Posts Tagged ‘fish’

FishShoal2Have 4 minutes 50 seconds? Then watch this absolutely beautiful video of the underwater world of Fiji and Tonga.

One of the true joys of the internet is that our friends and family send us links to videos such as these where we can be magically transported to a world we would otherwise never see. The photography is beyond spectacular, the accompanying music perfection. If you click on the “cc” button, you will be shown the species and location of the fish and other creatures you see.

What impressed me so is the clear intelligence in the eyes of the fish as they watch the diver filming them. This is a real treat.

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When I was a child of  10 or 11, my Dad suggested we all go fishing at Cooper’s Pond in the town nearby. He made it sound like fun, so off we went.

CoopersPond-1bCooper’s Pond was a lovely park, the same place our family went to enjoy picnics or walking. On these outings, I brought along my Brownie camera that I’d been given at 9 years old, and I loved taking photos of the ducks on the pond as well as feeding them. What wouldn’t be enjoyable about fishing?

We didn’t have real fishing poles, just long sticks to which my Dad had secured some kind of line, maybe string, with a hook on the end. On the hooks, we put a piece of bread, and then we cast our lines into the water. It didn’t take long before I got a nibble, and something tugged at my line. My father got all excited, and instructed me to pull it toward me and then lift it out of the water.

There on the end of my line was a carp, probably only about 7″ long, writhing and twisting to free itself of the hook I had managed to snag in its sensitive mouth. I was horrified that I was the cause of this poor creature to be flailing about so, and I immediately began to cry, screaming, “Daddy, take it off! Daddy, take it off!” Daddy removed the hook from the fish and gently let him go back in the water, but I was inconsolable.

Who was I to have caused this animal such pain and make him fight for his life? As a child, I had not been able to make the connection between “having fun fishing” and the reality of a fish writhing on the end of my hook until I saw the results firsthand. I was heartbroken, I who fed all the ducks in that exact same spot, I who loved all animals from the earliest age I can remember.

It wasn’t until many years later, even still, that I made the next major connection that the meat or fish I cooked and ate had once been a sentient being. This is not what we’re ever told as children. The meat or fish served at meals appeared as a finished dish, prepared in some usually delicious way. One had nothing to do with the other.

The constantly evolving realization over time that the food on my plate had indeed been a living creature … and one who most likely suffered enormously before getting to my plate … enabled me to gradually eliminate almost all meat and fish from my diet in recent years. This is a plus as I move along the path to becoming vegan, but the earliest seeds of this transformation were sown when a little girl went fishing and found a humble carp to be her teacher.

Here is a dilemma I ponder nowadays … how, in writing children’s books, can I impart to young readers, without scaring them to death, of course,  that the animals they eat for dinner are no different in their capacity for contentment or pain than the animals they love as pets? That animals from chickens to elephants, honeybees to pigs, have complex lives of their own, social structures, families, attachments to their babies, and that maybe it’s not the right thing – the kind thing – to use them for our own ends, to cause them such suffering.  Is it enough to simply engender a love and appreciation of animals?

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Babysitting A Betta

Meet Pipsqueak. She is a female betta, a type of fish sometimes known as Siamese Fighting Fish. But Pipsqueak is a lover, not a fighter.

Each year I watch my neighbors’ pets for a week or two when they go on vacation. Up until now, that has included their 2 cats and their pond fish. As they built a new and much larger pond this year, I am also caring for koi in the pond as well. But my next charge was brought over in a glass vase by the younger daughter, C. It was a betta. Bettas are new to me.

C. gave me instructions to change the water once a week, and gave me food that appeared to me like the pond goldfish food crumbled up with instructions on how often to feed Pipsqueak. Without a filtration system in there and after talking with a friend, I felt a bit concerned. So … me being me … I stopped at Petco and purchased a book on bettas, which will be for C. when she returns, and some food formulated especially for these fish. My suspicion was correct in that the water needs to be changed way more often for that size vase. I had also noticed the small rocks in there had some rough edges which might tear her delicate fins and many cracks which could harbor bacteria. No problem, I have many decorative marbles. And so I read about bettas.

Pipsqueak has already had her second water change, now has safer rounded-edge flat marbles, and a food to suit her needs. She actually has enough room to swim in that vase. I’d probably give her something bigger, go for plants, etc. but she really isn’t my fish. My adjustments are to insure her health and that she’ll be doing well when C. returns. She’s a great kid, about 12 years old, that really does like animals. I think she will be interested to learn what more she can do for her little fish.

Now Pipsqueak … I didn’t know much about bettas, though I’ve never been crazy about any animals kept in small spaces, (and that is different with this fish), but I didn’t expect too much from her personality-wise. Well, has Pipsqueak surprised me! She’s an amazing little fish, watches what I do, comes up to say hello, etc. and otherwise swims about her little “tank.” I keep her with me as much as I can as she is actually quite curious! (Not next to the computer, not in sunlight.) At night, she’s on top of a bookcase where the cats don’t see her.

I am always humbled when I meet and learn about a new kind of animal. Every animal, bird, insect, fish, reptile … has it’s own life, habits, needs and … personality. We rarely give them enough credit for being the amazing creatures they truly are. So I am enjoying Pipsqueak and trying to give her a pleasant time while she’s visiting. It didn’t take long to see … she’s so much more than “just a fish.”

In the wise words of Anatole France,
“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

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My neighbors rebuilt their pond – it’s magnificent. I watched the fish as they initially huddled together, sometimes at the very bottom of the pond when temperatures were cold, but at others, it seemed, for security. Every movement was made as a group, their little school. In barely a week and a half they have settled in, and now explore, swimming alone or with a few others, then back in the larger group, all dictated by needs and desires of which I can only surmise.

They frolic in the waterfall, dive, dart and occasionally leap splendidly in the air and splash down. I could watch them all day; they are mesmerizing. Observing a pattern of life so vastly different from my own – and yet so elementally the same – brought to mind a favorite quote.

It’s by Henry Beston from The Outermost House, A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, written in 1928. This quote prompted me to pick up the book at the annual library sale, a perfect summer read.

“For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.” 

This quote has lived in my heart for over two decades and resonates deeply with my own love for animals. The fishes’ world may be a simple pond, but they are a nation of their own.

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