5/31/2021 9 Comments
Like a Fish Out of Water
I have a hobby of recasting gory idioms, when I hear them, into a vegetable-based language. Some are easy, obvious. There is "more than one way to peel a carrot." At camp in the UP some years ago, I planted one of Sam Taylor’s mugs in the lush green at the edge of a not so great lake, Little Beaver in fact. The late afternoon light slanted. Shadow blades of grass fell along the image, the essence of a fish reduced so thoughtfully, so generously to the lowest number of brushstrokes possible, that the beholder cannot help but feel invited to come play in the composition. The wood fired mug glowed. It was so lovely. The idea had been to sketch it there for a thank you note, and so it was, while moving through different lines of sight that I found myself in a resting squat. My mind jumped from Sam’s notional brushwork to a very visceral experience of a fish-out-of-water perspective. Losing my balance, sitting in the forget-me-not dense grass, my intermittent hobby found opportunity. "Fish out of water" corrected to "fish seeking water."
The shift from perceiving a victim of circumstance awaiting fate to imagining one of agency was so clarifying. The rephrasing assumes a fish, on its own adventure, actively moving to an environment it can thrive in, remembering how to get there. Pffft, "progress". There are plenty of fish in the lake, doing perfectly well without legs.
I try to consider self-doubt and anxiety as friends I can not, would not live without. They are, in another light and given a good home creativity and curiosity, the capacity and tendency to imagine possible, other worlds, of beauty, of the inscrutable, a resistance to the violence of certitude and distortions of complacency.
I was a fish out of water in Atlanta, trying to swim on humid land. Seeking water was a long investigative, active process. Having committed to the MN NICE program at Northern Clay Center in the summer of 2018, belongings were packed, including rugs and door mats. Choosing by texture alone which went where when I sorted the tiny Minneapolis apartment, a whole year would pass before I noticed that the two sisal door mats facing each other across the threshold of the front door, were quietly insisting “Welcome”. One a promise of the solitude of the interior space that refreshes, provides solace and wonder, an unknown I happily return to. The other, facing outward, a reminder that I’m a guest, transitory, of the world at large, a reminder to remain open to these unknowns as well.