My last entry regarding my friend’s trip to Alaska and the power of treating our trips as an act of faith reminds me of two stories I heard when I was in Alaska several years ago. I’ll tell you the first one here and save the other for my next entry.
The first deals with salmon and eagles, not necessarily in that order. Apparently – this was a story I heard, mind you – when a bald eagle swoops down over a body of water and latches onto an unsuspecting fish, the eagle’s talons lock into a grip on their prey that cannot be released until there is some countervailing pressure on the item they’re carrying or on the talon itself. This usually occurs when the bird lands and then relaxes as it eats its catch. But if it can’t offset the pressure that causes the talon to grip tight, the eagle cannot let go.
In Alaska, eagles feed on the plentiful supply of salmon, in addition to other fish. But sometimes, either due to the clarity of the water or the reflection of the sun on the water, despite the eagle’s renown eyesight, the bird can’t always judge accurately the size of the fish it seizes.
In my experience, I’ve seen salmon up to twenty pounds but it’s not uncommon for Kings and Chinooks to get over forty or fifty pounds with some rare examples reaching almost twice that size. Check out this photo to give you some idea of how big a salmon can get.
You might guess where this is all going.
The story I heard was that fishermen have actually caught large salmon that have the carcass or skeleton of a dead eagle affixed to the back of the fish. Apparently the eagle latched onto the fish, misjudging its size, and then couldn’t release the salmon. So when the salmon naturally reacted by going deeper when some sharp object suddenly pierced its dorsal area, the fish took the bird down with it and the eagle drowned, unable to release itself.
Cool – if macabre – story, huh? But I find it a wonderful word picture for this idea of treating our trips as an act of faith. How so, you ask?
We too have the tendency to hold onto things way too tightly – concerns about our jobs, our family, our finances, our health, our self-esteem…the list is longer than that 85 pound salmon. And too often, even on a trip, we are unable to let go of these worries. We latch on to more than we can bear.
But when we trust God to take care of all that we cannot, to accomplish in our lives what needs to be done even when it doesn’t feel complete to us, we find we have our own countervailing pressure, our own Rock against which we can release our burdens. This is true anywhere we are, at home or on a trip. But travel provides us with the distance from our worries to gain a better perspective and to realize consciously all that we’ve been holding onto in the root cellar and other dark places of our minds.
Travel provides the geographical and psychological distance to help us look down and realize we’ve hung onto something that, if we don’t release it, will bring us down. And like the eagle, we can’t release it on our own.
I’m just glad we don’t have to.