First there was the sound of a loud bump or bang. I heard that through the wall of my studio, where I was working. Then, I heard the sound of… running water? Like… loud. Splashing. From a room with no source of water… Shit. The aquarium… I pushed my chair back abruptly and went quickly to the room next door. There was water pooling on the carpet and soaking in, everywhere. Shards and chunks of glass. I could hear the water still flowing and see my Traveling Partner trapped on the other side of a tall bookcase, standing off-kilter, askew, leaning against the wall, above and into the shattered side of the 10 gallon aquarium in the room I call “my library”. Fucking hell. I helped push the bookcase into a standing position, to allow my partner to get around it, and out. He was doing the “calm-but-freaked-out” thing that happens to people when they are mired in an unexpected disaster. “I don’t know what to do, here…” he admitted. A different section of my brain than is the typical day-to-day was still engaged; I’d been working on a complex problem against a deadline. I hear my calm firm voice reply “move the bookcase out of the room so we can get started on clean up; I’ll get towels”.

I handed my partner the entire towel-content of the linen closet, and while he began mopping up water, I began picking up the biggest pieces of glass with great care, avoiding areas that appeared covered in small shards. Task by task we got the worst things handled straight away. Fish, snails, and shrimp, the living creatures were recovered and put into suitable water as quickly as we spotted them. Our tiny portable shop vac, advertised as “wet or dry” definitely wasn’t up for this challenge. Creatures retrieved and placed into water, I headed purposefully to the nearest hardware store for a proper shop-vac worthy of a garage that is planned to become, over time, my partner’s workshop/maker space. While I did that, my partner stayed behind, cleaning up more water and throwing the used, soaking wet towels into the wash. He placed the shattered aquarium, improbably still held together by a cheap plastic bottom frame and silicon-sealed joints at the corners, into a plastic tote big enough to hold it, and then supported one side a bit higher, allowing a pool of water to remain – a haven for any shrimp or fish we hadn’t netted successfully earlier. He moved the almost-new wooden aquarium stand (a cabinet type) off the soaked carpet beneath it, and into a dry place in the garage, with a breeze on it, so it would, perhaps, dry out.

…Sometimes a project goes very wrong, without any provocation or obvious cause…

I decided to re-home the now-homeless creatures (surviving in a small pitcher) by putting them into my big aquarium (and because there was little opportunity to acclimate them well or quarantine them, I was explicitly also choosing to “hope for the best” on their survival – and that of the community they joined so quickly). The big Mystery Snail was unfolding from her shell and beginning to explore almost immediately. The wee delicate Otocinclus, which were spotted and carefully netted by my Traveling Partner during the chaos and clean-up, surprised me with their resilience when I encouraged them out of the small pitcher they were in, and into the large community tank; they quickly joined the three Otocinclus there and began to settle in. The Blue Velvet Shrimp… well, they’re hard to spot against the dark substrate of the broken aquarium, honestly. Did we get them all? Really? I’m not certain, but I think we did. Later this morning, I’ll check for dead, dying, or injured creatures, and salvage the substrate, and decor, from the shattered tank (the plants have already been moved to the big tank). I don’t yet know if I will set up a second tank, again… for now that’s only a thought. More a question.

She doesn’t even have a name. I’m nonetheless surprisingly attached to her.

Funny thing… during the first days moving in, I carelessly spilled 2-3 gallons of water on our beautiful living room floor. I wailed in disappointment and self-inflicted emotional pain, in that moment. I cried – for nearly an hour, almost in hysterics over the mess, and throughout the time it took to clean it all up. I felt I had “ruined everything” in some catastrophic way. (I hadn’t. Clean water, vinyl floor… it was mostly just a pain in the ass, and very annoying after working with such care to bring the aquariums home to the new house.) This time? 8 gallons or so of actual “fish water”? Spilled into carpet? With living creatures tossed out into open air? A small hole gouged into the wall by the falling bookcase? Broken glass everywhere? This was a much bigger deal…Β  and I was beyond calm about it. Stressed, sure, but also measured, reasonable, practical, and purposeful. No tears. Still, even now, no tears. No one bleeding. No one died. House still standing.

As of now, this morning, I don’t think even one creature actually died during the mishap… and the new shop-vac did a great job of pulling the water out of the carpet. My Traveling Partner was skillful, effective, and cooperative; we worked together to deal with the worst of things, allowing me to return to work (first day back!); he finished the clean-up.Β  We began again. We hung out. We watched videos. We ate salads.

I sip my coffee this morning, preparing for the day ahead, reflecting for a moment on yesterday’s successes – and challenges. Wondering at the differences in the way I handled two somewhat similar small disasters, and learning just a bit more about what makes the woman in the mirror tick. I consider the day ahead and hope for an easy, uneventful, day – relaxed and productive, would be ideal, I think. I’ll be quite appreciative and grateful for a day approaching routine and ordinary. I give thought to my sleeping partner in the other room, hoping that he wakes well-rested, and feeling good.

I glance at the time. I’m unsurprised to find that it’s already time to begin again. I could use another cup of coffee…Β  πŸ™‚