This week I was humbled by a fish.
It was a warm yet rainy weekend here on the Island. Paul and I were anxious to go for our weekly hike but the clouds hung low on the hilltops so rather than climbing a nearby mountain we decided upon a river walk.
We drove inland and stopped at a spot called Marie Canyon along the Cowichan River. The river was magical – as all mountain rivers are. The water, a beautiful aqua and the craggy shore covered in vibrant moss. The mist hung low in the trees creating an intimate atmosphere that made us feel like we were the only humans on earth.
Paul walked to the river’s edge and let out a yell, ‘THERE’S FISH! Hundreds of them! They’re huge!’
I had forgotten that the Salmon were running and when I reached the water I could see the fish just below the surface. They were quite spectacular!
The fish, consisting of an assortment of Chum, Coho and Chinook Salmon, were very large. Some nearing three and four feet in length. They rested in pools along the shore and then made desperate attempts to swim up a shallow section of rapids.
The poor fish were nearly entirely out of the water as the pushed with all their might to gain ground against the relentless river. Almost always, they lost the battle, being swept further down river than where they had began. Left only to rest and then try again.
I was devastated for them each time they lost ground. Their arduous journey overwhelmed me. As I listened to the roaring water, I could only imagine its power. I knew that if I were to fall in I would be in certain danger. Even to swim with this current would be near impossible for me and here were these fish working so hard to swim against it. It seemed absolutely impossible.
Repeatedly, the fish exerted unfathomable amounts of energy only to fail over and over. As I watched them my frustration grew to anger, then desperation and finally despair. How could they ever make it up this? They couldn’t even see where they were going! They didn’t know what was ahead or if their path lead them to an impossible obstacle.
Yet they continued.
One after the other they attempted the stretch of shallow water. One after the other they were swept downstream and dashed upon the rocks.
‘It’s impossible. They’ll never make it.’ I said to myself. They’re going to die here.
I gave up for them. In my infinitely greater intellect and with my vision of the entire picture, I decided their fate.
Yet, they struggled on even without my support; without my encouragement.
I pitied them.
Another giant fish swam out into the current and thrust himself forward. He pushed and splashed with only half his tail submerged limiting his power. I sat there watching, waiting for his imminent failure.
Suddenly, he was up. He was past the fast moving, shallow water and resting in the deeper pool at the top. I yelled in celebration! HE MADE IT! That crazy fish proved me and all my humaness wrong.
I was blown away.
As I watched the fish resting at the top of the rapids I couldn’t help but ask myself. What if I could have even half the drive that these fish have? What if I could look at the impossible task ahead and decide to tackle it with everything I had in me? What if I could continue to keep trying no matter how often I had failed in the past or how many times I would fail in the future?
If I could have half the heart that these crazy fish have, what in this world could I not accomplish? What kind of change could I facilitate or good could I do if I didn’t let a strong current knock me off course or a huge obstacle get in my way?
If only we humans could have the tenacity of a fish!
I personally like riding down stream. That’s the fun part. That’s the easy part but if the salmon only swam downstream….they would die. They would become extinct.
It seems that the important things in life are at the top of the hills; past the rapids, the waterfalls and the rock slides. We have to work to get to them.
So, it seems to me, if I change course when things get tough or if I give up after too many failures then I am cheating myself of the best parts of life. If I give up because it’s hard or it seems impossible I have chosen to miss out on experiencing the most important parts of my life’s journey.
Perhaps Bruce Cockburn said it best:
“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight–
–Got to kick at the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight.”
I never thought I’d ever say this but I think I need to learn to be more like a fish…