the midnight song from long-forgotten summer sea

when i was a very young kid, i was sent to the seaside, once every summer.

my mother was youngest of pack of six, and since mom and dad both were from seoul, we didnt really have direct family relations out of the city.  luckily, a few of her sisters' in-laws had places out of the cities, so mom would ever so carefully pack a backpack for me, for a few days, and my eldest girl cousins would take me with them, to the seaside.

that particular summer, my cousins decided that i was old enough to make choices.

i made many mistakes.

on way down, on the train, i gorged on salty and fatty snacks. i was allowed dip my own fingers into the bags, take however much i wanted.  silly me, i made myself very ill, very quickly.  i remember desperately putting my head out of the moving train, throwing up.  my cousins wiped my face with cool, wet tissues, half-amused and half-grossed out.  in midst of such mess, i remember looking up.

i still remember how blue the sky was.

mom and dad, granny and bros werent with me.  just cousins, so faraway in age (both were in university at this point), i felt as if im on my first solo flight.

one day, after a late lunch at the market stalls, we skipped to the sandy beach.  i dont remember what my cousins were doing. they were just about visible, and i ran into the water, to a spot that i liked earlier in the day.  not too deep, not to cold.  i swam into the sea, happy, chasing the sun.

then i tried find the bottom of the sea.

it was not there.
tide was rising- it was after lunch.

i didnt know anything about tides.


the world turned, very quickly.  the sky, the water, all ran together. i was in the middle of a vortex.  i saw things. i didnt know what they were. i waved my arms, kicked my feet. my head bobbed on and off the horizon.  i drank in water. salty water. it burned my throat and nose. i couldnt tell if saltiness came from tears or from the sea water.

bobbing. looking around.

the world became quieter.

as i spent more time under the water, as my limbs lost will to move, i sank downward.

in the water, it is very quiet.  especially since my own struggle against the water sounded so loud to my ears. shouting. limbs shouting. screaming,

as my head was under water, mouth was full of salty water, not able to make a peep.

i looked up, the summer afternoon sun refracted through the light. sky was still blue, i think.  my world was becoming dark. through ever-changing water, the light danced on my eyes. quiet. i may have found peace.

then all the sudden, i was jerked up. pulled up, someone dragged me out, i started to breath again, flailing my arms, thrashing my saviour.

i was laid on beach, throwing up endless salt water. eyes full of tears, my cousins were there. they huddled around me. towels around my shivering skin, each pore standing up in goosebumps, screaming intangible fearful things.  i dont know who pulled me out of the water. i dont know how long i was there, in the vortex, the gateway to a silence i never experienced before.


at the mahler 3 concert today,  after three dramatic movements full of marches, summer midday heat, still air, stroll into the meadow, then into darkness, we get to the depth of the night  (from notes of mahler to bauer-lechner), riding on the mellow off-stage flugelhorn, into the night.

it is quiet. the harp sound- like water drop breaking the surface tension, with mellowness, nietzsche's midnight song starts, from the deep chest of an alto.

suddenly, i was pulled into that memory.
watching the refracting sunlight, as i sink.
tears fell, slowly.
was it sleep i was seeking?
is it pain that i was surrounded with?
all joy- eternity-
is that what i was searching for?

what did it say, the deep midnight?

was it the seawater salt in my body, burning me inside, or was it the tears that burned my eyes as i cried, drowning for that indefinite moment?

-from nietzsche's thus spoke zarathustra (1892),
set in mahler 3, 4th movement:
sehr langsam- misterioso

O Mensch! Gib Acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
"Ich schlief, ich schlief—,
aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht:—
Die Welt ist tief,
und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
Tief ist ihr Weh—,
Lust—tiefer noch als Herzeleid.
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch all' Lust will Ewigkeit—,
—will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!"

O Man! Take heed!
What says the deep midnight?
"I slept, I slept—,
from a deep dream have I awoken:—
the world is deep,
and deeper than the day has thought.
Deep is its pain—,
joy—deeper still than heartache.
Pain says: Pass away!
But all joy
seeks eternity—,
—seeks deep, deep eternity!"

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