Well, actually, no. Take away the last letters of each word in the title above, and you’ll have a fair idea of what I’m talking about.
We have about 17 Japanese Koi (or carp) and goldfish in a large, square pond out the back of our house. I say 17 because they never stay still long enough for me to do a proper headcount.
Make that 16.
I found one this morning, not swimming like its friends, but just floating and occasionally zipping out of the water all aflutter, before sinking back into the water. Most strange. I dosed the water with green multi-ailment liquid, added tap water conditioner, algicide, aquarium salt, cleaned out the sponge filter, topped up the pond with fresh water. I even held the poor fish in my hands and willed it to get better.
All to no avail. The poor thing carried on for half an hour more, with its friends gathering round and nudging it, either to encourage it to rally round, or to say good bye. It was quite touching watching them. I left it in the pond for 15 minutes more, in case it was just playing dead.
When I was truly convinced it was dead, I went into the house to get a sheet of butcher paper to wrap it in (it was a big fish, about 15 inches long). It was then I got the idea of preserving the memory of the fish on paper. It was, after all, the largest fish in our pond, and one of my favourites. :'(
Now, my cousin HM loves to fish, and he’s had some very good results with the art of Gyotaku, or fish rubbing. In fact, I wrote about him not too long ago, here.
So I decided I’d follow my cousin’s example and do my own Gyotaku with my carp before burying it. It would be a way of remembering it, and honouring it in a manner of speaking. One last dance together.
And here is how we did it.
I quickly learnt that it’s better and easier to rub the paper over the fish, instead of placing the fish on the paper. My cousin HM used Japanese handmade rice paper, but all I had was butcher paper. My hands got stained with the food dye because I was handling the fish rather than the paper at first.
My studio is awash with fish! Some came out good, others too watery to capture much detail. Below are some of the clearer imprints. Not as good as my cousin’s, but they will serve as memorials to my fish.
P/S: Due to one reader’s rather insensitive remarks to me, about the fish ending up all covered in “blicky food colouring” and “smashed up in butcher paper” to become “fish fertiliser for roses”, I think I should explain what happened to my fish friend afterwards. I washed all the food dye off, then wrapped it in a fresh sheet of butcher paper. Then I dug a hole in the plant trough by our swimming pool and buried it there. I put an old log and a pot of hen & chicks over the grave, to prevent any cats from getting at it. It’s right next to Valiant, my baby Japanese quail with splayed legs that I tried to help but that drowned in its water bowl back in November last year.
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