A Tribute to a Fish.
I have never been an “animal person.” I didn’t really grow up with pets, and have never really been aware of the proper etiquette in regards to interacting with animals. I don’t want dogs to lick my face, I don’t trust cats, and I have never really felt the desire to have a pet. I’m sure that this is a combination of several things: the fact that the one family dog I can remember was a suicidal greyhound that we rescued from the racing life, my allergy to cats, and the ease at which I get grossed out.
My closer friends will attest to my natural aversion to animals, and some friends, in fact, doubt the gentleness of my overall character because of it. Apparently I missed the memo about an affinity for animals being a part of what it means to be a good, sensitive, well-rounded, earth-loving individuals. I like to think of myself as someone who is trying to be all of those things, however, the animal-lover part is something that I have never acquired into my personhood.
However, the capacity for this love of creature is possibly growing in my heart.
And it all started with a fish.
While working on the farm this summer, I learned a lot of things, both literal and symbolic. This was important for my life in some really meaningful ways because it was all happening simultaneously with one of the more confusing and sad seasons of my life. To experience the juxtaposition of hopeful participatory growth and desperate heartbreak was one of the most interesting and best things to ever happen to me.
Everything felt fragile,
and, because of that, I treated everything with a carefulness that I don’t think I ever learned to do before.
After a series of important conversations over long afternoons of weeding and harvesting, I decided that during this particularly tender time in my life, I was ready to have a pet. I was a little bit over humans at the time, but still felt like I had all this energy towards wanting to love something, wanting to care for it, to be sensitive and willing towards something who needed it.
So, I got a fish. Along with a well-researched companion, I went to PetsMart and I found the fish that I had a “connection with” (per the advice from my well-researched companion), I picked out the best fake plant I could find, and a classic fishbowl. On the drive home, we named him Miles, and thus was born, quite possibly, the most symbolic fish of all time.
Now is the part of the post in which I realize that I am running the risk of sounding literally insane, but I think that this is one of those times when it is absolutely worth it. My ability and desire to take care of Miles and to love him was something that really was important to my daily routine, and to my remedial thoughts of this summer. It was part of my life, to take care of this fish, and I owned the responsibility with great pride.
Yesterday, Miles died. Now, I realize that the sudden death of a fish is sort of part of their reputation as pets. They are “low maintenance” and are often times a buffer pet that parents give their children as an object lesson to teach them that they probably-won’t-be-able-to-take-care-of-a-real-puppy-so-please-stop-asking-for-one kind of things. But that is absolutely not what Miles was for me. He was this living representation of a growing sensitivity and desire in my heart that had somehow continued to flourish and thrive- despite all of the circumstantial evidence in my life that was pointing towards the sign that said that sometimes trying to love something isn’t worth it at all.
When I realized that Miles was dead, I felt that feeling you feel in your stomach when you would do just about anything to make what is currently happening un-happen. The feeling was too familiar, and instead of letting a few poetic and precious tears roll down my face, I wept in the ugliest possible way. And all of these thoughts and emotions came flooding into my freezing cold living room, and I just sat there. All of the things that Miles’ presence was holding back came rushing into the room, and I felt the heaviness of every single one of them. And I think it was then that I realized that this sensitivity that has grown in my heart that just so happened to be disguised as a fish is one of those lessons that I think I needed to learn in exactly that way. To, despite all the proof in my life, care about things with tenderness and fragility is so important. And to truly care about something is to do so with the acknowledgement that you might also lose it.
And then I thought to myself,
“Am I crying this hard over a fish?”
And then I started laughing, while still crying, and probably looked more like a maniac than I ever have before in my life. Because the answer the that question is:
Yes. I am crying over a fish. And I really think that that is okay.
[Miles. July 2013-December 2013]