Mish Damstra

Something Fishy


I have found a stream.

I am following this stream brimming, swimming with fish, and I see an angel pulling a line, knee deep in the water. He murmurs to the hooked fish, returns it to the water and the fish fins away. The angel does this again and again.

These fish are strange fish. They shoot out the water and belly-flop into it again. Some have propelled themselves onto the bank and convulse in a fish-fit on the wet sand. As I throw them back as many return, throwing themselves into my deep footprints. I stop walking and sit on the bank, looking for the fish of my longing. I will watch the angel.

Before embarking on this journey I was attached to words and their meaning. I was looking for answers in books, turning pages, leaving moist prints on corners of words, longing for truth. Where do I go to be right? Here I sit on a stream bank, thoroughly booked. There are no words, no pages that lead me to paradise. No verbs, nouns, or adjectives that spare me a thought. I have booked my way out of living and into the lap of discontent.

I watch the angel hook fishes, murmur over fishes, for the longest time. I call to the angel when my watching is spent. I say: Angel, please tell me what you are doing?

Angel:    I’m angeling.
Me:    What is angeling?
Angel:    Angeling is like fishing. You cast your line and wait for a seeker to bite.
Me:    Why?
Angel:    Because I know and the yearning fish need to be told that which I know. So I am angeling.
Me:    What do you tell them?
Angel:    The truth.
Me:    The truth?
Angel:    Yes, I tell them the truth.
Me:    Tell me what you say.
Angel:    (Beckoning) Come here, yearning seeker, and you will hear from your own mouth what I say.

I splash through fish and water to stand before the angel. The angel tells me to put my hands in the stream, as if to receive something. I place my hands alongside one another, palms up, and lower them into the water. A fish floats onto my hands like a gift. I lift it from the water, and water pours from my hold. Fish gills gasp, fish eyes shine an unblinking stare, and the tailfin thrashes.

Me:    (Distressed) What do I say?
Angel:    Tell it the truth.
Me:    (Telling the truth) You are a fish and a fish you must be. Don’t think that breathing air will make you something more. Breathing air will make you less. You will die longing for what you always had – life. You are no more and no less for being a fish. You are what you are. Just be. If you long for nothing, you lack nothing. You are happy.

The fish flaps over the rim of my hands and plops into the stream and the angel says to the school of fish: Yes, cast not your aspirations higher, to the air above, but breathe what is yours. These are the waters of life.

The angel evaporates and I splash through fish and water back to the bank. I continue my journey with a lightness of tread and no fish throw themselves before or behind my feet; the water flows without ejecting its occupants heavenward.

I go forward, unhindered.

I have been angeled.

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