Only Dead Fish Go with the Flow

My granddad told me this once. “People say, ‘Go with the flow.’ Only dead fish go with the flow.”

My granddad was the most Zen human being I’ve ever known. So when he said this, it made me think. I’ve kept it in my mind and heart ever since, turning to it for comfort when life gets a little too flowy.

It’s a flowy kind of week ’round here. Take the next twenty-four hours, for example. A dear friend is flying in from the West Coast for a brief visit. Slinkster Cat needs to be at the vet at oh-dark-thirty in the morning so he shall henceforth be empowered to flout the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Friends need help moving. My Sainted Husband has an eye appointment at the office where only he, I, and about five thousand lovely and chronically late old people see the doctor, and where delays are long enough that as I wait there in the waiting room that hasn’t changed since the ’70s, I imagine several endangered species going extinct before we can get out. Once Sainted Husband has been rendered functionally blind for the next few hours, we will go back to the vet for Slinkster Cat, who will probably be groggy and understandably put out. We are having peeps over for dinner. Because my Sainted Mother is ill, we will be doing all this with Things 1 and 2 in tow.

This is all good stuff–and it’s the time with friends that’s going to make it beautiful–but it’s gonna be a day.

Enter Challenge #7 (my lucky number!), via Wonder-Tracker Jeffrey Davis, just when I need it most.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 7

Commit to viewing time differently from this day forward. Here are two invitations:

#1 – Draw a new relationship to time: The first one is an exercise that engages your faculties beyond the analytical-rational mind to help you rise above the “good enough” plateau and to dare to excel:

Draw a symbol or describe symbolically your existing relationship to time. What does Time look like? Move like? Feel like in terms of weight or texture? How do you two relate? Then do the same for your desired relationship to time that would let you excel? What does that Time look like? Move like? Feel like?

Share a pic of what you create with us and online.

#2 – Get outside of yourself: What one thing could you do to shift your relationship to time? How could you get outside of your office, outside of your habitual work flow, and do something so seemingly unproductive as to take a walk in the park, bicycle down the road, or watch the sunset for 10 minutes? Okay – don’t just write about it. Do it! Dare you!

Here is my existing relationship to time:

Me. Time. Guess who's winning?
Me. Time. Guess who’s winning?

I know I’m not the first person to think of juggling, but it’s one of those metaphors that’s become a cliche because it’s true. I can only keep approximately two balls in the air at once, in both actual juggling and in real life. Everything else falls around my feet, creating a massive Ball Pit of Much Anxiety (I think of how my friend Juliet refers to those ball pits at children’s attractions as “cholera pits.” TRUTH).

Choose a fishy or three.
Choose a fishy or three.

This is how I would like to relate to time–focused on a few important things, and not caring about all those darn plastic balls. I think of how my friend A. K. Anderson guided my first steps on Twitter with the analogy of diving in a coral reef–there are a lot of bright and shiny fish, but you can’t look at them all. Pick a few and don’t worry about the rest. Like my granddad’s words, A. K.’s have stuck with me. I’ve repeated them before, and I know I will again.

My pictures are done with ink and brush in the style of sumi-eThis form emphasizes shape, feeling, movement. It’s pared-down, elegant (not that my attempts are, but you get the idea). Even the placement of the seal is important (mine is a honeybee). In the first picture, the seal is lost, part of the clutter. In the second, I tried to show that it is free and yet part of the overall image.

I’m still really new at this, but it’s a practice that pulls me out of time, out of the everyday. It’s my answer to Part 2 of this Challenge.


10 thoughts on “Only Dead Fish Go with the Flow

  1. The ink painting is a great way to capture the beauty of the moment and enjoy the act of painting rather than rush to fill the page. And yours are quite elegant. For some reason I was really drawn to the lines in the seaweed of all things because the lines twist into and over themselves in a lifelike way.

    1. Thanks! Weirdly enough, those are the easiest lines, I think because there is something sort of abstract already about seaweed. It’s a really fun art form to play with, and very different from a lot of forms because it’s so much about the negative space.

  2. I happened perchance upon this by reading the blub/Austen article. It is quite beautiful artwork. Normally have not been much for paintings or pictures but when you described the reason why behind them it gave me a new appreciation for yours and now others. The first to me looked my daughter at play and free with hands lifted high. Any worries at her feet and her just enjoying the moment and life.

    And then I saw fish. And in relation to time I first thought trapped. In a bowl. It made me think confined and limited. Funny how the opposites of images came to mind.

    Though you may not care I thought I would say in word that in relation to macro-sense of time I view myself on a intermeshed and interwoven plane of eternal, cyclical yet also linear, segmented. If I would draw it I would draw a helix that came piecing together from a blank white space raveling up only to unwind unto the blank white space. Signifying the creation/ raveling of time from eternity past and being a complicated and advanced design and artistry for present life only to unwind again unto the eternal forevermore. Serving its purpose but no longer being present and necessary. Time also is a helix because though part of a transcendent greater piece of ever expanding white it is at present black like ink and only white with the things eternal in view and in mind. It also segmented and held together by numerous intricate parts all that are important- even the mutations. It is also at present necessary for life currently but not so eventually. Just thoughts!

    I would go into the micro- view of time but alas I only have so much of it and don’t want to take too much of yours.

    1. Oh, this is wonderful–thanks so much for reading, and for your very thoughtful response! Your helix makes me think of Yeats’s widening gyre, but more complex, more intricate. I like this way of looking at time–it works well, I think, because we do repeat things over and over, but with slight differences. It’s not just a circle, a constant cycle. There’s a more three-dimensional movement to it. Thanks for visiting my blog, and for offering that well thought-out perspective!

      1. Now I did not nominate you for a poem challenge for I did not know if you would take it. But if you read my two newest posts feel free to partake.

  3. Laughed a lot at the endangered species going extinct (which makes me a horrible person, I know). 😉 Love those ink drawings, Brenna! I wish I had any form of drawing talent, but alas, I am still at the stick-figure stage. I so agree with your picture of time as juggling – I feel that way a lot!

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