Monday, April 27, 2009

A Fish Story: Wild Kingdom

First, a video:

And now, from a friend of the geese:

One of the cool things about the landscape here in Iraq is that the palaces have moats. No shit, moats. I learned on the Victory Over America Palace tour [elsewhere on Victory Base Complex] that the Muslim faith (as practiced here in Iraq) believes that there is no sin committed over water, which is why many of the party houses and palaces have moats. I think we Christians need more rules like this one! Anywho, one of the cool benefits of a moat is getting to see the birds and fish as you walk to work. The moat provides an entire ecosystem for wild life.

When we arrived at Al-Faw Palace in November, there was a brand new clutch of goslings. Over the past 4 months, I have been watching these birds mature. They've grown, turned colors, and are now adult members of their flock. Watching the birds is one of many small ways to keep my mind active and engaged. So, a few days ago, I'm walking with my friends across the bridge to the palace and I see this new formation of goslings. I start to gush, "Look Andrew, a little formation of 7 goslings. Aren't they cute? Quick take a picture. They are so fuzzy and yellow and cute. Hurry Andrew, take a picture!" Andrew of course is hopping up and down on one leg trying to pull his camera from his shin pocket on his cammies. Then I notice that the mama geese are headed toward the bank and the little formation of goslings are swimming directly for the carp feeding area.

Be advised that the carp feeding area is a place closest to the palace where soldiers stop and throw food over the fence to feed the fish. These fish are crazy. They can see you coming and will start to swarm under you. Then as soon as you start to throw chow - it doesn't matter what sort of chow (except they won't eat lettuce, I'm told) - they go crazy and splash and compete for food.

The swimming goslings are on a collision course with the schooling carp. I start to say, "Turn around little goslings, the fish are over there. Stop little geese, go where your mamas are." They of course don't listen to me. They paddle closer and closer to the school of carp. Then one of the carp on the edge of the schooling area swims over and nudges the feet of one of the goslings. My mind is racing. Turn around little geese, paddle faster. As if we had ESP, the little formation changes direction and starts to paddle toward the bank...but then out of the deep a GIANT carp comes up and jumps on top of the goslings and eats one whole. Now there are 6 little goslings swimming their asses off. If you look closely at the photo to the right, you can see the shadows of the goose-eating fish following them as they try to flee. I actually squealed when I saw the little goose in the mouth of a huge carp. I was mortified. My mind stands still and races at the same time. I do a little mental rewind, insert the theme music from jaws, and then imagine the voice of Marlin Perkins from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom narrating the entire attack. OBTW, I loved that show when I was a little girl. It's where I learned that I loved elephants and lions. My affinity for orcas and blue whales came later. Anyway, the fish attack was the most violent thing I've ever seen in nature. I mean actually seen with my own eyes. Sure I've seen dog fights, and road kill, but to see a little gosling get eaten alive by a huge carp was crazy.

The next thing I remember is continuing to say, "Holy shit, did you see that. That shit was like Moby Dick or something." At the same time, the three gentlemen I am with are laughing and carrying on. It is as if my male escorts are completely at peace with the food chain. I, too, am a carnivore, but I like to suspend my knowledge of how meat is obtained. I'm happy to be evolved enough to pick it up at the DFAC or commissary.

I hear this story recounted no less than 10 times to whoever would listen. It is so real and violent and beautiful and amazing. On some level this experience reminds us that life is fragile, precious, and fleeting. To make a sad story sadder...I haven't seen the other 6 goslings since that day. I think they too became fish food. Hopefully, the next clutch is smarter...but they are geese.