The surface of the pond was empty… not a fish in sight… yet by the time I had taken the last few steps across the deck, forty of them were waiting to be fed, with several of them, taking a leaf from Simon’s book and sticking their faces out of the water, looking hopefully… and confidently… in my direction. They know the footsteps that herald food.
Not for the first time I wonder about that. Small though I am in the eyes of the world, I am such a vast being in comparison to them. They cannot see me when they dart about their business in the water, only when they raise their eyes towards the heavens from whence all care comes; either in the form of fresh water and oxygen or as manna falling from the skies. Sometimes our eyes meet and there is a sense of wordless understanding. A promise, perhaps, that I will always do what is best for them. I wonder if they realise.
I have, in the past, removed them from their pond to treat their maladies in medicated buckets. When water levels have brought near disaster, I and others of my kind have worked to put things right and ease their suffering. They have not seen as they gasped and struggled, only felt the fresh inflowing of clean water. Sometimes there is a muddied pool where all seems dark, dull and the visibility is poor. The fish cannot know that this is when the pump at the bottom of the garden is being cleaned or the stream dredged for their benefit, yet they will play in the crystal waters that such murkiness precedes.
Meeting the eyes of a fish whose language and mode of living is so different from mine is a strange feeling. They move through different dimensions, up and down, with a freedom mirrored by the birds in the air. It is odd to realise that this creature must see us as both alien and, in our own terms, godlike, when it has a freedom in movement we cannot know unless we enter its domain and mimic its movements.
Yet it is a freedom confined, bounded by the banks of the pond… a limited environment which provides them with everything they need. Being a complete ecosystem, they do not even need the food I give them in order to survive, yet the falling flakes are welcome, giving a sustenance that allows them to live and grow in a way beyond what their own environment alone could supply.
Although so much comes from an ‘above’ to which they look for care, they cannot live in my world. The air that sustains my life is both too much and not enough for them to breathe… their evolution has been different from mine, yet, of course, the waters in which they swim are the same as those which brought my ultimate ancestor into being, and in which my own reflection is backed by the heavens to which I, in my own turn, look for a sustenance beyond need.
My body and theirs share the same substance, and even their environment is a large part of the vehicle in which I move through the world. Water is so much a common thread that both fish and human could not survive without it. Yet we use it in different ways; were I to breathe water it would be just as lethal to me as a goldfish breathing air. Yet there is water in the air I breathe, just as there is oxygen in the water that passes through their gills. We are poles apart… opposites in so many ways… yet so closely linked that our kinship is unmistakable.
I watch them swim through reflected trees; the clouds above my own head mirrored in the water. I wonder if the life below the surface mirrors my own more closely that I might at first think. I too look up to the heavens, trusting that the murky waters that sometimes trouble my life flow from a greater good I may not see. I know that it is from another and higher realm that I draw the sustenance that makes the difference between surviving and living. And I wonder if the freedom of movement we call free will is as confined by the limits of our existence as the swimming of fish by the banks of their pond.
Perhaps, too, there is a greater kinship with that which I call the One than may at first be perceived, for if I and the fish share the substance of being, perhaps that too is mirrored, and adds understanding to a phrase much loved by those who serve in the Mysteries. “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”