and being alone: another good reason for becoming one.
They live in trees and eat air. Staring past or through us, they see things which we would call not there. We, on the contrary, see them.
They smell of old fur coats stored for a long time in the attic. When they move they ripple. Two of them passed here yesterday, filled and vacated and filled by the wind, like drained pillows blowing across a derelict lot, their twisted and scorched feet not touching the ground, their feathers catching in thistles. What they touched emptied of colour.
Whether they are dead or not is a moot point. Shreds of they litter history, a hand here, a bone there: is it suffering or goodness that makes them holy, or can anyone tell the difference?
Though they pray, they do not pray for us. Prayers peel off them like burned skin healing. Once they tried to save something, others or their own souls. Now they seem to have no use, like the colours on blind fish. Nevertheless, they are sacred.
They drift through the atmosphere, their blue eyes sucked dry by the ordeal of seeing, exuding gaps in the landscape as water exudes mist. They blink and reality shivers.
This painting was inspired by a Welsh legend that my dad told me. He is very sick at the moment, so I want to dedicate this to him.
The story is of Rhys and Meinir, childhood sweethearts from the village of Nant who were due to get married. They invited all their friends and family who brought gifts for the couple, one brought a piece of cloth, another bringing some yeast flour, everyone bringing useful things. All the guests and family were looking forward to the joyful occasion on the following day.
In this tiny village the people kept up the tradition of the "Wedding Quest", this meant the bride would run and hide on the morning of her wedding and await to be found. When the big day arrived, everybody gathered in Clynnog Church, except for Meinir who headed for the hills.
Playing their part, Rhys’ friends searched high and low for Meinir, but to no avail. On discovering his bride was missing, Rhys returned to the Nant and frantically searched for Meinir’s hiding place.
Fraught with worry, Rhys spent months searching for his sweetheart, and slowly lost his mind.
Then one stormy night, while out wondering the heath, Rhys took shelter beneath his favourite oak tree. As he cowered beneath the tree, a bolt of lightning struck the trunk, splitting it in half.
To Rhys’ disbelief the splintered tree revealed a skeleton wearing a wedding dress. Overcome by emotion, poor Rhys collapsed and died beside his beloved bride.
My dad told me this story when I was a child. Growing up in Wales I was surrounded by folklore, this story in particular has always stuck with me.
Not all Nokken are wicked, but the ones that are have been said to have the sweetest songs with words like honey. With kisses and promises, they’ll lure you closer and closer to the water’s edge. By the time you notice you’re out of your depth, it’s too late.