Saturday, December 3, 2011

A HERO?


I saved a life yesterday. Seriously. Does that make me a "hero"? The word is used pretty loosely these days, so maybe I qualify. I'll tell you the story and you tell me what you think. First, some background...

You may have seen pictures of the fish pond in the little Buddha garden off our bedroom. I have posted them before, when I wrote about the problems with the electric fence we've had installed around the perimeter, to keep the raccoons from their nocturnal fishing expeditions. We inherited the fish--most of them--from the previous owner of this house, who had them in a bath-tub-sized pond on the upper deck; but when we took possession of the house--and of course the fish--we moved them down to this bigger pond outside the bedroom. To the original five, two speckled koi fish, one gold and two white fish, we added a sixth, a tiny goldfish we brought home from one of those dinner parties where they do things like use goldfish in plastic bags for table decoration and party favors. I'm sure that most of the poor little creatures got flushed down the toilet, but we brought ours home and he has been flourishing with his new friends ever since. He has grown from a tiny sliver into a fish of respectable size, and competes greedily with the bigger fish for food.

So these six fish have been living happily in their pond, protected from predators and fed on a near-daily basis; even when we are out of town, we are sure that someone will be on hand to give them a sprinkle of their fish food. They reward us with their silent serenity and their gentle, unhurried, gliding motion in the water—an appropriate and welcome presence in the Buddha garden. They do not have names. Indeed, we would be unable to tell the two koi fish apart; they could be identical twins. One of the white ones, though, disappeared recently. She was a strange one, small and pot-bellied, distended you might say. We thought when we first noticed this, a good long time ago, that she was pregnant; but no little fish have ever appeared in the pond, and she never lost her pot belly. We worried about her a bit, but she seemed happy enough otherwise. When she disappeared, we were never quite sure whether the raccoons might have got her despite the electric fence, or whether she just died a natural death and sank to the bottom of the pond, hidden by the rocks. Anyway then there were five…

Back to the story. A couple of nights ago, I noticed that the timer for the low-voltage lights in the Buddha garden was out of sync; we have had power outages because of the recent Santa Ana winds, so I assumed that was likely the cause. As is my wont, I kept postponing the task of navigating the rocks and undergrowth to get to the timer box, but yesterday morning I decided the time had come. I reset the timer and left the box open to test it, intending to return in a half hour, to ensure that the trigger mechanism had worked. A lucky decision it turned out to be. I did, in fact, remember that I needed to go out and check, and was about to climb back over the back of the pond and through the undergrowth, when I was shocked to stumble upon the prone body of one our speckled koi fish, now quite large, laid out on the side of the pond, beyond the electric fence.

Of course, immediately, I yelled out for Ellie. This was a totally unexpected disaster to befall our household. My first thought was for those raccoons. But hardly, in the light of day, in the half hour it had been since I went out to fix the box. Then I thought about the electric fence. Could the poor creature have electrocuted itself, jumping out of the water for a morsel of the food, still floating at the surface? It lay there, literally a fish out of water, and to all appearances lifeless, until… I noticed the small movement of a gill! Quickly, I caught him by the tail and flipped him back into the pond. For a few moments he floated, unresponsive, on the surface. Then, a small movement, a weary flip of the tail; and soon, yes, a definite sign of life, a wiggle of the body, a dive to deeper water…! He was alive! His friend, the other speckled koi, seemed to welcome him back, even nurse him a bit, nudging him along as he regained strength and watching his recovery. You'd swear that even fish can show compassion. It was not long before they were both darting around again, in a celebratory fish dance that was quite touching, actually, to watch.

So here I am, the hero of the day. A life-saver. As the saying goes, it warms the cockles of the heart.

3 comments:

Doctor Noe said...

Most amazing, Peter, that you have such empathy for the slightest of god's creatures.

robin andrea said...

A wonderful rescue, Peter! I always think in times like this (I rescue spiders and bugs ALL DAY LONG!), that we are balancing the brutality in the world, one little creature at a time. Good job!

stuart said...

If the fish is happy you are a hero.

I saved a bird that injured his wing, now he lives caged up, to keep the hawks from getting to him or her. but she can't fly, it has been several years,now I don't think it was heroic to trap the bird in a cage to save its life, but I can't release the wounded bird to its fate, and now we selfishly wake to its morning songs.