CIV. The Water Goblin

March 14, 2013 — I sat on my front porch one recent night watching the moon rise from behind a tall, old conifer, through the breaking clouds, reflecting on a friendship, the potential of losing that friendship just where the night goes deepest and darkest, in the middle of a silent woods.

Each of my friends is special, each is unique, none is of the cookie-cutter genre. And this particular friend means a lot to me; a very special being. I had been deeply hurt. I felt alienated, my friend remote. It seemed the bridge had collapsed. I wanted to bond the schism. So I enlisted my brilliant Team of Not-So Rivals and endeavored to understand, to see both sides, to be watchful of what I learn from this situation. Oh, where is my shipload of brains?

Listen to the soundtrack to this story, “The Water Goblin.” Go to “The Dream” player in the right sidebar and scroll down.

Came Kevin, my surrogate son-in-law. He dug direct and deep below the surface, meticulously lifted the pieces one-by-one out into the broad sunlight, gently dusted them off, sorted and ordered them into a whole picture. His arch support resolved my distress and helped preserve the relationship from crumbling into a messy little mound of desert dust in the wasteland of my mind. He told me to become Team Samantha – “Team Samantha consists of your heart, your brain, your dignity, your ability to do the right things, and include in this team, anyone or anything (i.e. hobbies, tea with friends, brisk walks.) that will be conducive to your recovery and happiness,” he wrote in an email.

Truly, I was stumbling through another dark night of my soul, as my writer friend T.J. suggested, and I was about to fall and break something. I wanted to emerge soon into the sunlit, fragrant field of, well, irises. Lilies are the usual outcome of dark nights of the soul; yet, I prefer irises, though they are not as fragrant. Irises, especially the deep purple ones, symbolize spiritual evolution and healing. Irises waving in the sun were the place I wanted to lay my head.

In fact, I had chosen to embark on this dark journey; I had been standing on the dock waiting for the boat to take me to face the dark side of myself, to view that hidden side, at least a phase; not all, of course, because that darkness is as vast as a starless, moonless night sky. You might expect I thought I was going on one of those Disneyland/Disneyworld adventure excursions. This Dark Night might have to do with pirates, but not of the Caribbean sort. I thought I could be brave. I thought if I understood that part of myself, I’d be better able to understand that part of another. I should have carried a torch.

When I felt bolstered having processed Kevin’s thoughts, I emailed my friend saying I wanted to clear up the misperceptions between us. My friend replied that there was no problem between us.

I emailed a follow-up: “Please call me when it is convenient to you.”

My friend phoned. Our conversation was long. We discussed our mutual misperceptions. I cried. Light came. Now there is no problem between us.

My sociologist/writer friend Beatrice, in email, put it best. “Good for you getting clarity with your … friend – that’s so important, and so many people fail to do it and a valuable treasury of friendship falls away.”

I could not allow this valuable treasury of friendship to fall away.

Then I dreamed one of my Dark Night Dreams: this is the third in a series this year, one just before Emma’s passing and two since. This one: Alone at Night in The Dark City. It is very dark. I can barely see where I am going. The neighborhood is not safe. I walk along a smooth sidewalk, past a dim churchyard bounded by a black, wrought iron fence. I cautiously step down three or four broad steps and cross an alley. Coming toward me in the alley, all alone, is a little girl, dressed in a little dress and carrying her dolly. She is about four years old. I hope she will be safe. I am not in a position to take on the responsibility of looking after this little girl. I hope her mother knows she is out alone in the dark. I need to reach my destination to fulfill my current obligations by deadline. I have no purse, no keys, no jacket; I am just me, I carry nothing. I climb the few gray-painted steps to the gray-painted front porch of the house at the end of the row by the alley, across from the church. Mother (Emma) is there, inside. She is hard of hearing. She will not hear me knock nor ring the bell. Without a key, how will I get in? I bang on the door, three times with the flat palm of my hands. Kellie, my daughter, is there, inside, too. She lets me in. Emma and Nana (Emma’s mother) are there, all lined up in the living room – we make four generations of women on my mother’s side of the family.

There’s always more after your loved one is gone, just as my caregiver writer friends have advised. Your loved one, after passing, will appear out of the darkness to haunt you, periodically and unexpectedly. Would that we had worked out these things between us, kindly, when our loved one was still in human form.

Meanwhile, Moriarty returned from his Voyeurs Congress in Miami. I encountered the Phantom up in the cupola of my blog. He was wearing a green coat and red boots. It struck me as odd. He stood gazing out the window, mesmerized by something down across the meadow, at the stream.

“How was your Voyeurs Congress?” I asked him. I caught a whiff of his nutmeggy scent. “You didn’t seem to get much sun color down there in Miami. Did it rain the whole time you were there?”

His comment was nebulous: “We watched each other watch each other.” Then he pointed down to the stream. “There’s something in it,” he spoke in low tones, like Jerry Seinfeld’s “Low Talker.” “Look, there’s something bobbing up and down, in and out of the water.”

I looked. From our distance, it appeared an eerie creature.

“It’s the water goblin,” he half whispered. Then, upping the volume a notch, “Why don’t you play that music for me,” he requested. And so I have. The music is a gossamer piece I discovered only this past week. “The Water Goblin” (Vodnik) is a symphonic poem by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. (I know: Vodnik sounds more like an integral symphonic component of an alcoholic beverage.) Dvorak composed the music in 1896 based on the poem Vodnik, originally published with the English title “The Water-Fay.” The poem was found in a collection, Kytice – “Bouquet” of poems written by Czech historian, poet and writer Karel Jaromir Erben (1811-1870):√≠r_Erben. The story of the water goblin is haunting. I copy and paste the Wikipedia version here:

Vodník tells a story in four parts of a mischievous water goblin who traps drowning souls in upturned teacups.

A water goblin is sitting on a poplar by the lake, singing to the moon and sewing a green coat and red boots for his wedding soon to come.

A mother tells her daughter of a dream she had about clothing her daughter in white robes swirling like foaming water and with pearls of tears hiding deep distress around her neck. She feels this dream was a presentiment and warns her daughter not to go to the lake. Despite the mother’s warnings, the daughter is drawn to the lake as if possessed and leaves for the lake to do her laundry. The moment she hands down her first garment into the water, the bridge on which she was sitting collapses.

As the water engulfs her she is abducted by the malevolent water goblin who lives there.

He takes her to his underwater castle and marries her with black crayfish for the groomsmen and fishes for her bridesmaids. After the birth of their first child, the abducted wife sings it a lullaby, which enrages the water goblin. She tries to calm him down and pleads to be allowed ashore to visit her mother once. He gives in on three conditions: She is not to embrace a single soul, not even her mother; she has to leave the baby behind as a hostage; and she will return by the bells of the evening vespers.

The reunion of mother and daughter is very sad but full of love. When evening falls the distraught mother keeps her daughter and forbids her to go even when the bells are ringing. The water goblin becomes angry, forsakes his lair in the lake and thumps on the door ordering the girl to go with him because his dinner has to be made. When the mother tells him to go away and eat whatever he has for dinner in his lair, he knocks again, saying his bed needs to be made. Again the mother tells him to leave them alone, after which the goblin says their child is hungry and crying. To this plea the mother tells him to bring the child to them. In a furious rage the goblin returns to the lake and through the shrieking storm screams that pierce the soul are heard. The storm ends with a loud crash that stirs up the mother and her daughter. When opening the door the mother finds a tiny head without a body and a tiny body without a head lying in their blood on the doorstep of her hut.

I am whole, thankfully, head attached to body, at least – Team Samantha. I have stuffed my water goblin back into his bottle and corked it. Maybe he will dissolve.

I saw the water goblin arise from the watery depths where my old emotions reside, those memories you think you long ago flushed downstream, only to have them rise up out of the bottom muck just when you least expect, and you have to deal.

It is my understanding that upon encountering water goblins and their ilk, when you view them as nothing, nothing but illusions, negative attachments, let them go and have faith, they will dissipate and not return. I have experienced this phenomenon, myself – now and beginning palpably during Emma’s last year of life: I learned to have faith, to trust. I have taken only a baby step upon the deck of omniscience; but think what a relief it would be to step away from the controls.

When Moriarty and I looked more closely, we discovered his water goblin to be a small school of trout.

—Samantha Mozart