Drabble 159 – Nephelai

A photo of mist against a forest background.

I’ve had Greek mythology on my mind lately after devouring Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe. These stories were part of my childhood, but returning to them as an adult, I find so much more than I could have imagined. As a kid, I swallowed them up. As an adult, I find myself wanting to shove my fingers through the cracks and look deeper. I want to look behind the curtain, under the table, out into the dark depths of the forest.

Both of these books take stories that have existed for centuries and broaden them, exploring the edges and pushing at the boundaries. It’s part understanding cultural context, but it’s also universality—Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship in context, yes, but also the timeless concept of desires that don’t quite align. The role of women in Ancient Greece, of course, but also the weight of expectations.

I think that’s why I’ve always been such a sucker for a good myth, well-told. I’m not Persephone, I’m not Artemis, but these stories ignite my curiosity and encourage my imagination because they are still so easy to identify with, even centuries later. The themes are there, even if the context is different.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

NEPHELAI

(n.) from Greek  νεφέλη—”cloud”

Nymphs of clouds and rain.

They are always bearing something: children, strife, bowls of water poured from the heavens to quench the earth. Heavy burdens that strengthen their arms, their legs, the muscles of their necks until they no longer remember what it is to be soft.

This is their lot in life—to carry, to hold. Expectations, legacies, life-giving water; all become heavy in time. It’s only divine parentage that keeps them light, letting them step among the clouds. Below, the women carry those things and more, age and gravity weighing their bodies down, anchoring them to the earth surely as a hammer and nail.

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