Curious, I stopped to watch.

The fish were running.

Every year at this time, the carp embark on a ludicrous journey.  They swim uphill, against the current, seeking the streams of their youth.  The pools where they were first tucked in beds of embryonic blankets call in song so insistent that fish will throw caution to the wind, and swim upstream.

Many of them will die trying.

Ugly brutes, these – dark skin and blunt heads which stubbornly bash into rocks and flotsam and each other in their single-minded determination to follow the mating urge.   I felt no affinity to these thick-skulled lunk-heads thrashing desperately in the stream – and yet curiously drawn to the underwater drama, I paused on the trail.

The water  boiled with the efforts.  One pool in particular held perhaps twenty, all facing upstream, all equally engaged in the swim of a lifetime.  As I watched, one faltered; unable to keep the pace after so extended an effort, it slowly lost ground, and slipped back into a quieter place, out of the clutch of the current.  One after another followed suit.  I found myself disappointed at their attitude, and something inside began cheering them on.

Aw, don’t give up now!  You’re so close!   

One by one, the brutal journey was taking its toll.  Head after head lost its place in the line and relaxing, allowed the water to take them where it would.

At last, only one fish remained in the running.  It was holding its ground, barely, under the lip of an impossible ledge.  A leap of gigantic proportions would be required – and the reward would be access to a quiet pool beyond.  A haven.

A place to rest and recuperate for the rest of the difficult journey.

I found myself urging the exhausted fish out loud.

“C’mon, fish!  You can do it!  Just one more jump!  You won’t believe what’s over the ledge!  If you just knew what was there, you’d go for it!  Go, go, you can do it!”

A compatriot arrived on the scene, and exerting all its resources, flailed its body blindly at the ledge.  It hit the rock broadside,  only a few inches from reaching the top.  Stunned, its body was flipped end over end to the grass, where it lay panting.

I watched it die in slow dry drowning gasps, mere inches from life-saving water.

‘My’ fish was losing ground.  Perhaps sensing its fellow’s fate, the grief momentarily checked its forward momentum.

“No!” I cried.  “You can do it!  Just one more jump!  One more!”

Somehow, it had become very very important that one fish made the leap to safety.  Somehow, I needed to know that even one could perform a miracle and perpetuate the species.  Even one.

Please, just one?

My family wondered what I was doing, yelling at no one on the trail under a spring sun.  Impatiently tugging, they wanted to go on.  Hiking trails and wiener roasts and pleasant things awaited.  I couldn’t describe why I needed to see that fish win the battle.  Why it mattered that this one fish could beat the odds and go on to better things.

And suddenly, it happened.  A flash of dark tail, and the fish was gone – soaring above the impossible height of the dam above.  Achieving its dreams under tremendous pressure.  Overcoming incredible odds.  Defeating the power of the whirling swirling water.

*fist pump*

If a stupid fish can do it, why can’t I? I thought.

I walked away triumphant, head high, smile on face and hands in pockets.

“Who wants ice cream?”

Image copyright Peg Zenko, courtesy of Earth Science Picture of the Day

16 comments on “Upstream

  1. petroneagu says:

    Some of these fish remind me of myself. Sometimes I feel I can’t fight with all the challenges that life brings along. For some reason though I manage to shake the fear away and move on 🙂

    Great post, Melody! Then again, what else should I expect from you?


    • melodylowes says:

      Thank you, my dear! Yes – it is so hard to swim against the current. It makes us very tired. But God gives the strength to keep gong when mine runs out – and I thank Him for it!

  2. Beautifully and imaginatively written, as always.

  3. Dhaston says:

    Superb story! Loved it …. 🙂

  4. kris landt says:

    Yay, fish, and yay, Melody! This was a wonderful way to start Mother’s Day.

  5. It just goes to show that sometimes if you push yourself and continue on that hard road, then you might see the light at the end of that tunnel. If fish can do it, then so can we. Real nice post Melody.

  6. Nice writing style. Sometime in the spiritual realm we try so hard to follow a path of our own desire. But really we should be lead by the spirt (water) and be in the will of the father instead of our own will. When we have a shallow walk our feet are still on the bottom and we still have control but when our spirtual walk gets deeper we can no longer touch bottom and the flow takes us to where it will.
    To fall in love you must let go. And all God really wants is for us just to fall in love with Him. Bless Ya!

    • melodylowes says:

      Thank you! Yes, there is so much to learn about this amazing and complex journey of faith we have undertaken – and so many obstacles in the path! Life can sure be tough sometimes…but there is a lot of joy in the hourney, too! Blessings!

  7. Yun Yi says:

    very interesting and inspiring! i think yes, sometime for something that is the most for our lives, we must try our best.

    • melodylowes says:

      Sometimes I think if we could see the good ahead on our journey, we would try harder…but then, we would also be able to see the bad, and that would cripple us. So I guess ‘as is’ is the best way after all!

  8. timethief says:

    This is a beautifully written little story that reminds me of the childrens’ book “The Little Engine That Could”. As an eccentric person I have always swam against the current by choice. When I was younger I was constantly focused on making what I considered to be “headway”. However, as I age I find I want and need less and less. I’m no longer striving and no longer swimming upstream. I’m happy right where I am and feeling no compulsion to climb every mountain and ford every stream before I pass on.

    Instead I’m becoming more comfortable with just being here now, rather than backstroking into the past or diving into the future. When I feel down I remind myself this is my precious life and the way I choose to think about it and experience it is subject to change. Then I make that change between my ears and enjoy what I can in the present moment.

    • melodylowes says:

      And I am at a different phase in my life just now – a place where I need to exert myself to reach the next pool. Life has so many phases, doesn’t it? Each season comes and goes, daring us to make the best of wherever we are… Thanks for your comment!

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