Secrets

I am by the Cardamom Mountains in West Cambodia, standing on a narrow wooden bridge over a strip of pond at a section where the pond becomes very wide. It is morning, early enough for me to be the only one about. The water below me is still, and brown, and opaque. I look long into it and it begins to show through to big fish that move with gentle sober swishes without rippling the water. At a short distance from them fish only slightly larger than my fingers dart toward each other, but they don't cause ripples either. I lose concentration and the water turns again opaque. I try again, but now the still waters only reflect the clouds and soon all can I see is cloud on the whole stretch of the Pond, puffs of them, and the water below is as deep as the clouds are high, and I am equidistant from this height and depth. The sight holds a long time, it is wondrous, but I want to see fish, so I intensify my gaze: they come out like ghosts and form themselves into big fish, always staying below the surface. Suddenly one rises, as though for air; and keeps mouthing for air! Others become vertical also and all mouth for air. What are they doing? They go back down. Suddenly I am envious of the missionaries who stood on this bridge yesterday afternoon and caught a huge fish after a long effort: they'd know why fish come up like this, they enjoy greater intimacy with them even if they catch them for sport or to eat them, just as people who fight with each other are better friends than those who are always gentle and kind.

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