Sacramento, CA USA
Mermaid Chel's story is over 1000 years in the making; full of vibrant memories of lush jungles, warm breezes, and the abundant sounds of native bird calls found across Central America. "Chel" is an old Mayan word with a meaning of "rainbow". The young girl took this name because when she rose to the surface- after being in the cenote for a long time, the open sky was blue and warm, and all the colors of the rainbow were reflected within the water she was swimming. Her narrative, if truth be told, starts a journey north of the Yucatan Peninsula where she encountered the cool, fresh waters of a hidden cenote. During the height of Central America's native cultures, a small girl born in a modest village at the edge of Aztec territory spent her care-free days gathering flowers, chasing capybaras, or imitating the sounds of birds and the shouting of monkeys. It is sincere to say that her many days were spent surround with love, adventure, and the occasional day of gathering food, cooking, and usual aspects of village life. The girl did not want for anything- fresh, juicy fruit was only an arm's reach away, and the family she had were close, and everyone was happy. The way her life started is what gave Chel an insatiable curiosity about every living thing around her.
After 1000 years of new adventures and meeting so many wonderful people, the details of her life before such a fateful encounter are somewhat foggy, and difficult to bring to the surface. What Chel remembers most about her village and family are their eyes, large and full of wonder; a warning in their secretive stares about mythical places that swallow up the earth. Being such a person as to be innately curious and of an adventurous spirit, Chel decided that she would set off into the jungle, to search for these secretive holes which opened into a world under the land she had so fondly mapped and memorized day after day. The journey would be hard, but the thrill of new places and making such a discovery charmed Chel into setting her best foot forward. She traveled for many days, crossing more of the jungle than she had ever seen in all of her years combined. At night, she heard hushed noises-/were they whispers, from humans or animals?/- all around her, but could never seem to find any such being, friend or foe, looking back at her through the darkness. Her dreams were of wild caverns full of twists and turns, a warm light incessantly guiding her down the caverns. Her heart was telling her that what she was searching for was just out of her reach, she must keep swimming down!
The morning that would forever change her life was quite ordinary, except for the imposing silence in the air. No birds were calling out, no monkeys were howling or rustling the tree branches. Chel thought this was odd, but could feel in her soul that something of great importance was just about to happen, and so she continued her trek through thick green bushes. Their leaves seemed to be reaching out for her, the branches they rested on leaning in close to surround her with each step. The air was crisp, her lungs filled while each step began to feel more and more effortless. Looking around, Chel was struck with the sudden realization that she had very little notion of where on earth she was. The thought only encouraged her, because maybe in this strangeness, she would find a sign of where the edge of the land gave way unto something else entirely. While her thoughts predominately filled with daydreams of what might be just past the line of trees, Chel took her last step over the unyielding, compacted earth, and dropped into nothingness.The sensation was fleeting, and too soon, Chel was surrounded by the thick current of pristine water, her body became weightless as water cocooned her from head to toes. Tilting her head upwards, Chel saw two distinct cuts in the rocks above her, like looming eyes, so far above her while she floated within the monolithic cavern. Something inside of her body confirmed that she had just stepped into the mysterious place where land vanishes. The further down she went into the cold, dark waters, the more the earth reached out to her with love and curiosity. Gigantic limestone pillars were like arms, that cradled her gently in the swirling fresh waters. Her body drifted downward; not being pulled down, though her eyes could see that the line of the surface was receding, the girl's body started to tingle and her skin was suddenly warm. Her toes itched instantaneously; the sensation quickly spread up her legs and around her torso!
Chel remembers that when she threw her head back to laugh at such a sensation; the warm feeling she had felt in her dreams surrounded her, and somehow she knew that everything would be alright. Taking one last look at those eyes in the stone above her, Chel turned her body and dove down with all her might! The swimming was exhilarating, her hands moved her through the water as though she were born in the sea. As the light ceded, and her vision darkened in the depths, Chel was overcome with bliss and serenity. She did not feel afraid, and soon her powerful kicks began to alter, two legs grew heavy, and rigorous until- as Chel looked back to see why she was slowing down, something wondrous happened! Where two feet used to extend from two legs, her torso gave way to one long, smooth tail with a beautiful fluke extending out longer than her legs had been. In disbelief, the new mermaid opened her mouth to cry out in excitement. To her joy, Chel discovered that breathing underwater now felt as natural as it had above the surface. With her heart full of love and wonder, Chel thanked everything that inhabited the earth for her new life, and the wonderful gift of offering her such magical qualities. A response, but more like a warm feeling in her heart, told her that her tail was gifted to her; from the life-giving waters of the calm deep caverns residing silent and hidden beneath the lush jungle she so loved to explore as a child.
Now that Chel was within a world no one had explored before, her curiosity doubled, and she dove down as far as she could, navigating the endless lengths of tunnels and caverns.Eventually, Chel's curiosity about what lies beyond her system of cenotes and underwater tunnels overcame her longing to be kept safe in her secret world; with much help from the ocelot ( a small friend, he traveled on land and brought the mermaid back such treasures from her dearly loved jungle), they tracked miles of caverns and water-filled tunnels to bring Chel to the very edge of a small ocean lagoon. The water here was different than the fresh water which had, until this moment, protected her and taught her such delicacies of being a newly turnedmermaid. Something inside her told her not to be afraid of this new adventure.
Chel decided to swim along the coast of her beloved home, vowing to not stop until she reached the open ocean. Little did she know, the journey would take her to some strange places; a shortcut to the Pacific ocean she overheard the locals call "the Panama Canal". Chel had heard whispers across the currents of other mermaids around the clear waters of a magical locale- California. She could not believe her eyes! Everything before her was bathed in the golden water, it felt the same as the warmth she had once felt within her heart, the day she got her tail. Knowing this to be a good sign, Chel settled in a cozy area near the capital of California, Sacramento. She enjoys so many human things: reading, kung fu movies, and of course, delicious birthday cake to name a few! Her curious nature has only been intensified by her interactions with humans of the 21st century, and Chel loves learning new facts about absolutely everything. But when she greets you face to face, you might hear her warmly say: "Pialli”, which means “I carry you in my heart” in Náhuatl- the language of the Aztec village she left so long ago.
- American Red Cross Lifeguard
- American Red Cross Adult First Aid, CPR, and AED
- American Red Cross Child and Infant First Aid, CPR, and AED
As Seen In
Images courtesy of 916Pix.com and Michael Roy