Here’s another essay that I posted to my LJ a couple of weeks ago and completely forgot to also share here.
Inspired by Meirya’s Expressing Hawk and Expressing Phoenix posts lately.
Expressing fish, or rather in my case aquatic fae, can be compared to most people’s idea of a mermaid. But since I’m neither a ‘maid’ nor was the society strictly female-centric, I don’t like using mermaid to describe my experiences, even though that’s clearly what I am.
Anyway, I was going to write about how my aquatic fae aspect manifests in my everyday life, but it seems I already did that with my Life Aquatic essay. So, taking another leaf out of Meirya’s book about the Alienness of Bird, here’s the Strangeness of Fish.
From an aquatic perspective, fish don’t have lungs and they don’t breathe air like mammals do. It’s all about the gills; opening and closing them to wash water over and through to allow them to ‘breathe’. Breathing like a fish is all about the flow, drawing in a substance that is neither light nor wispy. The feeling of air which humans experience when taking a deep breath is more of a delicate and graceful process, in my opinion.
I equate mammalian lungs with the element of air, while thinking of a fish’s gills clearly comes through as water. It’s true that even fish are taking oxygen from the water, but it’s different somehow. Breathing like a fish is more tactile and, if you’ll excuse the pun, fluid while breathing like a mammal is light and gentle. If I had to compare colors, breathing air is white or a pale yellow, while breathing water is a deep cerulean blue with swirling motes of turquoise.
Sometimes I find that breathing like a mammal is alien and strange. Feeling practically nothing enter and exit my body as I breathe is just wrong and I then need to consciously focus on the movement and to not hold my breath.
While some fish, types of sharks mostly, don’t have an operculum (gill cover); I find that my aquatic aspect does. I can consciously move my gills, or rather the operculum, open and closed easily. Mammals don’t have gills or operculum, obviously, so the feeling of moving basically what amounts to slits on the sides of my neck doesn’t really share any similarities with things on my mammalian body. I can spread my fingers apart, but that doesn’t go inside my body. Breathing air is similar as it goes into my mammalian lungs, but water is tangible and heavier than air so it feels very different.
Now that I think about it, having gills and such an intimate relationship with water is also alien for mammals. True, that mammals can swim and some even spend their entire lives in water (Cetaceans), they still do not completely depend on the element of water. While mammals need water for drinking, they do not breathe it and do not have such a close relationship with water as fish do. Most mammals spend their entire lives on dry land, using water to sustain their existence. Whereas fish depend on water 100%: they live in it, get their food from it, cannot leave it without dying and breathe it in. Water is a best friend to mammals, whereas it is an intimate lover to fish.
The gravity of breathing underwater cannot be grasped by mammals. Coming up for air every few seconds, or minutes if you’re lucky (again, Cetaceans), is merely an inconvenience for most. For me, it can be downright torturous. I know in that hidden part of my core being that I should be able to take in water through my gills and stay underwater for as long as I wish.
Going underwater is a short vacation for mammals, visiting another world that you cannot truly belong to; nonetheless visiting it is fun and interesting and many mammals enjoy doing it. Being underwater for me is like going home: I belong there and I need to be there.
I’ve also experienced the strangeness of having human legs. This most often happens while I’m walking and my mindset suddenly shifts to more aquatic and I find that I need to consciously keep putting one foot in front of the other to maintain my forward motion. I want to stop and simply float, gently swaying back and forth in the current, but unless there’s a breeze, being on land has no current like being underwater does. It’s hard to wrap the aquatic mindset around moving two independent stumps to create motion whereas in my aquatic form, a long tail moves me easily. Sometimes swaying a little as I walk helps to alleviate this feeling though.
The feel of water on the skin is also different than air. Mammals are surrounded by air for their entire lives; it envelops them and is a fragile reminder of their existence. Water, on the other hand, is thick and cushioning. Not as heavy as earth, but definitely more substantial than air. Despite water also making you feel weightless, it still feels different on the skin than air. Air is soft feathery elegance, while water is deep cool calmness.
Water is everything to a fish and to this aquatic fae.