Monthly Archives: February 2015

meditation and fish tanks

fish tankI asked my yoga friend if I could try meditation. We chose to do it at my house. I have attempted it before but after my last post, you can just imagine getting this brain to slow down much less go blank. Even blank-ish is daunting.

Anyway, we got on our yoga mats, beside the fish tank in our basement which is a whole other story.  It was my son’s starting from ninth grade through college so its eco-system is coming up on eighteen years.  Sort of amazing to think about really. After he moved out, and back in and out again and back in and now out, I feel pretty sure totally out now that he is married, it has become mine.

At first I whined and complained about its upkeep but as the years passed, his fish tank has become sort of a fixture in our house.  All fifty-five gallons of it.  Mainly because it would be such a pain to dismantle but more, at this point, it would be sort of like putting the dog to sleep simply because he’s old.  We have had the tank so long it’s part of the fabric here, with or without it’s original master.  It has seen many fish come and go and for months at a time it has sat nearly empty of aquatic life at all,  just a water interest as decorators like to say. Nothing living in it but only the gentle whirr of the motor and the slow movements of the water plants swaying in the background of my life. No, with or without fish, I will never “put it down.”  It’s family now. And it has new admirers in my grandsons.

But I digress.

So maybe because of the hum of the tank or maybe because yogis love the peace of water, or maybe because I am a Pisces, she asked me to close my eyes and picture myself by water. Any water.  Anywhere.

At first I tried to control my thoughts, imagine that, and think of all the familiar and peaceful water places I love. A mountaintop lake in West Virginia. Lake Michigan. The Atlantic Ocean.  I could smell the salty sea breezes. Imagined sea oats silhouetted against a cloudless blue sky.

And then an odd thing happened. My mind drifted away from the big picture to the backyard of the house I grew up in.  She guided me to imagine where I was laying and feel the sun on my face.

Well, the fact is, growing up on a north-facing hillside in West Virginia, there was very little sun in my backyard. And we had as much moss as grass.  Lots of tree canopy stood over ground cover such as mayapple and fall leaves that never seemed to totally disappear.

And there was a creek.

Not a rushing water mountain creek but more a trickling of ground water creek my mom had surrounded with ivy and nurtured and loved and  convinced herself, and the family, that we had an actual creek flowing through our backyard.

So I “lay” there on the moss and leaves and I could hear the creek’s water and I could smell the damp earth beneath the moss. I remembered homemade ice cream cooling at the base of that creek, cranked and packed, often with fresh peaches.

Children’s voices floated in. Laughter and screams of delight from the community playground that was above our house in a clearing in the woods. I thought of waxed paper rides down the slicky slide and the rise and fall of the teeter totter. I felt the unchecked joy of trying to reach the sky with your toes in the slow arc of the long chain swings. I could feel the dirt under my bare feet in the dent from stopping under those swings.

I thought of my childhood bed.  The complete morning stillness of a deep snow.  No school and snowmen. Sledding and bonfires. Hot chocolate made with powdered cocoa and sugar.

I embraced the warmth and love of those memories.  Bittersweet.  Forgotten and welcomed back. And I thanked them. All of them.  My memories, my parents, my brother and sister.

It was sort of magical, my childhood. Simple and innocent. Isolated and safe. And I’m grateful I found that little girl again, by the creek, on the swings, standing on the front stoop.

Her spirit, like my old fish tank, is something I want to keep alive in my life.