I don’t remember how old I was but I do remember the family car was a wonderfully red Dodge Colt station wagon.
Dad worked as a contractor, renovating people’s houses, finishing their basements, building their decks, and general handyman work. I would hang around and watch him work and listen for a yell, requesting a tool or a holler to lend a hand with something. In between I would play.
I remember the room Dad finished as being rectangular and finished all in wood, every surface polished to a high gloss. There were two bookcases on each wall, the size proportional to the wall it was on. The floor was sunken, with in internal, rectangular staircase that complimented the dimensions of the room. Panels of sky lights, fitted into the ceiling with a slight steeple in the centre, lit the room with natural sun throughout the day. In the exact middle of the room was a long, tall fishtank on a wood pedestal, the same finish as the rest of the room. Where ever else Dad worked in the house, you could be sure to find me there.
My mind has since turned that memory into a kind of temple, with all the mathematical elegance and deep meaning of a medieval cathedral, every measurement speaking to the glory of a higher power. It changes position now and again – sometimes it’s a gateway into the rest of my thoughts. Other times, it’s a wing of my mind I escape to when I need a few minutes.
I sit on a step – never the same side twice in a row and not one spot I favour over another – and I look at the fishtank. The filter action imparts motion to the lush plants inside the tank, making me think of the ocean. Fish of all shapes and sizes poke through. The fish change, usually based on what I can remember or what I last saw. These days, it’s almost always German Blue Rams and Rainbow Sharks – two of my favourite freshwater fish. Sometimes, I see the odd Convict Cichlid or maybe one of those freshwater frogs that spend their lives bobbing from the bottom of the tank to the top.
All I do is watch them and lose complete lack of time and sense of my own thoughts.
I sometimes use this as a trick when I need an idea and I get too anxious. I can be anywhere in the world, but in my mind I am a kid, sitting in front of that fishtank, in that room of warm wood, every inch polish by hand, sitting and watching and thinking about nothing while at the same time, waiting for an idea to come or an insight to arrive. I get lucky once in a while (which is why I carry a notebook with me all the time) but others, I have to remind myself to be grateful that I have the few minutes to be able to go through this kind of exercise and that I have had the time to develop this kind of habit. If I didn’t, I maybe wouldn’t get any ideas at all.
And I do get some crazy ideas.
And those are the ones I’ve chosen to tell you about. There are more.
So, this blog, Free Shavacado, is another room off the Fishtank Palace, where I come and relay some of the stuff that I see when I am alone in there.