There is Hope for The Future

Lily Tomlin once said, “no matter cynical you are, it’s never enough to keep up.”

Looking around, it’s not hard to agree with that sentiment. Particularly in this election year, with the two corrupt and despised apparent candidates for President; with promises and threats made to various ethnic and interest groups, where bathroom use and walls push aside issues of war and peace, climate change, and economic inequality; and with mass media that promotes conformity, fear, and sensationalism for profit – all of it is enough to result in a deep cynicism and pessimism about the future.

But then there are moments, or in this case three hours, where hope for the future can be restored.

Last night, my wife and I attended Peninsula High School’s presentation of the musical, Les Misérables and I came away from it renewed with an understanding that youth always brings the promise of a brighter future.

Watching those bright eager faces as they portrayed characters experiencing the injustices, cruelty, and idealism of revolutionary France brought laughter and tears. But beyond that was an understanding of the amount of work these actors, musicians, and technicians put into the effort that was all left on the stage. They held nothing back.

And meeting and congratulating them after the musical, up close after they shed their on-stage makeup and roles, they were proud but still self conscious teenagers.

They are all from what’s been called Generation Z (born 1995-2012), and if the backdrop of their lives – (perpetual war, hyper consumerism, breakdown of economic fairness and opportunity, fracturing of society along political and social identity, and intrusive media and government) – has seemed remote or irrelevant except to their parents and teachers, perhaps this musical has opened the door to them understanding what’s beyond their classrooms and homes.

We heard from a friend that at rehearsals their faculty director coached them that they needed to move with wretchedness and despair; playing prostitutes or idealists facing their own deaths on the barricades are not occasions for levity. From what they put on the stage they learned their lesson well.

As they move beyond this musical and high school, they will each in turn enter the next stages of their lives. As with all previous generations they will find happiness and sorrow, comedy and tragedy, and some measure of success and some measure of failure.

But that is all in the future. For in that bright crescendo moment last night, they all showed they have the power and opportunity to change the world and be something bigger then themselves. By starting with what they gave us last night they can make this a better world by embracing the best and rejecting the worst of the human experience.

And if I could wish one thing for each of them for reminding me again that the promise of the young offers hope for a better world, it would be that all their hopes and dreams come true.

Smolts, Safe Journey

Today was a reminder of why fly-fishing in Puget Sound can be a source of awe and perspective.

I had gone down to fish the beach at Purdy. The large falling tide meant strong ebb current and a good chance to find a cutthroat trout. I got one strike. Unfortunately, it felt like the fish spit it out or couldn’t get a strong bite in the heavy current.

But that wasn’t the reason today was a day of wonder. The Coho smolts were heading out to the ocean.

Everywhere, there were small salmon jumping as they moved out of Burley lagoon into Carr Inlet and then on into Puget Sound on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Most I saw looked to be three to four inches in length, with a few somewhat larger.

Near and far, they were jumping seemingly for joy as their big life adventure had begun. While I continued to cast and strip line, I found myself doing it just for the chance to share my small bit of water with these magnificent fish.

Their future lives started in late summer or early autumn of 2014, when their parents returned through Burley lagoon to Burley Creek or Purdy Creek, which are the natal streams for Coho. Their parents in their final act of life deposited and fertilized the eggs in the creek gravel.

This generation of Coho then emerged as fry in late winter or early spring of 2015. They spent all of last year in the slow moving water of their natal creeks. Then sometime this spring they began the process of smoltification, where their physiology changed from living in fresh water to living in salt water.

And now they are on their way to spending the majority of their lives in the Pacific Ocean. Most will stay out for two to three years before returning to their birth streams to start another generation of Coho salmon on their way before ending their lives.

The majority of smolts I saw today likely will be returning in 2018 or 2019.

In all that time, they will live their lives forgotten or unknown by the majority of people who live around the shores of Puget Sound.

And the concerns of these same people over these two to three years – the 2016 election, football seasons, urgency manufactured by marketers and bosses, the daily drudgery of life and work, and the minor tragedies and comedy of being human – will for the most part be forgotten by the time these fish return to Burley lagoon.

The fish will have a much more real urgency and that will be to propagate the next generation of their species and then finish their life cycle.

And maybe their departure today is a chance for us to remind ourselves that our great life cycle should be focused on the important things.