Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Breathe {inspiration for wednesdays}

I heard a wonderful story the other day.  Some friends of ours were in town and wanted to see something of Seattle and one of the places we ventured to was the Ballard Locks.  We watched a handful of boats journey into each section of the locks, get shut in, allowing the water to rise around them and then move on to the next place until finally they could move into the largeness of the Lake Washington or Puget Sound (depending on their direction).

*unfortunately, I took no pictures...so you'll have to enjoy these other images!

At the locks there was also a man-made salmon run.  Multiple steps moving higher and higher with a strong current of water cascading down in the opposite direction made the perfect pathway for the salmon to return, after a few years, to their place of birth where they will then spawn and die.  And of course, one of the cool things about a man-made salmon run is that in stride with human ingenuity and curiosity there was a "viewing room".  

Much like being at an aquarium, we were able to gather in a little concrete bunker with huge plate glass windows in front of us that let us look into the secret lives of the salmon.  We watched them move amongst each other and struggle against the opposing current.  The strange thing was that they were not moving very quickly or efficiently up the salmon run...they seemed to be in no rush to get to their destination.  In fact, at most moments they seemed to almost be swimming in place.

Then a tour guide in our little concrete cave explained that the salmon do not look like they are in a hurry because they are not.  Having spent most of their lives in salt water, they must give themselves time to adapt to the foreign fresh water.  They swim in place against the current while their bodies actually undergo a molecular change!  They cannot rush the process but must wait to literally become something new before they can live into another phase of life.

All of this got me thinking that we could learn something from the salmon.  Sometimes in our lives, we want things all at once; we want speed and efficiency to get to the next juncture of life, but we are not ready.  Often times we need to sit in the midst of the transitions between one stage of life and another and just wait - wait to adapt to the new water that surrounds us, wait for our very being to be transformed.  Who we are (or rather who we have been) needs to slowly change to harmonize with the next leg of our journey.


It reminds me of Rilke's admonition in Letters to a Young Poet when he says "Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then, gradually without noticing it live, along some distant day, into the answer."

After all, when we are waiting...we are not doing nothing.  We are doing the most important something there is.  We are allowing our souls to grow up.  If we can't be still and wait, we can't become what God created us to be.

"Breath, smile, and go slowly." - Thich Nhat Hahn

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