Fish Gotta Swim

“Fish, Jane! Goldfish in the pond, three of them!” My husband shouted like an excited schoolgirl as he ran towards me (not like an excited schoolgirl. Thankfully.) I followed him back to the pond and sure enough, there in the brown water were three deep orange, nearly red fish, about 6 to 8 inches long swimming their little hearts out. We stood there looking with delight at each other and back at them trying to process what we were seeing. Where had they come from? It was a sight bordering on the supernatural for a few seconds. Then I remembered our Victoria friend, Sarah, had released a plastic baggy full of goldfish minnows into the pond about four years ago. Naturally, I dashed back to the house and phoned her the big news and then she was one more delighted person. Good news!

Over the next few days things went like this: “Jane, come have a look! There’re four!”
“Six! Now there’s six of them! Come look! Quick!”

The final count was eight goldfish, and those fish were to be seen on that pond performing regularly and reliably, in full view, for about ten days. We were about to start trying to name them. Then an insidious and ever-expanding mat of duckweed began to cover the pond and obscure them from view. It was maddening. It got harder and harder to spot an orange glow under the surface, and we couldn’t see all eight of them together anymore. Were they even all there still? There are eagles and blue herons around. These guys are neon orange, after all. We fear for their fishy lives.

Thank heavens our photographer friend Marie came to the pond and immortalized them all a couple of days before the display was all over. She got some fabulous shots of them. She even felt they were following her as she walked around the pond to get better views. Some kind of mutual curiosity was going on. (I knew what she meant. I had felt they were curious.) She’s got shots of them with their faces out of the water, mouths open, ogling her. They performed like dolphins for her, swimming single file, then flicking their tails and splashing. They reconfigured into two groups of four, then went single file again. They were like synchronized swimmers. I can hardly wait to have the best shots blown up into big pictures. Some people have photos of their dogs and cats. We can have our goldfish on the walls.

And that’s where we’re at now. We hope they’re living their fishy lives safe from harm. They’ve survived, somehow, for all this time without us seeing them until now. They must have been in the lower depths, or maybe we just haven’t looked at the pond much in the past four years? It seems incredible we didn’t catch a glimpse of them in all that time. We hardly deserve this beautiful pond if we’re going to ignore it like that. At the odd moments when I do go down to look at it, it reminds me of Monet’s pond at Giverny. It looks every bit as romantic, with overhanging branches reflected in the mirror surface. There’s an island in the middle you reach by a little bridge that has a wooden hand railing, modeled after the bridge at Giverny. But it’s not painted green.

But, how long can you stand looking at a pond? Not for more than a few minutes, apparently. There is a bench down there, but the mosquitoes find you soon enough. The only thing that brought the pond to life for us was the almost magical sight of those beautiful fish, although it’s full of life, with frogs plopping in front of your footsteps and water skeeters on top. And perhaps we would have become inured to the sight of the goldfish over time as well.

Novelty and beauty perhaps go together. We humans certainly seem to require novelty. People come to this land and say how beautiful it is and sometimes it’s hard for me to see. We’ve been here a long time and I love the sight of someone else’s house and land. People routinely move house and renovate to satisfy a desire for change. It seems frivolous, but I suspect it’s not. People want to feel they’re moving forward. If people can’t change their outer world, people in the slums for instance, they change the inner, with drink or drugs.

So dark! What happened to my sweet uplifting goldfish story?! I’ve been listening, as I typed, to the wonderful Gillian Welch singing “My Morphine” (by Hank Williams I believe.) and the gloom has infected my writing.

You should have seen
Me and my morphine
When we used to go dancing
In the war
Spin me right off the floor


People oughta stick together
That’s the way to make a crowd
Now here you come alone and crying
Sayin you want to be my friend
Well that’s the way the cornbread crumbles
That’s the way the whole thing ends

Those first two lines slay me! She isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I just love her. Life isn’t all love, moonlight, and puppy dogs. Or goldfish. Look her up on youtube. Maybe she’s your cup as well. It’s a wonderful thing to find an artist you feel simpatico with. It makes you feel you’re not alone with your thoughts and feelings and it’s a real comfort. You’re together with something dark, twisted and really quite miserable…

Those big orange fish were a comfort and delight for us for about three weeks, until they started hiding. Or something…
Well, some will always have Paris. We’ll always have the goldfish pictures. I’m hoping they’ll show themselves again in the fall, when the duckweed dies down.

Here’s wishing y’all yer own goldfish summer!