Thursday, June 19, 2008


The house is pretty quiet. Having Bear around, with his incessant chatter, has been helpful at creating sound waves.

I've accepted that I'm going to have to ultimately rent the upstairs. This means the downstairs needs to be set up as "home" all the way around. It's what I'll one day be living in. That's no problem. It's large enough.

I've been lurking on Craigslist, watching for futon couches (just missed one today, drat it!) when I made this mistake of clicking on the "pets" classification.

And there it was. A 30 gallon fish tank for a ridiculously low price. I assumed it would be encrusted with years of hard water deposits, but no, it was a shining clean watertight tank, with a nice hood and working lamp.

I have "done the aquarium thing" before, and in fact cared for an entire aquarium room in a previous job. It's a lot of work, and you can sink a lot of money into chemicals, "stuff," decorations, and fish. And then they get sick and die if you are impatient, or they come laden with parasites.

However, I have, I hope, learned how to avoid all this.

All it takes is...patience.

Patience is something I'm having a hard time with right now. Especially patience with long, quiet, tasks that allow me to think about things that bother me. I'd much rather run outside and push the mower determinedly back and forth for an hour with the radio earphones on. No thinking.

But setting up a fish tank takes thinking. First, there is the moving of furniture. I didn't expect this to cause as much anxiety as it did. Moving the furniture meant accepting that anything can go anywhere I want it to...and no one will care.

Then there was cleaning the gravel. You can be impatient with this (or even fail to do it) and what you end up with is a mess. Dust and water everywhere, or a cloudy tank that takes a day or more to clear. I've learned that if you take your time, it's not the turmoil it could be. But it takes time. Which gives large spaces of time for thinking. More anxiety. Sigh.

Then there is filling the tank. Another snail's pace job that can be a real mess if you get hasty, grab a big bucket, and start sloshing 30 gallons of water from one end of the house to the other. In two gallon jugs, mess. But, it takes longer. More time to think about things I didn't want to think about.

I began to just accept the pace. I didn't want water on wood furniture. I didn't want a mess to clean up. I wanted this to be something that ultimately made me happy, and gave me a few nice, placid fish to watch. I would save three poor Comets from an overstocked tank at some big box store, where they had been destined as dinner for another fish. Instead they would now grow big and fat in their own large tank.

Fill jug, walk, pour, return, fill jug. Less anxiety.

By the time the tank was filled (not a single oversplash), the filter unpacked and installed, the hood on, the light glowing, the anxiety was gone. It took a few big breaths now and then, but it was gone.


I put water on for tea and went to look at the tank. I'd forgotten a few things about aquaria. First, with a deep tank, you need a long-handled tool to smooth the gravel that ends up in uneven hills after you pour in volumes of water. Second, tiny little bubbles stick all over the tank for quite awhile and interfere with that beautiful clear effect you get a tank for.

When I was younger I would have found some unsuitable something (usually a kitchen tool that was far too short) to try and smooth the gravel, and I would have tried to sweep the bubbles off with my hand, getting soaked to the shoulder.

You know what? The hilly gravel will be just fine until another day, and the bubbles will unstick in a day as well, all on their own. No fuss, no muss, no mess.

The major miracle here is that I set up the tank...before getting fish! If you've seen people walking out of a pet store with a new tank in a box and live fish in bags, they probably also have purchased a bunch of little bottles of chemicals they were told they needed to balance the water chemistry.

If you set up your tank a few days to a week in advance, your water will be room temperature, the chlorine will be naturally dispersed, and your tank will have started to age and begin the nitrogen cycle that will make it stable and keep your fish alive. No wasting money on chemicals.

No one wants to be this patient, however. They want those fish right now. And then they kill them being hasty. I don't want to kill creatures in my attempt to create something beautiful and calming.


I may be learning patience.

The gravel I chose? Well, that took time as well. And I finally settled on black. Yeah, black. I wanted "calm," but it's going to be awhile before I'm ready for "cheerful." I'll take my fish in formal gold and black, and I'll leave it to the cats to make me laugh.


Felyne said...

Wax on, wax off, Grasshopper.

You're reminding me of me a couple years ago.

Much good care to you babe.

Wildrun said...

Exactly. :) Thank you.

Cathy said...

What a beautiful post. It made me calm just reading it.