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, scroll down and click on no. 26.
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): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karel_Jarom√≠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.
Well written and quite graphic. Evidently, it connected with the dark side of my soul and scared me. It haunts me.
Yes, Gwynn, the water goblin is haunting. I am sorry it scared you. I grew up with fairy tales. My mother read them to me from when I was very small. I knew they were fairy tales and loved their imaginative stories and the colorful illustrations.
But, I also knew that such creatures as goblins and big frogs that kissed you and princesses and handsome princes stumbling over a glass slipper in the night were symbolic. If there’s a goblin, I know it must be confronted and done away with, much as I’d rather run away from it; but I know it would catch up with me sooner or later. I am just fortunate to have been blessed with such a mind. I don’t think my brother was; he still swears there was a monkey at his second story bedroom window in the Phila. suburbs and he is afraid of the dark.
Yes, the story, as given on Wikipedia is quite graphic. I immediately had to transmogrify that horror into something symbolic of reality.
Your writing is always very powerful, but this one felt like it was pulled out of your soul. I think it moves all of us because we’ve all gone through those dark nights, not expecting to come out of them whole. Like the baby in the story, we expect to be torn in two or worse. The young woman came out of it battered but whole and stronger, I’ll wager, than she was before, and so have you. Perhaps the decapitated child in the story is not a literal child but her child self. Just a little something to mull over.
Astute observations, T.J., and the child-self in the dream. Yes, it was pulled out of my soul. Thank you for listening and reading and thinking, and for your kind comments, as always.
Well, that was an extraordinary piece of writing Samantha thank you for sharing that with us. Amazing how deep we have to go sometimes in order to clear the confusion, and we have to be courageous yet calm at the same time. But also as R says, shake the hell out of it. Though it is the very hell that is also the salvation-paradoxical though this is.
Your dream seems to have come at the right time. In line with the water goblin story in some way. Peace be yours …
Amazing the timing of the dream and my discovery of “The Water Goblin” music and story, Susan. Seems everything comes just when we need it. I have faith in that.
Yes, to reach that paradoxical salvation, we must brave the dark depths. You have served as my inspiration, bolstering my courage to face and explore this dark chasm. I feel much better now, though not all the way out and up lounging on my balcony in the warm sunshine surveying a tranquil, blue sea. But are we ever all the way there? It seems there is always something more lurking in the coves.
Peace be yours, too, Susan.
Way to embrace the dark; shake the living hell out of it and move forward.
Roads are made by placing one baby step in front of another.
Eat more fish…
The thing about fish, R., is that it lights up my brain and keeps me awake all night reflecting on how I should go about shaking the living hell out of the cause of the darkness, or rather if it would be easier, upon seeing it as an illusion, to simply letting it go.
But, look, R., better I eat fish than goblins. Yes?
My Dear Carol,
I must admit that your article along with the music caused me to think about my own life and my friendships. You see, I am also one who has a hard time of saying goodbye. It is difficult for me to move on when people are involved and yet I know that not all of the people that I meet or friends that I make will follow me throughout my journey of life. Those few that do are not usually recognized until you have a crisis. Thus, true friendships in my opinion arise out of the furnace. They are pure gold and usually they are the ones who are sitting in the shadows rooting you on.
Yet, I can testify that there are people whom I know where misperceptions have occurred and I have had to reach deep within myself and overcome my own pride and self righteousness, even though I have been badly hurt. It is these times that I experienced my dark night of the soul in which that what I speak out of my mouth or what I write in my blogs become a test for my reality, for my own integrity and for what I believe in.
The music with Dvorak elicits peace and then confusion. As in all my tests of life, the confusion comes as in Dvorak’s Water Goblin. I am here and there, insecure, frustrated and angry. The parts with hectic in this piece beautifully describes this. But then comes those times of enlightenment where the peacefulness of the stream goes over my soul and I know that I know that I have the strength to reach out and take the first step or to part and go my way in peace with those that no longer are a part of my life and Dvorak plays these peaceful solitude parts very well.
Thank you for an inspiring article that I truly enjoyed reading.
Beautifully said, Patricia. Thank you for taking the time to write your thoughtful comment. I write to share my experiences, not to elicit sympathy, but in hopes of supporting others with similar experiences/feelings.
True friendships arising out of the furnace — in those dark nights: I like that. True.
Thank you, Patricia.
I thought you’d like that metaphor, Catharine. And I thought you might relate. Thank you.
Very beautiful; haunting and poetic. I thought the symbol of the water goblin was very apt. Thank you for writing this! I can relate.