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.