Found: conversation about life, death, curiosity, respect, the sacred.
I love to see my sons‘ curiosity and little can stir that like the encounter of death in a creature they don’t otherwise get their hands on.
In that gentle exploration — spreading fins, peeking under gills, prying open the mouth … “He has teeth!” — I want to allow for their freedom of boyhood while balancing it with something bigger. Fun and values, joy and compassion.
With this found fish, I hold off the boys for some minutes to first allow me to do something I do when these moments arise: make photographs.
Photography is an observation tool, a way of connecting with the world. I long have had an interest in photographing animals I encounter on hikes. It gives me a chance to consider them more deeply, in the moment and beyond.
Connecting with these beings in their death — because I so rarely do in their life, or at close distance — stokes my imagination about that being and its life.
Photographing creates something, a beginning from an ending, a record that the fish lived, and that it made a contribution.
There is something sacred in all that. I shared my intentions with my sons as I memorialized the fish.
The boys, unable then to agree on who would respectfully return it to the sea, divvied the roles of digging a hole in the beach, washing the sand off the fish’s body as an act of ritual, and covering it as a way to facilitate its kind return to the earth.
One carved an R.I.P. into the sand with his index finger. Another cast sentiments of well wishes (“I wish you didn’t die”). I curled an ॐ [om] into the freshly smoothed surface with my fingertip, sending echoes of the eternal with our fare-finned friend.