Miracle Encounters

Shadows of spawning salmon fascinate my dog, Ruby.

Salmon live at sea for years before traveling up Alaska rivers and streams to spawn in brooks or lakes. In these water courses, male salmon fertilize the eggs that females lay.

The eggs hatch into alevin (hatchlings) then grow into fry. From fry they grow into smolt (fully-formed little fish), and the smolt swim downstream to reach the sea from where their parents originated.

But how can freshwater smolt, hatched in lakes, live in a salty ocean environment? Most species of freshwater fish bloat and rupture if relocated to saltwater.

The answer: Salmon smolt “smoltify.”

Smolt-sized Salmon

Their smoltification (yes, it’s a real word) occurs at the ocean mouth (an estuary) where saltwater and freshwater mingle. Light conditions and temperature changes trigger an amazing physiological transformation in salmon that prepares them for living in saltwater.

In the estuary, their organs change. The shapes of their bodies become more streamlined, and their gills change. Even their aggressive attitudes mellow, in preparation for traveling together in schools. (https://fishionary.fisheries.org/smoltification/)

Ruby doesn’t comprehend the miracle of smoltification. At Jim Lake she lost interest in the live salmon and suddenly relished a new encounter with a rotting one.

Like Ruby, sometimes I bounce from encounter to encounter too, ignoring the miracles that give events a lasting place in my memory. Only when I pause long enough to “see” the miracle in an encounter — like a salmon’s amazing ocean metamorphosis — do I capture an encounter that satisfies.

It only takes a moment of silent, thankful prayer to engrave a miracle upon our minds.

Ruby and the Ol’ Man

Colossians 4:2 reminds us: Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

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