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SEP. 2, 2014

Swimmning Upstream

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Marlin Sill, Wilderness Program Manager

I joke to friends that as I get older I find myself listening to NPR much more on morning commutes (a trait I would have scorned in my late teens) and the shorts I now wear never come lower then above my knee. Many times I find myself wondering if there is some coincidental or correlational relationship between these trends I see in myself and many folks like my parents. Much of this is beside the point. On my drive to work this morning, wearing my favorite shorts (that rest above the knee) I heard two interesting articles on NPR.

The first was of a dam removal on the Elwha River in Olympic National Forest. A dam that spent about a century in use, finally blasted its last wall yesterday signaling the largest dam removal in the world. Over 300 vertical feet of two separate dams came crashing down, and in the wake of this demolition, nature has already begun to right itself. Ecologists, Park Rangers and Recreationalists have all noticed the King Salmon flooding their way back up their ancestor’s river. A pathway lost to them for generations. And with them the Bald Eagles and Otters have followed, reclaiming a waterway and a way of life both ancient and new.

The second article I heard was slightly more beguiling. As our economy has taken an upturn in the past year and especially in the past quarter, there should have been cause for celebration. But much of the middle class has had little or nothing to celebrate. An interview with a gentleman shed some light. Yes he believed that things seemed brighter, but with inflation and rising competition he fears for his teenage daughter. He wants her to go to college and study something that she loves, but knows that this will probably lead her to be unemployed and in debt.

The juxtaposition of these two articles back to back made me realize how lucky I am to have studied what I’m passionate about, and now to be working in the field of outdoor education. And it also made me wonder if we as humans can have the same grit as the King Salmon, or the Otter. Walls are constantly built around us to push us forward or confine or direct us. But we have the strength to tear down those walls and dams and restore those flows. We have the ability to drag ourselves upstream, season after season, chasing the dreams, chasing the mountains, doing what some said we couldn’t, restoring the balance others have shifted. Take a moment every day to think of your dreams, and entertain them to the farthest of your ability, and then ask yourself “Am I willing to chase the adventures of being alive?”