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Monday, August 31, 2009

A Fish Tale

"Summer time, and the livin' is easy. Fish are jumpin' . . ."

Did you ever wonder why fish jump?

Ms. Conroy thinks that it is either because:
(1) When the water gets too hot they need to jump out of the water to get cool.

(2) There are mosquitoes and the fish jump to eat them.
For a long time, I believed her and thought both could be true.

BUZZZZZZ. Sorry, Ms. Conroy. It's rare, we know, but this is one time when your pristine logic and the "truth by blatant assertion" style which the RC church of your youth taught you has failed you.

Want to know how I know?

The other day, I walked up to the Mom and Pop store at the top of the road and across the street to buy a few staples and ran into some of the old Delmarva Peninsula fishermen by the Bait Shop.

"Hot enough for ya, Pastor?" one of them called to me.

"Whew, yeah!" I said, trying to sound like a Cool Local. You know, like I had some inside information. "The fish sure are jumpin', aren't they?"

"Yup," said another, "the crabs are runnin' strong."

He said it like the two sentences belonged together.

Like, when you say, "The Lord be with you," in an Episcopal Church, someone will say, "And also with you."
"The fish sure are jumpin', aren't they?"

"Yup, the crabs are runnin' strong."

"Let us pray."
I tried to stay in Very Cool Local Mode, but I stopped dead in my tracks, trying to put the two pieces of information together.

"How's that?" I asked, realizing that I was at risk of losing my facade of Cool Insider.

"Well, cuz the fish is jumpin'" the first one said, as the others caught on immediately, and starting shifting their weight uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"Okay, guys," I said, knowing enough to know that they knew that I didn't know what the heck I was talking about. "Tell me. Why are the fish jumpin'?"

They were very kind.

"Well," said one of the guys, trying hard not to sound condescending, "When fish jump it means one of two things:
1. They are trying to loosen the eggs in their skeins before they spawn


2. They are trying to rid themselves of sea-lice.

Either way, crabs are scavengers. They will run to either eat the eggs or the sea-lice."
After I expressed my amazement, I thanked them profusely, albeit with no small amount of embarrassment - which did not go unnoticed - and exchanged a few last comments about the importance of putting really rancid bait in the crab trap, the prediction of rain for the next few days, and my excitement over my brother's visit and our plans to go fishing and crabbing, no matter the weather.

What's really amazing is, after all these many years on Planet Earth, there's so much I don't yet know or understand about this world. In my younger day, I used to be in hot pursuit of "the answers." I just knew that, if I collected enough answers I could be part of the effort to "Save the World" - from itself and the vast multitudes of people who clearly were lower forms of intelligent life.

Ah, such arrogance, right?

I think I'm just now beginning to know what questions to ask. I'm still not entirely certain what to do with the answers, but the knowledge sure does make me humble.

As I turned to go into the store, one of them called to me and said, "Hey, pastor! Didn't Jesus say something about 'If you can't understand earthly things, how can you understand heavenly things?'"

"Yes," I responded, grateful to be back on solid ground, even if just momentarily.

"Well," he smiled warmly, "I think the reverse is also true.. . . You know?"

I smiled at his gallant attempt to rescue my ego.

Some people sure are nice here in (S)Lower Delaware.

That may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with Darwin, but it has an awful lot to do with Fish and Truth - and the truth about why fish jump.


Muthah+ said...

But fish do jump to catch the bugs. Never heard the sea lice story before.

The problem I have with the emerging church is that I don't know what questions to ask.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think the thing about "the emerging church" is not so much what "tradition" has to say to them, but what they have to say to us.

Remember? Way back when? When we were the 'emerging young bloods'?

And, I think fish may jump to catch bugs but I also think they jump just because they can. You know? For the sheer joy of it.

Paul (A.) said...

I'd buy the Lower Delaware explanation if it weren't a word-for-word copy of this explanation from a Northern Oregon fishing and hunting guide, which he proceeds to debunk.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Paul A., he doesn't exactly debunk it. He just states, "Fish jump because they can. Because it feels good. It's that simple. "

I think that's also true - doesn't make the fishermen wrong. It simply explains why fish jump when they aren't spawning or have sea lice.

I am an Anglican (can you tell?).

But, it does make Ms. Conroy wrong. This time. I'll take it.

Can you also tell I've been with her for 33 years? ;~D

Bill said...

Fish, especially bait fish, jump whenever there are predators in the water. Thats why you will see the smaller fish all but flying to get away from the blues.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT, you couldn't have seen it, but when I picked out the picture for this post, my tongue was firmly implanted in the side of my cheek.

Sorry it touched a nerve. I understand - given your (as they say here in SLD) "line of work" as well as where you live.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Interesting, Bill. Somehow, I think we've moved from talking about scientific fact to . . . something else - ;~D - which is what I think was making IT a little, well, 'jumpy'.

it's margaret said...

Sea lice?????? That's a hoot!

Kay & Sarah said...

Over the years I have learned not to pretend I know what people, or animals or even fish think about when I see them jumping; I can just assume, or deduce from their behavior.