Babel-fish wanted

lincoln bakewell 001 (195)

I had to post the picture of the dragon… you’d all run away if you thought I was going to write about fish again… and I’m not. Not exactly. Well, maybe a bit…

“Do fish even have ears?” asked my son, watching as I lay full length on the deck, dangling over the pond and conversing with the big koi. My hair was tangled in the loose-strife and the bees seemed to accept me as part of the plant. By this time, we had been conversing for quite some time too.

It’s Simon, you see. The big ghost koi that blows bubbles at me. We’re developing quite a rapport. He not only blows bubbles to be fed, but comes to the surface and follows me round the garden, watching… swimming to keep me in sight. And I know… I can feel him watching. One of the mirror carp has started following his lead… and a little shubunkin has become an acolyte… and Hoover, the grass carp who seems to vacuum food from the water’s surface… So now I have eight eyes watching every move. Six of them are only interested in food. Simon, however, is different.

It matters not if fish have ears. What was going on was communication. I have no idea what Simon was trying to communicate… nor he I for that matter. Our languages do not coincide and I am not about to start blowing bubbles in Morse. But even so, there was something wordless passing between us… and no food involved.

After a while I got up. Well, tried to… while the other fish made a run for cover at the movement, cursing and groans, Simon stayed put. Watching. I went for the fish food and reached down… he took it from my fingers. Trust had perhaps been established in that incomprehensible conversation.

I could do with one of the Babel-fish made famous by Douglas Adams… which, inserted into the ear of intergalactic hitchhikers “feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.” Though, to be fair… ear-borne fish don’t seem right with Simon watching.

He is, though, ‘just’ a fish. One of many in the pond. Why this rapport? Attention, perhaps. His antics drew my eyes… his behaviour caught my attention. Perhaps mine caught his too. It is a reciprocal thing and easy to understand and explain. Once that attention is mutual, a connection is formed. A bond. He’s not even ‘my’ fish!

It doesn’t just work with fish though. Or people… or even cows.

Give your full attention to anything and it seems to respond. A task becomes easier… well yes, that makes sense. A journey becomes more interesting. That too. Plants respond to sound with increased growth… But ‘inanimate’ objects also seem to respond to our attention. Ask anyone who has ever threatened a recalcitrant computer with a sledgehammer if it doesn’t behave…

Is anything completely inanimate though? Isn’t everything within our concrete reality made up of vibrating molecules… miniature universes so small that each whirling particle might be inhabited by civilisations that wax and wane like our own? It isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility, is it? Perhaps the connection many have with the land… the affinity with crystals, paint or stone… maybe that too is a reciprocal attention at a level too deep and too obscure for us to comprehend.

Of course, coming from a woman who lays on the floor to converse with a fish, you might just see it as a rather random idea. Or that might be a polite interpretation… Or maybe it is worth considering?

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