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A fish tale

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Last Sunday, nature balanced the storm of devastating news with a peaceful and serene day.

The sea rested after weeks of wind. The strong currents that still lingered from the passing of Hurricane Larry were gone. The surface gently undulated in a silver mirror above the turquoise depths, clear now from the countless tons of sand that had clouded the waters and taken the beach below our house out to sea.

The mild hiss of the surge was relaxing, hypnotic, inviting one to doze and dream. It was as if summer was kissing us farewell with its last hot rays of sun.

The warm water was an invitation and my husband, Bill, and I accepted, slipping into our masks and fins and swimming to the breaking reefs about a mile off the South Shore. The ocean radiated blue shafts of light in the deep clarity beyond the gently foaming breakers, and we swam in and out of the natural bowls atop the reef, crowded with a mosaic of parrot fish in brilliant colours.

Under an overhanging coral ledge about ten feet below live a school of almost fifty powerful and streamlined jacks, some close to three feet in length.

We have been visiting them for several summers now and when they see us, the leader swims unafraid directly to Bill and circles him, almost close enough to touch. As if on cue, the rest of the school follows like a flight of silver arrows, swirling around us in curiosity.

The first time it happened, I gasped. These fish were the essence of fluid, graceful power; sleek and muscular with staring eyes as big as silver dollars.

To see them surrounding Bill as he languidly swam down to meet them touched some primeval memory, a faint vibration of the kinship of all life so long ago in our ancient oceans.

We swam east, in and out of the breaking reef tops. The mild swell sliding us through the natural bowls on top, the coral close enough to touch. I grabbed Bill’s arm and pointed. About four feet below the surface, a small tuna was sticking out of a hole in the reef right below us. Bill let out a hoot of astonishment that echoed out through his snorkel. This beautiful fish, a big rainbow runner, was stuck!

Only the top half of her body was visible. The reef held the rest of her like a vice.

She struggled furiously, eyes wide with terror, but the hole was not big enough for her to swim out of and she was wedged tight as a drum.

Rainbow runners are elegant, free-swimming predators and do not hide in the reef like Bermuda rockfish. She must have been chasing a fish, swam in one side of the hole, saw daylight and continued to her unhappy fate.

Bill dove to help but the water was so shallow and, with lungs full of air, he was like a buoyant balloon. As he pointed downwards, it was so shallow on the reef top that his fins stuck out of the water. They were useless to propel him deep enough to reach her. He kept bobbing to the surface and the swell washed us away.

We looked for rocks to put in his swimsuit pockets, but the reef was scoured clean. As Bill tried again, I pushed him down from the surface, but it didn’t work.

What to do? Fifteen minutes had gone by. Then Bill dove down in deeper water where he could use his fins, swam quickly at an angle across the reef and with one hand grabbed a crevice next to the struggling fish. With the other, he reached under her, held her tight, and wiggled her back and forth as she furiously tried to escape. After three attempts, there was a flash of silver and the fish rocketed off into the blue.

This image of the fish, trapped by its own folly affected both of us deeply.

We talked about it that night. We decided it was a parable and it was up to us to decide what narrative to choose: to be trapped and hopeless or fight for your future?

Life often puts before us unforeseen obstacles. It is up to us how to deal with them.

Don’t lose hope because a miracle could happen from a direction you never expect.

Nina London will swim 5km on October 3 to raise money for Pals. To donate, or for more information, visit www.pals.bm.

Nina London is a certified wellness coach, Qigong teacher and laughter leader. Her mission is to support and help cancer patients and survivors and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with Nina at www.ninalondon.com and follow her on Instagram @coachninalondon

Nina London snorkelling on the South Shore (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

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Published September 23, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated September 23, 2021 at 7:40 am)

A fish tale

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