A Fish Not Even Gold

By James Dillet Freeman

A few years ago in my garden I built two shallow lily ponds and put goldfish into them. They multiplied. But dogs tore the liner and ruined the ponds, so in the fall I drained them and gave away the fish.

Later that fall, much rain fell, and in the winter, much snow. Two or three inches of water formed in the bottom of the pools. It must have been frozen solid for at least a month and must have frozen solid and thawed a number of times. There may have been times when the pools were dry.

When spring came, I went out one Sunday afternoon to measure the pools, because I intended to rebuild them. I measured the larger pool, then went to the smaller one. It had no water in it. It had rained a week before, so how long it had been dry I do not know. There were a few spots of half-dry, oozy muck in the bottom.

On top of this muck, in the sun, on its side and not breathing, lay a goldfish about three inches long.

I still remember my surprise at seeing it, there in the middle of that empty pond, shining in the sun, a little red-gold fish. It has to be dead, I thought. But almost as I thought it, something in that fish said: “No, no, I am alive. Pick me up.”

I ran to the house and got a glass of water.

I picked up the fish—and it gasped!

I put it in the glass, and for a long time it did not move again. I could see that one fin was gone and part of its side was damaged.

I moved the fish from the glass into a larger bowl. For several days, it showed almost no sign of life, but little by little its vitality came back, and in a week, that little fish was lashing with life. That fish was the most alive creature I ever saw. It spent every waking moment flashing, darting, hurtling around that bowl and trying to push through the glass.

When I put it back into the lily pond, it lived in the pond as if to know how dear life is and was not going to waste a moment of it. How had it survived that winter of freezing and thawing and drying out? It is hard to surmise. And what if I had not gone out to the pond on that March day? A few more minutes at most and it surely would have died.

But it lived—lived to live furiously again!

You may not think so, but I will always believe I had to go out to that pond because it had to live.

I suppose you had to see my fish to understand. You had to pick it up. You had to see it lashing about the bowl. You had to see it whirling through that pond. Somehow that fish had the livingness of life in it.

What a fuss to make about a fish, you may be saying, and a ridiculous coincidence!

I am only such a fish, not even gold. And my pond is also a perilous, precarious place; it, too, has had many times of freezing, of thawing, and of drying out.

And like my fish, I, too, am here, I feel, because I have called, and the feet of the world have been no less swift when they ran to succor me.

We are all linked, one to another. We answer, though we have heard no voice. We respond, though we do not know we have been summoned.

And the universe responds to us—with powers you could not think were there, by ways you had no forethought of, bringing help you could not know would come.

James Dillet Freeman (1912–2003), Unity's poet laureate, was an internationally acclaimed poet, author, and lecturer. This poem is included in the Unity book Angels Sing in Me.