Love in the Goldfish Bowl

February 15, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Years ago, we had a goldfish bowl with maybe half a dozen goldfish of varying colours and sizes. One day, one of them started to fail and floated quietly not far from the surface, apparently living its last few hours. Another fish kept close by as if a consoling companion, touching the dying gently from time to time.

Watching them, Patricia said, “See, that proves it as I always say: every living thing loves.”

A great word, notion, is love, don’t you think? It covers us all because, at some point in all our lives, we are or have been or will be loved. Our utterly vulnerable condition as babies makes us lovable. The responsibility of the parent or caregiver to think of our every need is the burden of love or one would not be able to do it as needed.

I remember as a new and completely inexperienced mother myself how interesting it was to note what was required to do a good job of tending to my wonderful baby daughter.

Specific to the general memory was the need to dry between that baby’s freshly washed toes. In a way, the idea and how important it was to pay attention to every detail, those toes encapsulated the entire scheme of care and the love that propels it. For me, the greatest honour I could imagine was to be called, “Mommy.” Such an elevated place in life, to have delivered a whole person from within oneself is monumental. There are no excuses for ever minimizing that, not for those outside the relationship; nor for the mother herself.

How the world, with all its cynical influences, tries to build divides between a mother, a parent and the child, truth is, no matter the alienation, the attachment between a child and the child’s mother can never be entirely cut. Nature will out: even if not until death, the mother will seek the child – or otherwise, the child will try to heal the gap, if only in imagination.

So it is with all our relationships. The impulse to love, to find love is a matter of survival. We yearn for a safe place; we long to give and we wish to receive. What does not often make the difference is the who and the why: there are a multitude of friendship types. No need for a list. Most of us have or have had more than one kind of love through our lives: some for a while; some with no ending. No, not just romantic – that can be a false game that hormones play on us until we feel the first chill, and experience the final disappointment – maybe fun while it lasts.

Nothing is more complicated nor simplistic than love. A couple falls in love, with reasonable faith in its roots and suddenly! Life is so simple. How did we ever fuss about the non-essentials? It’s really easy – we love each other. No questions; no explanations needed.

See, for me, love is barely explicable by mere words because I believe it comes from our quintessential selves, from the most fundamental part of who we are, because it is quite selfless and outward-looking. If you will allow, there is a bigger part of each of us, beyond how we appear; I would love to say our spiritual sides but I might lose some of you. So, let me place love at the centre of each person, that is noble and the bit that never changes.

It feels as though Patricia is right: That every living creature loves and mothers protect their offspring as Nature suggests, whether leaving the young turtles to hatch and find the ocean on their own or us who, once we are parents, are parents for life. Forgive us. We do not hatch a batch every spring but are confined to few numbers, with whom there can be a lifelong, mutual inclination to cling, even tenuously.

Art proves it of course, for love – all kinds of love – preoccupy the arts, especially poetry and by natural extension songs. Just how many romantic love poems and songs are there in every language, everywhere? Anybody care to count?

Otherwise, we are a wretched brew, destroying our nests, war mongering at worst; individually murderous at least, but at least we love.

Then, there is Valentine’s Day and once again to quote my darling girl, she says “Valentine’s Day should be a national holiday for its purity in message.” 

One of the origin stories goes, and this is the one we like best, that St. Valentine was jailed by the Romans and while he was in there, a small gap in the wall gave a tiny view of the outside. Somehow, St. Valentine was able to push notes of love and encouragement out that window for passers to pick up and read. But there are lots of stories. Choose your favourite and enjoy. Meanwhile…

Happy St. Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Week.

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