Friday, August 8, 2008

80808: the day of the fish

When the water temperature is less than 14 degrees, I am silenced by its cold grip on my neck.
This little rock pool sits in the chill wind, slowly freezing. The sea sits quietly, pretending to be disinterested, but I can see it being careful not to spill over the rock wall. The pool is like glass beside it.
It’s 12 degrees.

Unaccountably I am excited at the thought: I shall freeze.

Passing through the blue green underwater, drawing a blue arc as I do, there is no need to breathe or move. I am moving, yet I am still. Fifteen metres suspended.

Everything comes to life at once: I am here but not here: I am crossing icy straights I am under the arctic shelf I am a body of tiny branches fronds speeding through the blue green cold. I am dreaming.

Despite that I am not numerical by nature, I know when I pass three hundred meters because I am able to feel, with my fish skin, the infinitesimal differences between here and there.
When I stop burning, when I am neither here nor there.

A rock cod lies, tilted and sand covered, which is what a rock cod normally does. Just lies in lazy fashion in the green ribbon grass, tilting with the tide, moving with the water. They look rather stupid, and I must confess that I share the general dislike of the rock cod: they don’t make themselves terribly likeable in looks or personality. Rolling around like that, all of them among the ribbon grass just on the other side of tis rock wall, where the sea is warmer than here in this frigid pond.

I fan my hand over it to get a bit of the sand off it and it flinches. Its dull spherical eye looks at me as it takes fright and swims aimlessly elsewhere to where I am. It must be the only fish I know to look stupid when swimming. Most of the other fish poke their noses up at it and I generally find myself making comments about old families and ancient lineage to certain goggle-eyed upstarts out there.
No respect, some fish.

Anyway, I say to the fish, no doubt some fisherman dropped you in here. Surely you’ve been around long enough not to fall for the old bait trick?
You stupid prickly old bugger I wanted to add

'It’s my birthday, rock cod' I told it

He looked about my vintage, very knocked about and patches missing off its head.
Actually, I noticed then it was a very ancient rock cod.

Its voice sounded like mud when it answered.

I know not what is a birthday.

'Time. A circle, some kind of celebration of my birth. Years.'

The rock cod spoke again:
is birthday like darknesses and the changing of green from bright to dark? The coming and going of the cloud of silver garfish? How many times I have heard the humpback ones singing their way north? For I have heard that many many times.

Time is an abstract, I thought. This rock cod and I may have heard the same number of whale chorus, and here we are in this cold water, both, prickly old buggers we two.

Over the next kilometre I saw it wafting about, looking for somewhere dark to sit and roll with the tide. Inexplicably I began to have the urge to slither over the rock wall and be amongst the ribbon weed. I climbed up on the edge, and across the cunjevoi. I must have had some rockcod dream in my head.

The sea was waiting. So warm, I swam with my hair in the waves, the riptide strong. It was warm in the sea.

I realised it was the sea all along, drawing me into it, Urging me to leave the cold and slither in among the ribbon grass.

The tide was tugging me. Below the rock cod were rolling to and fro half hidden. The green was wintergreen, their dull eyes looked into the grasses. Such a strong current today.

I let it take me.

Friends called by. I would have joined them , but I know that even I can’t keep up with this lot.

Later that night my favourite person friends came and cooked me steamboat and I was a very happy fish indeed.

Post script: do click on the last picture and look at the smile on the face on the left....


Jellyhead said...

Happy belated birthday dear fifi!

bluemountainsmary said...

Happy Birthday dear Miss Fish.

Damn that was a beautiful post - words and photos.

Pam said...

You sound like you were a very happy fish indeed.Happy Birthday!

meggie said...

So glad for the steamboat! Hope your birthday was 'fizzy'.

Suse said...

Happy birthday to my favourite mermaid


alice c said...

Happy Birthday dear Fifi - may this year be full of wonderful things for you.

little red hen said...

Happy Birthday Fifi! Snap! I'm an august baby too! Hope this year brings many successful proposals and applications and many delightful sea adventures.

Luhlahh said...

Lion-Fish! Happy Birthday!
My students sang me Happy Birthday today, asked how old I was - 21!
How amazing to have lived 37 years and only be 21!
Good for me!
Wishing you lots of love and fun and sucess and clear water!
Lou X

meli said...

I'm glad you had a nice day. Your caramel cake turned up in one of my dreams. It was a caramel roll-up cake. I'm not sure that would really work and I'm sure yours was nicer. (Seem to be a little obsessed with cakes right now...)

fifi said...

Isn't it amazing so many of you are august persons too.
And lou I thought you were about 22...happy birthday to you too :-)

I think your cake obsession has global implications. I am still needing a resolution of this raspberry urge, and Bonne maman jam, yum as it is, is not enough.

Thank you all for the lovely wishes. I shall post further on the event soon.

Molly said...

I like your friends, but that stuff they;re swimming in makes me shiver! Happy birthday Fifi!

Molly said...

This post was so mesmerizing, I came back for another read, and pinned down what it makes me feel---your words are like silvery fishes, weaving their way in and lazily out of those green underwater ribbon grasses....weaving for us watery blue-green dreams.

Kirti said...

Live long and happy lovely lady fish!
If you want a little taste of the book, Rachel is talking to Joanna Murray-Smith (author), and Sarah Tomasetti (artist) on Radio National, Life Matters, 9am Tuesday 9th September, about art and motherhood....xxxxx

Regulus said...

A very,very belated happy birthday ... Sorry for being so scarce around your blog. I really don't have any good excuse.

How, though, do you manage to do so much swimming in the winter down there? I mean, Sydney has a mild climate, but the water surely must be rather cold.

travistee said...

I spent a good hour reading the first page of every new book in my local bookstore. I have to say that your writing far surpasses most of what I read yesterday, girl.
I hope you're making big plans!