Pacific Salmon: We should all be more like them
I’ve been thinking a lot about salmon lately. Pacific salmon to be specific. And I know it might sound a bit odd that I would muddle my mind with the happenings of a species that I’ve only gotten to know through the socialization of my taste buds, but I’m starting to think that maybe we should all allow pacific salmon to migrate into our minds. Please indulge me for a moment while I explain.
Pacific salmon inhabitants of, well, the Northern Pacific waters (who knew?), are quite the curious creatures. Did you know that, although they are born in freshwater streams, lakes, and rivers, they adapt their respiratory systems to survive in salt water as well and then re-adapt themselves to return to freshwater once they’ve matured through a process called osmoregulation? DID YOU EVEN FUCKING KNOW THAT?!?! I offer my sincerest apologies for losing my cool, but it’s rather remarkable that they literally swim to where the river meets the ocean and without much thought (or at least I assume), decide “fuck it, I’m going in,” and they just do it. They just swim right into this uncharted territory with new species, new depths, new water—with completely different chemical compounds (I might add)—and into their new lives entirely unbothered. Evolution is, for lack of a better phrase, some seriously crazy shit.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Copenhagen for a well-deserved break from work, my first true vacation in two years (a testament to my 500+ unread emails). During one of my daily adventures in the city, I found myself sitting across the table from a friend at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art pondering Pacific salmon. Until that very moment, I had never considered the behavior of Pacific salmon to be that peculiar. In fact, I hadn’t considered Pacific salmon at all as anything other than a delectable smoked fish that I happened to enjoy atop a healthy smear of cream cheese on a toasted bagel. And to be perfectly honest, when I stood up from that table, I left with nothing more than an anecdote to remember the next time my tongue mingled with my favorite Jewish comfort food.
Out of nowhere, whilst brushing my teeth a few weeks ago, suddenly and almost enigmatically, a Pacific salmon swam right into my mind, smacking my frontal lobe with its tail. Fluttering to the pulse of my toothbrush, I found my mind completely carried away in the current of the vicissitudes of Pacific salmon. Resurfacing to the present and realizing that I was most likely going to be late, I noticed that the white porcelain bowl beneath me was stained black with activated charcoal, a Rorschach of salmon wisdom. Why, especially in this very moment, did I feel the strong urge to re-evaluate their existence?
Many millions of years ago, there was one salmon that trekked from his freshwater home into the ocean first—a pioneer in salmon osmoregulation, the Neil Armstrong of fish, if you will. How did he know that as he crossed over the ripples from one body of water to the other, that he would swim and not sink (or float????)? I suppose the point is that he didn’t, but still chose to do it anyway. It’s possible that he observed his friends, family members, all ancestors before him try to migrate, and fail. Yet, he listened to his mom orrr instincts (still unclear) and decided for himself that he could be different. He could be the one to actually succeed.
Imagine having so much courage, being so unabashedly gallant, that you are willing to literally dive into unknown territory and just hope that it’ll all work out. Intimidating, unnerving, yes. And although, the vast majority of us, myself included, are pretty terrified of change, we also unquestionably seem to get off on the idea that we could fail, but ultimately might not. What’s the worst that can happen? The most beautiful things in this world are often conceived in moments of profound defeat, no?
The more I contemplate, the more I realize that we, as humans, should be more like Pacific salmon—a lot more fearless, and a little less conscious of the consequences we might meet ahead. At the end of the day, what’s stopping us from taking risks, thinking outside the box, saying what’s actually on our minds? I’m not saying we should act irrationally, but why not dive in? Best case scenario, you quickly learn that you have always had the ability to tread water.