We’ve been transferring our Shubunkin (a Japanese/American Carp) from our old pond to the new one that Mark has been working on all summer.

The water in the old pond had gotten quite mucky, so mucky in fact that that was what prompted my begging Mark to create a new home for the fish.

This morning we bought two actual Koi (the requisite black one and a white one with black zebra strips named Mr. Spot, don’t ask, I have no idea. . .I think the girl helping us pick them out named him, not that we know that the fish is a male, mind you.) for the bigger, lower pond and four new Shubunkin for the upper pond.

We let them acclimate to the water temperature and then released them into their new homes and then started moving the other fish.

Angela Rose, who was with us for the inaugural water pouring, asked if we knew how many fish needed to be transported, and I blithely answered, “Fifteen!” Because that’s how many we’d had when I could last see down far enough in the murky water to count them all. That was months and months ago.

Mark said, “Honey, I think we’ve lost a couple.” But I was having none of that. There were fifteen fish in there and we would move them.

This was easier said than done.

We caught a couple who came up to eat when we fed them, but the rest completely freaked out when the first two got swept up in the net and down to the bottom they went.

They were already pretty freaked out because yesterday Mark dug around in there and brought up the now-huge water lily whose roots had completely blanketed the bottom of the pond. So the already mucky water got even muckier.

Okay, so we’ve got two, but now the rest have gone to ground. What to do? Mark pulls the hose that runs the filter out of the water, so now it’s pouring outside the pond, rather than back in it. This means two things. One, that the water is no longer being filtered and returned. Two, that water is being pumped out of the pond, so the water level is getting lower and lower.

We let it drop until there was about 6-8 inches of water left on the bottom of the pond. This pond is 4 foot by 4 foot, by 2 foot deep, so getting to the bottom is going to get tricky. I manage to snag a few more fish, but then I get discouraged and stop. Mark comes over and starts dragging the bottom with the fish net. He’s bringing up mud and sticks and small rocks. I start to panic that he’s stirring up the water even more, but the reality is that he’s pulling up fish as well. So, he catches them and puts them in my waiting bucket filled with clean water. He dumps fish and mud into the bucket, I mess with the water, trying to put the least amount of muck into the new pond, since the filtration system in there are the plants, and they take a little longer.

And then I get to release the fishy into the water and he hollers, “Got another one!”

About four fish in I decide to move a rock from the rock pile over to the flower bed ledge for each fish that we move from the old home to the new pond, so that I don’t have to keep that number in my head and get confused about how many fish we’ve moved, because we’ve got 15 to move and damn it, we’re going to move 15 fish!

We get 11 fish safely transported to their new luxurious, clean pond, and then Mark has to go drive Kyle and a friend to the beach. I elect to stay home and continue, because there are still four fish to be found!

But the water has been being pumped out of the pond and there is probably 4 inches of water there and the bottom of the pond is filled with mud and bricks.

In all of this, I’ve on several occasions shifted the filter around such that the hose that runs the water up and out of the pond comes off and needs to be put back on. Do I get out of the pond (which I’m now in, mud up to my ankles)? No, I simply reach down to settle the hose back on its nozzle. Well, the pump is still running, so now I’ve got stinky, fish muck splattered all across my face and chest and arms.

So, I’m dirty and mucky and I smell bad, because the sludge at the bottom of this pond reeks!

But there are four fish to find!

I notice in the deepest corner a fin, moving slowly. I sneak my net it and get it! It’s one of the bigger fish! Excitement ensues.

I climb out of the pond (with that squelching sound that happens when you pull a bare foot encased in mud), and take the fish to its new home. Hooray, just three more fish to find!

Back I go. There, in the same spot is another fish. This one a little smaller. It’s a beautiful white one with orange spots. We had all of these fish named last year, but they’ve grown and their markings change as they grow so I have no idea which fish this is, but it looks beautiful to me as I gently place the bucket into the new pond so that it can swim out and join its brethren. This one hesitates, as if it wants to stay in the blue bucket.

And now there are two more fish to rescue.

At this point I realize that there’s only a few inches of water left on the bottom. And it’s not really water any more. It’s more like silt. It’s a thin mud substance. But I’m bound and determined to find those last two fish. And then the filter quits working, so no water is getting pumped out of the pond. The water is too shallow to run the filter any more.

I hop out (okay, clamber laboriously out, dripping mud everywhere) and go into the sunroom to pull the plug on the filter so it will stop making that horrendous racket!

Ahh, it’s quiet. But wait, I’ve got fish to save! Fish that I’ve put into this situation where they need to be saved.

This thought sends me down the rabbit hole of how Heros require Victims to rescue. If we hadn’t started draining the water the fish would not be in danger of drowning in mud.

But, onward and upward, I’m looking around for something to continue bailing the water out of the pond.

Oh look! Cinder’s bowl! That will work, I’ll just wash the heck out of it when I’m done.

I’m back in the hole, bending over, scooping small bits of muddy water after small bits of muddy water out of the pond. The walls are starting to bend inward now, so they’re creating pockets where fish could hide!

So, I push, with all my might, the wall back and continue bailing. There is now half an inch of water, but I’m not giving up! I will continue bailing until there is no more water left. Until I know for certain that I am not leaving fish to die!

But my back is aching and I’m tired and I really don’t want to continue. But I feel responsible for those fish. I’m heroing those damn fish that were so scared that they had to hide deep in the muck so that they wouldn’t get swept up in the blue net to go to some unknown place.

Now, I’m almost crying because my back is hurting so much and it smells and I’m hot and I really don’t want to do this any more, but those fish, they’re calling me. Those fish that I can’t see any trace of.

Wait. I have this ability to ask my body (everybody has this, not just me) and my body wisdom can help me determine things. I’ve tested this over and over again. So, I get out of the pond and stand firmly on the ground, close my eyes and ask, “Are there still live fish?” Yes. “Am I willing to stay and bail out muck to find them?” No.

No? I’m stunned. I’m heartbroken that I would give up on these fish. I start bawling at the thought that I am not willing to continue to look for fish.

I’m crying at my shadow. Its very existence. I have a dark side. We all do, but I try to hide mine from myself as if that were possible, or even desirable.

Yes, it’s just “silly” fish. But these are fish that I’ve talked to every day for years, watched grow, named, spent time with. I’ve bonded with these fish. Would I have felt like this if I hadn’t bonded with them? I don’t know.

What I know is that it broke my heart to think that I wasn’t willing to keep scooping muck to rule out any possibility that there might be a fish to rescue. But I wasn’t. So I stopped. I may find two dead fish at the bottom of that pond when the rest of the water dries up. And I’ll cry again then. Or it could be that Mark is right, we lost two already, and I’ve already rescued all that were available to be rescued.

But now that I’ve been down that rabbit hole, and I’ve wallowed there until I was done wallowing, it’s time to pop back out.

I’ve got a beautiful pond to gaze at and 13 original fish in the pond to co mingle with the two koi, and four new Shubunkin in the upper pond.