Swimming Upstream

I really like salmon.  I’m not speaking about a dinner entre, but an amazing creature with habits and behaviors that defy conventional thinking and even science, to a degree.  Their early development, migrations to the sea, transitions from fresh to salt water and back again, and that amazing journey which they make upstream- theirs is a life story that is as cosmic and mysterious as the heavens.  I love that story.

Part of that fascination and admiration perhaps stems from the perception that these creatures have chosen to defy logic, prudence, even gravitational physics, in accomplishing their objective.  But in order for them to survive as a species, they absolutely must follow their evolutionary directive to not live their lives as most other sea creatures, but as salmon.   I doubt that salmon ever have the time or inclination to be jealous of, say, tuna, who spend their entire lives in the ocean swimming with the other fishes of the sea.  But if they did, they might look longingly at a life that seems much easier, outwardly more secure, and that requires less individual effort and determination.  Of course, if they chose such a life, they would no longer be salmon.

I sometimes think about the life cycle of salmon when working with some of our Indigenous partners in Nicaragua.  That may sound strange, but there are comparisons to be made.  The Indigenous, as original inhabitants of the land, see themselves as different from other Nicaraguans, and with a special history.  They know that their lives are different and perhaps even more difficult than their non-Indigenous cousins due to the changes they have had to endure over centuries of evolution.  They have an almost irresistible attraction to the places where they were born.  They have had to endure enormous changes and transitions in their ways of life.  They are subject to predators.  And most of the time, they are required to swim upstream to achieve what is most important in their lives.  Such are the tides of mainstream life.

In fact, for all of the tradition and richness of Indigenous history, theirs is not an easy life.  They are surrounded on all sides by encroaching societies that would gobble them up with ravenous appetites.  Identifying and then navigating the return to the home tide pools requires uncommon persistence and a reverence for that home space which defies obstacles in their way.  They do it for the sake of future generations, even if it consumes them in the process.  They challenge the waves of modern governance, political patronage, in pursuit of traditions which would restore them to an earlier, less complicated culture, all the while trying to remain ahead of sharks who would devour them.

Working with the Indigenous of Nicaragua has been an experience filled with fascination, satisfaction, pride, disappointments, friendship and inspiration.  I cherish the opportunity to work with the descendants of a culture which achieved amazing civilizations long before the arrival of European explorers. Today, they desperately seek a return to the place of their  heritage, to the way of life in which all the members of a community are “belongers,” where shared leadership provides for protections and provisions for all,  born of a certainty that every member of a people has worth and value to the whole.  It is an idealistic and honorable desire to go there, but a journey that is filled with obstacles made up of rocks and tempting side-tributaries and the real issues of gravity to bring them down to earth.  They are bound to be distracted, blocked and even wounded along the way.  But inherent wisdom forged over generations continues to drive them back to their native streams, their ancestry, their future.  Winds of Peace can wait with patience, respect and and a sense of partnership for the journey to achieve its end.  As is the case with salmon, I love the story….

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