Saturday, November 26, 2016

Struggling Upstream

Photo by John Williams
Surrounded by the hush of the forest - firs, cedars, and maples closing in with all their muted glory - I was once again struck by the fragility, yet the stubbornness, of life. Below us in the stream the salmon struggled, their once-glorious bodies battered, tattered, and covered with white splotches of fungus. Theirs was a trip of a lifetime, a one-time journey upstream to preserve their species; a trek marked by danger and tragedy as they wended their way past fishermen, boulders, logs, predators, through culverts, over or around dams and fish ladders.

Many would not survive the ordeal. Those who did would, if successful, produce progeny that might face even greater challenges on their return journey to the sea. It was a risk they all had to take – to choose otherwise would mark the end of their kind.

Salmon are driven by instinct, a highly-sensitive sense of smell, and an uncanny ability to detect the pattern of the Earth's magnetic field at the mouth of their native river. They are one of the few fish that can adjust to differences in salinity, spending part of their lives in both salt and fresh water. Adults live in the ocean where they feed and grow for six months to seven years, depending on the species. At maturity, they return to the stream where they were hatched and literally fight their way upstream to the ideal gravel beds for laying their eggs.

During this time, the adults stop eating and their bodies undergo many changes to help them attract a mate and ward off competitors. After the precious eggs have been laid, fertilized, and gently covered, the adults finally give in to the starvation and damage of their bodies and die. But that is not the end of their story – far from it. Some of the dying or dead fish provide food for other animals; their decomposed bodies return valuable nutrients to the water and soil of the surrounding forest.

Photo by Laura Finch
The newly-hatched fish continue to feed on the yolk sac attached to their bellies. Some kinds stay in the gravel for several weeks before swimming up into the open water of the stream, where they feed on plankton and other tiny aquatic organisms. Some spend one to two years in fresh water before beginning the long journey downstream and heading out to sea. As the current carries the young salmon tail-first to the ocean, their bodies undergo physical and chemical changes to enable them to survive in salt water. It truly is an incredible, never-ending circle of life.

Photo by Laura Finch
God provides us with many teachers and there is much we can learn from the salmon. We need to become keenly aware of our instincts and learn to trust in them; as we develop our finely-tuned sense of self and a sense of place, know that those are inexorably linked. We should set our goals and persevere until they are reached, no matter how tough the going may be. If we value the wisdom and knowledge of older people who have amassed a wealth of information, experience, and acumen, we will find it is worth making the time to listen to and learn from them. To live sustainably, so that there is enough for everyone, we need to become fully conscious of our use of the many natural resources this planet provides – carefully buying, using, and recycling; there should be little that we waste or throw away. We must trust that others will carry on after us.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:ferences for Ecclesiastes 3:1

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing…   
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-5

It is the season of renewal, joy, and hope -


Monday, November 7, 2016

SCARY - or just Scared

I’m SCARY!” the small voice suddenly boomed out menacingly, while the arms straightened and stuck out and there began a stiff-legged strut around the room. Frankenstein had come alive! It was only a costume, of course, and not a very good one at that. It was just a cheap print of the infamous monster’s face on a sort of rectangular pinafore of vinyl with a matching plastic mask. But he had chosen it himself and now wore it proudly over a bright yellow raincoat and dark red jeans. I’ve often wondered if he thought he really was that scary or was just trying to convince himself of the fact…
We had only lived here six months when we got the OK to pick up this four-year-old child in Everett and bring him home as our foster child. It was not really what we wanted; we wanted to adopt, not foster, a child. But as they say, beggars can’t be choosy and we’d waited long enough - we’d been married fourteen years and time was flying by. We’d been assured that they were “almost positive” this little boy would become free for adoption within a year and we decided to take the chance. It proved to be so.

I look back at that time and cringe, for none of us really knew what lay ahead. We drove to Everett once to spend a couple of hours with this boy before picking him up the next week. There was no time to get acquainted; very little time to prepare. We’d had a bedroom ready with the basics - bunk beds, chest of drawers, rocking chair – because we’d hoped to adopt while living in Idaho. When that did not happen before we found out we’d be moving to Washington, we stopped planning. Disappointment can do that to a person. We went through the motions of applying to adopt here, but had no idea things would happen as fast as they did. By the middle of October, we had a child and wondered if we knew what in the heck we were doing. All new parents must feel this way to some degree, but this was a preschooler with “issues” and we had no instruction manual. We were new in the community, so knew few people and had no family nearby. My husband was commuting to Seattle every day and still traveling some with his work, so I was alone much of the time. To say I was apprehensive is an understatement…

Our son arrived with one small box of clothes and a small paper bag of toys from the child center – he had none of his own and didn’t seem particularly attached to these. We drove to Penney’s in downtown Bremerton (There was no mall in Silverdale yet.) to buy him a few clothes that fit better and just sort of winged it the rest of the way. As Halloween approached, he made it known that he wanted a costume and to go Trick-or-Treating. I took him around to a few houses where we knew the people for his treats. He acted so brave, but I could tell that underneath the bravado was a scared little boy – new home, new parents, new experiences. But he did enjoy himself and managed to eat his entire small bag of candy the next day. We all had much to learn yet!

How often we put on a brave face and go forward as if nothing is bothering us, afraid to show our perceived weaknesses to others. How often we won’t face our fears and misgivings. How often we refuse help and seal our hearts against risking more. How much hurt and grief we would avoid if we would just let it all go…

My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.  Psalm 38: 10

 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. 
Psalm 109:22