The response to my first Star+Gate story, the one I shared in my blog post “Lessons from a Blue-Violet Butterfly” was so encouraging I have decided that, from time to time, I will post my StarGate stories for you to read. This will be the first time they have been made public.
If you did not have a chance to learn about the source of these stories and what the Star+Gate cards are, you can read about it in that post. (The Star+Gate cards are unfortunately no longer in print).
Below are the 3 Star+Gate cards I drew from the deck, from which the following story was woven.
The conductor would sit on his red velvet chair, not stand, as he led the orchestra in rehearsals. He would be holding his faithful rod. He was European and insisted on absolute discipline for his musicians so he grasped the rod tightly in his fist so that with it he could pound the ground and create a rhythmic beat. The beat conveyed his commands to the orchestra.
Although they sometimes sarcastically called him the “Commander,” so strong did he seem, the members of the orchestra didn’t pay too much attention to his erratic behavior. They just went on with the music and allowed him to rant and rave in his own way. In this manner, everyone got along. He could get his anger out, and they could create beautiful music. It was a balance that worked.
The rehearsal hall was in a little Alpine inn that bordered a cool lake, and on one early winter evening, frosty stars could be seen reflected in the quiet night water.
On this night, in the glow of the stars, moving slowly over the dark water that was nearly at freezing point, a lone swan glided slowly. Because she was swimming in such cold water, she kept her legs paddling noiselessly and ruffled her feathers from time to time to shake off the icy drops. Sometimes she sneezed out loud, but overall she was patient. She seemed to accept the ice in the pond as her lot and was gliding with equanimity and poise over the nearly frozen surface, despite the cold.
At about this time, the Commander had gone out onto the balcony of the little inn to puff on his pipe and watch the wintry stars. It was during a break in the rehearsal. The musicians had gone to the beer hall to drink, warm themselves by the fire, and laugh for a while. But he preferred to be alone and to take deep breaths of cold air until they actually stung his lungs. He did not believe in coddling himself.
As he stood there, he heard a soft rippling sound below him and looking down he saw the white swan on the lake. She was swimming close to the inn, perhaps in hope of some crusts of bread, and was now moving slowly directly under his balcony.
But, as he watched her, he suddenly had a fiendish thought!
What would happen, he wondered, if he were to thump his rod down so fiercely on the deck that this serene creature would become hopelessly rattled and lose her cool?
No sooner had he conceived this idea than he found himself compelled to put it to the test.
Thump! — went the rod, as it crashed down on the deck with an impact loud enough to startle an army. Even the musicians in the beer hall downstairs heard it, but they simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “What’s he up to now?” They didn’t know that the Commander had intentionally smashed the end of his rod onto the deck just to see if he could frighten a placid swan.
As soon as he made his sudden loud noise, the swan noticeably slowed down her pace. She came no closer to the deck now and did not look up, but quietly veered out toward the deeper waters again, head held high.
Thump! — went the Commander’s cane again. Then, driven by his determination to upset the swan’s equilibrium, he found himself compelled to carry this a step further by this time imitating gunfire with his rod, his repeated cracks of the rod on the wooden boards sounding for the entire world like a series of pistol shots in the stillness of the night. Their impact echoed across the frosty lake.
The swan was now moving her webbed feet rhythmically as she propelled herself away from the inn and had taken to zigzagging in an odd way across the water. She was crossing the moon’s path in a way that was confusing to watch. One moment she was in the shadows, unseeable, and then she was in the moon’s path again, moving swiftly but with dignity across it. She was not easily discernible.
Irritated by the fact that he had not been able to upset her as he wanted to and afraid that the swan might soon disappear entirely from view, the Commander now became even more agitated and found himself compelled to begin an even more rapid series of blows on the deck. He began to beat the deck in a staccato rhythm almost as fast as machine gun fire. He was breathing heavily now, his face fiery red.
In the meantime, the swan had vanished and no trace of her was left in the shimmering path of the moon. Only the gentle tapping of the water still rippled from her former movements. There was not a trace of her presence.
”She’s gone!” cried the Commander, “The damned beast got away!”
He then shouted and beat his rod upon the deck so loudly that several of the musicians, startled by the commotion, detached themselves from the beer party and came running out onto the balcony. “What’s wrong Commander?” the first one called out anxiously upon seeing him bent over the railing, shouting curses into the darkness.
“She’s gone! That filthy beast has gone!” he cried, as though he were apprehending a criminal
“Who? Who is gone, Commander?” the first man asked in bewilderment.
The Commander refused to answer. Actually he was too confused to do so. How could he explain this outrage? How could he explain his failure to create the drama of fear he had so longed to produce by provoking an innocent swan? How could he tell them that a dumb beast had not listened to him? – had negated his impact? They would only laugh and mock him, as he suspected they were always doing behind his back anyway.
Not taken seriously. That was his problem. He was never taken seriously. This was a moment of truth for the Commander, yet it was one he could share with no one else in the world. No one. For he would look even more foolish for telling it.
His frenzied bid for attention – his wild attack on the swan – had gone unheeded by the white bird that had more dignity in her glistening feathers than he had ever commanded in any moment of conductor-ship.
He was defeated, and he was unable to explain how it had happened. He was leaning over the railing now, looking down and panting, as the men approached him. Now they were cautious in the way they spoke to him and one of them said, “Come on now, Commander… Come below. The moonlight has just got to you.” This way they handed him an excuse, a way to save face, for they sensed uneasily that before them was a broken man, and that his defeat was all the more compelling because of its illogical nature.
“Come on now, Commander,” said one of the musicians as he grasped the conductor’s shoulder, turning him back toward the inn. “Come on back now, all is fine.”
The fiery episode had ended but the night remained cold and the water shimmering.
Yet… had there been someone still on the balcony to notice, way across the water, at the far end of the lake, a shadow glided across the moon’s path, and then melted again into the darkness. It looked almost like a spirit crossing the tiny ribbon of light.
When it too had disappeared, the lake lapsed into silence. There were some ripples in the water at the lake’s edge where the swan had been, and in a sense she seemed to cast her shadow on the porch where the Commander had been standing. Otherwise the night was quiet.
The gentle spirit of the night can only be seen by any of us in bursts, it is here one moment and gone the next and I think it can only be known when we let go of the frenzy of the day and let the stillness envelop us.
Is there perhaps an orchestra conductor in all of us who is in command most of the time, but who nevertheless secretly longs for the silence?
I would love it if some of you will comment below on what this story seems to mean to you. I will be interacting with your comments, I love getting them.