Under a sky of half-moon and stars, my husband, my son, and I sit crouched near the small pond in our garden. Moss undulates in the water. A moist breeze hints at the monsoon that will soon descend on our city in South India. My son has fourteen orange- and coffee-colored guppy-fish swimming in a thin plastic bag. He is waiting to empty the little, translucent creatures into the garden pond.
"Okay. Let them go," I say. My son begins to tilt the bag.
"No, wait," my husband says, as he leans towards his son, "Don't just drop them in all at once. That would be too much of a shock. Hold the bag in the water, let the water in and the fish out."
My son carefully holds the bag half-open in water. The first fish darts out. It is disoriented, but only for a moment. Then it races away, dashing between the pots of deep-green water plants with leaves that are open, like large hands, in the moonlight.
"That’s it, that’s it," my husband says.
The light from the lamp above falls on their short, black hair, the sides of their faces, their long arms. Soon, all the fish swim out. Some dart away instantly, some take their time, some circle then flee.
"Be gentle," my husband says. "They are living things."
This, I think, is the way to teach tenderness, huddled together, watching the pond fill with tiny living things.
Photo "guppies" provided by le Liz, via Flickr.com creative commons license.
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