Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lessons from my fish

You can barely see a hint of their orange-gold scales in the picture, but I assure you this pond that sits outside of my kitchen window has several large gold fish in it. They are part of the menagerie of animals that this family has taken care of for quite a few years. Normally, at such a 'Kodak' moment, the fish would be right at the surface, mouthing up at me enthusiastically. As well trained fish-owners, to reward this little display, whoever was standing at the edge, would throw in some floating pellets. The food would be gobbled up in a gold fish feeding frenzy. During these eat-as-much-as-you-can-in-60-seconds, our lone catfish, like a stealth fighter, would rise from the black depths, slowly and deliberately, taking in whatever pellets he could selvage.

Much as we got accustomed to this, we never got used to it. Thus, it was one hot afternoon, that I heard through the kitchen window, the sound of a fish breeching. Absorbed in whatever I was doing, I took mental note, but delayed going out with my bag of fish pellets. Some minutes later, I stepped out the back door and stood glued to my place, wide-eyed, as a heron ascended from my pond. Herons in my part of the world are far and few between, living as I do, in a sub-division of a large city. In my 55 years, I can honestly say I have, luckily, seen several heron out in the country, but certainly, not more than a dozen over this span. My point is, I consider herons a rare and privileged sight to see, just not in "my" pond, eating "my fish"!!

Coming around to the end of the pond, I peered into the depths (actually just about 3 feet, deep enough for the fish to winter over from December to March/April). I could not see a single fish. Frantic, I called my husband at work to tell him ALL the fish were gone and that I suspected a heron. What was he going to do? Arrest the heron?

Resigned to the fate of our little fish, we accepted the situation, discussed it with neighbours, called fellow pond owners to warn them. (You might be thinking at this point...this women has no life...and you would not be far off the mark! But be patient, there is a point to all of this.)

A day or so after the big event, I again looked into the pond and saw way, way down some colour and movement. the heron had not get them all. However, we were told by an expert (OK, he was a high school student working at the garden centre) that if a heron visits once, they will return again and again, as long as is necessary to empty the buffet table, so to speak. Acting on this advice, my husband constructed this ugly, but necessary, screened tent over the pond. One of our neighbours, thoughtfully, with care and concern, walked over with a huge mixing bowl, water sloshing over the sides and carefully emptied a brightly coloured, googly eyed rubber fish, (taken from one of his children's bath tub critters) into the water. Were it not for his hysterial laughter, I would have thought, how kind of him to do that.

So, long story short, we are now three weeks, maybe four, since the theft. We have removed the eye-sore screening from above the pond. But have our remaining fish recovered? Apparently not. They remain, traumatized it would seem, approximately 12 inches below the surface of the water. We throw food in, they get all excited and swim around crazily, but will not come up to the top, preferring to wait for the pellets to become sodden and drop down to them. This seems odd to me. Is there an "alpha" fish, so charismatic, that they have agreed to follow his/her advise to stay down low, no matter how tempting the sunshine and faces at the surface? Or, as one friend threw out, maybe they are grieving the loss of some in their clan, staying secluded for an unknown period of time. In any case, I am getting a little tired of this. A lot of work went into creating this "natural ambience" what with the back braking digging, hauling and placement of boulders, plants and moss. We like to enjoy it's features including the dozen or so gold fish frolicking about.

Nothing I do is changing the situation. I am at my wits end. We tried adding a newbie, a tiny shubunkin, thinking that a new resident, one without a background history of coming face to face with a heron beak would encourage the others to go back to their easy going, fun-loving natures. Strange... I haven't seen that little shubunkin lately either. Could they have pulled him to the dark side that quickly?

I need a fish-whisperer. Someone who can remind the fish, that yes, life is safer in the shadows, with less risk of being eaten by a heron, but there is greater joy when you leave the abyss. Someone who can coax them back up to the sun rays, to nibble again on the hyacinth roots, to nestle into the soft beds of mossy algae.

If you are gifted in such a way, able to penetrate the inner sanctum of the fish world, send me a comment as soon as possible. All suggestions are welcome; progress reports will be updated regularly.

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nltnjnns said...

Hi Michele -

Sorry, I don't have any insights about fish mentality.

However, I enjoyed your conclusion and your blog.


Fresh from the Source said...

I believe your fish have gone back to the wisdom of the natural world. When you go to a lake, you don't usually see fish at the surface. They know there are herons, or seagulls, or eagles looking for food.

Likely, before the heron the goldfish had become complacent - nothing preying after them; food dropping from heaven when these large bi-pedals come nearby. Life was good.

When we try to "change" nature, (factory farming or goldfish or heron lives) then we are interfering with a natural process. When they are ready, they will come around; not to please the bi-pedals, but for themselves.

I just had a thought ... maybe the pea-sized brain of the fish interpreted the legs of the heron, as a very skinny bi-pedal, so they don't trust people, either.

Just thoughts, not necessarily gifted ones.

Compassionate Consumption said...

Your thoughts were very brought a different perspective to this and it made perfect sense to me. So this could be the answer.
Minutes ago, my husband went out to feed the fish and they actually came up for the food, almost like old times. However, now I'm thinking that maybe we should not be encouraging this.
Thank you for commenting.

Compassionate Consumption said...

Thank you Nalton, for your comment; happy to hear you enjoyed what you read.