Yesterday, I read a book that mentions the word estuary. An estuary is the part of a river that nears the sea. In an estuary, salt water and fresh water mix. As one of the most curious habitats, estuaries house creatures that learn how to live in impossible contradiction; they must survive in overlapping environments–fresh and saline.
Salmon, for example. Salmon start their lives in freshwater, but they were made for the ocean. Something enables them to get there. I read about how when salmon transition between freshwater and the sea, the cellular structure of their gills changes. The gills learn to secrete salts (not absorb them) just like a normal salt water fish. The process has a name: osmoregulate.
A new verb! Osmoregulate means to maintain that perfect balance–that harmony–necessary to live in environments that threaten to either dilute or saturate the body. And in estuaries, salmon learn how. They slowly adapt themselves for what’s ahead. Then, they journey on towards their lives in the great ocean.
How confusing that place must seem.
As I consider that journey, I can’t help but think about times of estuary–impossible contradictions–places where life does not feel right. We’ve left but haven’t arrived. We see the future but aren’t ready to embrace it. It’s as if we are left alone to adapt for what’s ahead. We are becoming something.
Estuaries, because of their in-between status as both freshwater and saltwater, contain the best nutrients. Scientists tell me that estuaries are among the most productive habitats in the world. The swirl of confusion, as wild as the tide, ironically provides refuge and rest for marine life. They strengthen their ability to adapt and regulate in that estuary.
Life feels like an estuary when I consider the miraculous Christmas claim that I’m meant for another world. And, by design, I find myself here, becoming something for there.
Living with flair means I don’t despair when I’m not at my destination. I’m osmoregulating in my perfect estuary for what’s ahead.
(Photo, “Estuary Mouth,” Public Domain, US government.)