THE FISH DOESN’T HAVE TO BE REAL
It was early morning when I looked out from the deck of my second story office, which was located in my home on the shore of Puget Sound. It was already a fine day, with the sun rising behind the spit of land where my house was, and Mount Rainer being half lit on the Southern horizon across the gently moving waters. I looked down to the lagoon below. It was a rather large lagoon, spanning about forty yards at the narrowest point of its oval shape. Earlier in the year I had built a wooden pier that reached out about ten yards straight from the house on my side of the shore. I had built the pier so that the triplets, living at the other end of the lagoon, could come visit on a paddleboat I had purchased for that purpose the summer before. The triplets were six years of age. Two boys and a girl. They had named the paddleboat ‘Bubbles,’ so I had dutifully painted the name on both sides of the pontoons, which kept it afloat. Some days they would vigorously paddle over to my pier, be greeted by Harvey, my dog-like cat, and by Tank, the large seagull who always sat on one of the high poles at the end of the pier. I kept a supply of those popsicles, the ones with the funny idiotic sayings printed onto the sticks, in my freezer, as the trips’ parents would not let them have such sweet things.
This morning I noted that the lagoon was faintly aromatic. I looked over toward the far shore and confirmed my suspicions. The far shore abutted the Sound itself. Normally, there was a narrow inlet of water that ran between the Lagoon and the waters of the Sound. The constantly working tides usually kept the small stream open and running. That movement of water allowed the lagoon to be refreshed and healthy. I noted, with a frown, that the stream was no more. A bad tide had moved a sufficient number of small, golf ball sized stones, just enough to close the gap. I sighed. Something would have to be done.
I threw on my jeans, boots and a logging shirt, then went to the back door, selected a pointed shovel, and made my way down to the shore along the bracken, following a well worn path Harvey and I took at least twice a day. I found the course of the old outlet and began to dig. Harvey found a large flat rock nearby to recline on, and provide moral support from.
The work was hard. The stones did not take well to shoveling, at all. It took a full hour to dig half way to the Sound. I sat against one wall of my four-foot deep trench to rest and reflect. I looked up and saw a line of miniature people approaching from the South. It was the triplets. They were walking in a single file, each with a small shovel over their shoulder. I waited until they arrived.
“Hey you guys,” I said, and waved with a big smile. One of the boys, Mark, was very expressive and yelled back, as they approached
“We’ve come to help you.”
I laughed aloud at that. The other boy, Tom, just smiled his usual little smile, while Anna the triplet leader, held up an arm. They stopped mid-way down the finished part of the trench.
“We’ll begin work here,” she stated imperiously, with no smile or wave.
I nodded at this industriousness and set back to work. I threw rocks for another fifteen minutes before I again had to rest. I leaned on the shovel and looked back.
Anna was sitting on one edge of the trench watching her two brothers. Mark and Tom had worked to drag a pile of driftwood to the edge of the divide, and were carefully assembling some sort of edifice right in the center of the trench. I shook my head and walked back to where they worked.
“What are you two doing?” I asked, with a moody serious expression. The boys looked up at me, then bent down and continued their efforts.
“They’re building a fish trap,” Anna said from her position nearby. The boys continued to work. I looked down at them in exasperation.
“You can’t build a fish trap out of wood. The wood will just float away when the water comes through,” I argued, to no avail.
“You can’t catch a fish in such a contraption.” I tried again. Anna appeared at my side and grabbed my hand. She nodded to me when I looked down, then applied some pressure to move me back in the direction I’d come. When we got back to where I had been working she let go of my hand. I looked back at her laboring brothers and was about to speak. She shook her head at me, so I said nothing. She reached up carefully and grasped my shirt near the collar. I bent down to her pull. Very seriously she looked into my eyes.
“The fish doesn’t have to be real,” she whispered.
The wisdom of the children was not lost on me, in fact, it rocked me to my core and went on to become part of the foundation of all my future rationality. What we believe in doesn’t have to be real because our faith in it’s reality is totally secondary to our faith in what we ourselves are, and what we are trying to do in the universe. Making things real out of things that are not real, is the most definitive part of the human condition. Imagination isn’t real, but without imagination there is no ability to mold reality to make it what we know it is today, and then make it into what we want it to be tomorrow.