My son has a fair sized pond with a wide variety of fish. Most of them were babies when they were acquired, but he couldn’t resist one or two bigger ones. I was watching them today, taking a break from the cleaning. You have to look for a while before you can see beyond the reflections.
We have one shubunkin that doesn’t look well. I was struck by the way it has retired from the deeper water and now lies quietly in the shallows, half hidden by the weeds.
A shoal of golden orfe, swimming, as they do, in unison, approached and seemed to my imagination, to be paying their respects. They were, unusually, joined by most of the smaller fish, the goldfish and comets, fantails and small koi… even the grass carp. They seldom come to that end of the pond… the feeding is done at the other. All facing that same way. Almost as if they were showing concern for a fellow being in need.
The resident frog was basking in the marsh marigolds. In the corner the water was churning with tadpoles. Watching them always makes me feel like a child. “Just tadpoles?” inquired my son, laughing. He misses few opportunities to enforce his view that as I am obviously regressing, he is now the adult in our relationship.
The sturgeon, huge great things that look like leftover dinosaurs, were sailing with grace through the water. But it was the single, enormous ghost koi that caught my attention.
It is a beautiful creature, the metallic scales a mix of gold and silver in the sunlit water. It hung there, majestic, slow, gracious.
I couldn’t help but wonder what goes through its mind. Now I know there is not much of a brain… but is there is more to it than that? Do fish have emotions? Do they think, feel, wonder?
What does this creature ponder, if, in fact, it ponders at all? Being the same, but so much bigger than the rest, does it see itself as godlike? Or an outcast? Do the others perceive it that way? Does it think it is a sturgeon instead… they are the only things that approach its size…or a protector of the smaller denizens of the pond?
Or does it see itself as small as the others. Do the small fry understand that its length goes with age, or do they see it as a giant, or even recognise it as another fish, being so vast in comparison? Or maybe they just think it needs to go on a diet?
Or is it just lonely…. desperate for a playmate of its own type?
Or maybe it doesn’t think at all and it is just a weird quirk of my imagination that ponders these things, projecting them on the poor fish who thinks only of basking in the sunshine.
Then again… as I am the one who throws food in the pond, like manna from heaven to them perhaps, do they think I am a god?
Or maybe I am just weird.
That’s probably true.
Yeah, ok. Definitely true.
But we do it with people too, don’t we… all this wondering and supposing, reading things in and out of their minds that may or may not be there. We are always looking at the signs, the body language, the inflections and choices of words.. even their silences, constantly trying to interpret what is going through their minds. Especially where our own emotions are engaged.
Often we act on what we assume or suppose, rather than taking the communication a little deeper, a little closer, and actually finding out.
Of course, body language is a form of communication, and sometimes it is all we get. Sometimes we need to read those subtle signs to know when something is wrong, when we might, perhaps, able to help. It may be that the person brightly chattering away is hiding heartbreak behind the façade. Or perhaps they are reaching out for help, or seeking simply to connect but do not know how or where to begin.
It is, undoubtedly, easier to accept the surface than it is to see beyond it. Yet, just as with the pond today, once your eyes have adjusted and can see below the water, a whole new world opens up, and you never know what you might find in the hidden depths.