“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anaïs Nin
Old Man And The Sea
Two times in history I have met the same wrinkly old man in St. Maarten. I remember him with a deep tan, white curly hair, and a friendly demeanor. His slow journey took him up and down the beach, waist deep in the salty water, with a school of silver fish swirling around him like a flock of pigeons.
The fish would jump out of the water, splash, tug at his clothes, and swim furiously, like little children playing and begging for treats.
All he had to give was bread crumbs and bits of water weed.
I wanted to engage and participate, so I waded in close and entered the outskirts of his fish school. The fish nipped at me gently, but I felt no revulsion, but rather a calm rejuvenation.
I had nothing to give, but they still paid me attention.
I watched a fish jump out of the water into his hand. It was a show, and I think the old man enjoyed playing the part of entertainer. Instead of a fish, I imagined he held a performing monkey. It was all part of the act, and I was captivated.
He looked the fish down and grinned, “You aren’t big enough to eat yet.”
Some farmers raise chickens, but this crafty man was raising a school of fish and loving every minute of his traveling road show.
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Years later I discovered a similar fish while lounging on the beach on a different island. A range of people walked past, some swam, others lounged like me.
I’ve noticed that city tourists love it when a fish shows up. Maybe it’s because the water is so clear it’s easy to see any wildlife. It’s impossible to see anything in the dark murky water of the lakes near my house.
Maybe it’s the quality of the light.
As soon as I spotted the fish, I grabbed a length of water weed laying on the beach to see if I could entice them. The plant grows naturally in the water and it’s quite common to see it washed up on the shore.
And no it’s not that weed.
I remember how the old man in St. Maarten interacted with the fish, so I followed his lead, and waded in and started breaking off bits for the fish.
They went bonkers.
I’m not sure how fish send messages, however, the rest of the family soon appeared out of the woodwork and began swirling around me the same as they did in St. Maarten. I was in heaven, and the onlookers loved it.
I was quite proud, and the tourist’s loved it.
Mr. Ass Hat
The bubble was broken when I notice a “meathead” splashing around in the water trying his best to stab a fish with a makeshift spear.
He thought it was funny.
The man reminded me of a co-worker that once chased a hawk out of a tree at the golf course with a stick for no apparent reason. In the moment I hoped the hawk would give him a taste of talons.
This is proof that there are more than one species of human being.
With the advent of technology, I think my relationship with Nature has become distant. Maybe technology is a symptom of the disconnection with the earth?
Disconnection seems to equal more need for a vacation.
I know my hearts longs connection, and yet, I look around and all I see is faces lit by the epidemic radiation of smartphones.
Like. Comment. Like.
In the newsfeed, I discovered a Brazilian doctor using Tilapia skins to cover fresh burn wounds instead of bandages. The solution is far more elegant than a bandage that needs to be changed on a regular basis.
It’s a little weird, but elegant and sanitary.
Initially, the Tilapia skin adheres to the wound and keeps it clean, and when the damaged area heals up, on cue, the Tilapia skin drys up and falls off.
The Entire Carcass
Tilapia skins are considered a waste product by the fish industry and are thrown in the trash heap. A couple of steps are needed to get the skins sanitary and prepped for medical use, however, I love the economic dovetail.
What’s the net benefit?
Burn victims get a practical solution that looks a lot like the tattooed sleeve of a Japanese gangster. Both strange and attractive.
Is the price right?
I’m not sure whether or not the sterilization process is cost prohibitive, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a lack of Tilapia skins to meet the demand.
Practicality and elegance more than makeup for any downside.
I love organic solutions.
My long lost beer bro and I once traveled to a cucumber farm to talk with the farmer in charge. Christian had worked as an electrician on the property when he had first set up the greenhouse many years ago.
Charlie and the pickle factory.
Cucumber farmers are absolutely meticulous, and he wasn’t about to let us tromp around in his garden. So we just stood in the foyer and looked at the interior through the door.
That’s not important.
What was important was the farmer’s son. There was a spark of mutual interest between us standing on the edge of the garden. I listened to his idea of starting a fish farm.
I never did follow up on the conversation.
What I do remember is that he had a model of Murray Hallot’s system of Aquaponics in the shed. It was a dismal failure and a reminder that although it may look easy, like any project on YouTube, mistakes are necessary to get it right.
Fish Eye View
Eventually, I will build my own aquaponics system. I love mild flavored fish and the thought of growing them in the garage is exciting, the science is also a great way for my boys to learn.
Long ago I discovered Murray Hallot’s aquaponics system followed by The Urban Farm Guys. Being that my climate was far closer to that than the Australian outback, I watched and realized this was within my skill level.
These guys also delve into mushrooms as well which I will eventually take a crack at.
Although my initial beer making project trumped the aquaponics, it has always been in the back of my mind as one of those projects that I will finish.
The craft skills necessary for brewing are very complimentary to Permaculture. The attention to detail, the creation of a consumable product shared with friends, it all adds up to building community.
Tribes enjoy free beer.
So far I have lived vicariously through others that have put the boots to the ground like my cousin Beverly who managed to get a system going in her house. It’s far more powerful when someone you know has success, rather than through a blog post, or a podcast.
With a bit of imagination, it’s a slice of St. Maarten in the garage.