I posted a video on Facebook a few days ago about a very plain grey fish. If you have time, take a look. He has no way, outwardly, of showing how much he wants and needs his mate-to-be; he’s just a plain grey fish. He can’t display a brilliant tail, he has a plain grey tail. Even though he’s technically called a Japanese Puffer Fish, he has limited puff. He can’t do backward somersaults, or sing. (Actually, do fish sing?) Anyway, he doesn’t sing.
But. He has a way of declaring his intense passion and his romantic intentions So, for seven days and seven nights, for the sole benefit of his intended, he makes a sand-pattern of great mathematical beauty. He works without cease, ploughing and fanning the sand into a soft, complex, undulating, fluted mandala of desire.
The sand isn’t soft to start with; it’s impacted, and needs breaking up first. It has to be cleared of any unaesthetic rubbish that may spoil the pattern. He collects tiny shells and places them, strategically, on the uplands of his great design, like rivets, or gems.
It’s no small thing, this. Each single, flowing fillet and leaf of his declaration of love is
physically longer and wider than he is. If you or I wished to shape some sand-proposal as proportionately large, it would be wider than Stonehenge, or Piccadilly Circus.
And he must work quickly. The ocean-current is moving constantly and inexorably to waft this vast, fragile love-letter away.
This is such very quiet God-stuff. Until Cousteau and Attenborough, we had no idea of such glories. Obliquely, this passionate grey fish speaks to me of other obscure workers. The great, ancient European cathedrals hide unseen wonders too: carvings of leaves, scrolls, angel-faces, gargoyles, hidden too far up, or in recesses too dark, for any human eye to see. They weren’t put there for us; the long-dead craftsmen placed them there for God to enjoy.
For untold millennia, this little fish and his misty grey line of ancestors, made passionate love-art in private. Until one day, with loving science, we get the chance to see their relatively vast creation – and another tiny part of God’s.
And what of those intended recipients of those centuries of sand-art love-letters?
Well, you’d have to swim up, up, up and then look down, to see the whole picture.
And would you be able to take it in, all that love on display? Can one ever?
I have sometimes tried to express something huge; as perhaps have you.
Often the largeness of the pattern isn’t even glimpsed by its intended recipient.
God sees it though; our wide intention, washed away by currents.