Thinking Like a Salmon


“We have stories to tell, stories that provide wisdom about the journey of life. What more have we to give one another than our ‘truth’ about our human adventure as honestly and as openly as we know how?                                                             Rabbi Saul Rubin

“Each man’s life represents a road toward himself.”                                 Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)

This is a small bridge that spans the Alouette River. I pedal over it every day from early spring through to late autumn – in fact, when I cycled over it at dusk today I could smell the end of their journey. They are the Chum Salmon, which have for the most part already spawned and are dying on the river’s edge. Their arrival always takes me by surprise, somehow it never feels like another year has already gone by, and yet tangible proof of its passing lays in the river below. Truth be told, I rarely stop on the bridge to enjoy the view – I get so busy ‘exercising’ that I often forget to take in the natural beauty that surrounds me – but I make an exception for the spawning season. I admire the Salmon, they have purpose, their lives have meaning and even though they die right after fulfilling it, there is no sorrow in a life well spent. On my days off work I like to take a little more time, park my bike by the river and watch the Salmon fight against the current, flail the gravel with their tails or meander the calm waters until their tattered grey fins move no more. They have achieved their life’s work…the next generation has been safely nested in the same stones that bore them many years ago and when they die, their carcasses will feed eagles, raccoons and coyotes – with the remains decomposing and fertilizing the same ecosystem that once nurtured them. It is a perfect life, one that gives back more than it takes and I wish that more of us would consider the common good when we make decisions in our own lives. Sooner or later you’ll end up asking questions about your purpose in this world, but the only one who can answer that for you is yourself – you have to figure out what your own ‘end game’ is all about. As for me, when I’m looking down at a lifeless salmon, I don’t see a dead fish. I see a life fulfilled….a life well spent.

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