I have fallen in love

I have fallen in love… with goldfish

Earlier this year we decided that it was high time our pond was populated with something a bit brighter and shinier than frogs, toads and newts so we went to a garden centre and bought a batch of goldfish. At a pound each, these little tiddlers weren’t expensive or exotic but in terms of making me smile, they turn out to be priceless.

So when they started turning up dead, or dying, chomped on by dragonfly nymphs, I was pretty upset. There’s masses of things in the pond for the nymphs to hunt, and that’s the natural order of things. Of the thousands of tadpoles, toad-poles and newt-poles (yes, I am making up these names) very few will make it to adulthood and join in the joyous orgiastic frenzy of mating that made our pond this spring an interesting spectacle to rival the Serengetti (but on a very small scale). That’s just how it is: nature, red in tooth and claw. But I felt very protective of my pretty little fish, who have no defence (I don’t think they even have teeth, as such) and every time one bobbed up, dead, I was angry. We cleared away some of the overgrowth so that they had more clear water to enjoy without being ambushed by beings that closely resemble the Aliens from, well, Alien (jaws that shoot out a distance out of the creatures head).

No more dead fishies. But with clear water came greater visibility and more chance to observe the fish. And watching them has become a very powerful thing. They do things. They have a social order and a hierarchy among the shoal. They each have personalities and quirks. And I realised that I love them, very dearly, and they will never know this, for what way can I, a human, speak to them, small fish of the carp family?

So I feed them. I stand and watch them. I speculate about their lives, their feelings. They do odd things that I cannot fathom. One of their activities is to lie in the shallows, inert and still. First time I saw one do this, I thought it was dead and scooped it up in my hand. The fish woke up, and thrashed around and I released it back into the water. On a sunny day, you might find almost all of them lined up in the shallows, sleepy and unresponsive.

I began to tickle them. I don’t want them in the shallows, as crows come to the pond to drink, so I want to make them stay in deeper water. I have speculated long on why they do this, and I have no idea. Perhaps they are meditating, the way we might meditate on a mountain top. I can’t ask them and they can’t tell me. Sometimes I see them at the surface, blowing bubbles. For all I know they might be praying, or trying to communicate with me.

So I will continue to try to care for them, even though they can never thank me, or speak with me, or even really meet, as minds. Every time I see their gleam, flashing past as they swim, often in formation, they gladden my heart, and deep inside me, I hope that in their own fishy way, they know I love them. 

Pond Painting

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Dreams and reality collide

Yesterday I wished I had brought my camera with me. We’d taken the dog to the beach and on the way back nipped in to the little nature reserve near the car park there. Now there’s been a lot of work done on this area and it’s looking like becoming a grand area for nature to get on with it, and some paths through to stop people trampling.

One of the nicest features is a large pond, almost a small lake, and to make things even nicer, a large bench has been constructed out of old railway sleepers so you can sit and enjoy the view over the pond. As we did so, my hsuband spotted something unusual in the water: goldfish! First one and then a whole shoal of bright flashing fish, clearly released from bowls and aquariums when they got too big. They were all a good six inches long and obviously thriving, and as we watched we saw something else, just below the surface of the water. A gigantic and utterly majestic carp shadowed his brighter cousins. This fish was massive, several feet long perhaps, and the goldfish seemed unperturbed by him. He seemed almost a guardian of his domestic relatives.

Now on a number of occasions I have dreamed of ponds, lakes and rivers, where first massive goldfish and then other fish of improbable or even impossible sizes have lazily swam just below the surface, often raising their mouths and tasting the air. I’ve never been sure what if anything these dreams mean, but it was peculiar to see a version of my dream played out in real life.

Like I said, I wished I’d had my camera with me.