I remember my uncle – a farmer and a lover of bluegrass music – standing on the wooden porch of his old farmhouse, clad in denim overalls. His big, fat beard fluffed about the base of his fiddle when he pressed it to his chin. The toe of his workboot tapping in tune, beside an old claw foot bathtub. It was filled to the brim and brewing with algae-ed water, teeming with plump pollywogs.
We don’t have tadpoles but we recently got a free bathtub, and we’re working to transform it into a serene water garden. We’ve nestled it in among the succulents and plugged the drain. Picked up our “starter kit” at the local water garden supply. Included were the clarifying plants, two “good” snails, and three Plattie fish. These all work together, keeping the water clear and the ecosystem balanced.
On the car ride home, Jeb sat in the back seat holding the plastic bag of fish naming each: “Leo Messie”, “Big D”, and “Small D.” He says he thinks Big D is dying, but as I drive I assure him he’s probably just a little stressed and resting.
But Jeb was right. By the time we’re ready to release the Platties into their new world, Big D is belly up. The fish were $2.00 a piece and he was our biggest one. I wonder if it’s worth it to go back to the supply store and request a replacement. I wonder if Small D and Leo will make more fish. Then I suggest we let Big D’s body stay in the tub because the other fish may eat him.
Though a bit disappointed, Jeb seems relatively unphased by the death. I notice that I seem downright callous about Big D’s demise.
We move on to those that are still living. The snails are healthily attaching to the tub walls. Small D and Leo are swimming with excited freedom in the largest sphere they’ve ever seen. Our water-lily, the “Blue Beauty,” is stretching out its lanky stems. The mosaic plants are fractally floating.
So far, the bathtub garden is doing well. I do hope Big D is at peace wherever his spirit may be. And as for me, I’m grateful for the ease of buoyancy I feel each time I look into this watery world.