Thursday, April 19, 2012

The First Warm Day of Spring

By Patrick J. Walsh

Walking the usual route in the park, along the road that leads up the hill to the upper parking lot, I felt the warmth of the first truly warm day of the Spring.

About a quarter mile distant, out on the broadest part of the lake, a goose was making that odd sound that always reminds me of beer drinkers’ laughter — the weird guttural staccato that makes obvious why some long ago linguist decided that a group of geese are best described as a “gaggle.”

A few more feet toward that part of the road that stretches over the culvert that connects the stream on the left to the wide part of the lake on the right, and my mind drifted back to the days when I used to play along the edge of the stream while my brother fished nearby...

The goose quieted down just as I reached the railing at the left edge of the road, just above the water. An odd gurgling followed; a demented sort of splash, somewhere below and slightly upstream. It was a fish — a reasonably large fish, given the shallowness of the stream — his tail fin slapping the surface as he struggled toward the opening to the tunnel beneath the road. mind drifted back to the days when I
used to play along the edge of the stream..

My first thought: I need to get a picture of this! Fumbling through the pockets of my sweatshirt for the camera, I wondered at the strangeness of the circumstance: the fish desperately trying to make his way forward, his very survival dependent on closing the distance from the scant flow of water where he was, onward to the opening of the wide tunnel beneath the road, and then through to the freedom of the lake beyond... and my initial reaction only the simple-minded desire to document the epic scene with a quick snapshot.

Then another idea took hold: wouldn’t it be relatively easy to simply make my way down the hill to the water’s edge and just reach over and pluck the poor creature out of his gasping, grasping misery? I could just carry him the twenty or so yards he needed, then drop him back into the water at a spot where he’d have enough depth to finish the rest of the trek on his own.

A better thought, this — not that it actually led me down the bank, but better because it immediately raised the question of whether or not it would be appropriate for me to mess around in things about which I knew so little. Catching a fish on the end of a line, I understood; interfering with the course of a fish engaged in a life and death struggle with the very forces that enabled him to live and grow in the first place, well... that seemed a little large for the lightness of the afternoon.

Then, in the sheer instant it took for my thoughts to travel the distance between my initial intent to photograph the poor beast’s struggle and my ultimate quandary about the desire to help and the perhaps questionable propriety of doing so, I lost sight of both fish and stream for several seconds.

In that brief interlude, the dark, thin form flitted closer to the gaping opening beneath the road, and I heard but could not see as he made one last slosh and a plunking sound, as he made one final leap across the surface and then vanished into the murky liquid dusk below.

He was free, released into a wide safe swathe of the lake, to be tested no further by the narrowness of the stream; I was free, to continue my walk in the warm, dry air of the afternoon, pondering the current of my thoughts when tested by the inescapable austerities of nature.

© 2012 Patrick J. Walsh

• Photo, Fish, or Refrain — what would you do in this situation?
  Please share your thoughts in the comment box below...

Related posts (Other Walks in the Park):

Encounter in Autumn

A Walk Beneath The Dripline

A Walk in the Park

1 comment:

  1. I'm like you on this one: while the thought (the better. well-meaning thought) travels from idea part of the brain to the action part, the opportunity passes.