Guess what, dear friends? It’s story time again! 🙂
This story is also excerpted from my book Speak to Me: Myths, Fables and Fairy Tales for a New Age. It was written in honor of my brother, Eddie, who died from alcoholism when he was 40 (1996). As sad as it was, as hard as it was to let him go, I think it was a relief for both of us when he finally passed. As children we had made a vow to each other that we would not live past 40, so it seemed somehow fitting that he should time it that way. And it was what he wanted; he was so miserable, and had been for so long, that healing did not seem possible to him or for him… I have seen him in my dreams, though, and he seems happy now, though I recognize that could just be wishful thinking on my part…
I’m choosing to share this story now for two reasons. First because his birthday was February 7th, so this is the time of year I usually meet him in my dreams. And secondly for a dear friend who is an email follower of this blog. We started reading this story together at a Lightworkers’ Gathering I had organized last summer, but were unable to complete it because of inclement weather. Nor have we been able to physically connect in the same space and time since then to finish it. It’s been about 9 months since we started this story, and that seems long enough to let it steep. So, for Bonnie M. and your wonderful husband John, I send you this story with all my love and hopes that we will yet meet again, without needing an excuse, such as a story to finish…
Again, I offer it in pieces to make it more manageable… (I promise you won’t have to wait long, since it’s already typed up! Lol…)
***Note: I apologize for the font changes, but for some reason I cannot explain, when I copied this from the word program I typed it into, it decided to shift and change font type and size at will. Since I can’t figure out how to fix it, I’m letting it stand. Perhaps, in some unforeseeable and unimaginable way, it adds to the story itself.***
“Freddie the Fish & the Lure of Old Scotch”
(In loving memory of Eddie G., my brother)
Deep in the heart of western New York, a small slice of domesticated wilderness survives amid encroaching civilization; a sacred shrine, a state park, smoothed and cultivated by the hands of Man to honor the wild and restless spirit of Nature. It is a place where water caresses stone in an immortal love affair, one seeking to contain, one seeking to change the other; where untamed passion meets unyielding reality leaving a scarred yet beautiful landscape to mark the encounter. It is a magical place where lush forests cling to craggy cliffs and wildlife creeps and hides, multiplies and dies, as the spark of Life asserts itself on a harsh and sometimes hostile environment. A microcosm of the macrocosm, a theater where the drama of survival plays itself out, a glimpse into the mind of Creation, where the balance of nature emerges from the clash of individual wills, and purpose grows out of the futility of individual existences. Here the past and future meet in an eternal, timeless Now, and the meaning of Life is revealed to those who can see…
Here in the midst of this world within a world is a small pool carved out of solid rock by the emotional fury of water over time. Four feet long by one foot wide, a whole three and a half feet deep at its deepest point, and completely enclosed by its rock walls, it is nothing more than a stopover for the endlessly rushing water of the brook. The water pours over the northern wall, queues a short while in this restful place, before plunging recklessly over the southern wall to continue its journey through the rest of the park. Yet even here where the current swirls back on itself to regain momentum before pushing relentlessly on, Life makes a home, taking full advantage of the temporary lull in the powerful flow to create a whole world for a few fish.
They live here, these fish, entrapped in a world of water and stone, living their entire lives swimming against the current, feasting on whatever bounty is brought in with the constant turnover of fresh, cool water. They are unaware perhaps that beyond the limited boundaries of their world lies a much bigger one, a world they will never see, perhaps never even imagine as they pour every ounce of life energy into defeating the current that would smash them mercilessly against the limits of their world. A seemingly futile existence until one fish dared to question it…
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Freddie the Fish lived in that pool. He was a good fish, a noble one, always trying to do the right thing, kind to his stream-mates. He’d been raised to believe in duty and responsibility, honor and respect, and the rightness of accepting things the way they are, no matter how unfair or wrong they might seem. He wanted to fit in, to be “one of the guys,” because he was, even though he never quite felt like he belonged. He swam diligently on against the current because that’s what he’d been told to do. He wondered about that sometimes, though, and it crossed his mind more than once that he and his other fish-friends lived a pointless and futile existence. But he never vocalized those doubts, or his fear that one day the current would overtake him, throw him against the southern wall, and leave his broken and bloody body behind to shame his family and friends. So he swam on, allowing his doubts and fears to make him strong. And he was quietly respected by the other fish, held up as an example of how a good fish should be.
Once in a while another fish would begin to falter, to weaken. And whenever this happened, Freddie was there with soft words of encouragement while he swam in front of the troubled fish diverting the worst of the current, or swam behind, bolstering and supporting the weaker one. And there were many in the pool who loved Freddie and were grateful for his interference on their behalf. But Freddie would merely shrug off their gratitude, claiming he did what he did because it needed to be done.
Once, Freddie even made a bid for the northern wall. He was younger then, and stronger. There were few in the pool who ever laid claim to that northernmost point, and Freddie was determined to prove his worth by being one of them. He came close, too, but the force of the current was stronger there. Eventually, his frequent side trips to help others and his concern that others might perceive him as arrogant if he moved too quickly ahead of them weakened him too much to allow Freddie to succeed. So he had to settle back in toward the rear of the others, taking his proper place among them. And while he appeared to be content, his failure ate away secretly at his heart. Knowing he should be grateful for the opportunity to swim this stream at all, his inability to accept his fate gnawed at Freddie’s sense of rightness, bringing despair to steal his hope and sense of purpose. So it was that Freddie found himself totally alone in a pool full of fish, struggling to survive, but never knowing why…
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One day while Freddie swam with his friends, he heard a voice coming from far above him. “Hey! You down there, what are you doing?”
Freddie looked up, wondering who was talking, but all he saw were bright lights and formless shadows skittering across the surface of the stream. He turned to look at his fellow fish, but they all swam on as if nothing unusual had happened. Confused, Freddie silenced his doubts and swam on himself.
“Hey you!” the voice called. “Have you no manners?”
Stung by the implied reproach in those words, Freddie spoke to the other fish. “Hey! Did anyone hear that voice from up above?”
An Old Fish answered him. “Ignore that voice, Freddie. It will only get you into trouble. All that matters to us fish is in our pool; we do not acknowledge anything outside it. Be a good fish, Freddie, and keep swimming.”
Freddie heard laughter above him. “That’s right, Old Fish, ignore the rest of the world! No wonder you’re trapped in that tiny pool.”
Curiously, Freddie stole a glance at the water’s surface. He saw a strange shadow hovering there, with a hazy form beyond it. He looked quickly away, turning his eyes forward like a good fish would do. But not before he had been noticed.
“Ah, so there is at least one among you who is bright enough to listen to me,” the voice said. “Come on up here, young man, and let’s talk a while… Let me tell you what you’re missing in that little pool, for there’s a whole world out here you know nothing about. I can tell you about beautiful places you’ve never seen, some just beyond your tiny home. And there are wondrous creatures out here you haven’t even imagined! Listen to me, little fish, and I will make you the wisest one in your world.”
Freddie glanced upward again, nervous and shy, but continued to swim with the other fish… “Oh, come on, fish!” the voice challenged. “Take a chance! No guts, no glory, I always say.”
“I’m not afraid of you, stranger,” replied Freddie. “But why should I listen to you? I don’t know who you are. And why should I believe what you say anyway?”
“Why should you not?” queried the voice from above. “Are all fish so paranoid they would simply assume a stranger lies? If you’ve never been outside your pool, how can you even question whether or not my words are true?” The voice stopped, waiting… “I have been outside your prison, fish,” the stranger continued. “I have seen what lies beyond it. I’m doing you a favor by offering to share my vision with you! That is an act of friendship, young one, not deceit.”
Freddie looked upward again, clearly considering the stranger’s words, so the voice continued once more. “Besides, what harm could come of listening to me? Even if all my words are false, they would be more entertaining than your silent swimming; surely a pointless exercise if I’ve ever seen one… Take a break and come play with me, fish. What have you got to lose?”
Hearing his own doubts echoed in the words of a stranger, Freddie decided impulsively to explore this new phenomenon. As the voice had said, what did he have to lose? Without giving himself a chance to think any more about it, Freddie swam close to the surface of the stream. From here, the light was much brighter, and he could even make out the form of the creature who had called him. It was not a fish, Freddie was sure, although it did seem to swim in the air above the stream with transparent fins. It had a long thin body with an iridescent glow and bright, bold colors. Freddie had never seen a more beautiful creature… “What are you?” he asked the stranger.
The creature laughed. “You really have been lost in your own little world, haven’t you, fish? You’ve never seen a dragonfly before, I take it?” Freddie just shook his head solemnly. “Well, you can’t say that anymore, can you?” the dragonfly teased… Freddie just stared at the beautiful creature, unable to respond.
“My name is Old Scotch,” the dragonfly continued, “for I am descended from magical beasts – the great dragons of Old Scotland. Centuries ago we roamed freely in this world, greatest among all those who inhabited it. We taught all the Earth’s creatures about the magic and mystery of the universe!” Old Scotch hesitated, taking a deep breath before going on in a more restrained manner. “But then the world changed and turned on us. One by one, the great beasts were slaughtered by people, people now driven by ignorance and fear, until only a handful of dragons remained. Those last survivors used their magic to transform themselves into smaller, less frightening creatures – the beautiful dragonflies…
“We have long since lost the magic that would transform us back into our original glory, but our mission remains the same,” the dragonfly concluded. “We travel the world and teach creatures to see beyond their limited understanding; we spread the gifts of wisdom and wonder. And this is your lucky day, fish, for I have chosen to share those gifts with you!”
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(to be continued)