Swimming Upstream: Lessons from the Salmon’s Magic

20 Oct


I was teaching in Alaska a few weeks ago and as a gift to my colleague and I, we both received bracelets with animal totems specific to our personalities. Our host selected the “Double Salmon” totem for me. Delighted by the bracelet, I nodded when she told me that she had picked the fish as my spirit guide. “That fits,” I thought. “I can eat salmon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” It was only when I was home that I looked up the symbology of the double salmon.


Apparently, there is more entailed with this totem than a yummy tasting meal. One of the key traits is perseverance because salmon swim upstream, against the current. This isn’t the easiest way to journey, yet it is unique for the salmon. The fish transform from salt to fresh water conditions and then back again, if they manage to survive their arduous adventures. Although swimming against the current, they find a rhythm that enables them to do this with more ease than imagined.

I find this a lovely reminder to be faithful to our natures. When we embrace our paths, we fulfill our destinies. It’s not our job to tell salmon fish, “Hey, make things easier on yourself and swim downstream.” Instead, it’s our job to let salmon be salmon, allowing their unique encoding to unfold.

What if we were to fully embrace our natures instead of trying to fit into a mold of something else? What if swimming upstream is right for me and swimming downstream is right for you? What if we gave ourselves permission to simply be?

All my life I’ve wanted to be conventional. I suddenly realize there isn’t a conventional bone in my body. And that’s okay.

Double salmon also represent wealth and eternity. I like that.

Yet in Alaska, I was reminded of all the Great Spirits. While on a walk in the woods along the city, I actually saw a moose. Apparently, this isn’t so common. I was told I was lucky. Here was a huge male moose walking right across my path. Thankfully, he was somewhat calm. We watched in reverence, as the moose walked across the way and into the backyard of someone’s condominium with Denali as the backdrop. Moose are symbolic of many things: self esteem, mating, and a job well done and celebrated. I took note of this upon my return, when I did a bit of research on the moose spirit.

I’m reminded that there is magic everywhere in the air. All we have to do is dial into it and let it assist us. What a wonderful world it is, indeed!

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