The Dreaming of a fish
The waters are warmer now on the eastern coast, inviting both for the swimmer and the fisher person. Standing upon the jetty off the Island I can see many fish showing off their shimmering scales, especially in the light reflecting upon the water. A man attuned the river tells me that it takes 9 years for a Bream to reach legal size as a catch. I think, holy shit! I ask him how old he thinks the fish are that we can see swimming around by some burly that he has set earlier. “Well, those ones there look to be about ten to fifteen years old” he says. To my eye they are not very big at all. The fish we are looking at are Bream, apparently a slow growing fish. His line go tight and within a minute he pulls in a Flathead fish, looks to me and asks if I would like it for dinner, “Yes Please!!” but just as I accept the offer the flathead flicks itself free of the hook and melts into the rivers depths like it was never separate from it.
As the man keeps flicking his line about, I wonder as to the dreaming of each river fish. I appreciate that the man merely fishes for an activity and prefers to return most of his catch back to the waters. He is very attuned to the variety of fish, their growing and lack of due to over fishing by commercial fishing vessels. He speaks of how people has told him he is cruel for pulling fish out of the water and throwing them back, meanwhile he watches them buy fish from the shop that they have no connection with and have not actually earnt the right to eat by catching it themselves. I appreciate his words and position.
In the pause between conversations, I again wonder as to the dreaming of the fish here in this river. I wondered about their watery existence and lifespan. About the significance of each fish and its contribution to the greater eco system.
I know I enjoy eating fish, grew up catching them both in the rivers and on the ocean as a child travelling and living from the land and waters. I used to live off them almost entirely for a span of my life after leaving high school. I used my money to pay rent and bills, but I would go out every single day and catch a shark to use as bait in my pots for mud crab. Id Cast my net to catch prawns after the rains had flushed them out of the river down into the mouth, most often I would also catch a fish in my cast net! Id fish and fish and fish and climb coconut trees, gather banana leaves and ginger and make a big old feed with rice! That was pretty much my diet for a good time there.
In living like this, I knew the seasons, not the four seasons that are commonly recognised. I attuned to the many seasons reflected in the species and their rhythms. Even the body began to know what was coming and you would know what to take when you caught it and what not to. It was just a feeling.
One day when I walked out about waist deep into the ocean to check a crab pot, it was out in the run off from the mouth of the river (crocodile territory!) I got close to it to see a rather large shadow circling it, kinda made my bum cheeks clam up! But I found that it was a giant Groper keen on what I assumed was a juicy Mud crab in the pot. Slowly I edged my way in and lifted the pot to indeed see one of the largest mud crabs ever… hmmm, what to do what to do?!?! I told the Groper “Sorry, perhaps another day” and I walked further up the river with pot in hand and set the Grandfather crab free.
But here I am, in another landscape. There are no crocodiles here, yet there are bull sharks and other finned friends. In the area here there are stone carvings of fish, whales and sharks, indicators as to languages and to the seasons.
Everything has its dreaming time, its time of creating and growth. It’s not right to take of things all the time. These fish have a dreaming about, a spirit that may well just need to stay around to contribute a little longer to the greater scheme of things.
Spend time learning of these things and we can perhaps better encourage species to flourish.
So the Dreaming of the fish can continue to be part of our Dreaming.
By Rachel Shields
Knowing In Nature 2017