Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Journey to Fulfill a Purpose

Somewhere high in the mountains of Idaho runs a creek too remote to have a name. The water flows shallow and cold, clear and swift. In this creek a reddish brown female salmon idles under the rushing waters. The female has deposited 5000 bright pink eggs into a gravel nest that is then fertilized. Of the 5000 eggs laid only 750 grow to be a ‘fry’ that will attempt the downstream swim to the Pacific – a 900mile swim with predators and natural perils along the way that take the number down even further. Only 200 of the fry’s who left the creek make it to become a healthy 6-inch smolt ready for the salt water of the Pacific.

During its time at sea, each salmon will come into contact with other predators. If lucky enough to avoid the hooks of fisherman and the bite of seals and larger fish, a salmon will cover nearly 5000miles and can develop into a healthy 21lb fish that measures 2 and a half feet long with a blue-green back and silvery belly. The two-tone color conceals her from enemies. Seen from above, she blends with dark ocean waters; from below, she blends with the lighter sky. Every salmon has its own time to return back to the fresh water. Some stay in the ocean for as long as 5years while most will stay for two of three years. Once this time at sea has been accomplished she begins the swim back to the river mouth that first landed her into salt water and as enters the mouth of the Columbia River she is at her prime, weighing 28lbs and just less 3-feet long. Of the 200 smolts that made it to sea, only nine managed to avoid the ocean dangers and make it back to the Columbia to begin the swim upstream…

I took the long way home tonight. I thought about our individual lives and our own swim upstream. Out of a million sperm we made it this far. If you are reading this than consider yourself extremely lucky to be where you are right now. If you were to look at a pie chart of where you could have been born you will see that being born in countries like Canada is comparable to winning the lottery. You have a greater chance to have been a starving child in Africa or living in a corrugated metal shantytown in South America. We are not unlike the salmon that have such a slim chance of making it back to the river.

...The female salmon returning to spawn in the creek where she was a born is one of life’s magnificent journeys. She wastes no time in mouth of the Columbia River and starts the race upriver to get back home - eggs are growing inside of her. She finds an entrance to the fish ladder at Bonnerville Dam. She climbs up the broad, flat, smooth-flowing water stairs. Each step is a small accomplishment towards her goal of heading home. There is some fishing along the way but it is restricted and mostly Natives taking fish for food. The returning salmon does not stop to eat and along this swim she becomes haggard and skinnier. She comes upon a fork in the river and with her homing instincts remembers the river that carried her years before. She enters the middle fork of the Salmon River and finally makes it the 900miles back to the shallow no-name creek in which her life first began.

Of the nine that made it to the Columbia only 5 have made it back to back to the creek. These salmon are not just the luckiest, but also among the fittest. Only the genes from a good strong fish will be passed to the next generation. The female salmon has returned to lay her eggs. After laying the eggs, a male salmon covers them with a white cloud of sperm that fertilizes the eggs. With one last effort the female covers the eggs for protection and the journey of the magnificent journey to sea and back upstream is complete.

Like the salmon swimming upstream to fulfill its life purpose of spawning we too have a purpose in this life we live. Accomplishing our purpose in life is not always easy. We have a vision to get to where we want to be but along the journey we swim through strong currents of setbacks, obstacles and other forces that try to hold us back. We live in a society driven by money, power, greed and people telling you that you cannot do it. The world truly is a tough place to survive in and getting to your end destination is even tougher.

Our purpose in life can be achieved through series of smaller more attainable goals or steps. Like the challenging steps of the salmon ladder we have our own challenges that we need to overcome. It is hard work but we have the ability to feel a sense of accomplishment with every small step we take. Whether it’s a Tuesday run leading to a marathon, a University course needed for a degree, a role at work towards management or money put aside for a house, these are small attainable accomplishments that will give us a greater sense of achievement to a greater purpose. When swimming upstream, be prepared for those currents that will try to hold you back. Perseverance is a virtue and when you fulfill life’s mission you will not only be luckier than the rest but one of the fittest who will pass on genes of strength and success to the next generation. What upstream battles do you face in life? Don’t go with the flow, be strong and swimupstream.

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