As a young child, Sila was rescued from the sea after the boat she was on capsized and her parents drowned. Her five older brothers took care of her.
From the beginning, Sila loved the sea and swam far and well—better than anyone else in the village. At first her brothers were proud of her, but when villagers complained the brothers were not teaching her properly, they told her it was time to stop swimming and learn the ways of village girls. Sila loved her brothers and did as she was told, but away from the sea she grew thin and pale. Her brothers were so worried they asked Raven for help. Raven told them, "Your sister is not like other young girls. She must be allowed to be who she is if you want her to be healthy and happy." Reluctantly the brothers agreed for they loved their sister.
As Sila grew up the villagers ridiculed Sila and her brothers. The brothers grew ashamed and forced Sila to do the tasks of young village women. Sila tried, but she became quiet and sad. She never talked or laughed as she had when she was allowed to swim as she pleased. Once again her brothers called on Raven. He reminded them, "Your sister is not like other young women. She must be allowed to be who she is if you want her to be healthy and happy.” Fearing for her life, the brothers allowed Sila to return to the sea.
They began to follow Sila and noticed that she swam with a strange creature. The brothers were afraid the creature would harm their sister so they tried to kill it but the creature escaped. The brothers made new, sharper arrows. Sila pleaded with her brothers, "Let the creature be. He is no danger to anyone." But her brothers refused to listen. In time, the arrow sang its killing song and the creature died.
Sila was beside herself with grief. Her brothers assured her they had killed the creature for her sake, but Sila was not comforted. They kept Sila under their watch in a tepee and when Sila gave birth to a child the brothers noticed the child did not look like other children. They were afraid and asked Raven for advice. Raven said, "Your sister is not like other young mothers. She must be allowed to be who she is if you want her to be healthy and happy." The brothers listened reluctantly, not happy with Raven’s advice. They took to watching Sila and the child closely.
Although Sila swam with her child she feared for his life. She knew she could not keep him safe for very long. One day, she swam with her son to a place he had never been. She told him what he needed to know and bid him leave her even though her heart was breaking.
For a second time Sila was consumed with grief. Her brothers tried to keep her busy helping their wives and children but Sila yearned for her child. She knew her brothers would kill him if they saw him so she called on Raven. "Help me safely see my son. I cannot live this way."
Raven took pity on Sila and created a thick white cloud that separated Sila from her brothers. They could not see her as she ran from the village and once again, swam in her beloved sea, joyfully greeting her son.
When Sila did not return, the brothers called on Raven to help them find her. Raven refused. "You would not let her be who she is, therefore you do not deserve to live with her. She is gone to be with those who love her as she is. There will always be a thick cloud of fog between you."
This time it was the brothers who grieved.
Nancy King is a widely published author and a professor emerita at the University of Delaware, where she has taught theater, drama, playwriting, creative writing, and multidisciplinary studies with an emphasis on world literature. She has published seven previous works of nonfiction and five novels. Her new memoir, Breaking the Silence, explores the power of stories in healing from trauma and abuse. Her career has emphasized the use of her own experience in being silenced to encourage students to find their voices and to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with authenticity, as a way to add meaning to their lives.