Monday, July 23, 2007


Phobia: pho·bi·a (fō'bē-ə) n.
1. A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

2. A strong fear, dislike, or aversion.

I can NOT explain how incredibly facking frightening I find fish. Any fish. Leetle itsy bitsy minnows. Nasty pasty bellied catfish the size of your aunt Bertha. Bubble headed goldfish. Any fish. They all make my blood run cold. Sauntering past the aquariums in a local store, I can suddenly levitate five feet in midair at the sight of an anomaly on the carpet-sure that what I caught out of the corner of my eye was a fish that jumped from the tank and is now stuck on the rug. It's a major hassle to locate and position a store ladder near the ceiling light so that I can then climb down.

It's not the idea of being somehow eaten by them-I never really bought the whole Jaws thing. It's the concept of touching one. It's staring back into that flat dead gaze. It's watching those gills gasp for breath. Pardon me while I pull off my shoes and check for minnows. I sincerely wish that I could explain the feelings they incite for me. At first I thought, perhaps it would be the sort of feeling one might feel if they saw a chainsaw swinging towards an exposed leg- but nah-that's just pain, and infinitely more preferable. The only analogy I can make is that, the closer I get in proximity to that magnificent trout you are proudly showing off, the more it begins to resemble this fella....

Growing up in an avid fishing family with such a phobia can be quite a hardship. Fortunately, it took very little for my relatives to understand the depth of my fear and the actual cruelty of tossing a fish into the front of the boat with me. Either that, or their eardrums suffered permanent scarring from the involuntary string of filth that emanated from my mouth. However, such a close association with fishermen also afforded me a bit of an education about proper fish habitat-and in some ways, made it possible for me to swim in lakes.

My swimming was based on two practices:

1. Never go deeper than you can safely haul your booty out in 1.5 seconds if a finny creature is spotted.

2. OR Swim only in waters at least 40 feet deep, with no submerged structures (i.e. trees, cliffs, stumps.)

You see, fish, just like you and me, don't really care to be exposed and vulnerable. They stick to rock piles, or sunken trees where they can hide from predators. All of the fish in my neck of the woods tend to abide by this psychology, so in 40 foot of water, one can generally assume they will be safe from the revolting bastards. But this also means that I don't get much actual swimming done-just paranoid wading.

Last weekend we visited a spot on the stream that flows through our town that I refer to as "The Swimming Hole." The swimming hole is a wonderful place. It has a rope that swings out over a deep hole in the creek (which generally isn't more than 2-3 feet deep.) Just off the stump you see pictured here is a hole over 6 feet deep. The water is very clear and bone achingly cold at a 63 degrees. Twenty feet away, you find gravel banks that are just perfect for letting little people dip their toes in an inch of water. It's a major stopping point for happy tubers drifting down the creek on a summer's day. There's something for everyone here. We love it!

On this particular visit, the creek was very busy. Tubers were drifting by every 10 minutes or so, and three brave little boys were caroming through the air on the rope to splash into the "hole" or leaping off the stump, only to surface with gasps and yells in reaction to the cold water. Now, I'll have you know, when the "hole" gets active, the fish that "chill" there, move to quieter parts. The biggest fish I've ever seen in the creek came outta that freaking hole.

It was 102 F that day. My family and spent the whole day outside. We were hot, but wading through the water was incredibly refreshing. But those boys.... there was such glee in them. Such JOY. I was so envious. I loved the obvious thrill they got from the jump into the icy water.

Here's the view from the stump. Those fish are in there.... I know they are. But guess what? Those boys were absolutely justified in their glee. I shrieked like a bleach blond in a horror film when I surfaced. Damn that water is COLD! Man that felt great!

But I still can't carry a bag of fillets from the sink to the freezer.


rachel said...

i went tubing last night... sooo nice and cold in the 105 degrees at 7:00 pm. it was wonderful. and i have bruises on my legs to prove it.

The Kneurotic Knitter said...

I'm trying to understand your fish phobia ... not sure I've figured it out, though.

But I can tell you, our pet fish, Pablo, Austin, Tyrone and Boo, are deeply hurt by your apparent disgust toward all things gill-y. ;)

Personally, I find fish fascinating to look at, and I giggle when I'm cleaning the fish tank and rearranging the plants and such and one of our fish brushes against my fingers.

But the thought of swimming in open water, whatever depth, scares the bejeezes out of me. I am always ADAMANT that a fish is about to swim past me and bite my toe off. Aaaaahhh!

Anyway ... great post!