Preparing Through Parable: All Kinds of Fish

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winterfish

 

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 
Matthew 13: 47-48

 

mudpondkoi

 

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. 
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
– It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
– if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! 
And I let the fish go. 

~Elizabeth Bishop  from “The Fish”
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sunrisepond1

 

All my life, I’ve taken care of a variety of fish in tanks.  As a child, I would watch, mesmerized, as our tropical fish glided around, happily exploring their little ten gallon world.  I willingly cleaned away the algae, rinsed the gravel and changed the filter. As a teenager, I boasted at least three different tanks aerating away in my bedroom, my own little aquacultural world.

During college and medical school, I chose to share my room with goldfish and bettas, thriving on their contentment within a clear glass bowl.  I didn’t think of them as emotional support animals, but there was a joy obvious in their albeit limited existence: they still thrived when I was away, not missing me, but were always thrilled when I fed them, and tolerated my messing with their home maintenance.

My current aquarium is over thirty years old and boasts over two dozen fish and plenty of furry algae and plants. Some of my watery friends have lived a decade or more and when they pass, I miss them.  Even the dozen koi and goldfish in our farm pond have expressive faces and individual personalities that I’ve gotten to know well as they come when I call.

I’m not a fisherman so can’t imagine sorting these finned friends good from bad as the parable suggests will happen in the kingdom of God.  I know the heart of compassion I feel for these animals I’m responsible for, as I know and have experienced the compassion of our Creator.

I would hope when the time comes that I end up in His net, that He’ll look at me, at my blemishes and wounds and the number of hooks in my mouth from the times I’ve been caught and escaped, and if He’s not yet ready to take me home, or deems me not yet ready to leave this world, He’ll throw me back to keep trying to get it right.

He has promised us that.

Rainbows, rainbows, rainbows.

May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand.  He prepares me with parable.

tanks

 

koigold

 

 

The Slowest Beauty

flamingobutterfly

birdofparadisebutterfly

As though I were nowhere around, the porcupine
              shuffles the edge of the road,
              in five minutes crosses
                            a distance I could have covered
                            in less than one

And disappears at last into cattails
              and rushes, sunset, a vespers
              of waterbirds, leaving me
                            still unwilling to move.

I am a sucker for scenes like this.
              The slowest beauty can rush me.
              And here I am,
                            all of my defenses down.
~Ingrid Wendt from “Porcupine at Dusk”

 

tropicalflower

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A walk through enclosed tropical gardens
to witness the slow beauty of wading flamingos,
koi moving between their legs,
a lazy mist over exotic flowers,
butterflies testing their fragile wings.

I am overwhelmed,
my defenses down
over the rush of my life
outside this bubble.

Going back through the double doors,
re-entering the gray and cool of the northwest,
the bubble burst
and I’m released in a flutter of wings.

closeowleye

 

 

The World is Flux

wwucarpet
koigold
sunsetbegonia
The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow…

Doctor, if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
~Lisel Mueller from “Monet Refuses the Operation”

It is all about the light
when it fluxes and flexes around us,
transforming us, making us something more
than how we started.

If I could only see this in each person,
how light and water transfigures the rankest weed
and the deepest shadows,
if only my heart could expand
as does the heart of God
when He claims us as His own…
then I could truly see,
how heaven pulls earth into its arms,
blue vapor without end.

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whole-earth-lrg.en

A Spark Extinguished

winterfish

winterpond3

The water going dark only
makes the orange seem brighter,
as you race, and kiss, and spar
for food, pretending not
to notice me. For this gift
of your indifference, I am
grateful. I will sit until
the pond goes black, the last
orange spark extinguished.
~Robert Peake from “Koi Pond”

 

The fish slow in winter sleep,
resting on the pond bottom,
needing nothing from above.
Their fins and tails sway in passing
of the current yet
they remain stilled,
a stark orange smudge
in the cold water.
When morning comes,
the fish bleed out orange
to reflect the overhead dawn
that tries in vain
to stir them back to life.
A spark extinguished,
their pilot flame turned low
until the reignition
return of longer days–
the hopeful promise
of spring.

 

winterpond

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Quieter Beneath the Quiet

mudpondkoi

Our shadows bring them from the shadows:
a yolk-yellow one with a navy pattern
like a Japanese woodblock print of fish scales.
A fat 18-karat one splashed with gaudy purple
and a patch of gray. One with a gold head,
a body skim-milk-white, trailing ventral fins
like half-folded fans of lace.
A poppy-red, faintly disheveled one,
and one, compact, all indigo in faint green water.
They wear comical whiskers and gather beneath us
as we lean on the cement railing
in indecisive late-December light,
and because we do not feed them, they pass,
then they loop and circle back. Loop and circle. Loop.
“Look,” you say, “beneath them.” Beneath them,
like a subplot or a motive, is a school
of uniformly dark ones, smaller, unadorned,
perhaps another species, living in the shadow
of the gold, purple, yellow, indigo, and white,
seeking the mired roots and dusky grasses,
unliveried, the quieter beneath the quiet.
~Susan Kolodny “Koi Pond, Oakland Museum”
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