This was not the plan. I certainly didn’t see it as part of my lesson.

My high hopes this morning: meditation, coffee and morning pages, dive into editing my second novel, then clock in for work by noon.

As soon as I stepped onto the back porch, I knew my plans were toast. I could hear it before I saw it: the water in my koi pond had emptied overnight. The draining stopped at the lowest level—about the size of a large home aquarium—because the pump sits on the middle shelf of the pond.

Maybe I screamed.

  • Did I burn up the pump?
  • Did all the fish die?

After turning on the hose to add water, I ran upstairs, “Steven! I killed the fish again! I killed the fish!” We threw on yard-work clothes while I explained that the waterfall must have diverted away from the pond after I cleaned the pump yesterday.

Back on my patio, I sat staring into the murky, opaque water for a few minutes.

  • Did anyone survive?

Slippery Redemption

Tears threatened my cheeks. Just yesterday, as I was cleaning the pump, I told myself, “This abundance of fish that Oscar and Wiener —the Bologna “Brothers”—gave us is my redemption following the 2020 fish fiasco.”

Did I mention? In July of 2020, my efforts to clear the murky pond water killed 20 fish.

This morning, I wanted to cry because I am clearly not redeemed. I wanted to cry because, again, something I did was harmful to creatures in my care. Mostly, I wanted to cry because the hard edges of my morning routine that I ferociously protect were digging into my nerves.

Dammit! This is my peaceful, centering, meditative, creative time.

A couple of blog posts have been brewing in my head for weeks, one about lessons (whose are they?) and another about how we show up (rigid versus flexible, soft versus hard). I have entertained the notion that a couple of people in my life need that hard things break, be soft lesson. And I’m chewing on our human knee-jerk response to lessons we receive via articles, podcasts, or memes: So-and-so really needs to listen to this! or I should show this one to so-and-so!

Because, everyone else has so much to learn.

In my wash of frustration, I stared at the murky water of the lower level, the layers of algae on the exposed rock, and the sprawling irises and water lilies. The hard-soft lesson was my lesson, not somebody else’s.

I softened in my wrought iron patio chair, stepped onto the middle shelf of the pond, and began pulling out the granite and plants. Steven pressure washed the stones, and I trimmed the irises and lilies.

Did She Kill Them?

In case you’re hanging on to find out the fate of my fish (did she kill them all again!?), much is still to be determined. Only one confirmed dead; he was caught in a tangle of iris roots. I had two live fish encounters when I was in the pond. After about nearly four hours and a thunderstorm, we took a break and threw some fish food in the water. Nothing. I settled back into my patio chair to meditate with thunder, and there! I spotted one, one of the small ones. A few minutes later, another. Was that the same guy? We’ll never know.

So far, and it’s been over eight hours now, we’ve seen less than ten of the frylings. Still no sign of the parents, Oscar and Wiener.

But there’s hope. About a year ago, their “brother” Meyer went missing. He was too big for a snake, so Steven and I assume a bird of prey or a raccoon took him. After Meyer disappeared, we didn’t see Oscar or Wiener for almost two weeks. Oscar and Meyer know what how to use the protective shelf I installed when I built the pond in 2020. We’re hopeful they are using that shelf today.

My Lesson

Part of my frustration this morning is not writing. It’s been over a week. But things have a way of working out. The blogs I didn’t get around to writing last week—about lessons and hard versus soft—are tangled up in this one. Ready?

Lessons fall in our laps in many forms. If I didn’t already 100% embrace this notion, I do now: when a lesson falls into my lap, it’s my lesson. Sure, I can pass it off to someone else who needs it, but if I didn’t give the lesson a good study first, if I didn’t learn something, I missed the point. And the hard things break bit? That was clearly my lesson all along.

It’s been over eight hours since I discovered the empty pond, but I’m at peace, mostly because I was soft when I needed to be. Mostly because I didn’t toss away the lesson that landed in my lap.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.