Swimming Like Salmon: Honoring Instincts

SCIENCE Salmon 115106

I drew the Salmon card this morning from my deck of Medicine Cards. I had to laugh because the other day I was flipping through the book – in my post-facebook boredom – and thought it was interesting that I’d never drawn the salmon card. I’ve been using these Medicine Cards on and off for about 14 years and some cards have just never come up for me. I won’t read the reading before it comes up in my spread because I want it to have its initial impact on that day. So, I laughed when I pulled the card this morning. It made me really pay attention knowing that the slippery swimmer had evaded me all of these years. I wish I could post the reading, but for some reason it’s not swimming in the internet stream. I’ll just have to tell you my thoughts.

The card reading says Salmon medicine is about inner knowing and the need to follow what we instinctively know. Salmon have the most interesting life cycle. They are born in freshwater. Some live all of their lives in freshwater, but many of them swim downstream to live the majority of their life in the ocean. Apparently, their ability to adapt to saltwater comes in the smolt phase of their life. They live their lives in the ocean, growing bigger and bigger until it is time to spawn. Intuitively, they return to the freshwater where they were born – many say the exact spot – to lay their eggs. Now, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal if they lived in a lake. But if they traveled from a lake to a river to the ocean early on WITH the current, they now have to traverse it AGAINST the current. Ever tried kayaking or canoeing against the river’s current? Ever tried it in a fast-flowing rapid? Ever try when you’ve got fisherman, bear and man-made obstacles blocking the water? Ever did all of that for 150 miles? That’s a serious homing instinct.


I’ve always loved to eat salmon, and it’s so good for you. When I moved out to the Pacific Northwest, I learned a thing or two about salmon. On my first trip to the Pike’s Place Market, I looked around at the salmon. My previous experience was that you could buy salmon – just one kind – at the grocery. This was before they even labeled it wild-caught or farm-raised. I told the retailer I wanted some salmon. He said, “Well, do you want Coho, Pinks, Chinook or Chum?” I giggled. “I don’t know,” I answered. “What’s the difference?” He took me through a tour of the different types and how they tasted. Salmon from different rivers and the ocean also were offered. I had no idea that salmon was such a diverse food offering. He also showed me the huge assortment of smoked salmon piled up in his booth with all of the different kinds of salmon smoked with different flavors. None of it tasted like the smoked salmon I’d previously tasted. This was fresh-tasting and chewy and only vaguely familiar. I ate salmon all the time while I was in Seattle. It was the chicken of the Pacific Northwest. There’s a particular salmon that I bought once a year. It’s the Copper River salmon. At $38 a pound in 2000, it was pricey, but I learned it was worth the pricetag to have at least once a year. When the Copper River salmon started running, the first fish were Fedexed to restaurants and stores in Seattle, and I was very privileged if I could get one. They were very oily and dense and similar to fish candy if there was such a thing. I absolutely adored it.

Aerial view of the Copper River in Alaska... where all the famous salmon come from.
Aerial view of the Copper River in Alaska… where all the famous salmon come from.

I rarely eat salmon anymore. It would be like eating crawfish anywhere but Louisiana. Some things are meant to be eaten where they live. I’ll buy it, but it’s in the same realm as chicken and not in a good way. But, I am still fascinated by them. What I took from the cards this morning is that there are drives inside of me that I need to follow regardless of the obstacles and fears that might come along the way. I know deep inside what these drives are. I may not know exactly what they mean, but they bubble up, encouraging me to move in a direction not knowing whether I’ll ever get there. The destination is what compels me, but it’s the journey that makes the difference. The journeys in my life require fighting to get upstream. Those journeys and that fight make me stand out, build my strength and spawn my wildness. The cards say the salmon signifies life cycles and the lessons we learn from them. It’s not the cycle itself that matters, it’s the lessons we take with us.


This morning I made my regular stop at Starbucks over on Corporate Blvd. I wanted a sweet treat. It’s Friday. It’s Jeans Day. So, I got a chocolate croissant and ordered a decaf latte. I asked the barista if I could have it in a mug and on a saucer so I could pretend I was in a real cafe. He looked taken aback and affirmed that I was in a real cafe. I laughed and said, “Thank you. You are right.” That would have been enough to make my day. I sat down with my computer to start to blog. Cindy served me my latte and chocolate croissant. She thanked me for visiting their cafe today. The latte had this beautiful little heart in the creamy foam. Hana hand-made it especially for me. If nothing else goes right the rest of the day, it made my day. Lesson learned: Ask for what you want. You actually might get it and in a much bigger way than you anticipated.

Thank you, Ms. Salmon, for swimming into my cards today. You did not go unnoticed. I will follow my heart with all of my available resources.

3 Comments on “Swimming Like Salmon: Honoring Instincts

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